Nanette Fabray, iconic TV mom in sitcoms and dramas, has died. She was 97.
Born on Oct. 27, 1920, Fabray got her start in showbiz at the early age of 4 when she starred in various vaudeville shows. Her singing and comedic talent quickly took her to Hollywood and Broadway where she’d win multiple Daytime Emmy and Tony awards.
She made her Broadway debut in 1941 in the musical comedy Let's Face It, and in 1949 won her first Tony Award for best actress for her role in the musical Love Life.
By 19 she was talking bit roles in various Hollywood films, with her most notable role being opposite Fred Astaire in the movie The Band Wagon, a musical comedy that is considered to be one of MGM’s finest.
In the 1940s, Fabray was also hired by NBC to showcase their new color television technology, a role she was perfect for due to her stunning complexion. Around this time she was also diagnosed with otosclerosis, a condition which causes excessive growth of the bones in the middle ear and interferes with normal hearing.
To combat the condition, Fabray learned sign language and also wore hearing aids until several operations between 1955 and 1977 finally restored her hearing.
From the 1950s onward Fabray appeared in numerous comedy and variety shows, including The Ed Sullivan Show, The Carol Burnett Show, and Sid Caesar’s Caesar's Hour. Her regular appearance on Caesar’s Hour won her three Emmy awards.
Between 1967 and 1978 Fabray appeared on 184 episodes of The Hollywood Squares along with numerous other celebrity game shows.
But it was in her later years that Fabray seemed to find her niche role as mom. She played the mother of Ann Romano (Franklin) on One Day at a Time, the mother of Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, as well as the mother of Shelley Fabares character on the ‘90s sitcom Coach.
Fabares is actually her real-life niece, making her unusually suited for the role.
Fabray married twice, first to Broadway Publicist David Tebet, then to screenwriter Ranald MacDougall until he died in 1973. She is survived by her son, Dr. James MacDougall.