Auction Highlights: Betty White - The Sweetest Lady in Hollywood

If there is one woman who was there at the beginning of it all when radio and TV entertainment first kicked off, it is Betty White. American actress, comedian, television pioneer, first female TV producer, animal advocate and author, Betty White is a legend in her own right with a career spanning eight decades of ground-breaking and award-winning comedy.

Lot #114 - 1950s Era Framed Oil On Canvas Portrait
Estimate: $800 - $1,200
Sold: $43,750

Betty White is best-loved for her roles in the Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland. She has delighted fans from all generations and became known as the sweetest lady in Hollywood. News of her death on December 31, 2021 hit Hollywood hard, but a posthumous auction featuring 1,500 pieces of collectible items gave fans of the beloved star a chance to own a part of her and keep her close.

Lot #2 - Carmelina Residence Front Door (with Tear Sheet)
Estimate: $2,000 - $3,000
Sold: $10,000

The auction hosted by Julien’s Auctions featured an exclusive collection of iconic memorabilia, including awards, scripts, wardrobe, as well as furnishings, artwork, fine jewellery, household and personal items from her homes in Brentwood and Carmel, California.

Betty White was born in Oak Park, Illinois on January 17, 1922, but grew up in Los Angeles. She started her illustrious career fresh out of high school, working in radio, voicing commercials and performing bit parts.

Lot #118 - Vintage Newspaper Photograph
Estimate: $200 - $400
Sold: $1,152

She had tried to get into TV but was turned down for not being photogenic. Her lucky break came when local DJ and radio star, Al Jarvis, invited her to join him as co-host of his show, Hollywood on Television. It was the early days of television entertainment and this show was the "only game in town." It was five and a half hours of live TV that ran from Monday to Saturday every week from 1949 to 1953.

In 1951, White was nominated for an Emmy award for Best Actress, the first of 21 Emmy nominations

Lot #103 - Life With Elizabeth - 1953-54 Billboard Award
Estimate: $500 - $700
Sold: $3,200

In 1952, when Al Jarvis left to work on a movie with Audrey Hepburn, White took over the hosting duties for another year before producing her own half-hour sitcom in 1953 called Life With Elizabeth. She was the first woman in Hollywood to produce their own show and this gave her the incentive to start her own production company called Bandy Productions. This was closely followed by her own talk show called The Betty White Show.

This ground-breaking show was the first variety TV program to feature an African-American performer as a regular cast member and came under harsh criticism and protest to get him off the show. Betty White stood her ground and retaliated with the response, "I'm sorry. Live with it!" - and she gave Arthur Duncan more airtime.

Lot #127 - Date With The Angels Bound Complete Set Of Signed, Annotated, Production Used Teleplays and Guestbook
Estimate: $600 - $800
Sold: $8,960

One of White’s early performances as an actor includes her role as newlywed Vickie Angel in the sitcom Date With the Angels that ran from 1957-58.

Co-hosting alongside Roy Neal and later Lorne Greene, Betty became well known for her 19-year run as the voice of the annual Rose Parade and Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

Nobody can forget White’s many appearances on game shows throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s. In fact, she met her third husband on the popular game show, Password. Her guest appearances include What’s My Line?, To Tell the Truth, I’ve Got A Secret, Match Game and Pyramid. She became known as "the first lady of game shows."

Lot #146 - Allen Ludden Dog Photograph
Estimate: $300 - $500
Sold: $2,240

White’s guest appearance on the hit TV series, The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1973 landed her a full-time role for the next four years as Sue Ann Nivens, an ambitious and amorous character. Her performance earned her two consecutive Emmy awards for outstanding continuing performance by a supporting actress in a comedy series.

Lot #345 - The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Password, The Love Boat and others Screen-worn Cultured Pearl and Diamond Necklace (with photo and magazine)
Estimate: $800 - $1,200
Sold: $8,960

The Betty White Show was revived as a half-hour sitcom in 1977 with a whole new cast of characters. It had tough competition though, airing on Monday nights against Monday Night Football and only lasted one season.

It was in 1985 that Betty White became a true household name as Rose Nylund in the hit series The Golden Girls. This show ran for seven years and earned White a number of Emmy and Golden Globe nominations every year. In 1986, she secured the title of Outstanding Leading Actress in a Comedy Series and took the Emmy home.

The Golden Girls is ranked as one of the Best Series of All Time on industry lists from TV Guide to the Writers Guild of America and is one of the most streamed sitcoms online.

Lot #694 - The Golden Girls Original Director’s Chair
Estimate: $1,000 - $2,000
Sold: $76,800

White continued to make guest appearances on all the top-rated TV shows through the nineties. In 1995, she won a Hall of Fame Emmy honour and another Emmy the following year for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (The John Larroquette Show).

The early 2000s took Betty White off to the movies, playing memorable roles in films such as Lake Placid, The Story of Us, Bringing Down the House and You Again. Never venturing too far away from TV though, White secured a role in the TV hit show Boston Legal as Catherine Piper from 2005 to 2008 and Ann Douglas in The Bold and the Beautiful from 2006 to 2009

Things did not slow down for this first lady of television. At the beginning of the summer of 2010, White landed her next big hit role as Elka Ostrovsky in the sitcom entitled Hot in Cleveland. Playing a grumpy yet frisky and savvy property manager of a beautiful house in Cleveland, Ostrovsky becomes friends with the tenants, three female friends living under the same roof. Let the hijinks begin.

Lot #1300 - Hot In Cleveland Cast and Queen Latifah Signed Strange Bedfellows Teleplay
Estimate: $500 - 700
Sold: $5,760

This hit show ran for six seasons, during which time White was nominated for an Emmy for best supporting actress and received three nominations for the Screen Actors Guild Award. She took home the SAG award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a comedy series in 2011 and 2012.

Lot #1284 - 2010 American Women In Radio & Television Lifetime Achievement Award
Estimate: $500 - 700
Sold: $2,880

At the age of 88, White was proving herself to be a true pop culture icon, delighting the masses across all generations. On May 8, 2010, she became the oldest celebrity to host Saturday Night Live to 12 million viewers, an appearance only made possible by a fan-based Facebook campaign. Her iconic appearance went viral and all of a sudden, Betty White was born again in the eyes of a younger generation. She won her fifth Emmy that year for her performance.

Alongside such a busy and fruitful career, Betty White devoted her time to animals, raising awareness and funds with the LA Zoo and the Morris Animal Foundation. She founded Bets’ Pets to raise money for animal shelters and rescue groups in the California area. In her words, show business was a way to "keep up with her animal business."

Lot #1054 - Judith Leiber Labrador Minaudière Purse
Estimate: $1,000 - $2,000
Sold: $10,240

The year 2010 was a good year for Bets, when she was named an honorary forest ranger by the National Forest Service to honour her appreciation and respect for the environment:

"Wilderness is getting harder and harder to find these days… [we’re] almost to the point of no return. In my heart I’ve been a forest ranger all my life, but now I’m official."

Betty White captured her long and illustrious career in several memoirs and biographies, including:

  • Betty White in Person (1987)
  • The Leading Lady: Dinah's Story (1991)
  • Here We Go Again: My Life In Television (1995)
  • Together: A Novel of Shared Vision (2008)
  • If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) - 2011
  • Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo (2011)

Betty White will always be remembered as the First Lady of Television and her shows and performances will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.

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