Retro Dee writes about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s on this site. Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every week.
They said Betty White would be around forever, and although she has physically left this world, it’s still true that we will have her with us forever, as we continue to enjoy her life’s work. Her sunny, yet snarky personality and zest for life should be an inspiration to us all.
Betty once said: “I think everybody needs a passion. Whether it’s one passion or a hundred. That’s what keeps life interesting.”
Betty White is known as The Queen of Television. Her life-long professional television career began around when TV itself began, and by the 1950’s, Betty was working full swing in the entertainment industry and showing up routinely in living rooms across America.
Let’s have a look at some of the great television roles Ms. White played during the best decade ever, the 1950’s!
Life With Elizabeth (1952-1955)
This was the sit-com debut for Betty who had already done plenty of radio shows! In this show, Betty’s character Elizabeth was an independent-thinking housewife married to Alvin (played by Del Moore). Each episode was about 8 minutes long and referred to by the narrator as an “incident”. Elizabeth would do things such as burn dinner, borrow Alvin’s car without asking (and have a fender-bender) or confuse things in the office while answering phones. Every incident would end with the announcer asking “Elizabeth, aren’t you ashamed?” and Elizabeth would start to nod, then smile devilishly and shake her head no. Of all the roles she’s ever played, Betty White said that she is the most like her character Elizabeth!
The Betty White Show (1952-1954)
Concurrent with “Life With Elizabeth”, Betty had her own variety show on NBC. She had creative control over both shows, something unusual for a woman in those days. (And she could sing too!) Betty famously featured an African American tap dancer by the name of Arthur Duncan on her show, sparking controversy and criticism from some local stations. The stations threatened to boycott The Betty White Show, if she didn’t remove Mr. Duncan from the cast. Betty responded simply with, “I’m sorry. Live with it.” and gave Mr. Duncan even more airtime.
Although The Betty White Show was an initial asset to NBC, unfortunately, as the run continued, viewership was down. The ratings suffered, and the show was subsequently canceled in 1954.
The Millionaire (1956)
In 1956, Betty guest-starred on “The Millionaire”. The Millionaire was a fictitious show about a wealthy man who would pick a regular person to be his benefactor. Each week, there would be a different person who received a million dollars (which, back then, was more like a billion is in today’s money) The episode would follow the benefactor and how his or her life changed after becoming a millionaire. Betty’s character was Millionaire Virginia Lennart in the episode of the same name.
Date With The Angels (1957-1958)
“Date With The Angels” was a short-lived sitcom that followed the lives of the Angels, a newly wed couple: Vicki (Betty White) and Gus (Bill Williams). A unique twist for the show was Vicki’s daydreaming sequences. However, this idea was scrapped by the show’s sponsor (Chrysler Plymouth) because they felt that this format would confuse the audience. Betty White stated that the show was just a run-of-the-mill sit com without the dream sequence aspect, and she was happy when the show was canceled so she could move on to something else.
Obviously, the 50’s were just the beginning for Betty White. But it’s the end of this post. However! Please feel free to contact me if I’ve left anything out. (Remember that I’m only showcasing Betty’s early work from the 1950’s on this post, in keeping with the theme of this blog.)
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it.
Voting is now open in our annual Love Song Survey There’s two different polls, one for love songs of the 1950s, and one for love songs from 1960-1963. Pick 10 favorites from each group of years daily through January 30th at 10 PM. You can also write in other songs if your choice isn’t listed. Details are available here.
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