I remember seeing Tony and Emmy award winner Nanette Fabray, in a 1975 production of Wonderful Town at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. I was beyond impressed when she told me that she couldn’t hear the orchestra at all from the stage. She had been diagnosed with otosclerosis, that lead to deafness. Fabray kept her problem to herself and began to wear discreet hearing aids, yet continued to sing and dance in musical comedies on Broadway, despite worsening hearing loss and her intensifying anxiety over it.
Nanette started off as an ingenue, in the 1939 films “Essex and Elizabeth,” “The Monroe Doctrine”and “A Child Is Born,” credited as Nanette Fabares, she moved to Broadway.
Fabray’s debut was in Let’s Face It!, starring Danny Kaye and Eve Arden. She went on to appear in By Jupiter, My Dear Public, Jackpot and Bloomer Girl. Fabray’s first starring role on Broadway was in High Button Shoes in 1947 with Phil Silvers, which she followed with Love Life in 1948 winning a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical. She also made an appearance in Arms and the Girl in 1950 and went on to star in Make a Wish in 1951. In 1953 Nanette landed a role in The Band Wagon starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. Fabray appeared in the classic film’s two most famous numbers, including the fabulous “Triplets.” See video. Soon after she completed filming on The Band Wagon, Fabray had a breakdown and retired to the country for a 7 month rest.
Ms. Fabray returned to the Rialto in 1962 to star with Robert Ryan in “Mr. President,” and received another nomination for best actress in a musical.
Married to publicist David Tebet who worked with Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows starring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca; Nanette guest-starred on Your Show of Shows during the 1950’s but her marriage ended in divorce in July of 1951. Appearing in “Caesar’s Hour”, Nanette earned three Emmys. Fabray appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” five times and “The Carol Burnett Show” 13 times. She guest stared for 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 chalked up 184 episodes on the “The Hollywood Squares” and guested on “What’s My Line,” “Password All-Stars” and “Match Game.”
Fabray appeared on the “Westinghouse Playhouse,” created by then-husband Ranald MacDougall, and on the 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,” playing Mary’s mother; “Love American Style,” “Maude,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “Coach.”
She won the SAG Life Achievement Award in 1987.
Survivors include a son, Jamie, from her second marriage and a niece, actress Shelley Fabares, and her husband, actor Mike Farrell.
I will never forget your incredible generosity to me and telling me that disabilities do and could not stop talent.
You will be missed.