Fannie Flagg (born Patricia Neal; September 21, 1944) is an American actress, comedian and author. She is best known as a semi-regular panelist on the 1973–82 versions of the game show Match Game and for the 1987 novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, which was adapted into the 1991 movie Fried Green Tomatoes. Flagg was nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay adaptation.
Flagg, born in Birmingham, Alabama, is the daughter of Marion Leona (née LeGore) and William Hurbert Neal, Jr., a small-business owner and projectionist. She grew up in the suburb of Irondale. As her acting career began, Flagg could not use her birth name professionally, as there was already a well-known Oscar-winning actress named Patricia Neal. As a result, she selected the first name "Fannie" at the suggestion of her father, who recalled its being used by vaudeville stars who played on stage in Birmingham, and "Flagg" at the suggestion of a friend who attempted to come up with a surname that would sound memorable when paired with the new first name.
During the 1960s, Flagg co-hosted the locally produced "Morning Show" on WBRC-TV in Birmingham, Alabama. Following this, in 1966, she was hired as a staff writer for Allen Funt's Candid Camera, and later became Funt's co-host on the syndicated 1970s weekly version of the show.
In 1978, Flagg won first place in fiction for a short story that she had written at the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference. The work became the basis for the novel Coming Attractions. In 1980, after the deaths of her parents, she decided to pursue writing full-time. Flagg's first novel, Coming Attractions: A Wonderful Novel, was published in 1981. The book was reissued as Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man - the title Flagg originally wanted to use - in 1992. The autobiographical coming-of-age novel is written as a diary that starts in 1952 with an 11-year-old protagonist, Daisy Fay Harper. Daisy uses diary entries to tell the story of her alcoholic father's get-rich-quick schemes and her well-mannered mother. The book stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 10 weeks.
Perhaps her best-known novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, was published in 1987 and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 36 weeks. It was praised by both Harper Lee and Eudora Welty. The novel is told in both past and present tense by the characters Ninnie Threadgoode (past) and Evelyn Crouch (present) and focuses on the town of Whistle Stop, Alabama, circa the 1920s and 1930s. It is about the unlikely bonds forged between women who seemingly have nothing in common except restlessness. Flagg subsequently wrote the screenplay based on that book, which became the 1991 film Fried Green Tomatoes. The movie garnered her a nomination for an Academy Award. Fried Green Tomatoes starred Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker and Cicely Tyson.
She has also written Fannie Flagg's Original Whistle-Stop Café Cookbook (1993), Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! (1998), Standing in the Rainbow (2002), A Redbird Christmas, (2004), Can't Wait to Get to Heaven (2006), I Still Dream About You: A Novel (2010), and The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion (2013). Her most recent book, The Whole Town's Talking, published by Random House, was released in November, 2016.
During the 1970s, Flagg was a fixture on game show panels. She is best known for her appearances on the game show Match Game (normally occupying the lower right-hand seat next to regular panelist Richard Dawson). Her acting credits include the original Broadway production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (succeeding Carlin Glynn) and the following films: Some of My Best Friends Are..., Five Easy Pieces, Stay Hungry, Grease and Crazy in Alabama, as well as minor roles in various television shows.
In 1975 she appeared as the Amazon Doctor in the pilot for The New Adventures of Wonder Woman. She is also known for being a regular on The New Dick Van Dyke Show, where for two seasons she played Mike Preston, sister to Van Dyke's character Dick Preston, and for her role as Cassie Bowman in all 30 episodes of the 1980-81 sitcom version of Harper Valley PTA, starring Barbara Eden. She also appeared several times as a victim of alien abduction on the talk show parody Fernwood 2 Night in 1977. During the 1960s and '70s, Flagg recorded two comedy albums with various skits that included many parodies of Lady Bird Johnson and Martha Mitchell.
Other TV appearances
Flagg has appeared on multiple talk shows. Some of them are The Joey Bishop Show (1968), The Dick Cavett Show (1968),The Merv Griffin Show (1966; 1969; 1973), The Mike Douglas Show (1968; 1969),The Johnny Cash Show (1969), Dinah! (1974; 1975), Pebble Mill at One (1992), and The Rosie O'Donnell Show (1999). Flagg also appeared on Good Morning America in 1981.
Flagg has spoken publicly about being dyslexic. She has said she was greatly challenged as a writer because she "was severely dyslexic and couldn't spell, still can't spell. So I was discouraged from writing and embarrassed." Her burgeoning writing career was put on hold for much of the 1970s, but Flagg overcame her fear and completed several novels and screenplays.
|1970||Five Easy Pieces||Stoney|
|1971||Some of My Best Friends Are...||Helen|
|1976||Stay Hungry||Amy||Adaptation of the novel of the same name.|
|1978||Rabbit Test||The President's Wife||Directed by Joan Rivers.|
|1987||My Best Friend Is a Vampire||Mrs. Capello||Also known as I Was a Teenage Vampire.|
|1991||Fried Green Tomatoes||Screenwriter||Academy Award nomination.|
|1998||Fried Green Tomatoes: The Moments of Discovery||Documentary|
|1999||Crazy in Alabama||Sally|
|1967||Match Game||Herself||Semi-Regular Panelist: 1967–1968; 1973–1982|
|1972||Love, American Style||Sally||Episode: "Love and the Bachelor Party" (S 3:Ep 78)|
|1971–1973||The New Dick Van Dyke Show||Michelle "Mike" Preston||Main cast|
|1973–1974||$10,000 Pyramid||Herself|| |
|1974||Hollywood Squares||Herself||Recurring panelist|
|1975||Tattletales||Herself||(S 2:Ep 22)|
|1975||The New Adventures of Wonder Woman||Amazon Doctor||Episode: "The New Original Wonder Woman" (Pilot)|
|1975||Home Cookin||Adelle||TV movie|
|1975||Match Game PM||Herself||Semi-Regular Panelist|
|1976||Word Grabbers||Herself|| |
|1977||Sex and the Married Woman||Virginia Ladysmith||TV movie|
|1977||Fernwood 2 Night||Sylvia Miller||Recurring|
|1979||The Love Boat||Alicia Finch||Episode: "The Decision/Poor Little Rich Girl/Love Me, Love My Dog" (S 2:Ep 22)|
|1980||To Tell the Truth||Herself||Panelist|
|1981–1982||Harper Valley PTA||Cassie Bowman||Main Cast|
|1983||The Love Boat||Liz Merritt||Episode: "The Zinging Valentine/The Very Temporary Secretary/Final Score" (S 6:Ep 20)|
|1986||The Love Boat||Laurie Ryan||Episode: "Father of the Bride/The Best Man/Members of the Wedding" (S 9:Ep 10)|
|1987||Dolly||Screenwriter (S 1:Ep 1–5, 8, 10)||Variety show|
Awards and nominations
|1992||Academy Award||Best Adapted Screenplay||Fried Green Tomatoes||Nominated|
|1992||Writer's Guild of America Award||Best Adapted Screenplay||Fried Green Tomatoes||Nominated|
|2012||Harper Lee Award||Alabama's Distinguished Writer of the Year|