Betty White, America’s Sweetheart, Dead at 99

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How do you say goodbye to a legend?

It’s the last day of another less-than-stellar year, and now it’s stolen Betty White, just weeks shy of her 100th birthday.

Betty had big plans for her big day, but now her living celebration will be a tribute instead.

Betty White Guest Stars on Bones

For those of us lucky enough to have grown up in the 1970s, we fell in love with Betty approximately 30 years into her career.

At the time she got her role on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1973, she had been in the business for just under 30 years with just 11 projects under her belt.

Betty White as Sue Ann Nivens

As Sue Ann Nivens, Betty showcased her impeccable comedic timing and proved that a gorgeous woman with a little nasty in her could steal the show.

After The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Betty had a short-lived series titled The Betty White Show and recurring roles on shows like The Love Boat and Mama’s Family before snagging one of the leading roles in the timeless Golden Girls as Rose Nyland, a naive, small-town girl who took up residence with her best friends.

Although the show, which ran from 1985-1992, came to an end, Betty and her costars, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty, carved out a significant slice of Americana by still commanding an audience through reruns three decades later.

Another TV role in which Betty proved her value was Boston Legal. From 2005-2008, she played Catherine Piper, a woman who got tangled up with James Spader’s Alan Shore, meeting him note for note with questionable behavior and out-of-this-world opinions.

Betty was also part of another foursome that captured some of Golden Girls’ magic opposite Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendie Malick on Hot In Cleveland.

As Elka Ostrovsky, Betty fulfilled a similar role to her breakout performance on The Mary Tyler Moore show, as Elka had enough rancor to live for both of them.

TV wasn’t her only success story. She made her mark in film, as well. She gave the cast and a killer crocodile a run for their money in 1999’s Lake Placid. She danced around a fire with Sandra Bullock and built a long friendship with Ryan Reynolds in 2009’s The Proposal, and she voiced Bitey White in Toy Story 4.

Betty White in 2010

Although not every role she had was a major success, Betty herself was ingrained in the hearts and minds of people all over the world for her cutting wit, and her ability to adapt to generations across the ages have made her a cultural icon.

The eight-time Emmy winner also held the record for the longest TV career of any entertainer, and she was still going strong, anticipating her 100th birthday.

Betty was set to turn 100 on January 17, and she was making it quite the celebration. The special movie event titled “Betty White: 100 Years Young — A Birthday Celebration” was created by Steve Boettcher and Mike Trinklein.

The film was set to follow her day-to-day life with behind-the-scenes access to sets, in her home, and much more, leading to her actual birthday party.

Ryan Reynolds, Tina Fey, Robert Redford, Lin Manuel- Miranda, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Jay Leno, Carol Burnett, Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel, Valerie Bertinelli, James Corden, Wendy Malick, and Jennifer Love Hewitt were set to join her for the celebration.

With clips of her iconic roles and honoring her entertainment achievements, including being the first woman to produce a national TV show and the first woman to receive an Emmy nomination, Betty was very excited about the project, telling CNN, “Who doesn’t love a party?!? This one is gonna be GREAT!”

Surely, some of that movie was already completed. Hopefully, the show will go on to honor Betty in memoriam instead of celebrating another year to come for the cherished star.

Our thoughts go out to all of Betty’s family and friends.

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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