Her First TV Debut Is Lost in History
Betty’s screen debut is lost in history — even she can’t remember the name of the TV show. In an interview with Guinness Book of World Records, she remembered, “I danced on an experimental TV show, the first on the west coast, in downtown Los Angeles. I wore my high school graduation dress and our Beverly Hills High student body president, Harry Bennett, and I danced the ‘Merry Widow Waltz.”
Her First Hit Sitcom Came Years Later
Betty’s first hit sitcom didn’t happen until the early 50s. After co-hosting Al Jarvis’ Hollywood on Television, then taking over as host after Jarvis’ departure, she went on to produce Life with Elizabeth. The nationally syndicated show ran from 1952 to 1955. During that time, female producers were rare, so this was a big deal — especially with Betty being 28 years old and still living with her parents.
She Auditioned for the Role of Blanche
Betty White’s role as Rose is perfect. I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the part or White playing a different role. However, producers wanted White to be the promiscuous character after she played Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and they wanted Rue McClanahan to play the ditzy Rose Nylund after her role as Vivian Harmon on Maude. In the end, Director Jay Sandrich didn’t want to typecast the ladies, so he decided to switch their roles. Good move!