Sad news to report, Charlotte Rae, best known as the loveable ‘Mrs. Garrett’ from ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ and “The Facts of Life’ has passed away at the age of 92!
Rae died Sunday at her home in Los Angeles, representatives for the actress confirmed.
Rae revealed she’d been diagnosed with bone cancer at the end of April 2017. “Last Monday, I found out I have bone cancer,” she said in a statement. “About seven years ago, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer — which is a miracle that they found it because usually, it’s too late. My mother, sister, and my uncle died of pancreatic cancer. After six months of chemotherapy, I was cancer-free. I lost my hair, but I had beautiful wigs. Nobody ever knew. So now, at the age of 91, I have to make up my mind. I’m not in any pain right now. I’m feeling so terrific and so glad to be above ground. Now I have to figure out whether I want to go have treatment again or opt for life.”
Charlotte Rae had moderate success doing theater and radio but it wasn’t until 1978 when Norman Lear, a longtime fan, cast her in Diff’rent Strokes, that Rae’s career took off.
Rae played the kooky but kind housekeeper Edna Garrett, unmissable thanks to that mound of bright orange hair, on Diff’rent Strokes, and when she became a popular breakout character, Rae herself proposed the spin-off. That spin-off became The Facts of Life, a sitcom about a girls’ boarding school and their (once again) kooky and kind house mother. Rae’s Mrs. Garrett (or Mrs. G, as Nancy McKeon’s Jo liked to call her) helped guide the girls through every very special episode theme imaginable, from depression to dating, AIDS to alcohol. Rae left the show in 1986 for health reasons, and though Cloris Leachman stepped in as Mrs. Garrett’s sister, the show was canceled two years later.
In a 1982 interview with the Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald, Rae reflected on the character that had made her a star.
“I want to bring in as much humanity as possible, as well as the humor,” she said. “I’ve tried to make her a human being with dimensions. The way they write her now is with a great deal of sensitivity and understanding. But I don’t want her to be Polly Perfect, because she must have human failings and make mistakes.”
“She’s also a surrogate mother to the girls. I told them I wanted to be firm with the girls because I know it’s important. Parents must lay down ground rules for their children to help them to grow up and to learn responsibility for their actions. They must learn to stand on their own two feet.”
Charlotte Rae will be missed by all…