Best Known For
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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Rae was only on the series for the first season as her flighty but caring character was spun off into a new show called The Facts of Life.
For the new series, Edna Garrett went from housekeeper to housemother to a group of girls at a private girls' boarding school called Eastland. In the first season, there were a number of girls in her care,
including a very young Molly Ringwald before she found success in films. But the show soon focused mostly on four very different students: the smart, but insecure Natalie (Mindy Cohn), the wealthy and vain Blair (Lisa Whelchel), the talkative and energetic Tootie (Kim Fields) and the tomboy Jo (Nancy McKeon). Rae actually helped discover Cohn, whom she met while researching her role at a private school in Bel Air, California.
On the show, Mrs. Garrett—as the girls called her—was the de facto mother figure, dispensing sage advice and helping to resolve disputes. Over the years, Mrs. Garrett's role evolved from housemother to school dietician to local gourmet food shop owner. Rae left the series in 1986 and was replaced by Cloris Leachman who joined the show as Beverly Ann Stickle, Edna Garrett's sister. But it was Rae's character who made a lasting impact on the show's audiences. "I still meet people who just want me to put my arms around them and give them a hug," Rae later told Entertainment Weekly.
Since The Facts of Life, Rae has tackled an array of TV, film and stage projects. She has made guest appearances on such shows as St. Elsewhere and Murder, She Wrote, and landed parts in a number of TV films, including Crime in Connecticut: The Alex Kelly Story (1999). Rae also had a recurring role on the family drama Sisters. On the big screen, she voiced one of the characters in Tom and Jerry: The Movie (1992). Proving herself as a dramatic actress, Rae took on the challenging role of Winnie in a New York production of Samuel Beckett's play Happy Days in 1990. She also toured with her one-woman show, An Evening with Charlotte Rae.
In 2001, Rae starred in the television movie The Facts of Life Reunion, allowing her slip back into her most famous role one more time. And she got a chance to work with several of her Facts of Life co-stars again, including Cohn, Whelchel and Fields. Nancy McKeon declined to participate in the project.
Today Rae continues to work on television and in the theater. She has appeared on the sitcom King of Queens and the dramatic series Strong Medicine. In 2006, Rae appeared in a Los Angeles production of 70, Girls, 70 with Olympia Dukakis.
Divorced since 1976, Rae has two sons from her first marriage. She has homes in both Los Angeles and New York City.
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Join Biography.com in a nostalgic look back at the popular 1980s sitcom set in an all-girls boarding school, The Facts of Life. Learn more about the cast of the series, including Lisa Whelchel, the face of Blair Warner; Kim Fields, who played Dorothy "Tootie" Ramsey; Mindy Cohn (Natalie Green); Charlotte Rae (Edna Garrett); Nancy McKeon (Jo Polniaczek); and George Clooney (George Burnett). Explore this collection for full biographies, photos, videos and more.
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