Nanette Fabray

From the NYT on the 23rd on-line, “Nanette Fabray, Star of TV and Stage Comedies, Dies at 97” by Anita Gates:

(#1) Fred Astaire and Nanette Fabray on the set of The Band Wagon

Nanette Fabray, whose enthusiastic charm, wide smile and diverse talents made her a Tony Award-winning performer in the 1940s and an Emmy Award-winning comic actress in the 1950s, died on Thursday at her home in Palos Verdes, Calif. She was 97.

Warm memories for me, since I came to know her first in the 1953 movie musical The Band Wagon, which I saw as an impressionable young teen at the Radio City Music Hall. (I have the DVD and watched it again last weekend, with great pleasure.)

From Wikipedia:

Nanette Fabray (born Ruby Bernadette Nanette Fabares; October 27, 1920 – February 22, 2018) was an American actress, singer and dancer. She began her career performing in vaudeville as a child and became a musical theatre actress during the 1940s and 1950s, winning a Tony Award in 1949 for her performance in Love Life. In the mid-1950s, she served as Sid Caesar’s comedic partner on Caesar’s Hour, for which she won three Emmy Awards, as well as co-starring with Fred Astaire in the film musical The Band Wagon. From 1979 to 1984, she appeared as Katherine Romano on the TV series One Day at a Time.

She was the vivacious sidekick, the sympathetic sister, the best friend, the wise-cracking dame, and later in her career, the sunny, spirited mother.

About the movie, from Wikipedia:


The Band Wagon is a 1953 musical comedy film directed by Vincente Minnelli, starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. It tells the story of an aging musical star [played by Astaire] who hopes a Broadway show will restart his career. However, the play’s director [Buchanan] wants to make it a pretentious retelling of the Faust legend and brings in a prima ballerina [Charisse] who clashes with the star. Along with Singin’ in the Rain (1952), it is regarded as one of the finest of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musicals, although it was only a modest box-office success on first release.

The songs were written by the team of composer Arthur Schwartz and lyricist Howard Dietz. (Schwartz was a prolific Hollywood composer who teamed with numerous lyricists over the years, while Dietz, a studio publicist, generally collaborated with Schwartz.) Some of the songs in the film had been created for the original 1931 Broadway musical by Schwartz and Dietz which was also called The Band Wagon, with a book by George S. Kaufman and starring Fred Astaire and his sister Adele…  The movie’s dances and musical numbers were staged by Michael Kidd.

The song “That’s Entertainment!”, which Schwartz and Dietz wrote specifically for the film, was a hit and has become a standard. Another song orchestrated by Conrad Salinger, “Dancing in the Dark”, is considered part of the Great American Songbook and was from the original Broadway production. Astaire’s early number in the film, “A Shine On Your Shoes” was actually written for a 1932 Broadway revue with music and lyrics by Dietz and Schwartz called Flying Colors. It had originally been performed by the dancing team of Buddy and Vilma Ebsen. In the movie version of The Band Wagon, the song was reworked to show off Astaire’s musical talents.

Fabray and Levant play screenwriters who rework the show The Band Wagon after its initial failure in New Haven; the actual writers for the movie, the famous team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green (who provided the books for The Barkleys of Broadway, On the Town, Singin’ in the Rain, Wonderful Town, Bells Are Ringing, and Auntie Mame, among other shows) based the characters on themselves.

Like Singin’ in the Rain, the movie is yet another show about show folk putting together a show: well, they’re creating material about what they know, and it celebrates their lives. (“That’s Entertainment” is the anthem of the genre.) That’s not a criticism; I love the genre.

One Response to “Nanette Fabray”

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