Five Favorite Films with Betty White

The iconic television star discusses her favorite films, working on Golden Girls, and the art of the conversation.

In The Proposal we get to see you in a really fun role; Grandma Annie is sort of a naughty grandmother.

Betty White: Well, she's not naughty, she's just a very strong lady who wants to get these two people together. She's the only one in the beginning who sees the good side of Margaret (Sandra Bullock) in the film. We had such fun doing it... from a personal standpoint, you don't get parts like that very often, at this age, and we had such a good time. When I heard Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds were going to do it, and the chemistry was just such fun, it was like going to a party.

You can tell by watching the film that the whole cast has good chemistry.

BW: Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson --- well, Craig is the funniest man on two feet. I had seen him on Coach, but I'd never thought of him as that funny. We finally got to the point -- we just hit each other funny --- so we couldn't ever lock eyes. We'd be talking to each other and I'd have to look past him, and he'd have to look past me, because if we'd ever caught each others' eye we'd just break up, and we couldn't explain it! It was just silly, but it was fun.

Speaking of fun, I think members of my generation know you best for your role as Rose on the long-running sitcom The Golden Girls, which coincidentally all of the journalists were just watching here while waiting to speak with you.

BW: You're kidding! You haven't heard enough of us yet, God bless your heart! The Golden Girls was such good writing, it holds up. I think so many of these things go right back to the writing; Golden Girls is a classic example of that, that and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. We were like four points on a compass. Our characters were all so different but we had plenty to do in every show. The writers would throw a situation in the middle of the table and the audience would wait to see how each character reacted to it. Made it fun to do.

I loved the show growing up. That and Mama's Family, too. But your career started way before those shows; you did radio and even hosted your own television show...

BW: Oh, there were five "Betty White" shows altogether! I started five and a half hours a day, six days a week, ad-libbing with no script. That's like going to television college, because whatever happens, happens on camera! You've got to handle it. So I've always been grateful for that.

Back then, how difficult was it as a female performer to get to that level in Hollywood?

BW: What was really hard was that on my first series, Life with Elizabeth, I was also the producer. And for a woman to be in the production side of it was very unusual. But again, it was a great experience -- and sheer blind luck. [Laughs]

Also, I had an NBC half-hour talk show in 1954 where I'd sing a couple of songs and then interview a couple of people. When you've been in the business for 60 years, you've done a little bit of everything! I did commentary on the Rose Parade for 20 years. It's just been a lovely go. But I didn't do movies, I was always in television. Just in the last five years I've done movies, and it's a whole different ball game. With television, you do it, you go home and watch it, and it's done. With movies, you go and you work, and then it disappears, and then a year later it comes back after it's edited and you talk about it!

Given your experience as an on-the-fly interviewer, what advice could you give me from your days on that five and a half hour interview show?

BW: I'm a baboon to give advice to anybody, Jennifer. [Smiles] But I think the biggest problem sometimes that you have in being interviewed is that people will ask you a question, but they're so busy thinking about the next question that they never hear what you say. The good interviewers do what you've done, what Jack Parr and Johnny Carson did -- Jack Parr maybe even better than Johnny; they'll listen to the answer, and find something in the answer. They won't go where they were going to go next; they'll follow that through and go down a whole other alley. And that's when an interview gets interesting -- both for the people involved and the audience.

Of course; it's more conversational, more natural.

BW: That's right. As happens in a conversation!

And that makes a lot more sense for a live, on-air interview, for an audience to be able to watch a conversation unfold.

BW: But now with TV shows they do a "pre-interview." Somebody will call, and they'll ask you all the questions that you used to answer on the show, and when you get to the actual interview the host will go down those questions. So all the spontaneity is gone. When I was doing my talk show, I wouldn't talk to the people before the show, because otherwise they'd leave their interview out in the hall! It was more fun that way.



Catch Betty White opposite Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock in The Proposal, directed by Anne Fletcher (Step Up, 27 Dresses), in theaters this Friday! For more Five Favorite Films, visit our archive.

Comments

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Betty White is awesome, some of the best comedic timing in Hollywood. She even made Lake Placid watchable.

Jun 16 - 04:06 PM

Jen Yamato

Jen Yamato

I love her! And she's done so much during her incredible career. So impressive.

Jun 16 - 04:19 PM

smartmoviekid

jonathan ramirez

i love the golden girls. such a classy, hilarious show that of course betty is a quintessential part of. r.i.p to bea and estelle. the only reason i would want to watch the purposal would be for betty.

Jun 16 - 04:53 PM

inactive user

Jared King

While this list has some sappy entries, and I'm not too interested in her new film, I respect this gal. She's accomplished and talented, and once you're in your golden years, you deserve some respect. So, someone like her, who I've never seen play a young person, has had mad respect for years. She's like Morgan Freeman, I've never her young, but she has never doen a bad performance.

Jun 16 - 05:02 PM

Nine Oh Two

joe schmoe

Yeah, I was never one to hate on the Golden Girls, they're already the butt of so many jokes. I say, hell with it, its true what they say, society doesn't appreciate its older generations enough, everything is youth oriented.

On a sidenote though, I don't know who is slumming more in this movie, Ryan Reynolds or Sandra Bullock.

Jun 16 - 05:05 PM

Daniel B.

Daniel Bills

yes she is, O really liked "THe Golden Girls" and sadly we lost agreat lady Bea Arthur will be missed. Her rike as Dorothy made the role Rose that much better as 2 ladies who can make us laugh. Both were funnt on it.

Jun 17 - 06:40 AM

crystalwhiteeyes

Tommy Savor

She's a real woman, and I'll never say anything negative about her. As stated before...she has great comedic timing. I love her work!

Jun 16 - 05:25 PM

Almost.Famous

adam ramberg

o

Jun 16 - 05:58 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Can't forget the impeccable delivery too. Nobody plays seemingly sweet but actually crazy/dirty old lady better than Betty.

Jun 16 - 06:27 PM

jukeboxhero6660

Daren Fowler

Betty is genius, her work on Boston Legal was stunning and she made Golden Girls.

Jun 16 - 06:55 PM

FinalDestination019

Olivia Prongrer

Love her. The Golden Girls was a wonderful show.

Jun 16 - 07:04 PM

ZenFan

Dylan Hair

Love Betty, Golden Girls is probably my fave show. Just a piece of genius. Good list too, I agree with Out of Africa, I think thats a criminally underrated film, despite winning 7 Oscars. I'll be seeing The Proposal, and she's a big reason why. She looks hilarious in it

Jun 16 - 07:20 PM

Ramakrishnan S.

Ramakrishnan Sundaram

3 films of Merlyl Streep in her top five ! That's uncanny to say the least.

Jun 16 - 07:57 PM

yobzobbler

Matt Duffy

I just want to point out that she's old.

Jun 16 - 08:26 PM

steve s.

steve smith

warning: watching more than one of these in any 30 day period will probably cause something bad to happen to your brain. men hate meryl streep more than farting fire. 5 fave films needs a 6 month break.

Jun 16 - 09:25 PM

JettaJameson

James Lowell

Betty White is legendary. I adore her. She is a gifted actress with spot on comedic timing. I'm having a movie night this weekend to watch her fave 5. I've never seen a single one. I'm excited to see her in The Proposal. It looks funny.

Jun 16 - 09:54 PM

NTROST

Anthony W.

@CtrlAltDestroy
"Golden Girls, they're already the butt of so many jokes."

A butt of what jokes? I never heard of any jokes about the Golden Girls. The show gets praised but being the butt of jokes I have know idea where you got that at. Dude, I have read some of your comments & I seriously find some of your comments unsound.

@steve s.
That is one of the most doltish posts I've ever read.

@AmericanEagleJRL
You've never seen a single one? Damn dude, you really need to broaden your horizons. Frank Capra's "Lost Horizon" is considered a classic. I could talk about the others but I'm really just not in the mood at the moment to carry on here.

Jun 16 - 10:24 PM

KingSigy

Numna Stingdoo

Haha, Betty White. She is freakin ridiculous. Awesome stuff.

Jun 16 - 11:17 PM

Rob M.

Rob M

The only one of these I've seen is Bridges and that was when I was like 10 or 11 years old probably on HBO. I would have loved to have seen her throw something like Mad Max or Terminator on there.

Jun 17 - 04:49 AM

Doug

Doug FM

According to a recent news story, Betty White begged for a nude scene in "The Proposal". How cool is that for an 87 year old woman. She keeps getting more awesome as the years go by.

Jun 17 - 05:12 AM

deborah ann

Deborah Barnum

Not only a very accomplished actress,
this Lady is pure class.

Jun 17 - 06:32 AM

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