Nanette Fabray had a tough act to follow when she stepped into the shoes of the legendary comedian Imogene Coca on Sid Caesar's 1950s comedy series "Caesar's Hour." But Fabray, who'd started in the entertainment business as a tap-dancing toddler, ended up winning two consecutive Emmy Awards for the TV show and landing her own sitcom, "Yes, Yes Nanette."
"Funny just pours out of me," she told the L.A. Times in 1975.
The Southern California-bred singer-dancer-actress found early success as a child star in vaudeville. She went on to Broadway musicals and comedies like "By Jupiter," "Bloomer Girl," "Meet the People" and "Love Life," for which she won a Tony. She picked up another Tony nomination in 1962 for "Mr. President" and racked up starring roles in "Cactus Flower," "Last of the Red Hot Lover" and "Plaza Suite."
The vivacious Fabray signed a lucrative deal with MGM in the '50s but never became a feature film topliner. Instead, she headed to the then-emerging TV medium, where she worked on "The Alcoa Hour," "Playhouse 90" and "Your Show of Shows," the forerunner of "Ceasar's Hour." She later became a staple on game shows, talk shows and comedies such as "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Maude," "The Love Boat" and "One Day at a Time." She costarred with her niece, Shelley Fabares, in "Coach."
Fabray was a longtime advocate for the hearing-impaired, having suffered from the ailment herself. She learned sign language and wore hearing aids until four operations between 1955 and 1977 restored her hearing.