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Few Hollywood stars can say they’ve enjoyed such a successful run as a performer: In 2018, Guinness World Book declared that Betty White had achieved the record for longest TV career as a female entertainer. In her more than eight decades in the business, Betty’s trademark mega-watt smile, gracious demeanor, and clever wit have rightfully earned her star status.
Honing her skills in radio, she went on to star in one hit TV show after another and guest-starred in countless others. She also appeared on many game shows through the years. A 2010 Super Bowl commercial introduced her to another generation and re-energized her career, landing her a spot on Saturday Night Live (after a Facebook campaign!) at 88 years old — the oldest host ever. Her lifelong love for animals is her driving passion, and she’s often said she stays in show biz to support her animal charities. Here’s a look at her amazing life and career in pictures.
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1949: Her TV career begins
Born on January 17, 1922, in Oak Park Illinois, Betty White is the only child of Tess and Horace White, an electrical engineer. The family moved to Los Angeles when she was 2 years old. After singing at her high school graduation, she was chosen to participate in an experimental TV broadcast in 1939! She began a career in radio before making the transition to TV.
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1952: Her TV career takes off
Betty’s first paid TV jobs were on several different variety and comedy shows. In 1952, Betty produced and starred in her first TV sitcom, Life With Elizabeth, which ran live and followed the day-to-day events in the life of a newlywed couple. The show aired for two seasons.
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1954: At home
Here, she’s spending time at home with her dog, Stormy, before it’s time for work.
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1954: In the spotlight
Betty’s gorgeous smile shines through in this publicity shot.
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1954: Animal lover
Here, she poses at home with all of her dogs, Bandy, Danny and Stormy. Her production company was named after Bandy.
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1955: Christmas parade
Betty was honored during the Christmas parade in Los Angeles.
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1957: A new show
Betty starred in a new sitcom, Date With the Angels, which ran for two seasons. The show followed the lives of a new bride and her insurance salesman husband.
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1957: On the set
Betty demonstrates her golf swing for one of the show’s episodes.
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1963: Marrying the love of her life
Betty was a frequent guest on the game show, Password, where she met her husband, Allen Ludden, who hosted the show. She’d previously been married briefly twice during the 40s to a WWII pilot and a theatrical agent.
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1963: The happy couple
Betty and Allen were happily married until his death in 1981. She did not remarry.
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1965: Co-hosting the Thanksgiving parade
Betty co-hosted the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City with actor Lorne Greene.
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1966: At the Emmy Awards
Here, Betty attends the Annual Emmy Awards with her husband.
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1966: Back for another parade
She and her co-host were welcomed back to host the parade again. Her frequent TV appearances on game shows (she has appeared on more than 50 of them!) and as a guest star on other TV shows made her instantly recognizable to fans in the 1960s.
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1967: Game show guest
Here’s Betty with a contestant and her husband (right) on Password. She always seemed to be having fun!
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1972: Tournament of Roses parade
Betty hosted the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. She was a sought-after host for events like these due to her charming wit and sparkling personality.
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1973: Another game show
Here, Betty and other celebrities including Richard Dawson (center bottom) and Jack Klugman (upper right) participate in the game show Match Game.
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1975: Her breakout role
Betty joined the cast of the series,
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1976: Emmy win Betty looks amazing as she smiles backstage after her Emmy win for The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
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1976: Emmy win
Betty looks amazing as she smiles backstage after her Emmy win for The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
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1977: Another TV series
Betty launched a new series, The Betty White Show. It featured John Hillerman as her co-star. He played her smug ex-husband who happens to be her director for a TV police drama. The show lasted one season.
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1981: On The Tonight Show
Betty bantered with Johnny Carson on the iconic The Tonight Show. She was a favorite guest on the show for many years.
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1985: A new hit series
This year, Betty starred alongside a talented ensemble cast including Rue McClanahan, Estelle Getty, and Bea Arthur (from left to right) in
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1986: Winning an Emmy Betty poses with her Golden Girl co-stars Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty at the 38th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. She won an Emmy for her role as the naive-but-sweet Rose.
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1986: Winning an Emmy
Betty poses with her Golden Girl co-stars Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty at the 38th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. She won an Emmy for her role as the naive-but-sweet Rose.
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1987: Sharing a laugh with a friend
Betty shares a hug with her friend, comedian Lucille Ball, at a book signing in Los Angeles.
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1992: Another Emmy ceremony
Still as lovely as ever, Betty arrives at the Emmy Awards. She wasn’t in the spotlight as much as previous years during this decade, but her sense of style still stood out, seen here in this lovely dress. She continued to work with her various animal charities.
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2002: Always fashionable
Here, Betty arrives for the NBC 75th anniversary celebration at Rockefeller Center. She always is perfectly attired and looks smashing in this tailored white pantsuit. Go, Betty!
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2003: Epitomizing elegance
Betty showed up for an awards ceremony in this stunning royal blue dress, which set off her sparkling blue eyes to perfection. Her refined elegance should be an inspiration to all of us at any age!
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2004: Arriving for the Emmy Awards
Betty is as beautiful as always, perfectly coiffed and turned out in this sherbet-colored chiffon number (and wearing her favorite recycled silver heels from last year!).
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2004: Leading ladies
Betty shares a table at the TV Land Awards with her friends and former co-stars Mary Tyler Moore (far left) and Cloris Leachman from their days together on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
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2006: Game show reboot
Betty was still a formidable opponent on the latest game show, a mashup of the classic Match Game, on which she had appeared in the ’60s.
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2006: Another Emmy win
Betty’s still got it! She proved her comedic timing was as sharp as ever when she won another Emmy this year for guest-starring as herself on The John Larroquette Show.