Betty White will always be remembered as the grande dame of television, with leading roles in Golden Girls, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and even her own talk show and sitcom, The Betty White Show and Life With Elizabeth, respectively.
Her over 80 year – and record setting – career in entertainment didn’t end there. White also made appearances in films that range from a fun cameo (Holy Man) or voice-over (Ponyo, The Lorax, and Toy Story 4, to name a few) to more substantial roles, further adding to her legacy. Whatever part she played, White always found a way to shine, from her early days in the 1950s up until the present day.
White would have turned 100 years old on Jan. 17. She died on Dec. 31, 2021.
Time To Kill (1945)
This WWII era short encouraging servicemen to complete or continue their education post-war is White’s first on-screen role in film. She appears in one scene as “Lou’s Girl,” who would like her sailor boyfriend to finish high school once he’s out of the Navy. He’s reluctant initially, however, over the course of the 23 minute short, Lou and other sailors, including Star Trek’s DeForest Kelly, are inspired by their friend Frank (TV’s original “Superman” George Reeves) to look into educational opportunities once the war is over. White doesn’t have much to play with in her role, but everybody starts somewhere.
Advise & Consent (1962)
After spending the bulk of the 50s on television, White makes another small but significant appearance in 1962’s Advise & Consent. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name and directed by Otto Preminger, this political drama gets into the nitty – gritty of the Constitution and the American political machine. The President (played by Franchot Tone) nominates a controversial candidate (Henry Fonda) for Secretary of State, leading to far-reaching consequences. As Senator Bessie Adams of Kansas, White shines with her trademark humor, brightening up an otherwise serious film.
Hard Rain (1998)
Between The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Golden Girls, White dominated television in the 70s and 80s. Shecontinued to appear both on TV and in films in the 90s with a string of appearances, including this heist gone wrong by way of the weather thriller. She plays one half of an elderly couple who are held hostage during the many twists and turns of the movie. It’s a rather small role, but the scene where her character’s husband tells her off with some foul language is certainly a memorable one.
Lake Placid (1999)
Lake Placid has become a cult classic over the years for two reasons: a 30 foot man-eating crocodile, and Betty White. In a delightful bait-and-switch moment, a seemingly frail White comes close to being chomped alongside her cow by the vicious croc, only to reveal that she’s its foulmouthed caretaker. Co-stars Bill Pullman and Bridget Fonda do their best to contain the creature terrorizing the citizens of the tiny Maine town, but White has the upper hand in the end.
The Proposal (2009)
This might be White’s most beloved role outside of television. As Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds try to pull off their fake engagement, White steals the show as Reynolds’ eccentric but sweet grandma.
You Again (2010)
You Again reunited White with her The Mary Tyler Moore Show co-star Cloris Leachman. In a movie filled with rivalries, White and Leachman’s goes back the furthest and deepest when they, as dueling grandmas, trade insults following a flashback scene showing Leachman’s character stealing White’s character’s boyfriend decades earlier when they were still in high school. And in a full circle moment, reportedly the basis of their bad blood was inspired by their characters’ rivalry on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.