Betty White turned 96 on Wednesday and she’s still going strong with no plans to retire. During her distinguished acting career, she’s had two roles that had a lasting impact on me.
The first came in 1962’s “Advice and Consent,” a movie I really like that I’ve written about before. The movie is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name written by Allen Drury, a Porterville High (Calif.) graduate. As a reporter at the Porterville Recorder I had the chance to interview Drury and he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
Every time major legislation is debated in this country — such as the budget battle that’s been going on now in Washington — it reminds me of that movie which centers around the Senate debating the president’s choice for secretary of state and how the more things change the more things stay the same.
In the movie, White is in just one brief scene portraying a young female senator questioning her more senior male colleague. While the scene is brief, White’s brilliant performance depicting a young female senator standing up to an older male colleague leaves a lasting impression and could be the first example of a woman dealing with “mansplaining.”
Of course the other role I most remember is the most remember role played by White by all of us when she played Sue Ann Nivens — who became sort of Mary Tyler Moore’s friendly or maybe not so friendly rival in the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Nivens, again brilliantly played by White, was the perky All-American girl host of her own cooking show on air but anything but off air as demonstrated whenever she would utter the line “dear, sweet naive Mary.”
Here’s to dear, sweet but not naive Betty White.
— Charles Whisnand