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Charlotte Rae of The Facts of Life

Updated on April 5, 2013

Remembering Old Hollywood Stars : Charlotte Rae

Even in her mid-eighties, members of the public would still recognize Charlotte Rae as Edna Garrett from The Facts of Life, the role she was best known for almost worldwide. Charlotte Rae was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and while her professional career did not begin until 1952, when she was twenty six years old, Rae was already exposed in front of the stage when she was just a young girl. Upon graduating Shorewood High School, Rae, a member of the Wauwatosa Children’s Theater joined the Port Players on an apprenticeship and was taught the ropes of the world of theater and got her interested to begin a career in acting. Rae attended Northwestern University in Illinois before moving to New York in 1948 after failing to complete her studies.

Charlotte Rae

Charlotte Rae
Charlotte Rae

Chalotte Rae performed in various theater and stage productions throughout the 1950s such as Three Wishes for James, Three penny Opera and The Littlest Revue where her performances on stage were largely acclaimed and favorable. Rae was married to John Strauss, a composer and music editor for various productions but the marriage did not last and the couple divorced in 1976. Even though Rae made a name for herself and reached stage stardom level, it was not until 1954 when she became a proper television star. Her initial role in Look Up and Live went on to win her plenty of supportive roles including as Sylvia Schnauser in Car 54, Where Are You?

Joan Collins vs Charlotte Rae

While Charlotte Rae gained experience garnering other supportive roles in television shows, Rae’s big break came in 1978 when NBC casted her as Edna Garrett in the hugely popular television series Diff’rent Strokes. Her acting in Diff’rent Strokes came to such critical acclaim that within a year, Rae would have her own spin-off series called The Facts of Life. Rae’s performance as Edna Garrett did not go unnoticed as she was nominated for an Emmy for the outstanding lead actress award which she came close to winning. Rae’s Facts of Life, was a massive hit that stretched over five years long, making it one of NBC’s longest running sitcom hits ever, tackling various life issues in a light manner that appealed to almost all demographic.

Rae’s run on the show was not all rosy as despite the extraordinary ratings for The Facts of Life, Rae wanted to leave the show, which ignited the careers of young Hollywood stars such as Mindy Cohn, Molly Ringwood and George Clooney. While Rae tackled health issues on camera on The Facts of Life, she faced her own health issues, having to install a pacemaker in her heart in 1982. Rae’s last run on The Facts of Life was in 2001 when the television show was turned into a television movie and Rae, along with her fellow cast members were briefly reunited. The cast of The Facts of Life was reunited again in 2007 when the TV Land Awards nominated cast members of the show for various awards and for the cast to sing the theme song of the show.

Besides Charlotte Rae’s popularity as Edna Garrett in The Facts of Life, she has also starred in various other television series and movies since then and as of late, most notably in Adam Sandler’s comedy hit You Don’t Mess With The Zohan and as a recurring character in the television series E.R. With over six decades in the entertainment industry, Charlotte Rae has proved to be a legend in her own right, not only because of her vast experience in the acting field but the stellar performances she puts on each time she gets on camera.


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    • Flightkeeper profile image

      Flightkeeper 8 years ago from The East Coast

      Nice hub.

    • ocbill profile image

      ocbill 8 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

      huh. I didn't notice her in the Zohan flick