Charlotte Rae, who was best known as the wise housemother on “The Facts of Life,” died Sunday in Los Angeles. She was 92.
Rae originated the character of Edna Garrett in 1978 for NBC’s Diff’rent Strokes and then went on to play her for seven seasons on the Facts of Life spinoff. In 1982, she received an Emmy nomination for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series.
Debuting in 1979, Facts of Life revolved around a group of teenage girls attending a private New York boarding school. Guiding them through the trials and tribulations of adolescence was Edna Garrett, their no-nonsense, but always understanding, housemother. (A reboot is in the works at Sony.)
After leaving Facts of Life, Rae remained busy, with work on TV shows including 101 Dalmatians: The Series; ER; The King of Queens; Murder, She Wrote; Sisters; and Girl Meets World; and such films as You Don’t Mess With the Zohan (2008), Love Sick Love (2012) and Ricki and the Flash (2015).
As syndication fueled the popularity of Facts of Life, Rae was lured back to play the character that had made her a star. She revisited Mrs. Garrett in 1982 with The Facts of Life Goes to Paris and in 2001 for The Facts of Life Reunion. Rae skipped 1987’s The Facts of Life Down Under (that one featured Leachman as her sister).
In 2015, Rae released her memoir, The Facts of My Life. Written with her son Larry Strauss, it revealed her struggle to come to grips with her husband’s sexuality and her battle with alcoholism.
In addition to her son Larry and his wife, Eleanor, survivors include her sister, Miriam, and grandchildren Sean, Carly and Nora. Her other son Andrew died in 1999 of a heart attack.