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Actress Charlotte Rae is best known for her role as Mrs. Garrett on the TV series Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life.
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Born on April 22, 1926, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Charlotte Rae worked as a singer, Broadway performer and television actress before landing the part of housekeeper Mrs. Garrett on the sitcom Diff’rent Strokes in the late 1970s. She starred as the same character on the spinoff hit series The Facts of Life, which ran for nine seasons and earned Rae two Emmy Award nominations.
Actress and singer Charlotte Rae was born Charlotte Rae Lubotsky on April 22, 1926, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Loved by generations of television fans for her work on sitcoms Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, Rae initially found success as a nightclub performer and theatrical actress. She started singing as a child and performed on a radio show in high school.
Rae continued to pursue her interests in music and acting while attending Northwestern University near Chicago. In addition to performing in summer stock productions, she found work on television and radio programs in Chicago. In the late 1940s, Rae made the move to New York City to advance her career. She created a nightclub act and played such venues as the Village Vanguard, showing off her voice and comedic chops.
Eventually Rae was given a chance to shine on the stage, making her Broadway debut in the musical comedy Three Wishes for Jamie in 1952. Two years later, she appeared with Bea Arthur and John Astin in a revival of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera. She went on to originate the role of Mammy Yokum in the musical Lil' Abner, based on the popular comic strip, in 1956.
Around this time, Rae also recorded an album called Songs I Taught My Mother, which featured several songs written by college friend and lyricist Sheldon Harnick. Rae's husband, John Strauss, served as musical director on the project, managing the band worked on the recording and arranging the music. Filled with satirical and light-hearted fare, the album was released by Vanguard Records.
In addition to working in music and musical theater, Rae landed many television guest spots in the 1950s. She appeared on the United States Steel Hour, The Phil Silvers Show, and Play of the Week. In 1961, Rae became a series regular on the police comedy, Car 54, Where Are You? Before the show even ended its run in 1963, she was back on Broadway. She appeared in The Beauty Part, a comedy, with Alice Ghostley and Bert Lahr.
Rae earned her first Tony Award nomination for her work on the original musical Pickwick in 1965. Four years later, she garnered another nomination for her role in Morning, Noon, and Night. The play was in three acts, each written by a different author; Rae appeared in "Israel Horovitz's Morning." The other two sections were written by Terence McNally and Leonard Melfi.
Tackling her best-known role, Rae first appeared as Edna Garrett on Diff'rent Strokesas a housekeeper for the wealthy New York businessman Philip Drummond (played by Conrad Bain). Drummond had a daughter, Kimberly (Dana Plato) and adopted the two African-American sons, Arnold (Gary Coleman) and Willis Jackson (Todd Bridges), of his late, previous housekeeper.
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