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*Marla Gibbs was born on this date in 1931. She is a Black actress, comedian, singer, writer, and television producer whose career spans five decades.
The middle of three sisters, Margaret Theresa Bradley was born at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents were Ophelia Birdie (née Kemp) and Douglas Bradley. She attended Wendell Phillips Academy High School in the Bronzeville neighborhood. She graduated in 1949. Several years later, Gibbs moved to Detroit, Michigan, where she attended Peters Business School. She worked as a reservation agent for United Airlines before relocating with her children from Detroit to Los Angeles.
Gibbs got her first acting job in the early 1970s in the blaxploitation films Sweet Jesus, Preacher Man, and Black Belt Jones. In 1975 she was cast as Florence Johnston, the family's maid, in the CBS comedy series The Jeffersons. For her performance on the series, Gibbs was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series five times and once for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress Series, Miniseries, or Television Film.
Gibbs responded in a 2015 interview when asked if she'd based any of her characters on real-life people: "Yes, Florence was like my aunt and grandmother, so I lived it. She came easy to me, so I'm like Florence in giving smart answers, but I was also shy, so I wouldn't have dared to say some of the things Florence said. I prefer to do whatever I can do at the moment. Whoever's hiring me at the moment...that's what I'm supposed to do. My favorite is drama. I'm doing that now, but also still doing comedy on Hot in Cleveland."
In 1985, after The Jeffersons were canceled after 11 seasons, Gibbs was the lead actress in the NBC sitcom 227 producing 116 episodes. Gibbs had some supporting film roles, and guest-starred on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Touched by an Angel, Judging Amy, ER, and Southland. In 2012, Gibbs appeared in the film Madea's Witness Protection, and in 2014 she starred in the independent film Grantham & Rose. In 2015, Gibbs made two appearances in the drama series, Scandal. She later guest-starred on Hot in Cleveland, American Horror Story: Hotel and This Is Us. Gibbs also has had starring roles in two television pilots.
She owned a jazz club in South Central L.A. called Marla's Memory Lane Jazz and Supper Club from 1981 to 1999. As a singer, she released several albums. In 2019, Gibbs reprised her role as Florence on Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons, less than a month shy of her 88th birthday. Gibbs married her high school sweetheart Jordan Gibbs from 1955 to 1973; the couple had three children: Angela Gibbs, Dorian Gibbs, and Joseph Gibbs. Her older sister is the late actress Susie Garrett. Her daughter Angela Gibbs is also an actress.