Make no mistake about it, Betty White is the reigning queen of comedy. Long before folks like Tina Fey and Ellen Degeneres were making us laugh; she was doing her thing – and doing it masterfully, we might add.
At 99 and still active in show business although reasonably not quite as busy as she used to be. It sure looks like White is going to continue to bring joy to the world right up until she’s on her deathbed. She got her start on the radio back in 1930 when she was only eight years old. And ever since, she has been a driving force within the entertainment industry.
In 1953, White made history when she became the first woman to produce a sitcom. And in 1973 she landed the iconic role as Sue Anne Nivens on the CBS sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show. White is also celebrated for her roles of Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls and; more recently, that of Elka Ostrovsky on TV Land’s Hot In Cleveland.
Even though Betty White is such a powerhouse of an entertainer. It might surprise you to learn that at one point, she considered going down a completely different career path. Join us as we take a look at what she once dreamed of doing instead of acting. And make sure you stick around to see what kinds of projects she’s been working on in recent years; because like we already mentioned. Betty White never stops.
Betty White’s Prestigious Career In The Spotlight
She got her start as an actress back in 1939. She’s born in 1922 in Oak Park, Illinois. And realized that she had a passion for acting and theater when she was still a teenager. In the 1950s, she produced and starred in Life With Elizabeth. The sitcom resonated with audiences and ran for two seasons consisting of 65 episodes. She then went on to land numerous roles in television shows, movies, and variety shows.
White’s big breakout role, however, was that turn as Sue Ann Nivens in The Mary Tyler Moore Show; which hit the airwaves in 1973. Nivens this kind of hyper-sexual cooking show host character that is often compared to the similar character on The Golden Girls of Blanche Devereaux.
While White initially considered for the role of Blanche. She instead cast as the naive yet endearing character Rose Nylund so that she wouldn’t be typecast.
Since The Golden Girls wrapped up in 1992; White has gone on to take on numerous roles in other television programs and films. One of her most celebrated roles in the last decade was that of her Hot In Cleveland character, Elka Ostrosky.
Throughout her prolific career, White has honored with many award nominations and even a few wins.
Betty Whites Childhood Dream
It’s undeniable that Betty White’s career has been successful. A quick glance at her IMDB page reveals that she has amassed more than 120 acting credits. Few actors can even come close to that.
Even so, it wasn’t exactly the job that she dreamed of doing when she was a child. Rather, Betty White had her heart set on becoming a forest ranger when she was a little girl.
White kept that dream alive for the majority of her upbringing. The only reason why she never fulfilled this dream because back in the day; women not allowed to join the forest service. That rule wouldn’t change until White was an adult and already deep into her acting career.
The Forest Service didn’t hire their first female forester until 1957. And in 1979, the forest service finally appointed their first female district ranger. As of today, 38% of the forest service’s employees are women.
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Betty Whites Commitment To Animals And The Environment
Even though Betty White never got to fully fulfill her dream of becoming a full-fledged forest ranger. She has spent her life defending the environment and the animals that call it their home.
White is a pet enthusiast and a staunch animal health advocate. She works with various animal organizations, including the LA Zoo Commission, The African Wildlife Foundation, The Morris Animal Foundation, and Actors & Others for Animals.
While White has always especially dedicated to preserving the natural world. Her interest in animal rights and welfare began back in the early 70s when she was hosting and producing the syndicated television program, The Pet Set, which centered around celebrities and their beloved pets.
From 2000 to 2002, White hosted the show ‘History on Film’. She took $100,000 worth of the proceeds from that show and donated it to the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden.
The Forest Service Made Betty White An Honorary Ranger
Even though Betty White forced to give up on her dreams of becoming a forest ranger back in the 30s just because she was a woman; The USDA did something very special for her in 2010 that helped make things right.
The Forest Service made White an honorary forest ranger for her years of contributions to wilderness conservation. At a special ceremony that they put on just for her. White given a forest ranger hat and badge as well as a commemorative plaque.
White extremely proud given that honor, and according to the forest service, she even joked that she’s going to wear the hat at a formal event that she had committed to attending later that evening.
At the ceremony, White mentioned that her parents would have overjoyed to see her receive such a prestigious honor.
White’s father, Horace Logan White, was a lighting company executive who passed away in 1963. Her mother, Christine Tess, likewise died in 1985.
White specifically credits her father for instilling a love of nature and the wilderness into her from an early age. In several interviews, White has stated that she first became interested in nature while her family was vacationing in the Sierra Nevada mountain range when she was still a child.
Interestingly, after White gave up on her dream of entering into the forest service, she instead decided to pursue her interest in writing. It wasn’t until she was in High School that she discovered her interest in theater. She was further inspired to become an actress by the fact that her idols as a teenager were Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. Little did she know at the time that she would one day become a bigger star than either of those two performers ever were.
Betty White Is A Guinness World Record Holder
In the 2014 edition of the famed record-keeping book, White honored with the title of ‘Longest TV Career for a Female Entertainer’. At the time, she had been active in the industry for more than 70 years, and as of today, that’s getting closer to 80 years.
The year before she awarded this honor, Guinness honored long-time British Television Host Bruce Forsyth with the title of Longest TV Career for a Male Entertainer.
Both Forsyth and White began their acting careers in 1939, so they’d tied for the title if it weren’t for their genders.
Her First Television Performance Has Lost To History
While Betty White got her start as an actress in 1939, she can’t actually remember the name of the program where she made her on-screen debut. She told Guinness, however, that the experience of being on television back then was life-changing.
Her first role in an experimental Television show that has lost to history, but in it, she and one of her fellow High School classmates sang and danced to songs from The Merry Widow. Reportedly the show was the first of it’s kind on the west coast.
White then found work modeling, and her first professional acting job was at The Bliss Hayden Little Theatre, which used to be where the Beverly Hills Playhouse stands today.
When World War II broke out in 1939, White temporarily put her acting career on hold so that she could volunteer with the American Women’s Voluntary Services. Some of her assignments included transporting military supplies throughout California and performing at events to boost morale for the troops before they were shipped off overseas.
After the war was over, White started making the rounds at various movie studios in hopes of finding work, but shockingly she was repeatedly turned down for not being photogenic enough. That’s when she started looking for radio work instead.
Some of her first radio jobs included reading advertisements and playing bit parts in radio plays. She made approximately five dollars a show – which at the time was decent money – but she still felt like she was destined for something greater.
Eventually, she got her chance to appear in shows like Blondie, This Is Your FBI, and The Great Gildersleeve and was even given her own program called The Betty White Show.
In 1940, White began appearing as co-host alongside Al Jarvis on the live television variety show Hollywood On Television. In 1952, after Jarvis left the show, White took over as it’s primary host. That same year, White co-created Life with Elizabeth with two of her Hollywood on Television colleagues.
Life with Elizabeth was nationally syndicated from 1952 to 1955, and it’s well established that that is how her career in show business really got it’s start.
Flash forward to 2021, and Betty White is still active in the entertainment industry. In 2019, she appeared in an episode of the Disney channel program Forky Asks a Question. That same year, she appeared in Toy Story 4 as the character Bitey White, and she also had a minor role in the animated film Trouble.
While she doesn’t have any roles currently announced for the future, we can rest assured that the world hasn’t seen the last of Ms. White.
Did you know that Betty White wanted to be a forest ranger when she was a child? How do you imagine her life would have turned out differently if she had been able to pursue that dream? Let us know in the comment section below.
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