Charlotte Rae, best known for playing the role of housekeeper turned boarding school house mother Mrs. Garrett on both Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, passed away on Sunday in her home in Los Angeles, as reported by EW. Rae's passing was confirmed by representatives for the actress. No cause of death has been announced, but Rae was known to be battling bone cancer following a diagnosis in April 2017.
The daughter of Russian immigrants, Charlotte Rae Lubotsky was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She attended Northwestern University, before dropping out to move to New York City and pursue her acting dreams. She got her start in theater and radio, but soon broke into television playing the role of Sylvia Schnauser - the wife of Al Lewis’ Officer Leo Schnauser, in the classic police comedy Car 54, Where Are You?
Rae worked steadily over the years, becoming a respected presence on Broadway while playing a number of bit parts in various sitcoms. She was nominated for a Tony twice - once for Best Actress in a Musical for Pickwick and once for Best Actress in a Play for Morning, Noon and Night. She also earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy or Drama Special for the role of Helen in Queen of the Stardust Ballroom. However, it was not until she was cast in Diff'rent Strokes that Rae finally found mainstream fame.
Rae was hand-picked by producer Norman Lear for the role of Mrs. Edna Garrett, a kind-hearted widow, who had her hands full trying to keep order in the Drummond household. Mrs. Garrett became a breakout character and quickly earned her own spinoff - The Facts of Life. Though she was never officially credited as a producer on the series, Rae reportedly had a hand in the development of the show, pitching the idea of Mrs. Garrett going on to work at a girls' private school and working alongside Lear in developing the concept and casting the young actresses who would play her charges.
Forced to leave The Facts of Life due to an unspecified illness in its seventh season, Rae would bounce back and continue to have a long and varied career. While primarily focused on the stage, Rae continued to do one-off roles in both sitcoms and dramas such as The King of Queens, Pretty Little Liars, Sisters and ER. She also lent her voice to several animated features, voicing Nanny in the 101 Dalmatians animated series and Aunt Pristine Figg in the Tom and Jerry movie.
Rae is survived by two children from her marriage to composer John Strauss and three grandchildren.
Rest In Peace Charlotte Rae: April 22, 1926 - August 5, 2018