Remembering Betty White: What Was Icon’s First Starring Sitcom Role?

by Jon D. B.

Beloved actor and activist Betty White lived her best life for 99 years, and this sitcom brought her into the hearts of millions.

The world is mourning the death of icon Betty White. The legendary entertainer died at 99 years old in her home the morning of New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2021. Yet we mustn’t forget the unbelievably wonderful life White led for those remarkable 99 years.

Betty White’s entertainment career began almost a century ago in 1939. In fact, The Guinness Book of World Records bestowed upon her the title of Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female) in 2014. At the time, she had been in the business for 70 years. As of her death at 2021’s end, that total reached 77 years.

Betty White’s First Starring Role Was So Much More

But it was a long and winding road for White to reach stardom as it is for so many. After a decade in the business, Betty became a prominent personality through co-hosting the Al Jarvis-led Hollywood on Television.

This led directly to White producing and starring in her own show: Life With Elizabeth. Female producers were nigh-unheard of at the time, setting the stage for the many molds Betty White would break throughout her lifetime.

While we don’t hear much of Life With Elizabeth today, the show would earn White her first Emmy nomination in 1951. She would go on to receive an astounding 20 more in her 99-year life. She would win 5 of them.

Lost to Time: An Obscure First Appearance

While speaking to Guinness on the record above, Betty White would cite her own career longevity. Her career indeed began in 1939, but the project has been lost to time – and was to White herself, too:

“I danced on an experimental TV show, the first on the west coast, in downtown Los Angeles. I wore my high school graduation dress and our Beverly Hills High student body president, Harry Bennett, and I danced the ‘Merry Widow Waltz.'” 

Betty White, Guinness Book of World Records

And if not for World War II raging on at the time, White may have become a household name even sooner. Yet she devoted her skillset to helping war efforts, and the rest is history.

We’ll miss you, Betty. Thanks for a century of laughs, love, and light.