|Date of Birth
||22 April 1926
|Place of Birth
||Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
A graduate from Northwestern University’s prominent drama program, Charlotte Rae made her way to New York once she completed her studies and appeared for the first time at New York stage in 1952 in a Broadway production of “Three Wishes for Jamie.” She experienced a bigger success by originating the role of Mammy Yokum in the Broadway musical “Lil’ Abner” (1956), and later acted with the New York Shakespeare Festival, where she honed her crafts in numerous productions, including one “Romeo and Juliet” (1968). She also received two Tony nods for her supporting performance in 1966’s “Pickwic” and starring in the 1969 Broadway “Morning, Noon, and Night.”
Simultaneously, Rae was creating a prolific television career during her Broadway runs in the 50s and 60s. She made her early TV performance in a guest role in one episode of ABC’s “The U.S. Steel Hour” in 1954 and began her first of several notable guest appearances on the CBS “The Phil Silvers Show,” the next year. Rae, however, did not score significant triumph until 1961-1962 when she played the recurring role of Silvia Schnauser, wife to Al Lewis, on the NBC sitcom “Car 54, Where Are You?.” By year 1969, she had broken cinematic industry with a supporting role in Hello Down There, a comedy starring Tony Randall and Janet Leigh.
Early 1970s saw Rae team with Woody Allen for 1971’ Bananas and play the mother of Ron Liebman in The Hot Rock (1972), as well as appeared in early season of the TV show “Sesame Street” (1971-1972). Having relocated to Los Angeles, she took on the role of Mrs. Bellotti in the short-lived series “Hot L Baltimore” (1975), which was produced by Norman Lear’s company, and was acted in the ill-fated “The Rich Little Show” (1976). Rae also offered dramatic turns in such TV movies as Queen of the Stardust Ballroom (1975, earned an Emmy nod for Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actress) and The Triangle Factory Fire Scandal (1979).
But, it was her portrayal of Edna Garrett in the NBC sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” (1978-1979) that put Rae on the spotlight. Then in 1979, her character was shifted to the sequel “The Facts of Life,” with Rae as housemother at a girl’s prep school. An ignored series at the beginning, The Facts of Life became a hit after a cast revamp and a change in concept. With the role, Rae reached the zenith of her fame and took home an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in 1982. Fatigued of the series drudge, Rae departed the show in 1986.
Since the departure, Rae has been little seen on the small screen. She undertook the recurring role of Mrs. Gump, a nurse in the pity murder cycle, on NBC’s drama “Sister” (1994-1995) and rejoined “Facts” co-star Nancy McKeon for an episode of “Can’t Hurry Love” (1995). Returning to the wide screen, Rae made a cameo appearance as fortune teller in writer/director Gregg Araki’s Nowhere (1997), a drama/ sci-fi starring James Duval and Rachel True.
In her 70s, Rae chooses to work only when she wants to do. She was cast in the feature role of a grandmother in the Paper Mill Playhouse revival of “Pippin” (2000) and participated in L.A stage production of “True West” (2001). She also supported Gail O’Grady and Lisa Rinna in the drama made-for-TV film Another Woman’s Husband (2000), provided the voice of Mrs. Caruthers in the animated film The Tangerine Bear (2000) and starred as Mrs. Edna Garrett in the comedy telepic The Facts of Life Reunion (2001). Rae’s most recent performances are guest roles in “Strong Medicine” (2004, as Maude) and “The King of Queens” (2005, as Betty).