Nanette Fabray is an American actress, comedienne, singer, dancer, and activist. She began her career performing in vaudeville as a child and then became a highly praised musical theatre actress during the 1940s and 1950s, winning a Tony Award in 1949 for her performance in Love Life. She became a household name during the mid 1950s as comedy partner to Sid Caesar on Caesar's Hour for which she won three Emmy Awards. From 1979-1984 she starred as Grandma Katherine Romano on One Day at a Time.
Fabray overcame a significant hearing impairment to pursue her career and has been a long-time advocate for the rights of the deaf and hard of hearing. Her honors representing the handicapped include the President's Distinguished Service Award and the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award. She is the aunt of actress/singer Shelley Fabares.
Fabray was born as Ruby Bernadette Nanette Fabares in San Diego, California to Raul Bernard Fabares, a train conductor, and Lily Agnes McGovern, a housewife. The family resided in Los Angeles and Fabray's mother was instrumental in getting her daughter involved in show business as a young child. At a very young age she began studying tap dancing with Bill ?Bojangles? Robinson among other teachers. She made her professional stage debut as "Miss New Years Eve 1923" at the Million Dollar Theater at the age of 3. The following year she made her first film appearance as an extra in the Our Gang short Cradle Robbers. She spent much of her childhood appearing in vaudeville productions as mainly a dancer but also a singer. She appeared across such stars as Ben Turpin.
Fabray's parents divorced when she was nine years old but her parents continued to live together for financial reasons many years after. During the Great Depression, her mother turned their home into a boarding house which Fabray and her siblings helped her to run. In her early teenage years she attended the Max Reinhardt School of the Theatre on a scholarship. She also attended Hollywood High School where she graduated in 1939. She entered Los Angeles Junior College in the Fall of 1939 but withdrew after only a few months. She had always had difficulty as a student in school due to an undiagnosed hearing impairment which made learning significantly difficult for her. She eventually was diagnosed with a hearing problem in her 20s after an acting teacher encouraged her to get her hearing tested. Of the experience Fabray said, "It was a revelation to me. All these years I had thought I was stupid, but in reality I just had a hearing problem."