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Nanette Fabray (born October 27, 1920) is an American film, television and musical theatre actress. She is the aunt of actress/singer Shelley Fabares.


Born as Nanette Ruby Bernadette Fabares in San Diego, Californiamarker, she overcame a significant hearing impairment to pursue her career and has been a long-time advocate for the rights of the deaf and hard of hearing. Her honors representing the handicapped include the President's Distinguished Service Award and the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award.


In vaudeville from the age of six, Fabray made her first film appearance as an extra in the Our Gang short Cradle Robbers in 1924. Her feature debut came as one of Bette Davis' ladies-in-waiting in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939). In 1953, she played her most famous screen role as a Betty Comden-like playwright in MGM's The Band Wagon with Fred Astaire and Jack Buchanan. Their performance included a classic musical number, "Triplets", that was eventually included in That's Entertainment Part II. Additional film credits include The Subterraneans and The Happy Ending.

Fabray made her Broadwaymarker debut in Let's Face It! in 1941. Additional theatre credits included By Jupiter, Bloomer Girl, High Button Shoes, Make a Wish, Love Life for which she won the Tony Award, and Mr. President, which garnered her a second nomination.

In her early Broadway and film appearances, Fabray was credited as Fabares. The pronunciation is the same, but she changed the spelling following an embarrassing moment on The Ed Sullivan Show, when the famed host, reading a cue card, mispronounced her name on live television as "Nanette Fa-bare-ass."


Fabray became a household name with her appearances on Caesar's Hour, for which she won three Emmys. She and Sid Caesar as a team became a national sensation. Fabray left the show after a misunderstanding when her business manager, unbeknownst to her, made unreasonable demands for her third season contract, and Fabray and Caesar did not reconcile until a few years later when both became aware of the facts. Fabray appeared on several series as the mother of a main character: on One Day at a Time she was Ann Romano's mom; on The Mary Tyler Moore Show she was mother to Mary Richards, and on Coach, she played mother to real-life niece Shelley Fabares.

She also made appearances on The Carol Burnett Show, Burke's Law, Love, American Style, Maude, The Love Boat, What's My Line?, and Murder, She Wrote. Her brief, eponymous 1961 comedy series was cancelled after 13 episodes. On the PBS program, Pioneers of Television: Sitcoms, Mary Tyler Moore credited her well-known "crying" takes to mimicking Fabray's style of comic crying.

Fabray's most recent work was in 2007, when she appeared in The Damsel Dialogues, an original revue by composer Dick de Benedictus, with direction/choreography by Miriam Nelson. The show focused on women's' issues with life, love, loss and the work place. The play was performed at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks, Californiamarker.

Personal life

Fabray's first husband, Dave Tebet was a Vice-President of NBC. Her second husband, screenwriter and sometime-director Ranald MacDougall (1957-73), with whom she had one child, numbered Mildred Pierce and Cleopatra among his credits. He was President of the Writers Guild of America in the early 1970s.

A resident of Pacific Palisades, Californiamarker, Fabray wrote to Dear Abby in 2001 to decry the loud background music used on television programs today.

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Nanette Fabray has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker.

Partial filmography




  1. Fabray interview, Archive of American Television, National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
  2. Letter to Dear Abby

External links

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