Betty White was America’s sweetheart and was also known as the First Lady of Television. White’s true passion in life, as she often said in her acceptance speeches, was acting in a business she treasured. But White also had a lot of love in her heart. She was married three times, but she called her third husband, Allen Ludden, the love of her life.
Get to know more about the man who won over one of the most beloved women to ever grace the entertainment industry in our facts below.
1. Betty White’s Husband Allen Ludden Was Best Known For Hosting the Game Show ‘Password’
Allen Ludden was a renowned success in the entertainment industry as a game show host. He is best remembered for his role as the host of Password beginning in 1960, as The New York Times reported. Ludden returned for 160 more episodes when a revamped version, Password Plus, debuted in 1979.
Ludden met White because of the show. She appeared on Password as a celebrity contestant in 1961 and said she was immediately attracted to Ludden. A 2018 PBS special on White included footage from Password in which she was flirting with Ludden. He asked her about her summer plans and White cheekily responded, “Well, what did you have in mind, Allen?”
Before landing his job at Password, Ludden’s first major gig was as the host of G.E. College Bowl on CBS. It was a trivia game that matched students from different universities against each other to win scholarship money. Ludden hosted eight episodes between 1959 and 1962. He left College Bowl in order to work on Password full-time, according to the Television Academy Foundation.
According to his IMDB profile, Ludden also hosted shows including Win with the Stars, Stumpers and Allen Ludden’s Gallery. He appeared as a guest or panelist on shows such as The Match Game, What’s My Line, The Mike Douglas Show and The Tonight Show. Ludden’s acting resume included appearances on TV series including The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Batman, and the 1975 TV movie It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman!
2. Ludden Staged Shows For Troops In the Pacific During WWII & Landed Hosting Gigs After the War Ended
Ludden was born Allen Ellsworth in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, on October 5, 1917. His father passed away during the influenza epidemic in 1919. His mother remarried and Ludden legally changed his last name to that of his stepfather, biographer David Baber wrote in Television Game Show Hosts: Biographies of 32 Stars. The family moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, when Ludden was nine.
After high school, Ludden first attended Sul Ross State in Alpine, Texas. According to the school’s library archives, Ludden majored in Speech and was an active member of the Theta Gamma music club, the student council and a drama club called Mask and Slipper.
Ludden transferred to the University of Texas in 1938 as an English major. He earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the school before the start of World War II.
Ludden joined the Army during WWII and had the opportunity to put his theatrical talents to use. According to his New York Times obituary, Ludden was put in charge of entertainment in the Pacific theater. He organized shows and social events for soldiers as part of the Army Special Services in Hawaii.
Ludden became good friends with British actor Maurice Evans during this deployment. After the war was over, Ludden represented Evans as his manager. He also filled in for Evans during lecture tours from time to time. It was from one of these events that Ludden received his first break as a performer. WTIC Radio hired Ludden to host a series called Mind Your Manners for teenagers. Ludden won an honorable mention Peabody award for the show.
In 1952, Ludden began working for the New York City Board of Education. He produced and hosted two educational programs called Inside Our Schools and On the Carousel. The latter show aired on CBS on Saturday mornings and was described as a news magazine for children.
3. Ludden Married His High School Sweetheart, Margaret McGloin, In 1943 & She Passed Away From Cancer In 1961
Ludden attended Corpus Christi High School and according to the biography The Life (and Wife) of Allen Ludden, that’s where he met his childhood sweetheart, Margaret Frances McGloin. Biographer Adam Nedeff wrote that McGloin’s family had deep roots in Texas and she was known for organizing “lavish parties and luncheons that got write-ups in the society section of the local newspaper.”
Ludden graduated from high school in 1934. At his stepfather’s suggestion, he took time off before enrolling in college in 1936. He worked as a salesman during those two gap years. McGloin, meanwhile, attended Corpus Christi Junior College.
Ludden graduated from college and worked as a high school teacher before the start of WWII. He enlisted and was sent to Fargo, North Dakota, for training. He asked McGloin to marry him and they tied the knot on October 11, 1943, before he shipped out to the Pacific.
Ludden and McGloin had one son named David and two daughters, Martha and Sarah. McGloin battled cancer and passed away on October 30, 1961. She was just 45.
White explained in a 2010 interview that Ludden started doing the show Password as his wife was dying from cancer. He would come to the set after visiting his wife in the hospital. White said she found out years later that McGloin died the same week that White first appeared on the game show.
4. White Initially Rejected Ludden’s Marriage Proposal
White and Ludden first met on the set of Password but they didn’t truly connect until they starred in a play together. White explained in a 2010 interview that the following summer, their respective agents booked them parts in a play called Critic’s Choice in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
White said that she got to know Ludden’s three children and they were introduced to her two dogs during that summer. “Somehow, we became instant friends.” White said that over the course of the three weeks working on the play, Ludden stopped saying “hello” to her and instead would say, “Will you marry me?” White said it began as a joke and she laughed it off. According to Closer Weekly, Ludden later admitted, “I fell in love with her opening night.”
Ludden returned to New York and White to Los Angeles after the play ended. Despite the long-distance, Ludden continued to pursue White and would visit her in California whenever he had time off from Password. White repeatedly turned down his marriage proposals. Ludden even bought a ring and wore it around his neck as a reminder that he wanted to marry her. White finally accepted after Ludden mailed her a stuffed bunny for Easter with a note that read, “Please say yes.” They got married in Las Vegas on June 14, 1963.
White explained years later that turning down Ludden was her biggest regret in life. She told Oprah in 2015, “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.”
5. Ludden Died of Stomach Cancer In 1981
Ludden battled stomach cancer for about a year and a half at the end of his life. In the fall of 1980, Ludden briefly slipped into a coma because of an “imbalance” brought on by the cancer therapy, UPI reported. He woke up but did not return to work after that. Ludden passed away on June 9, 1981, at age 63. He was buried in his hometown of Mineral Point, Wisconsin.
Ludden was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988. His star is located at 6743 Hollywood Boulevard, according to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. White’s star is right next to Ludden’s.
White was married twice before she met Ludden but she made the decision to never marry again after he died. She told Anderson Cooper in 2011, “I had the love of my life. I sure did. Allen Ludden… If you’ve had the best, who needs the rest?”
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