Betty White, who died Dec. 31, 2021, had a career in TV and film that spanned more than 60 years. In addition to her turn on “The Golden Girls” from 1985-92, she had more than 120 acting credits to her name. The Television Hall of Fame inductee’s roles included Sue-Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the ’70s and Elka Ostrovsky on “Hot in Cleveland” from 2010-15. She also hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 2010 — at the age of 88 — and appeared in film comedies such as “The Proposal,” “You Again” and “Bringing Down the House.”

lifelong animal lover, White was born in Oak Park, Ill., before her family moved to Los Angeles, where her acting aspirations began at Beverly Hills High School. The TV legend won five Primetime Emmy Awards over the span of her acting career. “I just love to work and the word ‘no’ did not exist,” White told Variety in a 2020 interview.

Betty White lived her life on television. The late star is making an encore appearance on the big screen.

A tribute special that includes Ms. White’s last on-camera performance—a thank-you message to fans recorded 11 days before her death on Dec. 31, 2021—will be shown in more than 1,500 movie theaters on Jan. 17.

“She’s a TV gal, as she would always say. She was tickled that people were going to buy a ticket to see her in the movie theater,” says Kiersten Mikelas, Ms. White’s executive personal assistant and her right hand for the past decade.

“Betty White: A Celebration” will play in theaters for one day only on Monday, on what would have been Ms. White’s 100th birthday. The special was originally scheduled for that date under the title “Betty White: 100 Years Young—A Birthday Celebration.”

The project’s shift from centennial party to memorial tribute involved gut decisions and emergency editing by filmmakers who have made a career of capturing show-business legends on camera.

There was an upside: The filmmakers got to include Ms. White’s thank-you message to fans, which Ms. Mikelas shot on her iPhone on Dec. 20—too late for inclusion in the original cut of the special. In the new version, Ms. White opens the 107-minute tribute herself.

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