Veteran comedienne Betty White continues her remarkable, cultish comeback this weekend with a much-anticipated turn as the host of Saturday Night Live. But younger fans who only know White from her Super Bowl ad and talk show appearances may not realize that she's had a long and varied TV career. A look back at some of her greatest hits:
Life With Elizabeth (1953)
"Come, let's fight up here, where it's cooler"
White's fledgling TV career took off when she nabbed the title role in this nationally-syndicated sitcom about young newlyweds. Though hamstrung by the stereotypes of her wheedling wife role, White's gift for physical comedy helped her stand out. Note the show's sleepy harp soundtrack:
"Only you and my doctor know how hard it is to dance at my age."
In one of her many appearances on the quiz show Password, White, then 43, demonstrates how to deliver a plug, promoting an upcoming tour date with a certain adorable obnoxiousness. She was married to the show's host, Allan Ludden, and would be until his death in 1981:
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1975)
"They can screw up a whole city!"
White spent four years playing the "Happy Homemaker" Sue Ann Nivens—a lecherous Martha Stewart–type figure—on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, winning two Emmys. In this brief scene from Season 5, she meditates on the hidden menace in snowflakes:
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1981)
"I'll bet that jungle jerk is out swinging with the boys again."
What would have happened if Tarzan and Jane had remained married into their dysfunctional, twilight years? Johnny Carson finds out—with help from one of his favorite guest stars, White:
Winning a Comedy Award for The Golden Girls (1987)
"We'll put the old broad on, and then we'll take it away from her and laugh."
White played Rose Nylund in The Golden Girls from 1985 to 1992. In this gracious acceptance speech, White shows off her signature, self-deprecating humor:
Golden Girls: The Musical (1995)
"I can't run my own circus!"
White appeared as herself in this bizarre episode of The John Larroquette Show, in which she convinces Larroquette to help write a musical version of The Golden Girls, three years after the show had been canceled. The episode won her an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, her sixth to date:
The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson (2008)
"That is one crazy bitch"
White has played a number of characters in sketches on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson. Here, she plays another version of herself as one of Sen. John McCain's speechwriters during the 2008 presidential race:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- How to save Meet the Press
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
Subscribe to the Week