David Nelson

Born - Oct 24, 1936   |   Died - Jan 11, 2011   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The oldest son of bandleader Ozzie Nelson and songstress Harriet Hilliard Nelson, David Nelson was famous before ever making his professional debut. David and his brother Ricky both "appeared" on their parent's radio sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, albeit portrayed by professional child actors. The boys bugged O and H until their parents relented and allowed David and Ricky to costar in person on the radio series. When Ozzie and Harriet shifted to TV in 1952, the boys went along for the ride. Ricky unexpectedly became a teen idol in the late '50s, while David more or less played "straight" for the rest of the family. Except for a good supporting role as a homicidal trapeze artist in 1959's The Big Circus, David's acting career was colorless enough to encourage him to seek some other form of creative expression (though he'd later occasionally accept guest-star cameos in such projects as 1991's Cry Baby). In the early '60s, he turned to directing, first for the Nelson Family series, and then for several other TV situation comedies. David Nelson worked steadily but unspectacularly as a producer/director in the years to follow: in the early '80s he directed three theatrical films, the most prominent of which was the 1981 George Kennedy starrer The Rare Breed. Nelson, the last surviving member of his family, died of complications from colon cancer at age 74 in January 2011.