Nanette Fabray, 'One Day at a Time' Star and Emmy Winner, Dies at Age 97

Nanette Fabray, the charming actress who spent almost her entire life in the spotlight, died on Feb. 22. The three-time Emmy winner was 97 years old.

Fabray's son, Dr. Jamie McDougall, confirmed her death to the New York Times on Friday. She died at her Palos Verdes, California home.

Fabray was born Ruby Nanette Bernadette Theresa Fabres on Oct. 27, 1920 in San Diego and began her entertainment career on the vaudeville stage at 4 years old. She later studied acting with the legendary director Max Reinhardt, but a hearing problem led to difficulties in academics. That did not stop her stage career.

She made her debut on Broadway at 21 with 1941's Let's Face It. She moved on to By Jupiter in 1943. When she was 28, she won the Tony for Best Actress in a musical for Alan Jay Lerner and Kurt Weill's Love Life.

During the 1950s, Fabray focused on television, appearing in several anthology shows while continuing to appear on the stage. In 1956, she won Emmys for Best Comedienne and Best Supporting Actress for Caesar's Hour. In 1957, she won Best Continuing Performance by a Comedienne in a Series for her performance on the same show. In 1955, she almost died while on the show after she was knocked unconscious by a pipe. She was hospitalized for nearly two weeks.

She also made infrequent appearances in movies, dating back to 1939. That year, she appeared in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex with Bette Davis, a short called The Monroe Doctrine and A Child Is Born. She did not star in another movie until 1953, when she was cast in Vincente Minnelli's The Band Wagon with Fred Astaire. The film is now widely considered one of the best musical films ever made.

Fabray returned to the New York stage in 1963, earning a Tony nomination for starring in Irving Berlin's Mr. President. She made her last appearance on Broadway in 1973's No Hard Feelings, which closed after opening night.

Fabray continued acting on television into the early 1990s, with a new generation introduced to her talents with Norman Lear's One Day At A Time, starring Valerie Bertinelli, Bonnie Fraknlin, Mackenzie Phillips and Pat Harrington Jr. She played Grandma Katherine Romano in the series.

Her last role was as Christine's Mom on Coach in 1994.


Fabray is survived by her son and two grandchildren. Her second husband, photographer and screenwriter Ranald MacDougall, died in 1973.

Photo credit: Getty / CBS Photo Archive