While many of today’s fans were likely introduced to Betty White as the absent-minded and flighty Rose on “The Golden Girls,” her star was already all but cemented on the Hollywood Walk of Fame when that series premiered in 1985. The pre-“Golden Girls” fans knew her well from the decade before when she appeared on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” as the brazen and flirtatious Sue Ann Nivens. If you only knew White from her role as Rose, it may surprise you to know that she played a character more similar to Blanche (Rue McClanahan) a decade earlier.
Nivens was the sweet, lovable host of the fictional “The Happy Homemaker” show on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Or, at least, that was her TV persona. Off-camera, Nivens was more akin to the types of comedic roles we’ve seen from White in recent years: full of sexual innuendos and quick with a pointed (but always funny) insult.
Her run as Nivens spanned 45 episodes over four seasons and earned her back-to-back Emmy Awards. While Rose may be her most iconic role to many, Sue Ann displayed the staying power and the prowess that could have landed her gig on “The Golden Girls.” When White was asked by Oprah to name her favorite role she ever played, the first name that came to mind was Sue Ann Nivens.