Best known as the savvy Christine on the television series, "Coach," Shelley Fabares has been an actress since the age of three. She was the teenage daughter on "The Donna Reed Show" for eight seasons; starred in teen-oriented films of the 60's, as well as in three Elvis Presley movies; and had a hit record, "Johnny Angel," which sold over a million copies. Fabares, whose mother suffered from Alzheimer's, is the spokesperson for the National Alzheimer's Association and is President of the Board of Directors for the Donna Reed Foundation. Following her own successful liver transplant in 2000, Fabares is also working nationally with the American Liver Foundation in promoting organ donation and liver disease awareness.
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Actress From the Age of Three
Born in California, not far from the studios in which she began her career at the age of three, Shelley Fabares has literally grown up before motion picture and television audiences. Beginning as a child model, she quickly turned to acting and appeared in such early television series as "Annie Oakley" and "Captain Midnight." By age nine, she had already appeared on a live television special with Frank Sinatra, and shortly thereafter appeared again with Sinatra in "Our Town," a production which also starred Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint.
From Mickey Mouse to Donna Reed
During the golden age of live television, Fabares appeared in six productions of "Matinee Theater" and "Playhouse 90." During this period, she segued from a number of episodes of "The Mickey Mouse Club" to co-starring with Rock Hudson in the film "Never Say Good-bye." She became part of television history and lodged herself firmly in America's heart when cast as Mary Stone on "The Donna Reed Show" in 1958. From that point her career blossomed, spreading from television into the recording industry with her million-selling record "Johnny Angel" in 1962. From there, she moved into the teen-oriented feature films of the period, such as "Ride the Wild Surf" and "Hold On." At that point she became, and remains, the only actress to have co-starred with Elvis Presley in three pictures during the height of his film career: "Girl Happy," "Spinout," and "Clambake."
One of her favorite characters was the wheelchair-bound Eleanor Majors, "an absolutely evil woman," in the spoof "Forever Fernwood," the continuation of "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." Having left "sweet and nice" in an unrecognizable shambles somewhere in her wake, Fabares spent five delicious years as the wondrously despicable Francine Webster opposite Bonnie Franklin in "One Day at a Time." From there, a couple of features, "Love or Money" and "Hot Pursuit," occupied her time until the advent of "Coach," where she played the savvy "Christine", which ran for nine seasons.
The cruel experience of watching her mother's health deteriorate quickly became the primary focus of Fabares' attention, with she and her sister becoming caregivers. Unable to stop her mother's descent and unwilling to stand idly by, Fabares was one of the first well-known people associated with promoting the cause of the then-fledgling Alzheimer's Association. Over the past fifteen years she has crisscrossed the country dozens of times on behalf of the Association, for which she became both the national spokesperson and an active member of the board of directors. In addition to scores of appearances around the country raising awareness and much-needed research funds for the elimination of the disease, Fabares is sought out as a respected speaker on Alzheimer's and has testified before the United States Congress on five separate occasions.
Liver Transplant Recipient
Following her own successful liver transplant in 2000, Fabares is working nationally with the American Liver Foundation in promoting organ donation and liver disease awareness. She is also President of the Board of Directors for the Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts, a non-profit organization to memorialize Donna Reed's accomplishments and perpetuate her deep commitment to youth, education, and the performing arts.