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Shelley Fabares Played Mary on "The Donna Reed Show." See Her Now at 77.

The actor also starred on the sitcom Coach.

In the 1960s, a lot of teenagers would have loved to be in the position that Shelley Fabares was. Not only did she play Mary, the teen daughter on The Donna Reed Show, but she also starred in three movies with Elvis Presley. And, on top of that, she was a singer herself and even had a couple of hit singles. While you might not have heard much from Fabares in recent years, her success wasn't confined to the '60s. She went on to star in one of most popular sitcoms of the '90s, too.

Now, Fabares is 77, and while she hasn't played any TV or film roles lately, she's still using her platform. Read on to learn more about the actor's life today.

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Her career successes continued as she grew up.

Shelley Fabares leaving Le Dome Restaurant in 1991
Bart Sherkow /

In the '60s, Fabares was known for The Donna Reed Show and three movies with Presley: Girl Happy, Spinout, and Clambake. She also had hit singles with the songs "Johnny Angel" and "Johnny Loves Me." And her career continued on for decades to come. In the late '70s and early '80s, she played Francine on One Day at a Time. Then, throughout the '90s, she played Christine on Coach. For this role, she was nominated for two Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Other series Fabares has worked on include The Practice, Mork & Mindy, and Superman: The Animated Series.

She had a life-changing experience.

Shelley Fabares at 'A Night at Sardi's' to mark the 20th anniversary of the Alzheimer's Association in 2012
Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Alzheimer's Association

Fabares went through a difficult situation with her health in the '90s, and after years of doctors not knowing what was wrong, she received a life-saving liver transplant in 2000. In an interview with InnerVIEWS with Ernie Manouse in 2011, Fabares explained how it changed her outlook after being a worrier for her entire life. "When you get that close to death and you don't die, you go, 'Oh, okay, I did survive that. Maybe I can survive something else,'" she said.

In addition to speaking out about her own medical issues, Fabares works with the Alzheimer's Association because her late mother had the disease.

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She began using her hair to express herself.

Shelley Fabares and husband Mike Farrell at the "Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story" premiere in 2018
Kathy Hutchins /

When she was sick prior to her liver transplant, Fabares decided to try out a colorful new hairstyle. In her conversation with InnerVIEWS, she explained that she saw a woman leaving her salon with spiky hair dyed in multiple colors. She asked her hairstylist how it was done, and after he explained it, he asked if she wanted to try it out herself. Faberes thought, "This is the first time in my life since I was three years old—because that's when I started working—that no one can say to me, 'Oh, you can't do that' … It was almost hard to take in how liberating that was." She continued, "No one can tell me I can't do it and I'm dying, so if not now, when?" Fabares loved the style and has kept it to this day.

She recently defended TV mom Donna Reed.

Shelley Fabares at the opening of "Beautiful - The Carol King Musical" in 2018
Kathy Hutchins /

In May 2020, Fabares wrote a piece for Time magazine after then-president Donald Trump singled out two women reporters for their questions. He called one of them "angry" and said of both journalists, "It wasn't Donna Reed, I can tell you that" in an interview with the New York Post.

In response, Fabares wrote about her co-star and how she believed Reed would be called "angry or a "nasty woman" by Trump if she ever had the chance to interact with him. (Reed died in 1986.)

"When I heard that, I laughed out loud," Fabares wrote of Trump's quote. "Talk about the things he doesn't know. Donna Reed would have scared the living… well, you know. Though known for the sweetness of her roles in It's a Wonderful Life and as the archetypal 1950s and '60s housewife and mother on The Donna Reed Show—on which I played her daughter—the real Donna Reed was also a great, savvy, brilliant woman who was as good at calling out fakes as she was at standing up to injustice."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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