Published: Sat, February 24, 2018
Entertaiment | By Paul Elliott

Nanette Fabray, TV Star Of The 50s-70s, Dies At 97

Nanette Fabray, TV Star Of The 50s-70s, Dies At 97

And on a 1977 episode of CBS' Maude, she was memorable as a high-school friend of Bea Arthur's character who had a stroke.

Born Ruby Nanette Bernadette Theresa Fabares in San Diego, her career spanned eight decades, from her start in Vaudeville at the age of 3, to musical theater in NY, to television and motion pictures in Hollywood.

In MGM's "The Band Wagon" (1953), also starring Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse and Oscar Levant, Fabray appeared in that classic film's two most famous numbers, "That's Entertainment" and, as one of the bratty (and bizarre) babies in high chairs, "Triplets". She also played Jean Simmons' confidant in Richard Brooks' The Happy Ending (1969). In 1956, she also took home three Emmy awards for her role in the sketch comedy TV show "Caesar's Hour".

"I was the first celebrity to stand up and say, 'I'm not ideal, '" she told The Morning Call in a 1996 interview. "I could nearly read Sid's mind", she said. "He felt it, the audience felt it, and apparently he got a lot of letters saying, 'Have Nan come back.' And so I did another show and another and I would up being with Sid week after week after week". However, she had already been dismissed from the show due to a contract dispute involving her agents demanding a salary increase and equal billing - demands unbeknownst to her.

Her family said Fabray died yesterday. The actress was devastated.

"Sid and I never got over the fact that we were both brutalized by that one awful incident", she said. "I would have stayed with him forever".


27, 1920, in San Diego, California, Fabray became involved in showbiz as a child. She had an older brother and sister, and her parents divorced when she was about 8.

At 3, she portrayed Miss New Year's Eve of 1923 at a Los Angeles theater. "By the time I was in my senior year, I flunked everything".

During this time, Fabray was suffering from an undiagnosed hearing problem that affected her ability to perform.

Throughout her life, Fabray continued to advocate for people with hearing disabilities. Fabray appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" five times and "The Carol Burnett Show" 13 times, and she showed up on programs fronted by Perry Como, Steve Allen, Jack Benny, Dinah Shore, Andy Williams, Merv Griffin, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, the Smothers Brothers and Bob Hope, as well as on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In".

Fabray's stage successes were many and spanned decades. Later, she replaced Celeste Holm in Bloomer Girl.

Fabray also had another unusual claim to fame: Her skin color was deemed the flawless tone for color television, and as a result, in the 1940s, she worked as a model for NBC's demonstration of color TV. During the 1940s, NBC hired her to work as a demonstration model for color television because her skin tone showed off the technology just right. She received a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild in 1987.

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