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Nanette Fabray, Stage & TV Star, Dead at 97

Nanette Fabray, Stage & TV Star, Dead at 97
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Nanette Fabray, an effervescent star of stage, screen and TV whose entertainment career spanned over 90 years, has died, The New York Times reports. She was 97.

Born Ruby Fabares in San Diego, after moving to Los Angeles as an infant, she became a child vaudeville performer sometimes billed as Baby Nanette.

The triple threat changed the spelling of her name early in her career after being introduced as "Nanette Fa-bare-ass" by Ed Sullivan at a live event.

She worked in radio and made her film debut in "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" in 1939, starring Bette Davis, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Her other biggest movie hits were "The Band Wagon" (1953), in which she performed the classic "Triplets" number with Fred Astaire and Jack Buchanan, all dressed as babies, and 1978's "Harper Valley P.T.A.," with Barbara Eden.

Fabray was a natural on the stage, making her Broadway debut with 1941's "Let's Face It!" By age 30, she'd appeared in several Broadway shows, including the hits "High Button Shoes" (1947) and "Love Life" (1948), the latter of which led to a Tony win. She went on to work on Broadway until 1973, and did other stage work until 2007.

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Fabray was nearly killed by a falling beam on the set of one live "Caesar's Hour" episode, suffering a concussion.

She has said her first love was live TV, and Fabray became a master at thinking on her feet, singing and pulling laughs out of gags, notably as one of the stars of "Caesar's Hour" (1950) opposite Sid Caesar, for which she won three Emmys. She was the star of her own "The Nanette Fabray Show" series in 1961, and made many guest appearances over the years, including on "Mary Tyler Moore" (1972) as Mary's mom, as a stroke victim on "Maude" (1977) and on "Coach" (1990, 1992, 1994), the latter of which was her final TV work.

She is perhaps best remembered for a 42-episode run as a semi-regular on "One Day at a Time" (1979-1984) playing Grandma Romano, the feisty mother of series star Bonnie Franklin's Ann Romano.

Fabray, a longtime advocate on behalf of the hearing-impaired after overcoming her own hearing disability, was awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award for her efforts.

Fabray was married to theater impresario David Tebet from 1947-1951, and to Hollywood screenwriter Ranald MacDougall from 1957 until his sudden death in 1973. She is survived by one son and two grandchildren, as well as by her niece, actress Shelley Fabares.