Another piece of my serial youth is gone, as actress Charlotte Rae died the 5th of August. She was best known for her role of Mrs. Edna Garrett, a character that started as the housekeeper of the Drummond family in Diff’rent Strokes and after became the lead actress in The Facts of Life, a spin off series in which Mrs Garrett became the housemother (and after dietitian) of the Eastland School, an all female boarding school on New York. A tv series obviously inspired to Louise Mary Alcott’s book Little Women, since there was even a young tomboy called Jo… my favourite character, by the way.
Looking back, I can’t help but to notice that here in Italy the two series had two very differente title: Diff’rent Strokes , whose purpose since from the title was clearly to address racial and class issues in form of a sit-com, became the lame My Friend Arnold (Il mio amico Arnold), and The Facts of Life (I fatti della vita), speaking about sex, virginity, eating disorders and drug use for the first time in a teen TV series, became The Apple Tree – L’albero delle mele, maybe because it came after the huge box-office success of the french movie La Boum (The Party) which in Italy became The Apple’s Time – Il tempo delle Mele, an expression that since then is used as sinonym of adolescence.
And speaking of The Facts of Life, I absolutely didn’t remember that a twenty-something year old George Clooney made one of his first tv appearance as handyman George Burnett in season seven and eight of the series, maybe because here in Italy we didn’t get to see it….
Anyway, here’s a clip with Charlotte Rae, Clooney and all the girls: