Charlotte Rae, who is remembered for her seven season stint (1980-86) as kindly Mrs. Edna Garrett on “Diff’rent Strokes” spin-off “The Facts of Life” passed away today after a battle with bone cancer. She was 92.
Born Charlotte Rae Lubotsky on April 22, 1926 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Rae moved to New York City in 1948 where she performed in the theater and nightclubs. She made her TV debut on an episode of anthology “Look Up and Live” in 1954, which led to guest spots in “The United States Steel Hour,” “Armstrong Circle Theatre,” “Kraft Television Theatre,” “The Colgate Comedy Hour,” “The Phil Silvers Show,” among dozens of other TV series. She also had a recurring role on 1961 to 1963 sitcom “Car 54, Where Are You?,” and was nominated for her first of two Emmy Awards for 1975 special “The Queen of the Stardust Ballroom.” (the other nomination was for “The Facts of Life” in 1982).
In 1975, Rae appeared on controversial ABC sitcom “The Hot L Baltimore” from Norman Lear, which lasted only 13 episodes. Three years later she was cast as Edna Garrett in Diff’rent Strokes,” which led to spin-off “The Facts of Life” in 1980. When Rae decided to call it quits in 1980, Cloris Leachman joined the show as her TV sister Beverly Ann Stickle.
“They offered me a boat load of money to stay,” she once told me in an interview. “But I just wanted to do other things, theater in particular.”
Rae went on to guest star on TV shows like “ER,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “Sisters” and “The King of Queens,” and appeared in movies such as “Don’t Mess with the Zohan” and “Tom and Jerry: The Movie.” Her final regular gig was voicing “Nanny” in the animated “101 Dalmations: The Series,” which aired from 1997-98.
“You all already know my heart is heavy yet…. Sorry, no words at the moment just love and tears… and yeah, smiles,” tweeted “The Facts of Life” co-star Kim Fields.
“It’s with a heavy heart & lots of tears (but a smile as i think of her) that I now move through the world without this incredible force of a woman being in it,” said Mindy Cohn on Instagram. “She was my champion, a teacher, a proud example of the tenacity and perseverance needed to live as a creative, along with your talent and gifts. i love you char. as I send sympathies to Larry and the rest of the family, I wish you the happiest of homecomings.”
Rest in peace, Mrs. G.