Who didn’t love Betty White? A national treasure passes — 1922-2021

The last of the three incredibly funny women who made “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” legendarily hilarious has died.

The only woman who could have stolen Ryan Reynolds away from Sandra Bullock is gone.

A brassy broad who transitioned into her dotage with “The Golden Girls,” and went on to have the Greatest Fourth Act in American acting history, facing down a giant crocodile in “Lake Placid,” lifting “Hot in Cleveland” and half a dozen other series out of the doldrums in the past twenty years, hitting her marks and landing her zingers well past the point most grannies have their car keys taken away, we’ll never see another like Betty White.

Ninety nine years old, dying days short of her 100th, Emmy winner, a legend who made her mark over eight decades in show biz, funny and saucy to the very end.

RIP, Queen Betty. What a resume, what a career. And below, please find a story I wrote from an interview related to “The Proposal,” where that whole Ryan Reynolds meets his first TRUE love thing began. “The Proposal” and Reynolds played huge roles in White’s cool late life cachet, which in turn led to her attaining icon status.

By Roger Moore/McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Betty White has been stealing scenes for more years than most people can remember. In the new Sandra Bullock- Ryan Reynolds comedy, The Proposal, she stole a puppy.

“Oh, that little Samoyed was so adorable I just walked in for a rehearsal and just automatically, without even thinking about it, took the dog away from Ryan,” White says with a chortle. “I thought, ‘They’re never going to let me get away with that.’ But nobody said anything so that’s the way we shot it.”

There’s something so natural about seeing Hollywood’s most famous animal lover with a puppy, almost as natural as hearing something outrageous come out of that sweet, grandmotherly face. White, 87, has been in show business for over half a century and may very well be the busiest she’s ever been. She was just in Love’N Dancing, just this week signed to co-star with Kristen Bell and Jamie Lee Curtis in You Again, and lent a voice to the animated Ponyo due out in August.

“My life is divided absolutely in half — half is my animal work and half is show business. I have to stay in show business to pay for my animal charity work.”The Proposal has White as the too-helpful Alaskan grandmother of Reynolds’ character, a man who has been cornered into marrying his boss (Bullock) so that she can get a green card. They don’t make the work easier just because you’re 80something.

“I had to learn a song in Eskimo. And that ain’t easy, honey. There are no syllables that you can relate to. Learning the song was hard, and by the time we got to filming that dance scene it was 3:30 in the morning. It started to rain. Singing and dancing in the rain is fine for Gene Kelly, but it doesn’t work at 3:30 A.M. in the woods.”

The sassy act has stood White in good stead since the role that defined her, as snarky, man-crazy “Happy Homemaker” Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. When she filmed Love’N Dancing in New Mexico, “even the Teamsters had their cameras out to get a picture with Betty,” says Sylvia Caminer, a Central Florida-based producer on the film. “She turned grown men into giggling schoolboys!”

But White’s charitable side is just as evident. Her commitment to the animal healthcare Morris Animal Foundation goes back more than 40 years, as do her ties to the Los Angeles Zoo.

“Everybody who ever said ‘I belong in a zoo,” I agree!”

Caminer witnessed that when she drove White to the Albuquerque Zoo on a day off during Love N’ Dancing.

“Word reached the zoo before we even arrived, and she was greeted like a rock star by man and beast alike,” Caminer marvels.

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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