Polly Holliday

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Polly Holliday
Polly Dean Holliday

(1937-07-02) July 2, 1937 (age 86)
Years active1963–2010

Polly Dean Holliday (born July 2, 1937) is an American actress who has appeared on stage, television and in film. She is best known for her portrayal of sassy waitress Florence Jean "Flo" Castleberry on the 1970s sitcom Alice, which she reprised in its short-lived spin-off, Flo. Her character's catchphrase of "Kiss my grits!" remains the most memorable line associated with the series Alice.

Early life[edit]

Holliday was born in Jasper, Alabama, the daughter of Ernest Sullivan Holliday, a truck driver, and Velma Mabell Holliday (née Cain).[1] She grew up in Childersburg and Sylacauga, where her brother Doyle's boyhood friend, Jim Nabors, lived.

Holliday attended the Alabama College for Women at Montevallo (now known as the University of Montevallo) in the late 1950s where she excelled in the theater department, playing the lead roles in "The Lady's Not for Burning" and "Medea". She graduated in 1959 with a degree in piano. She went on to Florida State University, and spent the first phase of her career earning respect on the classical stage.

Holliday worked as a piano teacher in her native Alabama, and then in Florida. She began her professional acting career as a member of the Asolo Theatre Company in Sarasota, Florida, where she stayed for 10 years.

Holliday is an Episcopalian who sang in the St. Andrews Episcopal Choir in Mobile, Alabama[2] and in January 2010 she appeared as herself in an official advertising campaign for the Episcopal Church.[3] In New York City, she sang in the Grace Church (Episcopal) Choral Society in Greenwich Village and ran a chamber music series there called the Willow Ensemble (1995-2008).


In 1973, Holliday moved to New York City and appeared in Alice Childress's play Wedding Band at the Public Theater. More than a year later, she was cast in the Broadway hit All Over Town. While working on All Over Town, she befriended the play's director, Dustin Hoffman, who later worked with her on the 1976 movie All the President's Men.

In 1976 Holliday was cast—in what would be her major break—as sassy, man-hungry waitress Flo Castleberry on the American sitcom Alice. Her character coined the popular catchphrase "Kiss my grits!" The phrase became part of the American vernacular. Holliday starred in Alice from 1976 to 1980, and then moved to her own short-lived spin-off show, titled Flo, in which Flo left Arizona and moved back home to Texas. The show was successful during its abbreviated first season, but ratings declined during the following season due to a time change, and it was canceled in 1981.[4]

In 1983, Holliday joined the cast of the CBS-TV sitcom Private Benjamin as a temporary replacement for series regular Eileen Brennan, who was recovering from serious injuries after being struck by a car.[4]

Holliday also made appearances on television shows such as The Golden Girls, where she played Rose Nylund's blind sister Lily, in a recurring role as Jill Taylor's mother on Home Improvement, and a regular character on The Client.

Holliday's notable roles in films include All the President's Men, Moon over Parador, Mrs. Doubtfire, the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap, and her role as Mrs. Ruby Deagle in the 1984 hit Gremlins, for which she won the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress.

On the Broadway stage, she has appeared in revivals of Arsenic and Old Lace (1986) as Martha Brewster, one of the dotty, homicidal, sweet old aunties; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1990), for which she was nominated for a Tony Award for her portrayal of Big Mama; and Picnic (1994). She also appeared in the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap as the director of Camp Walden. In 2000, she appeared at Lincoln Center in a revival of Arthur Laurents's The Time of the Cuckoo.

In 2000, she was inducted into the Alabama Stage and Screen Hall of Fame.[5]



Year Title Role Notes
1975 W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings Mrs. Cozzens
1975 Pittsville - Ein Safe voll Blut Miss Pearson
1975 Distance Mrs. Herman
1976 All the President's Men Dardis's Secretary
1978 The One and Only Mrs. Crawford
1984 Gremlins Ruby Deagle Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress
1988 Moon Over Parador Midge
1993 Mrs. Doubtfire Gloria Chaney
1996 Mr. Wrong Mrs. Alston
1998 The Parent Trap Marva Kulp, Sr
2006 Stick It Judge Westreich
2007 The Heartbreak Kid Beryl
2010 Fair Game Diane Plame Final film role

Television movies[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1974 Wedding Band Annabelle
1975 The Silence Mrs. Watson
1976 Bernice Bobs Her Hair Mrs. Harvey
1979 You Can't Take It with You Miriam Kirby
1981 All the Way Home Aunt Hannah
1982 Missing Children: A Mother's Story Mary Gertrude
1983 The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story Aunt Minerva
1985 Lots of Luck Lucille
1985 Konrad Berti Bartolotti
1991 A Triumph of the Heart: The Ricky Bell Story Ruth
1996 A Loss of Innocence Christina Eriksen
2004 It Must Be Love Mama Bell aka Surviving Love

Television series[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1974 Search for Tomorrow Prison Inmate Leader Unknown episodes
1976 NBC Special Treat Mrs. Cronkite Episode: "Luke Was There"
1976–80 Alice Florence Jean "Flo" Castleberry 90 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (1979–80)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (1978–80)
1980–81 Flo Florence Jean "Flo" Castleberry 29 episodes
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
1982 American Playhouse Mrs. Wooster Episode: "The Shady Hill Kidnapping"
1982–83 Private Benjamin Capt. Amanda Allen 3 episodes
1985 Stir Crazy Captain Betty Episode: "Pilot"
1986 The Golden Girls Lily Lindstrom Episode: "Blind Ambitions"
1986 Amazing Stories Elma Dinnock Episode: "The Pumpkin Competition"
1988 The Equalizer Sister Sara Episode: "Regrets Only"
1993–99 Home Improvement Lillian Patterson 5 episodes
1995–96 The Client Momma Love 21 episodes
1996 Homicide: Life on the Street Mrs. Rath Episode: "The Heart of a Saturday Night"


  1. ^ "Polly Holliday Biography (1937-)". Film Reference. 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-17.
  2. ^ "History". standrewsmontevallo.dioala.org.
  3. ^ "I am Episcopalian". Episcopal Church. 22 August 2012.
  4. ^ a b "While Injured Eileen Brennan Mends". People. 1982.
  5. ^ "Alabama Stage and Screen Hall of Fame". theatretusc.com. Archived from the original on November 5, 2010. Retrieved October 29, 2010.

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