Betty White is back in her Emmy®-nominated role as Elka Ostrovsky in the hit TV Land series "Hot in Cleveland," which premieres its fourth season on Wednesday, November 28 at 10pm ET/PT. The show follows three fabulous friends from Los Angeles (Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick) whose plane, bound for Paris, is forced to make an emergency landing in Cleveland. After discovering that they're still "hot" in Cleveland, they decide to move there and start over together. White plays Elka, the sharp-tongued caretaker that comes with the Victorian home the women rent.
The past few years have been phenomenal for White. She was honored with two consecutive SAG® Awards for her role as Elka on "Hot in Cleveland", as well as a Primetime Emmy® Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 2011. In November 2010, the British Academy of Film & Television honored White with the Charlie Chaplin Award for Excellence in Comedy, and in December of the same year, she was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in Sacramento. She received a Gracie Award in May of 2011 from the Alliance for Women in Media, which recognizes achievement in programming for women. In June 2011, White along with "Hot in Cleveland," co-stars Bertinelli, Leeves and Malick was presented with the key to the city of Cleveland by the mayor.
White took popular culture by storm in 2010 after starring in a Snickers commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. Later that year, after a successful fan-based Facebook campaign, she hosted "Saturday Night Live" and scored one of the highest ratings for the show in recent history and picked up an Emmy® for the gig, to boot. In 2009, White played Ryan Reynolds' scene-stealing Grandma Annie in the chart-topping Sandra Bullock romantic comedy "The Proposal." In that same year, she was also heard in theatres voicing the elderly Yoshie in Oscar®-winner Hayao Miyazaki's animated adventure "Ponyo."
Beloved comedienne, pioneering television producer, host, author and an advocate for the health and welfare of animals, Betty White received the Screen Actors Guild's most prestigious accolade, the Screen Actors Guild® Life Achievement Award, for career achievement and humanitarian accomplishment in 2010 at the 16th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards®. The award is given annually to an actor who fosters the "finest ideals of the acting profession."
Betty Marion White was born January 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Ill., the only child of Horace, an electrical engineer, and Tess, a housewife. The family moved to California when White was two years old. After graduating from Beverly Hills High School, White made her professional debut at the Bliss Hayden Little Theatre and landed parts in such popular radio shows as "Blondie," "The Great Gildersleeve" and "This Is Your FBI." Her first radio program, "The Betty White Show," followed. Her big break came in 1949, when she joined Al Jarvis' five-and-a-half-hour, six-days-a-week live KLAC-TV variety show, "Hollywood on Television." Starting out as Jarvis' "Girl Friday," White inherited the show's hosting duties for two more years when Jarvis left in 1952.
That same year, she formed Bandy Productions with producer Don Fedderson and writer George Tibbles. Spinning off characters from a "Hollywood on Television" sketch, they created the domestic comedy "Life with Elizabeth," for which White received her first of six Emmys(R). Syndication brought the program to national audiences through the mid-1950s. The series made White one of only a few women with creative control in front of and behind the camera in television's early years. White went on to produce and host a daily NBC talk/variety series, "The Betty White Show," garnering a Daytime Emmy® nomination. Her second sitcom, "A Date with the Angels," premiered in 1957 and eventually evolved into another eponymous comedy/variety showcase.
White's sly, ribald humor made her an audience favorite on the late-night talk show circuit as she matched wits with Jack Paar (more than 70 appearances), Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson (including many Mighty Carson Art Players performances), and even subbed for all three as a guest host. Her clever spontaneity also earned her spots on numerous game shows, such as "The Match Game," "To Tell the Truth," "I've Got A Secret," "Password" and "Liar's Club" the latter two of which hosted by Allen Ludden, whom she married in 1963 after a persistent two-year courtship.
When White and Ludden's pals, actor Mary Tyler Moore Mary Tyler Moore and her producer/husband, Grant Tinker, were casting for a cloyingly sweet "Betty White-type" to guest star on their hit series "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," they ultimately decided to go with the real deal. White's 1973 guest shot as the saccharinely catty, man-hungry "Happy Homemaker" Sue Ann Nivens was White's entrance into one of television's most iconic ensembles. The role re-launched White's acting career and earned her three back-to-back Supporting Actress Emmy® Awards and then a fourth Emmy® nomination.
After the series' historic final episode in 1977, MTM created "The Betty White Show," with White playing the second-rate star of a TV police drama. After its brief run, White guest-starred in the miniseries "The Place to Be" (1979) and co-starred in such telefilms as "With This Ring" (1978), "Before and After" (1979) and "The Gossip Columnist" (1980), before breaking ground as TV's first female game show host on NBC's "Just Men." Drawing on the lascivious persona she perfected as Sue Ann, White earned the first and only Daytime Emmy® for Best Game Show Host awarded to a female emcee. A second Daytime Emmy® nomination followed in 1984.
In 1983, White began a three-year recurring stint on Vicki Lawrence's "Mama's Family," reprising the role of social climber Ellen Harper Jackson, a character she had created in sketches on "The Carol Burnett Show" in the early 70s. In 1985, at 63, White began what became the most lauded role of her career, the sweetly nave Minnesotan Rose Nylund on NBC's Saturday night hit "The Golden Girls." White, along with co-stars Beatrice Arthur, Estelle Getty and Rue McClanahan, proved that great comedy transcended age, as did the series' stellar ratings and countless honors including, for White, a first-year lead actress Emmy®, six subsequent nominations and two Golden Globe® nominations. She reprised the role of Rose on three other series: "Empty Nest" (1989 and 1992), "Nurses" (1991) and "The Golden Palace" (199293).
In 1991, White starred opposite Leslie Nielsen in the romantic NBC telefilm "Chance of a Lifetime" and subsequently shone in a variety of series, including with Bob Newhart in "Bob" (1993) and as Marie Osmond's mother in "Maybe This Time" (1995). She won her fourth Emmy® for her guest-starring self-caricature on "The John Larroquette Show" (1996) and earned more Emmy® nominations for guest roles on "Suddenly Susan" (1997) and "Yes, Dear" (2003). She played Alfred Molina's mother in "Ladies Man" (1999-2001) and played a recurring role in "That 70's Show" (2002-03). A 2007 TV Land Awards parody entitled "Ugly Betty White" led to a subsequent guest appearance as herself on the spoof's target, "Ugly Betty," with White going head-to-head over a taxi with Vanessa Williams' Wilhelmina Slater. Other television guest appearances include "St. Elsewhere," "The Ellen Show," "Everwood," "My Wife and Kids," "Joey" and "Malcolm in the Middle." She has voiced animated characters on The Simpsons," "King of the Hill," "The Wild Thornberrys," "Father of the Pride" and "Family Guy," as well as in the feature "Whispers: An Elephant's Tale." White's more recent films for television include "The Lost Valentine" opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt for Hallmark Hall of Fame in 2011, "Annie's Point" in 2005 for the Hallmark Channel, "Stealing Christmas" in 2003 for USA and "The Retrievers" in 2001 for Animal Planet.
With "The Practice" in 2004, White once again turned one-shot casting into gold. Her guest turn as conniving blackmailer Catherine Piper led not only to another Emmy® nomination but also to a recurring return for White as Catherine on the subsequent David E. Kelley series "Boston Legal" (20052008). In 1999, White guest-starred for Kelley on "Ally McBeal," earning an American Comedy Award for Funniest Female Guest Appearance in a Television Series, and starred in his horror-film send-up "Lake Placid." Her 2009 guest performance as the Crazy Witch Lady on "My Name is Earl" earned White her 18th Emmy® nomination. She most recently appeared as herself in an episode of "30 Rock" and in guest starring roles on "Community" and "The Middle."
White returned to the big screen in 2003 in the comedy "Bringing Down the House" opposite Steve Martin and Queen Latifah, and appeared in 2009's "Love 'n' Dancing." Earlier films include "Hard Rain" (1998) with Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater, "Dennis the Menace Strikes Again" (1998) playing Mrs. Wilson opposite Don Rickles, and Rob Reiner's "The Story of Us" (1999).
In December 2006, White joined the daytime drama "The Bold and the Beautiful" as Ann Douglas, the long-lost mother of matriarch Stephanie Forrester (Susan Flannery). She has appeared 19 times since, most recently in November 2009.
White narrated network telecasts of the annual Tournament of Roses Parade from 1954 through 1974 and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade for 10 years.
Honors have been bestowed on White throughout her career. In 1976 she was awarded the Pacific Pioneers in Broadcasting Golden Ike Award and the Genii Award from the American Women in Radio and TV. She was honored with the American Comedy Award for Funniest Female in 1987 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990. In 1995 she was inducted into the Television Academy's Hall of Fame. In 2006 she was profiled by the Paley Center for Media as part of their "She Made It" initiative honoring women creating television and radio. In August of 2009 she received a Career Achievement Award from the Television Critics Association, and she was presented with a Disney Legends Award in September 2009. In 2011, White was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.
White's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame rests adjacent to that of her late husband Allen Ludden, who sadly succumbed to cancer in 1981.
White's devotion to the health and welfare of animals has been a passion since childhood. She is President Emeritus of the Morris Animal Foundation and has been a trustee since 1971. She first learned about the Foundation's support of research studies to protect, treat and cure animals while creating, producing and hosting "The Pet Set," the 1970-71 syndicated series featuring celebrities and their pets. She received the American Veterinary Medical Association's Humane Award in 1987. A member of the board of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association since 1974, she served as a Zoo Commissioner for eight years. In February 2006, White was honored by the City of Los Angeles with a bronze plaque placed next to the Gorilla Exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo naming her Ambassador to the Animals for her life-long work for animal welfare. In 2007, Western University Veterinary School awarded her an honorary Doctor of Humane Veterinary Sciences. In October 2009, she received the Jane Goodall Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award. In February 2012, The Los Angeles Zoo honored White with a special gift when they named a baby orangutan Elka after her "Hot in Cleveland" character.
Four of White's published books directly connect to her passion for animals: " Betty White's Pet Love: How Pets Take Care of Us" (1983), "Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo" (2011), "The Leading Lady: Dinah's Story" (1991) and "Together: A Story of Shared Vision" (2008), the latter two co-authored with Tom Sullivan. Her most recent autobiography, 2011's "If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't)" from Putnam Publishing, was preceded by "Betty White in Person" in 1987 and "Here We Go Again: My Life in Television" in 1995. That life continues to unfold new chapters.
A widower in her late 80s, old-school Elka Ostrovsky has been a caretaker (of the Cleveland home the L.A. ladies rent) for 50 years -- ever since she lost her husband. She lives in the guest cottage in the back, and often has the scent of an illegal substance on her. Elka was born in Poland, where she escaped from the Nazis and finally found her way to Cleveland. Opinionated and outspoken, Elka instantly dislikes Joy, perhaps because they have similar personalities. She cooks for the ladies, who are used to healthy, organic foods and now find themselves in the land of cheese fries. She re-enters the dating game once the women move in and is loving it.