When asked about her career and what led to her success through film, TV and theater, Nanette Fabray said simply, “I fell in love with the audience, and I fell in love with performing.”
Her audience clung to and adored her, especially in her iconic role as a TV mom. She played the role well. In shows like “One Day at a Time” she was the mother to Ann Romano. And in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” she was the mother to Mary Richards. On the 1990s ABC sitcom “Coach,” she played the mother to Shelley Fabares, her real-life niece.
Sadly, Nanette Fabray passed away Thursday at her home in Rancho Palos Verdes. She was 97.
She was born Ruby Nanette Bernadette Theresa Fabares in San Diego and by the age of 4 was performing vaudeville, according to Huffington Post.
By the age of 19, she found work in small parts in Hollywood movies and in 1941, made her Broadway debut in the musical comedy “Let’s Face It” opposite of Dann Kaye. Later in that same decade, she won a Tony for best actress in a musical for “Love Life.”
In film, she made heads turn in the movie “The Band Wagon” starring alongside Fred Astaire. That film appeared in 1953.
But acting wasn’t the only success Fabray had in her tenure in the entertainment industry. She was also a television pioneer. In the 1940s, NBC employed her to serve as a demonstration model for color television because of her skin tone. Apparently, it showed off the technology in just the right way.
Fabray also had her share of adversity. In the 1940s, at the same time as she was serving as a television pioneer, she also was suffering from an undiagnosed hearing problem, which later was discovered to be otosclerosis. That disorder occurs when excessive bone growth in the middle ear interferes with the transmission of sound, according to Huffington Post.
In 1956 she won two Emmy Awards, as best comedienne and best actress in a supporting role for her work in Caesar’s Hour,” according to The New York Times. The next year, she won another Emmy for that series, which occurred 10 months after she had been dismissed by the producers.
She was married twice: once to a Broadway publicist, which lasted four years, then to a screenwriter, which lasted 15 years. She bore one son, Dr. Jamie MacDougall, who survives her.
Please pray for the Fabray family during this difficult time of loss. In recent news, a “Blacklist” star has apologized for playing in any role that might have inspired a school shooting.