Betty White, the legendary star of TV shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls, has died. White was 99 years old, and just a few weeks from her 100th birthday.
According to TMZ, and per “law enforcement sources,” White “passed away at her home just before 9:30 AM on Friday.” White worked well into her 90s, including as a regular on the TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland, which she starred on for six seasons from 2010 to 2015. White’s role in the show’s pilot was intended as a one-off, but she proved so popular that she became a full-time part of the cast.
At the time of her death, White had the longest career of any performer in television history. Born in 1922, she got her start in show business on radio, and even hosted her own radio series, The Betty White Show, for a time in the 1940s. She moved to television in the late 1940s, co-hosting Hollywood on Television, which made her the first female TV talk show host in history. She got her first TV sitcom in 1953, titled Life With Elizabeth.
That show only lasted for two years, but White became a staple on television for the rest of her life. She hosted a TV version of The Betty White Show, then became a regular on many TV game shows, like Match Game and Pyramid. In 1973, she debuted as the ultra-cheerful Sue Ann Nivens on the Season 4 premiere of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
In the mid-1980s, White was cast as one of the four leads on The Golden Girls, a beloved sitcom about the lives of four older women living in Florida. White was initially picked for the lascivious Blanche, while Rue McClanahan was chosen to play the sweet Rose. Both felt they had played similar roles before. (White on Mary Tyler Moore, McClanahan on Maude.) So shortly before filming began on the Golden Girls pilot, White and McClanahan swapped roles at the suggestion of director Jay Sandrich. The rest, as they say, was history, as The Golden Girls ran for seven seasons and 1980 episodes, and even spawned a short-lived spinoff, The Golden Palace.
White has been in the news in recently because she was on the cusp of celebrating her 100th birthday on January 17. She recently appeared on the cover of People Magazine, and was going to commemorate the day with special film premiere, Betty White: 100 Years Young. It’s sad she’s gone, but she leaves behind one of the greatest bodies of work in TV history.