Nanette Fabray accepts the 23rd Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 1986. Photo: SAG-AFTRA
Nanette Fabray accepts the 23rd Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 1986. Photo: SAG-AFTRA

Nanette Fabray, the Tony Award and Emmy Award-winning actress, died on Thursday at her home in Palos Verdes, Calif. She was 97.

Ms. Fabray started out in film with her first movie role as a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth I (Bette Davis) in “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” (1939). Her one notable film success was the Comden and Green musical “The Band Wagon” (1953), directed by Vincente Minnelli.

SAG-AFTRA issued a statement,  “SAG-AFTRA mourns the passing of performer Nanette Fabray, who died Feb. 22 at the age of 97. The multi-talented Fabray, who joined the union in 1937, was the 1986 recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, the union’s highest honor.

Fabray began her acting career at the age of 5, appearing as Baby Nan in vaudeville. She became a leading lady in radio, moving successfully to stage and film in such features as Elizabeth and Essex, A Child is Born, The Band Wagon and Harper Valley P.T.A. Her television credits included One Day at a Time, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Coach, which starred Fabray’s niece Shelley Fabares, a former SAG National Board member. Her work garnered her numerous accolades, including a Tony and three Emmys.

Fabray, who was herself hearing impaired, was an advocate for education and assistance of the deaf and hearing impaired. She traveled and lobbied extensively to implement sign language interpretation and on television. At the time she received the award, she had been appointed by then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill to the U.S. Senate Commission on Education and the Deaf.

“A true performer and star of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Nanette Fabray had limitless exuberance and an expert sense of comic timing,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. “Her dedication to her art was equaled only by her generosity and willingness to help others.” “

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