This cake scene from The Mary Tyler Moore Show proves Betty White has always been tough as nails
Betty White was America's sweetheart since her very first sitcom in the early 1950s, Life With Elizabeth. She's played iconic roles not just on her biggest hit series The Golden Girls, but also on shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Betty White Show and Mama's Family. That's why she'll always be one of our favorites: because she's just so darn funny in everything she does.
That's why it should come as no surprise that this most dependable actress was also a consummate professional, recognizing the seriousness of comedic timing, and willing to even put herself in harm's way to pull off a gag. According to her co-star on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Gavin MacLeod, it was White's professionalism as a comedian that helped them pull off one of White's most memorable scenes on the '70s series.
In the episode "What Do You Want to Do When You Produce?," we watched MacLeod's character Murray Slaughter agree against his better judgment to become a producer on the show of his office nemesis, Sue Ann Nivens (White's character). There are many funny scenes, as the episode sees White ordering MacLeod about, so that they can pull off a special wedding episode of "The Happy Homemaker," including at one point stuffing Murray into a wedding dress. But the most famous scene from the episode was from a moment near the end, when MacLeod fought back, fed up. In the scene, he scoops up White and plops her right down atop a wedding cake.
Trouble arose when during this scene, the actor accidentally hurt White's back, but MacLeod said he had no idea it happened because White showed no signs of pain until after the scene broke. In an interview with USA Today, MacLeod said:
"'She said, 'I'm so glad it (worked). I really hurt my back when you lifted me up.' But you never would have known. That's what I mean about her professionalism. She knew there was only one cake. She just followed through in that moment and that (shot) was on the cover of many magazines." MacLeod also said, "We only had one take, because we only had one cake. But we did it and people loved it."
If you loved that episode, too, you likely remember White rocking on the cake a little, her face the picture of comedy, as the camera pans to Mary and Lou to add their surprise face to the mix. No doubt everybody would've been even more surprised if they'd realized White was hurt on set, but because Betty White was always tough as nails, they couldn't tell, and neither could any of us on the other side of the screen. Guess that's just what made Betty the best.
Watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Decades
Weekdays at 2p ET | 11a PT