She’s had one of the longest and most successful careers in show business. She’s widely praised for being able to make people across the world laugh away. While Betty White’s talent and fame may have given her so much, there is still one thing missing from her life.
When the actress was asked by New You if there was anything in her life that she would like to change, she first said, “No, it has just been wonderful.” But after a moment’s pause, she said, “The main change would be to bring Allen (Ludden) back. And I wish I hadn’t had two bad marriages. They were probably my fault; I didn’t marry the right men.”
Before she met the man who showed her what true love is, White had to go through two divorces. The Golden Girls actress was first married to U.S. army pilot, Dick Barker, in 1945. But the union was short-lived as the couple got divorced just two years into their marriage. In 1947, White had taken Hollywood agent, Lane Allen as her husband, but their relationship came to an end in 1949, as reported by Country Living.
If she hadn’t made the difficult decision of ending her second marriage, she may even have had her career cut short. “He didn’t want me to be in show business,” said White. “When you have a calling you have to follow it, so I made the choice, blew the marriage and I’ve never regretted it.”
When the star, now 97 years old, spoke to Piers Morgan about her marriages, she said, “The first two were…rehearsals.” Nothing she experienced before could compare to the love she felt in her third marriage to Allen Ludden. He was the one who showered her with romance and gave her some of the best years of her life.
The two of them met in 1961 when White was invited to take part in the game show called Password, which was hosted by Ludden, according to Insider. They later met as co-stars on the Cape Cod strawhat circuit, and Ludden previously admitted, “I fell in love with her opening night,” as quoted by People.
As time passed, the two grew extremely close to each other and Ludden had even proposed to her, but White refused. After two divorces, she was afraid of going through the same pain again. White wrote in an article published on Daily Beast. “Because of the two divorces, I felt like such a failure. I have a tendency to take everything as my fault, and I kept kicking myself for agreeing to marry them.”
However, Ludden wasn’t ready to give up and persistently kept asking her to marry him. “I kept saying no for a year. Finally, Easter came along,” she wrote. “He sent me a white stuffed bunny with diamond earrings clipped to its ears and a card that said, ‘Please Say Yes?’ So when I answered the phone that night, I didn’t say hello, I just said, ‘Yes.'”
The couple finally got married in 1963 and spent almost two decades loving each other as husband and wife.
There was so much about Ludden that White had fallen in love with. “He was enthusiastic about everything. He was intellectually wonderful. He was silly. He was romantic. He knew how to court a lady,” she wrote. “…Even long after we were married, he’d call me up during the day and ask me out on a date. He’d barbecue a chicken. We’d have a glass of wine, put on a stack of records, and dance. Now, that’s silly for an old married couple—and a far cry from my first marriage, in terms of chickens—but it worked.”
Years passed and the couple were blissfully happy until Ludden was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Just a few days before they were to celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary in 1983, White had to sit by Ludden’s bedside as he passed away at the age of 62, as reported by The New York Times.
Before he left, he gave White the most treasured 18 years of her life. But when the person is someone so special to you, 18 years doesn’t feel like enough. When White spoke to Oprah Winfrey of her one regret in life, she said, as quoted by Today, “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.’ I wasted a whole year we could have had together. But we made it. We finally did.”
Betty White has lived more than 9 glorious decades and had some experiences that people would crave for in show business. But there is only one thing she would want to relive from her past. And that’s “Marry Allen Ludden,” she said. “No two ways about that. He was something special.”
“I had lovely relationships, but not anything in the league of Allen,” White said.
After Ludden gave her the perfect marriage, White knows that no other relationship would compare and she told Larry King that she has no plans of remarrying. “Once you’ve had the best, who needs the rest?” she said, as quoted by the Daily Mail.
Even though she had to wait her time to find him and go through two failed marriages to meet Ludden, she believes it was all worth it. “I’ve had two bad marriages, and I don’t like to think of them as good mistakes,” she wrote. “They were traumatizing to go through. You really feel like a failure when your marriage doesn’t work. But they did make me appreciate it when the perfect one came along.”