Childhood & Early Life
Shelley Fabares was born on January 19, 1944 as Michele Ann Marie Fabares in Santa Monica, California to James and Elsa Fabares. She lived with her parents and sister Smokey in an old two-storey house in Hollywood. Her father worked for a real estate firm. Shelley studied in Immaculate Heart High School.
At an early age of three, she started tap dancing. She began modelling when she was in the elementary school. Her aunt, actress Nanette Fabray, introduced her to showbiz.
At the age of 10, Shelley made her television debut in 'The Clara Schuman Story' for the episode 'Letter of Loretta'. In the same year, she appeared in TV shows, such as 'Captain Midnight' and 'Annie Oakley'.
In 1955, she appeared as Rebecca Gibbs in 'Our Town', an episode of 'Producer's Showcase' and a musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder's play by the same name. She also performed the role of young Cathy in a 'Matinee Theatre' adaptation of Emily Bronte's novel 'Wuthering Heights'.
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Shelley Fabares's career in movies started with 'The Girl Rush' in 1955. Within the next three years, she had acted in 'Never Say Goodbye', 'The Bad Seed', 'Rock, Pretty Baby!', 'Jeanne Eagels', 'Marjorie Morningstar' and 'Summer Love'. Her TV roles include the shows 'Fury' and 'Colgate Theatre'.
Her breakthrough came in 1958 when she portrayed Mary Stone in the family sitcom 'The Donna Reed Show'. After the fifth season, her character was phased out only to reappear at the show's end. By then, she had become popular as a teen idol.
In the 1960s, Shelley Fabares tried different types of roles in the movies 'Girl Happy', 'Hold On!', 'A Time to Sing' and Elvis-starrer 'Spinout', 'Clambake' and 'Ride the Wild Surf', a beach-style romantic drama.
From 1962 to 1965, she played guest roles in some TV drama series, such as 'The Twilight Zone', 'Mr. Novak', 'Arrest and Trial', 'The Eleventh Hour', 'The Ghost & Mrs. Muir', 'Daniel Boone', 'Medical Center', 'Lancer', 'Bracken's World' and 'The Interns'.
She continued doing guest roles in the 1970s and appeared in the TV series 'Mannix', 'Longstreet', 'Owen Marshall', 'Counselor at Law', 'Love', 'American Style', 'McCloud' and 'Cade's County', 'Police Story', 'Ironside', 'The Rockford Files', 'The Rookies', 'Matt Helm', 'Medical Story', 'Marcus Welby, M.D.', 'Barnaby Jones', 'Highcliffe Manor' and 'Spencer's Pilots'.
She played regular lead roles in three sitcoms: 'The Brian Keith Show' (1972–74) with Brian Keith, 'The Practice' (1976-77) with Danny Thomas and 'Forever Fernwood' (1977-1978) with Greg Mullavey.
Alongside TV performances, she did small roles in movies like 'Brian's Song' (1971), 'Two for the Money' (1972), 'Sky Heist' (1975), 'Pleasure Cove', 'Donovan's Kid', 'Friendships, Secrets and Lies' (1979) and' Gridlock' (1980).
In 1978, she played the popular character, Francine Webster, in the sitcom 'One Day at a Time'. After this, she starred in some episodes of 'The Incredible Hulk', 'Lucan', 'Vega$', 'Fantasy Island' and 'Hello, Larry'.
In the 1980s, she acted in sitcoms, such as 'Mork & Mindy', 'Matt Houston', 'The Love Boat', 'Newhart' and 'Murder, She Wrote'. During this period, she also performed in movies like 'Memorial Day', 'Suburban Beat', 'The Canterville Ghost', 'Hot Pursuit', and 'Run Till You Fall'.
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In 1989, she played the role of an ambitious Christine Armstrong Fox, the love interest of Craig T. Nelson, on the sitcom 'Coach', which ran for the next eight years. Meanwhile, she also acted in the series 'Love or Money', 'Deadly Relations', 'The Great Mom Swap' and 'A Nightmare Come True'.
She acted in 'Win: A Moment of Truth Movie' (1998) and voiced the character Martha Kent on 'Superman: The Animated Series' in two episodes - 'Justice League' (2003) and 'Superman: Brainiac Attacks' (2006).
Career As A Pop Singer
Shelley Fabares’s first pop single 'Johnny Angel' was released in 1962 and was premiered on the 'Donna's Prima Donna' episode during the fourth season of 'The Donna Reed Show'. Written and composed by Lee Pockriss and Lyn Duddy, it was taken from her self-titled debut solo album produced by Stu Phillips.
'Johnny Angel' had a sequel 'Johnny Loves Me' which was part of her second pop album 'The Things We Did Last Summer', released in 1962. The album's title track was also a major hit.
Her third album 'Teenage Triangle' was released in 1963 on Colpix Records, and it included 12 tracks, four each from her and her 'The Donna Reed Show' co-stars, James Darren and Paul Petersen.
Family & Personal Life
Shelley Fabares got married to Lou Adler, record and movie producer, in June 1964. The couple separated after two years and divorced in 1980.
Shelley later got married to actor Mike Farrell in 1984. She is the stepmother of his two children, Erin and Michael, from his previous marriage.
Her mother Elisa Fabares died of Alzheimer's disease in 1992.
Shelley met with an accident in 1998 at home, in which her ribs on the left side were broken. She recovered from the injuries only to be diagnosed with fatal auto-immune hepatitis. For its treatment, she received a life-saving liver transplant in October 2000.
She is one of the board members and a national spokesperson for the National Alzheimer's Association. She considers this to be one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.