The niece of musical comedy luminary Nanette Fabray, American actress Shelley Fabares was in show business almost as soon as she could walk. She was a model for children's fashions at age 3, a bit actress in the film The Bandit Queen at age 7, a peripheral character on the Annie Oakley TV series at 8, and Frank Sinatra's dance partner on a 1953 TV special. After doing the TV-anthology route from ages 10 through 13, Fabares was cast at age 14 as Donna Reed's daughter on The Donna Reed Show, a part she would virtually grow up in. Before the series' cancellation in 1966, Fabares had become a top recording artist, selling a million copies of "Johnny Angel" before quitting singing cold because she felt she had no talent in that endeavor.
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Except for co-starring stints in three Elvis Presley musicals, Fabares' employment outside Donna Reed was virtually nil, and from 1968 through 1970 she barely worked at all. She filmed six TV pilots before 1971, but none sold. Things began picking up in 1972 when she was signed for a Brian Keith series set in Hawaii, The Little People. This led to guest TV spots until the next sitcom hitch in 1977's The Practice, in which Fabares played Danny Thomas' daughter-in-law. Highcliffe Manor, a muddled TV satire of Gothic melodramas, followed in 1979, but lasted a scant four weeks. By this time, Fabares' characterizations were of the "snooty shrew" category, and in this capacity she was shown to good advantage as Bonnie Franklin's business partner on One Day at a Time in 1981. Off-camera, Fabares was very active in the prosocial and ecological activities of her new husband, former MASH star Mike Farrell--a far cry from her on-camera haughtiness and self-involvement. More recently, Shelley Fabares' acting career is alive and prospering via her continuing role as Craig T. Nelson's lady love, sportscaster Christine Armstrong, on the Emmy-winning sitcom Coach. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi