Fran Drescher

Also Credited As:

Francine Drescher
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Biography

Turning the jarring juxtaposition of her nasally New York accent and fashion model looks into an endearing signature persona, actress Fran Drescher found fame as a brassy and sassy Lucille Ball-like character on one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1990s. After making her minor, but memorable film debut in "Saturday Night Fever" (1977), Drescher was seen regularly in small parts in films like "Ragtime" (1981), "Doctor Detroit" (1983) and …
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Job Title

Actor, Producer

Born

September 30, 1957

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About

Turning the jarring juxtaposition of her nasally New York accent and fashion model looks into an endearing signature persona, actress Fran Drescher found fame as a brassy and sassy Lucille Ball-like character on one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1990s. After making her minor, but memorable film debut in "Saturday Night Fever" (1977), Drescher was seen regularly in small parts in films like "Ragtime" (1981), "Doctor Detroit" (1983) and "This is Spinal Tap" (1984). Unsuccessful attempts at landing a television series of her own, which included "Charmed Lives" (ABC, 1986) and "Princesses" (CBS, 1991), eventually gave way to sitcom stardom as the outspoken au pair Fran Fine on the hit comedy "The Nanny" (CBS, 1993-99). The show's popularity also enabled its star to pursue lead roles in such feature films as "The Beautician and the Beast" (1997). Drescher later became an awareness advocate after being diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2000, an illness from which she fully recovered following aggressive surgery. Continuing to mine personal experience for her creative endeavors, Drescher returned to television in "Happily Divorced" (TV Land, 2011- ), a sitcom inspired by her real life ex-husband coming out to Drescher as a gay man years earlier. A perfect example of playing to one's strengths, Drescher turned her adenoidal yet adorable personality into a veritable cottage industry as an actress, producer, writer and wellness advocate.

Born Francine Joy Drescher on Sept. 30, 1957 in Flushing, Queens, NY, "Fran" was the youngest daughter of Sylvia, a bridal shop salesperson, and Morty, a systems analyst. Always a popular girl, she was first runner up for "Miss New York Teenager" in 1973. Two years later, Drescher graduated from Hillcrest High School in Jamaica, Queens, where she had been classmates with future actor-comedian Ray Romano and Peter Marc Jacobson, an aspiring actor whom she would marry in 1978. She began her film career with a small part in the phenomenally successful disco drama "Saturday Night Fever" (1977), in which she uttered the memorable line "Are you as good in bed as you are on the dance floor?" to John Travolta's Tony Manero. After making the move to Los Angeles with Jacobson, Drescher picked up a series of small roles in projects like the rock-n-roll docudrama "American Hot Wax" (1978) and the made-for-TV thriller "Stranger in Our House" (NBC, 1978). Struggling to find the right part, her early, uneven portfolio included turns in forgettable sex comedies like "Hollywood Knights" (1980) and "Gorp" (1980), as well as small roles in more respectable works, including director Milos Forman's "Ragtime" (1981).

After marking time with guest spots on series like "Fame" (NBC, 1982-83) and "Nine to Five" (ABC, 1982-88), Drescher returned to theaters with a seductive supporting role as one of Dan Aykroyd's prostitutes in the unfunny comedy "Doctor Detroit" (1983). One of her briefer appearances included a highly effective cameo as a no-nonsense record label PR person in Rob Reiner's seminal mockumentary "This Is Spinal Tap" (1984). By and large, Drescher subsisted on sporadic television work, appearing on such sitcoms as "Silver Spoons" (NBC, 1982-87), "Who's the Boss?" (ABC, 1984-1992) and "Night Court" (NBC, 1984-1992). "Charmed Lives" (ABC, 1986) - Drescher's first attempt at headlining her own show, alongside "Doctor Detroit" co-star Donna Dixon - proved to be anything but when it ended after a mere four episodes. Undaunted, she fared somewhat better as Robin Williams' married mistress in the comedy-drama "Cadillac Man" (1990).

Although it would be another exceptionally short-lived effort, Drescher was honing in on the daffy, yet defiant character she would soon become known for on the short-lived sitcom "Princesses" (CBS, 1991), opposite Julie Hagerty and Twiggy Lawson. After turns in minor film and TV efforts like "We're Talking Serious Money" (1992) and "Without Warning: Terror in the Towers" (NBC, 1993), Drescher had the success she had long been planning for. Created and produced with her husband, Peter Marc Jacobson, she starred as Fran Fine, a sort of Mary Poppins by way of Queens, on the family sitcom "The Nanny" (CBS, 1993-99). A classic "fish out of water" story, the show's humor was largely derived from the juxtaposition of the middle-class Jewish nanny (Drescher) wreaking havoc in the refined world of the British-born, upper-class theater producer (Charles Shaughnessy). For her work on the series - which, after a slow first season, became one of the network's most successful offerings - the actress was twice nominated for an Emmy as Best Actress in a Comedy Series.

Despite her heavy workload on "The Nanny," Drescher still found time for other projects, one of which included her reteaming with Robin Williams in Francis Ford Coppola's "Jack" (1996), a contemporary fable about a young boy (Williams) afflicted with a rapidly-advanced aging disease. In 1996, the comedic-actress published her autobiography, Enter Whining, in which she bravely revealed that she had been sexually assaulted in a 1985 home invasion robbery, during which Jacobson was beaten and forced to watch his wife's rape. Parlaying her newfound small screen clout into film opportunities, she took on her first big screen lead in "The Beautician and the Beast" (1997). Executive produced by the actress and her husband, the romantic-comedy was practically a spin-off of her TV series. In the film, Drescher played a cosmetician from Queens who, via a series of mix-ups and misunderstandings, finds herself in the role of tutor for the children of a blustering Eastern European dictator (Timothy Dalton). Critics and audiences greeted the project with only modest interest.

After separating years earlier, Drescher and her husband of more than 20 years divorced in 1999. Shortly thereafter, Jacobson came out to his ex-wife and admitted that he was gay. Committed to their enduring friendship and mutual support, the pair remained close in both their personal and professional lives in the years that followed. Enduring a particularly chaotic period of her life, Drescher was later admitted to Los Angeles's Cedars Sinai Hospital in June 2000 after doctors diagnosed her with uterine cancer, a condition that had gone untreated and misdiagnosed for the previous two years. Fortunately, an emergency radical hysterectomy treated the disease effectively and no post-operative treatment was deemed necessary. Now a cancer survivor, Drescher wrote about her experience with battling the disease in the memoir Cancer, Schmancer, which was followed by her founding of the non-profit cancer awareness organization, the Cancer Schmancer Movement.

Reinvigorated, Drescher tried to hit sitcom pay dirt once more with "Living with Fran" (The WB, 2005-06), the story of a divorced mother of two (Drescher) struggling to manage her relationship with a much younger man (Ryan McPartlin). In this case, lightning would not strike twice, when the series was canceled at the end of its second season. Following a relatively quiet period, marked briefly by a three-week test run for a daytime talk show, "The Fran Drescher Show" (syndicated, 2010), she returned with another sitcom project. "Happily Divorced" (TV Land, 2011- ) - co-created by Drescher and her ex-husband, Jacobson - found her once again mining laughter from personal experience, playing a woman who becomes the last person to realize that her husband of 18 years (John Michael Higgins) is gay. Despite middling early reviews, the show performed well for the cable channel in its first season, giving Drescher hope for "Nanny"-like longevity.

By Bryce Coleman