One of the most beloved figures in entertainment for decades, the incomparable Betty White passed away on December 31, 2021, as one final reminder of how cruel the year could be at times. Her death came less than three weeks before what would have been her 100th birthday.
Betty maintained relevance with audiences of all ages due, in no small part, to her ability to take roles and make appearances in a wide variety of projects that spread over so many demographics. In a world so divided, she was universally loved.
At CGM, we wanted to honour Betty White with a countdown of some of her best appearances on TV and in movies, outside of her most well-known roles like those on The Golden Girls, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Hot in Cleveland, and Boston Legal. We wanted to focus on the roles where she stole the show.
#10 – Dr. Beth Mayer – Bones
Betty’s two appearances as Forensic Anthropologist, Dr. Beth Mayer in the procedural Bones, were scene stealers where her character shared a little too much information with her scene-mates about past relationships and her high number of former husbands.
#9 – Bea Sigurdson – That 70’s Show
As the bossy and judgmental mother of Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp), Betty White made four appearances on the show, usually adding to the chaos as the Forman’s matriarch is trying her best to make everything perfect for the family.
#8 – Professor June Bauer – Community
Betty portrayed the study group’s Anthropology Professor June Bauer in the second season premiere of Community. While she only appeared in one full episode (plus a small appearance at the end of episode 3), she packed a lot into her appearance, including shooting someone with a blow dart, drinking her own urine, attacking Jeff (Joel McHale) with a crudely constructed weapon, rapping, and explaining the plot of Inception to an indigenous African Tribe.
#7 – Various – The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson
White made numerous appearances with the King of late night, both as a guest and as an actress in various sketches. Most notably, they appeared together in sketches about Tarzan and Jane, and Adam and Eve, both of which appear in compilations of the iconic talk show to this day.
#6 – Bitey White – Toy Story 4
Appearing alongside comedy icons Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Carol Burnett (all of whose characters resemble their real names), Betty loaned her voice to the popular Disney/Pixar franchise as an old toy who’s been left in the closet.
#5 – Herself – Comedy Central’s Roast of William Shatner
Comedy Central’s Roasts have a reputation for being relentless in its digs at the person of the hour as well as the rest of the dais. Add to that the old comedy trope of old women saying mean things, and you have a perfect environment for Betty White to shine. She appeared on the Roast of William Shatner (White co-starred with Shatner in Boston Legal) and delivered a set that should not be quoted here.
#4 – Ellen Harper Jackson – Mama’s Family
Just prior to becoming Golden Girls, both Betty White and Rue McClanahan were regulars on the pseudo-spinoff to The Carol Burnett Show, Mama’s Family, starring Vicki Lawrence as the titular Mama, Thelma. Bea Arthur also made appearances on the show. White played Thelma’s snobby daughter, Ellen, who came in mainly to look down on the family and their exploits.
#3 – Grandma Annie – The Proposal
In a film with two rising stars in Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, Betty White steals every scene she is in as Grandma Annie (aka Gammy), grandmother to Reynolds’ character, Andrew in The Proposal. Her eccentricities and over-familiarity with Bullock’s character (see the scene where she helps Bullock into her wedding dress) made her an instant highlight of the Rom-Com.
#2 – Host – Saturday Night Live
After nearly sixty years on Television, one would have assumed that Betty White had hosted the iconic sketch comedy show at some point during its decades-long run, but as of 2010, she had never graced the stage at 30 Rock. Following a massive campaign on Facebook, the people at SNL extended an invitation to her, and she made her one and only appearance on the show.
The show also ended up being a reunion of sorts with the return of several female alumni, including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon. Highlights include an appearance on the Lawrence Welk Show with Kristen Wiig’s popular character, Judith, her as a prisoner, scaring kids straight, a series of MacGruber sketches during the run of the episode, and the return of Delicious Dish, with Gasteyer and Shannon.
#1 – Delores Bickerman – Lake Placid
The David E. Kelley-penned Lake Placid is a favourite among some, but most found it disappointing because it was neither scary enough to be a horror nor funny enough to be a comedy. It just… was. The film was not without its good points, though. Chief among them was the appearance of Betty White as Delores Bickerman, widowed old lady who lives on the lake who (spoiler alert) covers up the death of her husband to protect their giant crocodile, the antagonist of the movie. Her performance as the sweet, yet salty old lady was, to many, an introduction to the legendary actress and a reaffirmation of other people’s LOVE for her.