Betty White is an icon whose reach spans across all generations. Her influence, legacy, and inspiration touch people of all ages— yet fans remember White for different roles. In an interview with Wild About Movies from 2004, White touched on having fans of all different ages. Specifically, she noted that her younger fans only recognize her from her “Golden Girls” era.
“I think most people of a certain age,” said White, speaking of her fans under forty, “thinks of me only as Rose,” from “The Golden Girls.” “But the older generation, of course, also knows me as Sue Ann from ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show,’ where instead of playing the truly naïve Rose, I was the neighborhood nymphomaniac.”
There’s no doubt about it: “Golden Girls” is almost as iconic as Betty White. Yet, White starred in a plethora of roles before she was Rose on the sitcom. On “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” White really came into her own in her role. Even though she wasn’t the lead, that show would cement White’s legacy as a comedian as well as a successful actor.
Betty White’s TV Debut Was an Accident
Before becoming a name known by millions, her debut appearance on television was an accident. After singing at her high school graduation, she was chosen to be part of an “experimental television transmission” in 1939. Ten years later, in 1949, White got her first paying job in television after starting in radio. She had a guest role on “The Dick Haynes Show” and later had a recurring role on the comedy show “Tom, Dick and Harry.”
Nearly two decades later, Betty White would transition from actress to star when she landed “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in 1973. She starred as the “man-hungry” Sue Ann Nivens, and viewers quickly fell in love with her.
After her time on the show, White her second and third Emmy Awards for her role. In 1985, a decade after her time on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” White scored her second signature role when she landed on “The Golden Girls.” Starring alongside Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, and Rue McClanahan, the show saw immense success from 1985 through 1992.
Betty White would win another Emmy for “Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series” for the show’s first season. She was also nominated in that category every year of the show’s run. Little did White know that the classic sitcom would be a beloved fixture loved by all.