With over 60 years in showbusiness, Betty White knows a thing or two about how to make it in Hollywood. Yet, White wasn’t an overnight success. Her fierce work ethic and relentless spirit helped her find her way to the top of the entertainment industry.
During an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, White revealed the details behind her beginnings in Hollywood that ultimately led her to unmatched staying power in the industry. Before fans knew her for her role on “Golden Girls” or “Hot in Cleveland,” she got her breakout role when she landed a starring part on the comedy sitcom “Life with Elizabeth.”
Betty White starred as Elizabeth, and Del Moore played her husband, Alvin. The show premiered on October 7, 1953, and ended its run on September 1, 1955. During her interview, White reminisced on how the show originated. Before “Life With Elizabeth,” White starred alongside Al Jarvis on his daily live television variety show “Hollywood on Television.”
Betty White On The Evolution Of ‘Life With Elizabeth’
The variety show spanned five-and-a-half-hours of live ad-libbing, six days a week over four years. During the show, White would sing several songs during each broadcast. “A friend of Al’s would write a little sketch into a popular song of the day, and the joke-line would be the song title, and then I’d go into the song, White said. So we play husband and wife, Alvin and Elizabeth, and then I’d go into the song.”
Even though White got new-found success on the variety show, her manager wanted White to show off her comedic skills on her own show. “Finally, the station manager called us in and said, ‘forget the rest of the show, would you do a husband and wife show like that for a half-hour?’ In my wisdom, I said, ‘well, the reason it’s funny is that it’s just little short skits like you would tell an anecdote, in an evening if people were over visiting, but it would never hold up for a half hour.'”
In 1952, White co-founded Bandy Productions with writer and producer George Tibbles and Don Fedderson. Together, they created shows by using characters from skits from “Hollywood on Television.” As a result, they created “Life with Elizabeth.” White would later receive her first Primetime Emmy Award nomination for her work on the show.