Emmy nominated actress and singer Shelley Fabares became a teen idol thanks to her portrayal of Donna Reed's oldest child, Mary Stone, on the ABC sitcom “The Donna Reed Show” from 1958 to 1963. The role later earned her a 1994 Young Artist for Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award and a 2004 TV Land nomination for Favorite Teen Dream - Female. She capitalized on her success by releasing several studio albums and singles during the early 1960s. Her debut single, “Johnny Angel,” rose to the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962.
After leaving “The Donna Reed Show,” Fabares remained active on screen until the late 1990s. She had regular roles on such TV series as “The Brian Keith Show” (1972-1974), “The Practice” (1976-1977), “One Day at a Time” (1978-1984) and “Highcliffe Manor” (1979), but was not put back in the limelight until she was cast as Christine Armstrong on the ABC hit sitcom “Coach” (1989-1997). The role brought the actress two Emmy nominations. Fabares also appeared in the movies “Girl Happy” (1965), “Spinout” (1966) and “Clambake” (1967) with legend Elvis Presley.
Fabares is the wife of actor and political activist Mike Farrell. She was formerly married to Grammy Award winning record producer Lou Adler (married in 1964, separated in 1966, divorced in 1980). Fabares is the best friend of actress/singer Annette Funicello, whom she met in the seventh grade.
In October 2000, Fabares received a liver transplant after being diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis. A month later, she and her husband were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Catholics in Media Association.
“This is the kind of situation that can tear people apart. It tears at the fabric of your soul and can certainly tear at your marriage and ours has gotten only stronger. Not only did we get closer, but friends and even people I didn't know were seriously praying for me. It was an enormous experience to go through and although I wouldn't wish it on any one, it has been, with the exception of meeting my husband, the most profound experience my life. It has changed everything forever.” Shelley Fabares (about her liver disease and transplant)
Childhood and Family:
Michele Marie Fabares, who would later be popular as Shelley Fabares, was born January 19, 1944, in Santa Monica, California. She has a sister named Smokey Echols. Her aunt is actress/singer Nanette Fabray (born October 27, 1920), who is best known for her work on the musical “The Band Wagon” (1953). Shelley was introduced to show business at an early age and began studying tap dancing at age 3. She was also a child model in elementary school and soon after, began appearing on television shows.
On June 7, 1964, Shelley married record producer Lou Adler (born December 13, 1933). The couple separated in 1966 but did not divorce until 1980. Shelley married actor Mike Farrell (born February 6, 1939) on December 31, 1984. She has two stepchildren, Michael and Erin, from husband Farrell's previous marriage to actress Judy Farrell (1963-1983).
On September 28, 1992, her mother (Elsa Rose Fabares) passed away of Alzheimer's. After watching her mother’s struggle, Shelley emerged as an activist and fundraiser for the National Alzheimer’s Association. She has since served on the board of directors and testified before Congress on behalf of the organization.
Shelley Fabares began acting on the small screen with guest spots in such television shows as “The Loretta Young Show” (1954), “Producers' Showcase,” “Matinee Theatre,” “Captain Midnight” (all 1955), “Annie Oakley” (1956) and “Fury” (1957). Her first film appearance was in Robert Pirosh's “The Girl Rush” (1955). It was followed by appearances in the Rock Hudson/Cornell Borchers tearjerker “Never Say Goodbye” (1956), in which she portrayed Hudson's daughter, Mervyn LeRoy's horror film “The Bad Seed” (1956), Richard Bartlett's comedy “Rock, Pretty Baby” (1956), “Jeanne Eagels” (1957), and Charles F. Haas' “Summer Love” (1958). In early 1958, Fabares made her television series debut as a regular on “Walt Disney Presents: Annette,” which starred her friend Annette Funicello. The show ran between February and March 1958 on “The Mickey Mouse Club.”
Fabares' big breakthrough arrived later that same year when she landed the role of Mary Stone on the ABC sitcom “The Donna Reed Show” (1958-1966), starring Donna Reed. Along with TV “brother” Paul Petersen, Fabares became one of the most popular young performers on television. She left the show in 1963 when her character went off to college. She would return to the series sporadically until its end in 1966.
Riding high on her success on “The Donna Reed Show,” Fabares entered the recording world and the show's producer, Tony Owen (husband of Reed), financed the recording session with producer Stu Phillips. Released in February 1962, her debut single, “Johnny Angel,” premiered on an episode of “The Donna Reed Show” and rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 7 1962. It was eventually certified gold by RIAA. The song also charted at No. 41 on the U.K. Singles chart. Fabare's second single, “What Did They Do Before Rock 'n' Roll” (with Paul Petersen), followed in April 1962 but failed to chart. Her self titled debut album, “Shelley,” was released in June 1962 and peaked at No. 106 on the Billboard 200. Her second album, “The Things We Did Last Summer,” was released in September 1962. It peaked at No. 121 on the Billboard 200 and spawned the singles “Johnny Loves Me,” which went to No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, and a cover version of the Jo Stafford hit from 1946, “The Things We Did Last Summer,” which charted at No. 46 on the Hot 100. Fabares went on to record the albums “Teenage Triangle” (1963, #48 US 200), “Bye Bye Birdie” (1963) and “More Teenage Triangle” (1964). Her singles included “Telephone (Won't You Ring),” “Ronnie, Call Me When You Get a Chance,” “Welcome Home” and “Football Season's Over.”
After “The Donna Reed Show,” Fabares focused her energy on feature films. She began with “Ride the Wild Surf” (1964), a movie directed by Don Taylor. As Brie Matthews, she costarred in the film with Fabian, Peter Brown, Barbara Eden, Tab Hunter, Susan Hart and James Mitchum. The next year, she starred with Elvis Presley in the box office hit “Girl Happy” (1965), directed by Boris Segal. The actress then portrayed Louisa Page in Arthur Lubin's “Hold On” (1966) and was reunited with Presley in “Spinout” (1966, directed by Norman Taurog) and “Clambake” (1967, directed by Arthur H. Nadel). She also worked with Hank Williams Jr. and Ed Begley in “A Time to Sing” (1968).
Fabares recorded the songs “Spring Fever” and “Make Me Happy” for the soundtrack of the films “Girl Happy” and “Hold On,” respectively. In addition, she released the singles “I Know You'll Be There” (September 1964) on Vee-Jay Records, “My Prayer” (May 1965) and “See Ya 'Round On the Rebound” (August 1966) on Dunhill Records. However, none of the singles charted.
Fabares appeared in the television film “Meet Me in St. Louis” in 1966, where she starred as Esther. She also portrayed Dr. Anne Jamison on the NBC comedy series “The Brian Keith Show” (1972-1974) and Jenny Bedford on the NBC sitcom “The Practice” (1976-1977), opposite Didi Conn and Dena Dietrich. She then played Eleanor Major in the series “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” from 1977 to 1978 and began her role of Francine Webster on the CBS sitcom “One Day at a Time” in 1978, a gig she would keep until 1984.
Fabares also acted in several TV movies during this time, such as “Brian's Song” (1971), “Two for the Money” (1972), “Sky Heist” (1975), “Pleasure Cove” (1979), “Donovan's Kid” (1979) and “Friendships, Secrets and Lies” (1979). In addition, the busy actress guest starred on a number of television shows, including “Daniel Boone” (1969), “Love, American Style” (3 episodes, 1969-1972), “Mannix” (1971), “Police Story” (1974), “Ironside” (1974), “The Rockford Files” (1974), “The Rookies” (1975), “Barnaby Jones” (1975), “Marcus Welby, M.D.” (1976), “The Incredible Hulk” (1978) and “Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color” (1979), to name a few.
Entering the 1980s, Fabares was cast as Louise Gregory in the TV film “Gridlock” (1980), starring Desi Arnaz Jr., John Beck and Noah Beery Jr., played the recurring role of Cathy McConnell on the ABC sitcom “Mork & Mindy” (3 episodes, 1980-1981), and appeared in episodes of “The Love Boat” (3 episodes, 1980-1985), “Fantasy Island” (1981), “Matt Houston” (1983) and “ABC Afterschool Specials” (1983). She then costarred with her husband, Mike Farrell, on the 1985 TV movie “Memorial Day” (1983), starred as Lucy in the TV film “The Canterville Ghost” (1985), opposite Richard Kiley and Jenny Beck, and portrayed Mimi in the television movie “Suburban Beat” (1985), opposite Dee Wallace and Heather Langenkamp.
After guest starring in “Newhart” (1987), Fabares resumed her film career in the role of Buffy Cronenberg on “Hot Pursuit” (1987), a comedy film starring John Cusack, Robert Loggia, Jerry Stiller, Ben Stiller and Keith David that was directed and co-written by Steven Lisberger. She went on to appear as Kathy Reuben in the TV film “Run Till You Fall” (1988) and Liza Caspar in the “Murder, She Wrote” episodes “Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall: Part 1 and Part 2” (1989). Also in 1989, Fabares won the role of Hayden Fox's girlfriend and later wife, Christine Armstrong, on the popular ABC sitcom “Coach,” starring Craig T. Nelson. She stayed with the show from February 28, 1989, to May 14, 1997, and received two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance.
While working on “Coach,” Fabares also played LuAnn Reed in “Love or Money” (1990), a comedy film starring Tim Daly, Michael Garin and Kevin McCarthy, costarred with Robert Urich and Gwyneth Paltrow in the television film “Deadly Relations” (1993), and worked with Mary Kate Schellhardt, Hillary Tuck, Valerie Harper and Sid Caesar in “The Great Mom Swap” (1995), a film released direct to video by Hallmark Entertainment. She also worked with Gerald McRaney and Katy Boyer in the TV film “A Nightmare Come True” (1997), guest starred in “A Whole New Ballgame” (1995), and provided the voice of Martha Kent on the TV movie “Superman: The Last Son of Krypton” (1996). She went on to reprise the role on several episodes of “Superman: The Animated Series” (1996-1999), in an episode of “Justice League” called “Comfort and Joy” (2003) and in the direct to video animated film “Superman: Brainiac Attacks” (2006).
After “Coach” left the airwaves, Fabares stared as Nancy Erickson in the TV film “Playing to Win: A Moment of Truth Movie,” opposite Lisa Dean Ryan and Malcolm Stewart. It marked her last major acting gig to date. In 2004, she served as a producer of “10th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards” and reprised the duty for “11th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards,” “12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards,” “13th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards,” “14th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards,” “15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards,” “16th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards” and “17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.”
A compilation album titled “Shelley Fabares Johnny Angel” was launched by Collectables in July 2005. It was her second compilation album after 1995's “The Best of Shelley Fabares,” which was released through Rhino Records.
Young Artist: Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award, “The Donna Reed Show,” 1994