While she never missed the mark, one of her most noteworthy performances was actually in a horror movie.
Betty White was a national treasure. She made a reputation for herself as a lively, hilarious performer. Her role as Rose in Golden Girls and other sitcoms cemented her as a performer who gave us light-hearted moments. She was also dubbed "the first lady of game shows" which made her cheerful demeanor a given. But White had a career spanning nearly eight decades during which she has given us some versatile performances. She went from a career in radio to TV and even the big screen. While she never missed the mark, one of her most noteworthy performances was actually in a horror movie.
White played a vital role in the first installment of the Lake Placid film series. The 1999 movie follows the story of how a giant, 30-foot-long monstrous saltwater crocodile terrorizes the residents of Black Lake, Maine, United States. A dysfunctional group of experts then attempt to capture and kill the beast. It stars Oliver Platt, Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, and White, of course. She played Mrs. Delores Bickerman, an elderly widow living near the dangerous lake. But the sweet, old, lonely woman act is just a facade. Delores is actually keeping the croc well-fed with a generous diet of cows and sometimes a little more.
She serves as the crocodile's voice, and despite the danger the oversized creature poses, she rallies in its support. During the course of the movie, we uncover disturbing details such as what actually happened to Delores' husband. She reveals that he was actually eaten by the croc in the lake. But she comes to the defense of the reptile whom she has been feeding and has grown attached to as one would to pets. We also learn that there is not one but two deadly crocodiles this seemingly innocuous lady is raising. Perhaps the most memorable part of her role is Delores swearing like a sailor and throwing curse words around. Which coming from THE Betty White makes it even more entertaining and funny.
She may have been presented as a villain in the movie but it is Delores who helps us understand the place of humans in nature, along with other living beings. It is also refreshing to see the usually cheerful and wholesome White take on a darker role. She was just able to pull off the role of a murderous old woman who had a lot of deadly tricks up her sleeve. In the film, the group manages to apprehend one of the crocs and ends up killing the other. But of course, Delores has the last say. In the end, we see that the crocodiles were actually a mating pair and left behind many baby crocodiles that Delores is now raising again as her own. This is something White, with a reputation as an animal lover, would very much do in real life.
White's role as Delores is often overlooked. But her performance in the film is unforgettable. Despite her dark role, her comedic genius is still preserved, adding to the grimness of her character. White was a part of another action thriller movie before this, Hard Rain, which also starred Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, Randy Quaid, Minnie Driver, and Ed Asner.