Betty White was America's comedy sweetheart for the better half of her 100-year-long life. And while the world was adoring her, she has loyally loved the same man for over 50 years, Allen Ludden. Prior to meeting the love of her life, Betty was in two other, short-lived marriages which she has publicly called "rehearsals" for her 18-year-long marriage to Allen.
Sadly in 1981, Allen died of stomach cancer when Betty was 59 years old. The Golden Girl star never remarried, calling Allen "the best," and on Dec. 31, 2021, Betty reunited with her longtime love when she passed away just weeks shy of her 100th birthday.
In honor of this love story for the ages and Betty's successful and fruitful life, we're taking a look back at Betty and Allen's sweet relationship that lives on to this day.
- Betty and Allen met in 1961 on the set of his game show, Password, when she appeared as a guest.
- In 1963, the couple tied the knot two years after meeting.
- Betty and Allen were married for 18 years until Ludden passed away from stomach cancer in 1981. Betty never remarried.
1961: How They Met
Betty White first met the game show host following her two marriages when the notion of another was not on her mind. After appearing on his show Password, the two instantly hit it off. "We felt like we knew each other," she told the Archive of American Television.
Several months later, the two stars booked a play together in Cape Cod and spent the summer together with Ludden's kids. They became close friends, but at the time, White was seeing someone else. In the aforementioned interview, she explained how Ludden would jokingly ask her to marry him until one day it became serious. For a year and a half, White turned down Ludden's offer. "He wouldn't let up," she once told People.
1963: Wedding Bells
Ludden eventually bought a diamond ring, but Betty White still refused him, so he wore the ring on a chain until she said yes. On Easter 1963, Allen sent her a romantic festive gift that won over her heart: a white stuffed bunny. "And in its ears were gold leaves with ruby, diamond, and sapphire earrings," she recalled to People. Later that year, the two finally tied the knot.
Betty has said in several interviews that she regrets initially saying no. "I spent a whole year, wasted a whole year that Allen and I could have had together, saying, 'No, I wouldn't marry him. No, I won't. No, I won't leave California. No, I won't move to New York,'" she told Oprah in 2015. "I wasted a whole year we could have had together."
In 2012, she recalled to CNN why she was so hesitant to accept Allen's hand in marriage. "I just wasn't about to take another chance," she said. "Then I thought, 'Am I going to live the rest of my life without this man?' Thank goodness we got married when we did."
1970s: In Love
The two quickly fell head over heels in love, how it would remain for the rest of their marriage. "He was the most genuine man I've ever known," she told People in a separate interview. "I first fell in love with his enthusiasm. He was interested in everything."
Hollywood producer Lin Bolen once recalled their infinite honeymoon stage to People saying, "They're like newlyweds. When they can't be together at work, they call each other from their dressing rooms."
In another interview with the publication, The Proposal star talked about their life together. "He would call me from wherever he was working and say, 'You wanna go out to dinner? You wanna have a date?' And I'd say, 'Sure!' Well, going out to dinner meant he'd stop on the way home and pick up a chicken and put it on the barbecue. We'd put on a stack of records, have our barbecue, and dance. We enjoyed each other."
1981: Allen Dies from Stomach Cancer
Sadly in 1981, Ludden passed away from stomach cancer when Betty White was just 59 years old. But she said countless times she would never remarry. When Anderson Cooper asked why in a 2011 interview she responded, "I had the love of my life. If you've had the best, who needs the rest?"
1988: Written in the Stars
Betty and Allen's stars reside next to each other on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1988, Ludden's star was unveiled next to White's. At the ceremony, she expressed her gratitude through tears. "I cannot express what this day means to me," she said before jokingly adding, "Don't be surprised if in the wee hours of the morning our stars are fooling around."
2021: People Cover Story
Just weeks before Betty White's death, she spoke to People and starred on the cover in honor of her upcoming 100th birthday. "I'm so lucky to be in such good health and feel so good at this age," she told the publication. "It's amazing."
She attributed her long life and excellent health to being "born a cockeyed optimist." "I got it from my mom, and that never changed," she said. "I always find the positive."
"I try to avoid anything green," she added jokingly. "I think it's working."
December 31, 2021: Reunited
On New Year's Eve 2021, just a few weeks shy of celebrating what would have been her centennial birthday, Betty passed away. Actress Vicki Lawrence, who worked with Betty on the 1980s sitcom Mama's Family, told the Hollywood Reporter that Betty's last words were a call for her late husband. Their mutual friend comedian Carol Brunette wrote to Lawrence saying that Betty's longtime assistant revealed her previous word was "Allen."