LOS ANGELES (AP) — A photo of Betty White, with a dimpled smile and unsuspecting stare, fills the cover of a coffee table book arriving the month before her 100th birthday.
The image evokes the true white, according to the book’s author, Ray Richmond. After delving into her life and career, he came to the conclusion that she is as warm and attractive as it seems.
But her willingness to play against type, whether she’s Sue Ann on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” or the naive Rose of “The Golden Girls,” proves just how smart and talented White is, Richmond said.
That, coupled with an impressive work ethic, took her from a television cameo in the infancy of the 1930s to the “Saturday Night Live” darling of the 21st century, with numerous appearances in show business.
“You could argue that Betty White is the most versatile and beloved entertainer in American history,” said Richmond, whose “Betty White: 100 Remarkable Moments in an Extraordinary Life” (becker & mayer! Books) is out Tuesday.
In addition to starring in sitcoms and made guest appearances in dozens of others, she was a reliably witty host and game show guest; parade emcee (California’s Rose Parade and New York’s Thanksgiving Day parade) and soap opera actor (“The Bold and the Beautiful”). She dabbled in drama on the big screen (including as a U.S. Senator in 1962’s “Advise & Consent”) and on TV (“Bones,” “Boston Legal”).
Hosting “Saturday Night Live” in 2010 – at age 88 – earned her a fifth Emmy Award and a new generation of admirers.
White, who will reach centenary status on January 17, 2022, did not participate in the book. Richmond, a veteran entertainment reporter and critic, instead relied on research and interviews with her friends and colleagues, including Carol Burnett, Candice Bergen, and Gavin MacLeod (Murray on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”).
MacLeod, who died last May at age 90, wrote the book’s forward. He hailed White as a great artist and “national treasure,” he considered her “one of the most caring and loving people I’ve ever known.”
She’s a pro too, said Bill D’Elia, producer at “Boston Legal” David E. Kelley. Kelley, who had worked with White on his movie “Lake Placid,” loved having her play salty language and bad behavior, D’Elia says in the book.
“David loved the contrast between her image and what the character was saying,” he said. “She would be happy to say anything and do everything the story and script called for.”
The book briefly sketches the early years of the Illinois native before moving on to a lightly detailed account of White’s success in Hollywood. The great loves of her life – husband Allen Ludden, who hosted a game show, and animals of all breeds – are also getting attention. Among the photos of the book is one of the couple on the day of their Las Vegas wedding in 1963 (Ludden died in 1981).
There are also studio and publicity photos of White alone and with her co-stars. One was shot the night she, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty re-enacted scenes from “The Golden Girls” at a royal variety show in London, attended by Britain’s Queen Mother, who is said to have loved their performance. asked.
Among the moments and milestones recounted in “Betty White: 100 Remarkable Moments in an Extraordinary Life”:
After singing during her 1939 graduation, White and another student were asked to participate in an experimental TV test in Los Angeles. While the pair danced and sang on the sixth floor of a building owned by car dealer and radio pioneer Earle C. Anthony, the performance was sent to the lobby. The audience: the teens’ parents and a few others.
— When the United States entered World War II in December 1941, White, then just 20 years old, joined a women’s volunteer organization that provided support to the home front. She drove trucks with supplies for soldiers housed in camps in the Los Angeles area during the day; At night she joined in dances for troops to be deployed abroad.
— “The Betty White Show,” in which White hosts half an hour of songs and interviews, debuted on NBC in 1954. It included 21-year-old black tap dancer Arthur Duncan at a time when people of color were rarely seen on TV. Station managers citing complaints from viewers threatened to pull the show. A defiant White began to book Duncan more often, with the support of the network. Duncan, who became a regular on “The Lawrence Welk Show” since the 1960s and is now 88, is quoted in the book as saluting White for defending him and “opening many doors for me.”
— White moved in glamorous circles and created them. Burnett recalls participating in “game nights” at the White-Ludden house. Charades, board games and things like that were the entertainment, and “they’d have people like Fred Astaire there just hanging out. And Burt Reynolds. My god, there were so many of them,” Burnett said.
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