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Polly Holliday Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Trivia (8)

Overview (3)

Born in Jasper, Alabama, USA
Birth NamePolly Dean Holliday
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (1)

The normally erudite, soft-spoken and well-mannered Alabama-born (July 2, 1937) actress Polly Dean Holliday, daughter of a truck driver, accumulated quite an extensive theater background by the time she hit sassy, blue-collar stardom on 70s TV as gum-cracking waitress Florence Jean Castleberry on the highly popular sitcom Alice (1976).

Following her studies at Alabama College for Women, where she appeared in such productions as "Medea" and "The Lady's Not for Burning" and at Florida State University, Polly began her professional stage career in outdoor drama in North Carolina before joining the Asolo Repertory Company in Sarasota, Florida, and becoming a long, respected company member. During her initial residency (1962-1972), she appeared in such classic and contemporary productions as "The Way of the World" (1962), "Major Barbara" (1967), "As You Like It" (1967), "Look Back in Anger" (1968), "Joe Egg" (1970), "Candida" (title role, 1971), "The Subject Was Roses" (1971) and "House of Blue Leaves" (1971). Later roles with the company included "Hay Fever" (1974) and "Free and Clear" (2004). Polly worked long and hard to disguise her Alabama drawl while building up a sturdy classical reputation. At the same time, she supplemented her income teaching piano and also music in elementary schools.

Making her off-Broadway debut in "Orphee" back in 1964, she moved to the East Coast in 1972 and appeared in New York productions of "Wedding Bond," and "The Girl Most Likely to Succeed" before taking her first Broadway bow in "All Over Town" directed by Dustin Hoffman in 1974. She then began appearing in small parts in such movies as The Catamount Killing (1974), W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (1975) and All the President's Men (1976)

Polly won the flashy TV role of Flo in 1976. As the Southern-baked hash slinger who delightfully redefined trailer park trash, the actress gave a no-holds barred performance that earned her two Golden Globes awards and an Emmy nomination. She hit it so big with fans (her character introduced the catch phrase "Kiss mah grits!") that she was given her own spin-off, aptly titled Flo (1980). Surprisingly, the show lasted only one season despite another Emmy-nomination.

To avoid severe typecasting, Polly veered away from the television limelight and returned to her first love, the theatre. She won renewed respect and critical notice on Broadway and in regional theatre for her performances in "A Sense of Humor" (1983), "Black Coffee" (1985), her eccentric Martha Brewster in "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1986), as Amanda Wingfield in "The Glass Menagerie" (1988), her Tony-nominated turn as Big Mama in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1990), "A Quarrel of Sparrows" (1993), her Veta in "Harvey" (1993), as spinster schoolteacher Flo Owens in "Picnic" (1994) and again off-Broadway in "Marco Polo Sings a Solo" (1998).

From time to time, Polly has taken on feisty roles in both comic and dramatic films, such as the old crank who meets a freakish end in the box-office critter hit Gremlins (1984), and on TV wherein she briefly replaced Eileen Brennan as Captain Amanda Allen in the series Private Benjamin (1981) after Ms. Brennan's near-fatal car accident in 1982.

Though Polly never recaptured the brash success of her Alice (1976) years, she has continued at a healthy pace primarily in guest spots. She nominally played wise and opinionated mothers and grandmothers on such shows as "Stir Crazy," "The Golden Girls," "Amazing Stories," "The Equalizer" and "Homicide: Life on the Streets." She also had recurring roles as Momma Love on the short-lived crime series The Client (1995) and as Patricia Richardson's mom on the hit sitcom Home Improvement (1991).

Broaching the millennium she continued sporadically with featured parts in such films as Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Mr. Wrong (1996), The Parent Trap (1998), Stick It (2006), The Heartbreak Kid (2007) and Fair Game (2010). She has also been featured on stage in such plays as "The Time of the Cuckoo" (2000), "Dividing the Estate" (2007), "A Christmas Carol" (2013) and "The Old Friends" (2014).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Trivia (8)

Holliday's success as the brassy, cynical, gregarious Flo on Alice (1976) (for which role she wore a red wig) reportedly did not endear her to the titular star of the show, Linda Lavin. The friction between the two actresses was such that Holliday left for her own short-lived spin-off series, Flo (1980). Alice (1976) remained on the air for several more seasons but Holliday never returned, even to make a guest appearance. Holliday's successor, actress Diane Ladd (who had played "Flo" in the film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), on which the television series was based but adopted the role of "Belle Dupree" for the series), also did not get along with Lavin, and left. Ladd was succeeded by Celia Weston, who remained until the series ended. Both Holliday and Ladd were both unsuccessfully nominated for the highest awards in their respective media for playing "Flo": Ladd for the Oscar and Holliday for an Emmy.
Holliday was friends with Academy Award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman in whose iconic film, All the President's Men (1976), she had a small role. He tried to get her cast (in the role that ultimately went to Doris Belack, as Rita, the hard-nosed producer of the fictional soap opera ("Southwest General") within the movie in Tootsie (1982), and reportedly based his characterization of "Dorothy Michaels" in the same film at least partially on Holliday's impression of "Flo".
Holliday is a member of The Episcopal Church and was featured in ad campaign for the church.
Holliday attended Alabama College for Women (now the University of Montevallo, a small liberal arts college near Birmingham, Alabama).
Holliday made her Broadway debut, following the end of her run in the role of "Flo" (on both Alice (1976) and Flo (1980)), in a revival of the black comedy "Arsenic and Old Lace", alongside Jean Stapleton (who was also trying to get some distance and re-establish herself after many years of playing Edith Bunker on All in the Family (1971) and Archie Bunker's Place (1979)). Before "Arsenic" landed on Broadway, Stapleton had appeared in the national tour with Marion Ross, playing the role Holliday would wind up playing when Ross was unavailable to continue in the role. Holliday appeared again on Broadway as "Big Mama" in a revival of Tennessee Williams's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", for which she was nominated for the 1990 Tony Award as Best Featured Actress in Drama or Comedy.
Although she had been a lifelong Democrat for the majority of her life, in the Fall of 2019 she updated her political affiliation to Republican; having been dissatisfied with the direction the Democratic Party had been going in both national and local offices.
Inducted in the Alabama Stage and Screen Hall of Fame in 2000.
Retired from acting [June 2020}.

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