Betty White's golden legacy glimmers on
SUN. | 02-13-22 | ENTERTAINMENT
As many of you, dear readers, may know, the entertainer/comedienne/national treasure Betty White sadly passed away near the end of last year. Often labeled the “First Lady of Television,” she was famous for her lengthy career of over 70 years in the entertainment industry. She was also beloved for her advocacy for women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community in the entertainment industry and her unrivaled kindness for those she worked with.
Naturally, she has been the subject of media attention for most of her career, even being the subject of several documentaries during her later life. With her 100th birthday approaching on Jan. 17, 2022, an epic, celebratory documentary was planned to be screened in movie theaters nationwide on this momentous day: Betty White: 100 Years Young – A Birthday Celebration. As anyone who knows me well would probably expect, I’m a fairly simple guy; I see Betty White’s name on something, I watch it.
Unfortunately, that birthday celebration was not
Graphic by William Becker
to come. White passed away in her sleep on Dec. 31, 2021 at the age of 99, 17 days before her 100th birthday. As I’m sure many others who were planning to watch this celebration assumed, I had largely expected this event to be canceled.
Surprisingly, producers Steve Boettcher and Mike Trinklein announced several days after White’s passing that her documentary (retitled Betty White: A Celebration) screening would go ahead as scheduled, albeit as more of a memorial celebration. Though it was much more of a solemn event than originally planned, I absolutely still went to see it.
The documentary had clearly been modified in some aspects following White’s death, as it included a segment at the beginning with several of her friends and co-stars discussing her passing and what she meant to them before moving into what appeared to be the documentary’s original content. I really appreciated this inclusion, as I feel like it made the documentary more meaningful. Acknowledging her passing while continuing to honor and celebrate her legacy seemed to be exactly what White had hoped for in this documentary, as shown by many interviews with her sprinkled throughout its runtime.
Though watching a documentary intended to celebrate the birthday of a person who has since passed was naturally emotional in some aspects, I truly enjoyed it nevertheless. The many celebrities who were interviewed for segments in the film, from The Proposal co-star Ryan Reynolds to fellow comedienne Carol Burnett, had nothing but kind things to say about Betty White and the constant humor, positivity, and care that she always brought with her to any set she worked on. Many discussed not only the deep kindness she showed for those she knew and worked with, but also her everlasting appreciation for somewhat raunchy humor that made her television roles so iconic.
Spliced in between these interviews were hilarious clips from some of her best performances, such as Rose Nylund in The Golden Girls, Sue Ann Nivens in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Elka Ostrovsky in Hot in Cleveland, as well as her guest roles on The Carol Burnett Show and Saturday Night Live. Also included were details about her personal life, such as her deeply loving but tragically short marriage to game show host Allen Ludden and her often overlooked love for animals. Of all the things I expected to see in A Celebration, I can guarantee you that watching Betty White give kisses and marshmallows to a bear was not one of them.
In all, I feel that Betty White: A Celebration was a wonderful last “hurrah” for one of America’s most beloved celebrities. Saying goodbye to not only White’s exceptional career but also her exceptional impact on those around her was what I had hoped this documentary would accomplish, and it truly exceeded my expectations. Though it carries a profound sense of loss due to her untimely passing, it also carries a profound sense of comfort, reminding viewers that Betty White’s legacy will always live on in not only the entertainment industry, but also in the lives of those who knew her best and everyone who found joy and laughter from her quirky, lovable characters. She will be greatly missed, but also greatly remembered. Thank you for everything and rest in peace, Betty White.