2018-02-24 03:18:13 UTC
Actress Nanette Fabray, who was known to modern audiences as the mother of
Bonnie Franklins character on the CBS sitcom One Day at a Time, died Thursday
at her home in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. She was 97.
The actress, born Ruby Nanette Bernadette Theresa Fabares in San Diego, was
performing in vaudeville by the age of 4, according to The New York Times.
By the age of 19, she was doing bit parts in Hollywood movies and made her
Broadway debut in the 1941 musical comedy Lets Face It opposite Danny Kaye.
In 1949, Fabray won a Tony for best actress in a musical for Love Life, which
was directed by Elia Kazan and choreographed by Michael Kidd, according to The
Her most notable film appearance was with Fred Astaire in The Band Wagon
(1953), considered to be one of MGMs best musicals.
Fabray also played a major part in the evolution of television. 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.
During this time, Fabray was suffering from an undiagnosed hearing problem that
affected her ability to perform. The condition, she later discovered, was
otosclerosis, a disorder in which excessive growth in the bones of the middle
ear interferes with the transmission of sound, according to the Los Angeles
Times. One doctor predicted shed lose her hearing in five years.
Fabray coped by learning sign language and wearing hearing aids. She also had
four operations from 1955 to 1977 before her hearing was restored.
Also during that time, Fabray appeared on many classic sitcoms and variety
shows. She won three Emmys in the 1950s for her work on Sid Caesars Caesars
Hour variety show, according to Variety.
Fabray later became a popular guest on shows like The Love Boat, Maude and
Murder, She Wrote, but her character niche seemed to be as the mom of a series
She played the mother of Ann Romano (Franklin) on One Day at a Time and the
mother of Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. On the 1990s ABC sitcom
Coach, Fabray portrayed the mom of a character played by Shelley Fabares, her
Fabray was married twice: to Broadway publicist David Tebet for four years and
to screenwriter Ranald MacDougall from 1958 till his death in 1973. She had one
son, Dr. Jamie MacDougall, who survives her, as does Fabares and her husband,
actor Mike Farrell.