Betty White is celebrated at the Emmy Awards in 2018
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Betty White was 99 when she passed away on New Year’s Eve. It was made all the more heartbreaking as she was preparing to celebrate her 100th birthday (January 17). Just days before her death, on December 28, White wrote on Twitter: “My 100th birthday… I cannot believe it is coming up, and People Magazine is celebrating with me!” Sadly, this would be her last Tweet, though it represents the uplifting spirit that her followers loved until the very end. Hours after her passing, Ryan Reynolds wrote: “The world looks different now. She was great at defying expectation. She managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough. We’ll miss you, Betty. Now you know the secret.” Their unlikely friendship sparked back in 2009 when they shared the screen for the rom-com The Proposal. Yet, not all of White’s co-stars took to her so fondly, with the late actress admitting that one colleague thought “if I was happy, she’d be furious.” And, as any fans will know, White was happy most of the time.
There are few American actresses as iconic as Betty White. Kicking off her career in the late-1940s, she appeared in over 120 projects across seven decades. Some career highlights include Date with the Angels, The Love Boat, The Golden Palace, Toy Story 4, You Again, and of course, The Betty White Show.
Yet, there was one series that defined her career – The Golden Girls. Airing from 1985 to 1992, it became the show American households consistently tuned in to. Following four previously married women living together in Miami, it was a heartwarming story of friendship and love despite hard times.
Starring White as Rose Nulund, Bea Arthur as Dorothy Zbornak, Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux, and Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrilo, the four stars were known for having infectious onscreen chemistry.
This didn’t continue off-screen though for two of them, with Arthur reportedly disliking certain things about White intensely. The star passed away in 2009 due to lung cancer, leading to White finally opening up about their off-screen feud.
Reports of their rivalry originally sprang up when McClanahan released her memoir, My First Five Husbands and the Ones Who Got Away: A Memoir, hinting at a rocky relationship between takes. One shocking remark from the book came during a story when McClanagan introduced her husband to Arthur, with the latter saying: “Rue I like, Betty’s a c***.”
The comment was the last thing fans expected to hear from Arthur, leading to many wanting White to address the situation. Finally, she did in an interview with The Village Voice, saying: “She found me a pain in the neck sometimes. It was my positive attitude- and that made Bea angry sometimes. Sometimes if I was happy, she’d be furious.”
Years later, the situation was addressed again by Arthur’s son Matthew Saks during an interview with Closer Weekly. Saks said: “My mom unknowingly carried the attitude that it was fun to have somebody to be angry at. It was almost like Betty became her nemesis, someone she could always roll her eyes about at work.”
These comments gave followers the context they needed, as many could relate to having a workplace rivalry. It appears the relationship between the two icons wasn’t as dire as it first appeared, with the two sharing a ride to work together frequently. McClanahan even revealed that Arthur wouldn’t go on lunch unless White was there as well.
Saks offered his opinion on why the rivalry started in the first place, adding: “Sometimes Betty would go out and smile and chat with the audience and literally go and make friends with the audience. Which is a nice thing—a lot of them have come from all over the country and are fans. I think my mom didn’t dig that. It’s more about being focused or conserving your energy. It’s just not the right time to talk to fans between takes. Betty was able to do it and it didn’t seem to affect her. But it rubbed my mom the wrong way.” (via The Hollywood Reporter)
Sadly, the two never made amends, with both going their separate ways after The Golden Girls came to an end. White had a comeback after appearing in The Proposal alongside Reynolds and Sandra Bullock, leading to cameos in comedy hits such as 30 Rock and Community.
Arthur also went down the comedy route, starring in shows such as Dave’s World and Beggars and Choosers. She later made a cameo appearance in Malcolm in the Middle, along with voicing Femputer in Futurama. Her last performance was as Larry’s Mother in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
As for White, in 2010 she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Screen Actors Guild. Bullock introduced her, saying: “A lot of people really find Betty White inspiring, she’s been working as an actor, in an industry for more than six decades, in a business that doesn’t exactly value getting older. There’s a lot to admire.”
She jokingly added: “Me, I find Betty White annoying. I’m sorry, it’s true. Betty, you make me feel bad about myself. You make me feel like a slacker.”
After she finished her speech, White delivered a retort that defined her personality and career, saying: “Oh my dears, I can’t. And, the fact that this lovely lady, she is such a wonderful one and with all the wonderful things that have happened to her.”
White then grabbed Bullock’s hand, adding: “Isn’t it heartening to see how far a girl as plain as she is can go?”
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