Fannie Flagg (born Patricia Neal on September 24, 1944 in Birmingham, AL) is an American Actress, Comedienne, and Author. She is best known for appearing as a semi-regular panelist on the CBS classic Game Show Match Game and for the 1987 novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, which was adapted into a feature film Fried Green Tomatoes in 1991 which she was nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay adaptation.
Native of Birmingham, Alabama, 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, she was hired as a staff writer for Allen Funt's Candid Camera, and she later became Funt's co-host on the syndicated 1970s weekly version of the show.
During the 1970s, Fannie 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) and one memorable moment came from the infamous 1974 episode with the question "The Big Bad Wolf said I just came from a house where this old lady had the biggest blanks I've ever saw", the contestant responded by saying "Boobs" as the audience erupted with raunchy laughter and the celebrity panelists (except Dawson) walked off the stage with host Gene Rayburn bellowing "Get back here, Get back here !" and after they came back, Brett Somers said to Fannie "You got the biggest ones in the room" as she screams and later Gene gets to Fannie (who sat to Richard's left this particular time) as he said "And speaking of buzzums, Fannie, would you show us yours ?" as the audience explodes with raunchy laughter again.
Some of Fannie's acting credits include the Broadway production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, the 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 was also 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 with I Dream of Jeannie star Barbara Eden. She also appeared several times as a victim of alien abduction on the talk show parody Fernwood 2 Night in 1977.
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. She published her first novel, Coming Attractions: A Wonderful Novel 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 a groundbreaking 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. Fannie subsequently wrote the screenplay based on that book, which transpired into a feature film, Fried Green Tomatoes, starring Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates, Mary-Louise Parker, Mary Stuart Materson, & Cicely Tyson. The movie premiered in theaters on December 27, 1991 and grossed over $119.4 million at the box office. Because of the success for the movie, Flagg earned a nomination for an Academy Award.
Fannie 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 later overcame her fear and completed several novels and screenplays.
At one time, she was reported to have been the partner of author Rita Mae Brown but has never acknowledged any conjecture about her private life.