Star knew how to make viewers laugh with her memorable characters
Sue Ann Nivens knew how to leave Lou Grant speechless.
No wonder. The “Mary Tyler Moore Show” character, who had the “Happy Homemaker” show on WJM-TV, was played by a comedic actress who knew how to effectively show Sue Ann’s unwavering crush on Lou. The character also liked to cheerfully (and mercilessly) tease Mary Richards with a twinkle in her eye before she walked out of the newsroom gracefully.
That was Betty White, a forever young actress whose characters got the last word.
Or at least the last laugh.
That certainly was the case on NBC’s “The Golden Girls,” in which Ms. White, with the twinkle still in her eye, played the scatterbrained Rose Nylund and made her lovable.
Decades later on TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland,” the Emmy-winning actress played Elka Ostrovsky, who spoke her mind and made the studio audience (and people watching at home) laugh.
Ms. White has left the world her legacy of comedy.
She died Friday. She was 99.
Celebrities were quick to post tweets honoring the actress everyone loved.
“Our national treasure, Betty White, has passed just before her 100th birthday,” George Takei, who played Sulu on “Star Trek,” wrote. “Our Sue Ann Nivens, our beloved Rose Nylund, has joined the heavens to delight the stars with her inimitable style, humor and charm. A great loss to us all. We shall miss her dearly.”
Montecito celebrity Ellen DeGeneres praised Ms. White in her tweet. “What an exceptional life. I’m grateful for every second I got to spend with Betty White. Sending love to her family, friends and all of us.”
Movie star Reese Witherspoon spoke for Ms. White’s fans when she tweeted, “Thank you, Betty, for making us laugh!”
Ms. White was born Jan. 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Ill.
Her TV career began in the late 1930s, and by the 1950s, she was the star of “Life With Elizabeth.”
She continued to appear on game, talk and variety shows. This writer recalls watching her when she was a regular celebrity guest on the show hosted by her husband, Allen Ludden (1917-81): “Password.” Stars and contestants would take turns giving each other clues to figure out the “password,” and Ms. White did well at the game.
And Ms. White was an animal rights activist. She started working with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the 1940s when she was in her 20s.
In 2010, Ms. White’s TV career was going strong when she joined the cast of “Hot in Cleveland.” That year she became the oldest host in the history of “Saturday Night Life.” Fans wanted her on the show; they staged a campaign on Facebook.
On “Hot in Cleveland,” Ms. White had many of the show’s funniest lines, and it’s hard to imagine anyone could have delivered them better. The show also reunited her with her former “Mary Tyler Moore Show” castmate Georgia Engel.
And one episode reunited Ms. White and Ms. Engel with fellow “MTM” stars Mary Tyler Moore, Cloris Leachman and Valerie Harper. (The episode ended with a cat who resembled the one in the “MTM” logo.)
Whatever show or movie she was in, Ms. White stood proudly in the spotlight. That was evident in “The Proposal,” the 2009 movie in which Ms. White acted with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. Her character spoke her mind and was funny for that reason.
And that’s how Ms. White, who almost reached her 100th birthday, gave viewers a lifetime of laughter.