The upbeat title belies the film's often melancholy subject matter. Based on a novel by Ferdinand Reyher, Nellie stars David Wayne as a small town barber in the early 20th century. Wayne's bored wife (Jean Peters) leaves him for a city slicker (Hugh Marlowe), whereupon both are killed in a train accident. Wayne does his best to raise his two children alone, but the oldest son (Tommy Morton) becomes a criminal and is shot down in a Chicago gang war (a startlingly graphic sequence for a 1952 film). Wayne's life seems to be one disaster after another, but he perseveres, and upon his town's 50th anniversary he is honored as a pillar of his community. Somehow all of the previous tragedies are compensated for by the presence of Wayne's doting granddaughter Nellie (Helene Stanley).
by Hal Erickson synopsis