Nanette Fabray, TV star of the ’50s and ’60s, dies at 97

The exuberant, indefatigable actress-singer Nanette Fabray, a Tony and Emmy winner, a star of Vincente Minnelli’s golden-age musical “The Band Wagon” and a longtime presence on television, most notably on “The Hollywood Squares,” died Thursday at her Palos Verdes, Calif., home, according to the New York Times. She was 97.

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.”

Fabray also appeared on TV comedies and drama, starring on “Westinghouse Playhouse,” created by then-husband Ranald MacDougall, and recurring as Grandma Katherine Romano on hit 1970s sitcom “One Day at a Time.” She guested on “Burke’s Law,” “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” on which she played Mary’s mother; “Love American Style,” “Maude,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “Coach.”


Nanette Fabray

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8-1987, 8/4/1987 National Council on the Handicapped Forum on Native Americans with Disabilities. Shot of Actress Nanette Fabray MacDougall, from Pacific Palisades, Calif. She is on the board of the National Council on the Handicapped. Credit: The Denver Post (Denver Post via Getty Images)

STUDIO CITY, CA – MAY 20: Actress Nanette Fabray attends the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters Luncheon Honoring actress Joanne Worley at the Sportsmen’s Lodge on May 20, 2005 in Studio City, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

NANETTE FABRAY — Pictured: Actress Nanette Fabray — (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 16: Actress Nanette Fabray attends a press conference for SAG and AFTRA members announcing ‘I Am Voting YES’ for union consolidation June 12, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

NANETTE FABRAY– Pictured: Actress Nanette Fabray in 1957 — (Photo by: Jack Zwillinger/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

HOLLYWOOD SQUARES — Aired 10/21/73 — Pictured: (top, l-r) Vincent Price, Karen Valentine, Demond Wilson, (middle) Norman Fell, Paul Lynde, Lily Tomlin, (Bottom) Cliff Arquette as Charlie Wilson, Nanette Fabray, Tony Randall (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

THE NANETTE FABRAY SHOW — Pictured: Nanette Fabray — Photo by: Herb Ball/NBCU Photo Bank

Ismail Merchant (R) producer of the new comedy film “Le Divorce” poses with screenwriter Fay Kanin (L) and actress Nanette Fabray at a party following the film’s premiere in Los Angeles July 29, 2003. The film stars Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts who portray American sisters who come face to face with the complicated social nature of French society when one is jilted by her husband and the other decides to become a mistress. The film opens in select United States cities August 8. REUTERS/Fred Prouser REUTERS FP/WS

THE NANETTE FABRAY SHOW — Pictured: Nanette Fabray — Photo by: Herb Ball/NBCU Photo Bank

Legendary comedian Sid Caesar poses with actress Nanette Fabray as he celebrates his belated 80th birthday at the Friars Club in Beverly Hills, California October 6, 2002. [Caesar, who turned 80 last month, celebrated with a group of friends including Fabray, Carl Reiner, Red Buttons, Phyllis Diller, Drew Carey and Richard Lewis.]

Ed Asner, Elaine Hendrix, Fred Willard, Attorney Vicki Roberts, Monty Hall, Shelley Fabares, Gary Owens, Carole Connor, Mike Farrell, Tom Sullivan, Tom Sullivan and his dog Edison, Betty White, Alex Trebe, Loretta Swit, Lee Meriwether, Cloris Leachman, Gavin MacLeod, Nanette Fabray, Suzanne Pleshette, Tom Poston and Earl Holliman (Photo by John Heller/WireImage)

Nanette Fabray during Museum of TV and Radio Annual Gala Honoring Sid Caeser at Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

(left to right) Film star Nanette Fabray and Kathryn Barr enjoy some conversation at the Arthritis Foundation of Orange County Destination Paradise Benefit , held at the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa. Nanette was the guest of honor and Kathryn was wearing a hat that was an opportunity prize worth $ 1,000. (Photo by Glenn Koenig/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – FEBRUARY 10: Nanette Fabray and Sid Caesar at the Museum of Television & Radio’s honoring of Caesar at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. The event took place on the 50th anniversary of his TV classic, ‘Your Show of Shows.’ (Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

THE DINAH SHORE SHOW — Pictured: (l-r) Nanette Fabray, Fred MacMurray, Dinah Shore (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Nanette Fabray, US actress, wearing an orange silk outfit, resting her chin on her white gloved hands, smiling in a studio portrait, against a pink background, circa 1945. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

THE DINAH SHORE SHOW — Pictured: (l-r) Nanette Fabray, Dinah Shore (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

THE JERRY LEWIS SHOW — Air Date 01/28/1969 — Pictured: Actress Nanette Fabray — Photo by: Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank

THE NANETTE FABRAY SHOW — Pictured: Nanette Fabray — Photo by: Herb Ball/NBCU Photo Bank

Nanette Fabray during Red Buttons ‘A Celebration of Life and Laughter’ at The Century Club in Century City, California, United States. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage)

Sylvia Sims, Nanette Fabray and Mabel Mercer during Kaye Ballard Opening – February 19, 1973 at St. Regis Mansionette in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

NANETTE FABRAY — Pictured: Actress Nanette Fabray with son Jamie MacDougal in 1959 — (Photo by: Herb Ball/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

1955: American actor Nanette Fabray smiles while tugging at the earlobe of American comedian Sid Caesar in a promotional portrait for the television series, ‘Caesar’s Hour’. The actors played a married couple in a recurring segment of the series. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Nanette Fabray during The 45th Annual Golden Apple Awards at Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)






Fabray was a musical comedy star on Broadway in the 1940s, making her debut in “Let’s Face It!,” starring Danny Kaye and Eve Arden, and subsequently appearing in “By Jupiter,” “My Dear Public,” “Jackpot” and “Bloomer Girl.” She had star billing in “High Button Shoes,” “Love Life” — for which she won the Tony for best actress in a musical — and 1951’s “Make a Wish.” She later returned to the Rialto in 1962 to star with Robert Ryan in “Mr. President,” from Lindsay Crouse and Irving Berlin, and drew another nomination for best actress in a musical.

The actress appeared regularly on Sid Caesar’s “Caesar’s Hour” in the mid-’50s, winning three Emmys. She also guested on a seemingly innumerable number of variety shows, talkshows and gameshows starting in 1950 with “Your Show of Shows.” 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 appeared on 184 episodes of gameshow “The Hollywood Squares” from 1967-78. Other gameshow credits included “What’s My Line,” “Password All-Stars” and “Match Game.”


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Singer Chester Bennington of Linkin Park committed suicide in July, he was 41 years old.

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David Cassidy died on November 21 after having been placed in a medically-induced coma. The ’70s heartthrob and “Partridge Family” star was 67.

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Comedian Jerry Lewis died on August 20. He was 91 years old.

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Tom Petty, the famed and beloved rocker behind hits like “American Girl” and “Free Fallin,” died in October following a cardiac arrest. He was 66.

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Legendary actress Mary Tyler Moore passed away at the age of 80.


John Heard, known for his role as the father in the Home Alone films, died on July 21. Some reports say he was 71-years-old, however, others have his age listed as 72.

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Sam Shepard, the Pulitzer-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated actor peacefully passed away at his home in Kentucky in July after a long battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 73.

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“Touched By an Angel” star Della Reese died at the age of 86 peacefully at her home on November 19.

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Roger Smith, who starred in the series “77 Sunset Strip” and was married to actress Ann-Margret, died Sunday in Sherman Oaks. He was 84.


Gregg Allman, best known for performing in The Allman Brothers Band, passed away at 69.


Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell died unexpectedly at 52 after he was found in a Detroit hotel room.


Comedian Don Rickles died at the age of 90 from kidney failure.


Comedian Charlie Murphy died at 57 from complications stemming from a battle with leukemia.


Roger Moore, a former James Bond star, died after a short battle with cancer at 89.


Jonathan Demme, the director known for his work on thriller “Silence of the Lambs,” died at 73 from esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease.


Roger Ailes, who was at FOX News for two decades before being ousted last year for alleged sexual harassment, died at 77 after suffering a fall at his home.


Bill Paxton died unexpectedly at age 61 on February 25. 

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AC/DC guitarist and co-founded Malcolm Young died in November at the age of 64 after a three-year battle with dementia.

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Soul singer Cuba Gooding Sr., who is also Cuba Gooding Jr.’s father, died at 72.


Neil Fingleton, “Britain’s tallest man” and “Games of Thrones” star died at 36 from heart failure.

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“Battlestar Galactica” star Richard Hatch died at 71. 

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John Hurt, star of “The Elephant Man,” died at 77. 

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Butch Trucks, founding member of The Allman Brothers Band, died at 69.

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Actor Miguel Ferrer died from throat cancer at 61.

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Dick Gautier, known for is role in the Broadway musical ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ died at 85.

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Former pop singer Tommy Page was found dead at 46 in New York City.


“Doll Squad” star Francine York passed away at 80 after a battle with cancer.


Joni Sledge, the “We Are Family” singer, was found dead in her Phoenix home. She was 60.


Jazz legend Al Jarreau died at the age of 76.


Actor Robert Michael Morris died at age 77. His death was confirmed by friend Lisa Kudrow.


Monty Hall, one of the most popular game show hosts in American television died in September at age 96.

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Anne Jeffreys, star of ‘General Hospital’ and Broadway’s ‘Kiss Me Kate,’ died in September at 94.

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Barry Dennen, member of the original cast of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” died in September at age 79.

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Famed soul singer Charles Bradley died in September at the age of 68.

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Harry Dean Stanton, the actor known for his roles in “Twin Peaks,” “Big Love,” “Pretty in Pink” and “Repo Man” died of natural causes in Los Angeles. He was 91.

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Frank Vincent, who had a key role on “The Sopranos” and appeared in a number of Martin Scorsese films, died at age 78.

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Nelsan Ellis, who starred in the HBO series True Blood, died on July 8 from alcohol withdrawal after years of struggling with substance abuse. He was 39 years old.

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Blake Heron, the child actor who starred in 1996’s “Shiloh,” died at age 35.

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Comedian Shelley Berman, who was famous as a “sit-down” comedian and later as Larry David’s dad on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” died at the age of 92.

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Dick Gregory, the trailblazing comic and civil rights activist whose unique brand of comedy combined cutting wit and contemporary headlines, died in August at the age of 84.

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Martin Landau, the all-purpose actor known for his Oscar-winning performance in Ed Wood, died in July. He was 89.

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Gary DeCarlo, the lead singer of Steam, died in June at the age of 75.

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Michael Nyqvist, who starred in the Swedish film version of “The Girl With Dragon Tattoo,” died after a battle with lung cancer. He was 56.


Prodigy, who made up one half of Mobb Deep, died in June. He was 42.

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Comedian Ralphie May was found dead in his Las Vegas home in early October. He died of cardiac arrest at the age of 45.

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“Benson” actor Robert Guillaume died on October 24 at the age of 89 following a long battle with breast cancer.

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Legendary New Orleans musician Fats Domino died of natural causes at the age of 89 at the end of October.

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Former “Veronica Mars” actor Brad Bufanda died of a suspected suicide at the age of 34 at the beginning of November.

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Rising rapper Lil Peep was found dead in his tour bus on November 15 in Arizona. He was 21. Officials are still determining his cause of death, which is suspected to be an accidental overdose.

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Wendy Pepper, who was a fan-favorite on “Project Runway,” died peacefully surrounded by family at the age of 53 in mid-November. No cause of death was given.

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Jim Nabors, widely adored for playing Gomer Pyle on “The Andy Griffith Show,” passed away in November 2017 at age 87.

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Born in San Diego, Nanette Ruby Bernadette Fabares was a singer and tap dancer in vaudeville as a child.

As an ingenue, she appeared in the 1939 films “Essex and Elizabeth,” “The Monroe Doctrine”and “A Child Is Born,” credited as Nanette Fabares, but she never developed a substantial movie career.

Much later, she appeared in “The Happy Ending” (1969) and was among the stars of the 1970 comedy Western “Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County” and of the comedy “Harper Valley P.T.A.” (1978). She appeared in the 1981 indie “Amy,” starred as an IRS investigator in the 1987 film “Personal Exemptions” and made her last bigscreen appearance in 1994’s “Teresa’s Tattoo.”

Fabray was an interviewee in the 2009 “American Masters” episode “Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About.”

She won the SAG Life Achievement Award in 1987.

Fabray was married to NBC executive David Tebet from 1947-1951 and to screenwriter Ranald MacDougall from 1957 until his death in 1973.

Survivors include a son, Jamie, from her second marriage and a niece, actress Shelley Fabares, and her husband, actor Mike Farrell.


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