Betty White is universally loved. Best known for her work on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls, she has been in show business for over sixty years. But what is it that made Betty White so famous in the first place? A recent blitz of cliché-laden profiles aggrandize about Betty's enduring television career, but rarely do they delve into detail.
Betty White was a ubiquitous show business personality long before she ever played Sue Ann Nivens or Rose Nylund. As the most prolific female of nineteen fifties television, she was consistently attacked by newspaper critics. Open war was declared on White who, with her safe exuberant demeanor, was said to represent everything that was wrong with the medium. During that first decade of television she was often dismissed as too perky, too saccharine - even vacant.
In real life she was anything but. Those critics would have been shocked to learn that she was closest of friends with John Steinbeck. Betty White was more than just a sitcom star, singer, game show panelist and television producer. She was the first woman to host a daytime talk show. She helped a struggling film student, the very un-saccharine Sam Peckinpah, obtain his first job. Twenty years later she discovered a small town weatherman she thought had potential named David Letterman. With a starring role on a program that aired five and a half-hours a day, six days a week, for four consecutive years, and all that has come since, it is arguable that she has spent more time on television than anyone else alive.
This is the early Betty White.