Barry Nelson (1917 - 2007)

ADVERTISEMENT BY ANCESTRY.COM

Summary

Barry Nelson’s biography is built and maintained by people like you. Create an online profile of Barry so that his life is remembered forever. If any factual information is incorrect, please edit Barry’s biography.

Barry Nelson
Born April 16, 1917 in San Francisco, California, USA
Died April 7, 2007 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA
Birth Name Haakon Robert Nielsen
Height 5' 11½" (1.82 m)
A genial, well-respected, all-around "nice guy", the breezily handsome Barry Nelson was born Haakon Robert Nielsen on April 16, 1917, in San Francisco, California, to Betsy (Christophersen) and Trygve "Ted" Nielsen, both Norwegian immigrants. He was raised in nearby Oakland and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1941. A talent scout from MGM caught Barry in a college production of "Macbeth" and quickly sized up his potential. Cast in earnest secondary roles including Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) and Dr. Kildare's Victory (1942), he was assigned the lead in the war film A Yank on the Burma Road (1942). Serving in WWII, he appeared in the Moss Hart play "Winged Victory", in what would become his Broadway debut, in 1943 and a year later he appeared as "Corporal Barry Nelson" in the 1944 film version of the play. Barry lost major ground in films during the post-war years, but certainly made up for it on the live stage by appearing in a string of New York successes ranging from "The Rat Race" to "The Moon Is Blue."
On TV, in addition to becoming a trivia statistic in the Hollywood annals as being the first to give video life to Ian Fleming's "007" agent James ("Jimmy") Bond in a one-hour production of "Casino Royale" in Climax! (1954), Barry lit up the small screen in such dramatic programs as Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) and, in particular, a memorable episode of The Twilight Zone (1959). He also starred in the series The Hunter (1952), a Cold War adventure, and My Favorite Husband (1953), in which he played the level-headed mate and "straight man" to daffy blonde Joan Caulfield. In the 1960s he continued to demonstrate his acting muscle on stage and TV, although he did manage to preserve on film his starring role in Mary, Mary (1963), a huge Broadway hit with Debbie Reynolds co-starring in place of stage partner Barbara Bel Geddes. The lightweight play "Cactus Flower" with Lauren Bacall was another bright vehicle, but star Walter Matthau's clout cost Barry the part when it went to film. Through it all Barry remained a thoroughly solid professional, particularly in the realm of TV-movies. Such standouts include his neighbor/undercover agent to criminals-on-the-run Don Murray and Inger Stevens in The Borgia Stick (1967) and his blind plane crash survivor in Seven in Darkness (1969).
The 1970s proved a very good decade indeed for Barry theater-wise with "Seascape," "The Norman Conquests" and Liza Minnelli's "The Act" among his pleasures, the last-mentioned earning him a Tony nomination. Despite co-starring roles in the blockbuster hit Airport (1970) and comedy Pete 'n' Tillie (1972), the silver screen would not become his strong suit in later years. By the early 1990s he had fully retired.
A popular, clean-cut, down-to-earth "Average Joe" with a charmingly sly side, you just couldn't help but like Barry Nelson. Although he certainly could play the deceptive villain when called upon, he was usually the kind of guy you'd root for having as a neighbor, pal or business partner. Divorced from actress Teresa Celli for quite some time and completely retired now, he and second wife Nansilee (they married in 1992) traveled extensively and enjoyed antique shopping in particular. In 2007, during one of their many excursions, Barry passed away quietly at age 89 at a hotel in Bucks County, Pennesylvania.

Spouse (2)
Nansilee Hoy (12 November 1992 - 7 April 2007) ( his death)
Teresa Celli (19 February 1951 - 1965) ( divorced)
He was the first person to play "James Bond" in a visual sense (others have played him on radio); he appeared as "Card Sharp Jimmy Bond" in an American TV adaptation of "Casino Royale" on the TV series Climax! (1954).
Was nominated for Broadway's 1978 Tony Award as Best Actor (Musical) for "The Act."
He and second wife Nansi maintained homes both in New York and France.
Graduate of the University of California at Berkeley in 1941.
Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Actors Branch).
Is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Personal Quotes
I always thought Connery was the ideal Bond. What I did is just a curio.
[interview 2004, on being the first actor to portray James Bond in 'Casino Royale', 1957] At that time no one had ever heard of James Bond. I was scratching my head wondering how to play it. I hadn't read the book or anything like that because it wasn't well-known. The worst part of it was that I learned it was to be done on live TV. I thought I was finished with live TV. I was trying to get out of it, actually. They were making changes up to the last minute. There was nothing you could do if anything went wrong. I was very conscious of the fact that there wasn't much to go on. It was too superficial.

Barry Nelson Biography & Family History

This genealogy profile is dedicated to the life and ancestry of Barry Nelson and his immediate Nelson family. Add to Barry Nelson's genealogy page to share your memories & historical research with his family and other genealogy hobbyists.

Birth

at San Francisco, CA, in San Francisco, San Francisco County, California United States

Death

on in Bucks County, Pennsylvania United States
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Cause of death

Heart Failure

Burial / Funeral

Do you know the final resting place - gravesite in a cemetery or location of cremation - of Barry Nelson? Add burial and funeral information.

Obituary

Last Known Residence

Did Barry move a lot? Did he emigrate from another country? Add Barry's last known location.

Average Age

Life Expectancy

Family

Add family members

Education

Did Barry finish grade school, get a GED, go to high school, get a college degree or masters? What schools or universities did Barry attend? Add education.

Professions

Share what Barry did for a living or if he had a career or profession. Add Profession.

Organizations

Add organizations, groups and memberships.

Military Service

It is unknown if Barry Nelson is a military veteran.

Middle name

Unknown. Add middle name

Surnames

Ethnicity

Unknown. Add Barry's ethnicity.

Nationality

Unknown. Add Barry's nationality.

Religion

Unknown. Was Barry a religious man? Add Barry’s religion

Gender

Male

Timeline

1917 - In the year that Barry Nelson was born, "I Want You" became famous. James Montgomery Flagg's poster, featuring Uncle Sam and based on a 1914 British poster, attracted thousands of U.S. recruits to WWI duty. Over 4 million posters were printed in 1917 and 1918.

1920 - When he was merely 3 years old, the National Football League, first called the American Professional Football Association, was created. College football was more popular than pro football and rising player salaries were bankrupting league owners. In response, owners created the NFL, using the pro baseball association as a model. Eleven teams were formed: the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, Dayton Triangles, Decatur Staleys, Hammond Pros, Massillon Tigers, Muncie Flyers, Racine Cardinals, Rochester Jeffersons and Rock Island Independents.

1933 - At the age of 16 years old, Barry was alive when Frances Perkins became the first woman to hold a cabinet-level position, appointed by President Roosevelt to serve as Secretary of Labor. She told him that her priorities would be a 40-hour work week, a minimum wage, unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation, abolition of child labor, direct federal aid to the states for unemployment relief, Social Security, a revitalized federal employment service, and universal health insurance. President Roosevelt approved of all of them and most them were implemented during his terms as President. She served until his death in 1945.

1941 - He was 24 years old when on June 25th, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, prohibiting racial discrimination in the defense industry. EO 8802 was the first federal action to prohibit employment discrimination - without prejudice as to "race, creed, color, or national origin" - in the U.S. Civil Rights groups had planned a march on Washington D.C. to protest for equal rights but with the signing of the Order, they canceled the March.

1971 - By the time he was 54 years old, on May 3rd, 10,000 federal troops, 5,100 officers of the D.C. Metropolitan Police, 2,000 members of the D.C. National Guard, and federal agents assembled in Washington DC to prevent an estimated 10,000 Vietnam War protesters from marching. President Nixon (who was in California) refused to give federal employees the day off and they had to navigate the police and protesters, adding to the confusion. By the end of a few days of protest, 12,614 people had been arrested - making it the largest mass arrest in US history.

Barry Nelson Family Tree

Who was Barry’s parents? Did he get married and did they have children? Share Barry’s family tree to share his legacy and genealogy pedigree.

Barry's Family
Add a parent
Add a parent
Barry Nelson
Add a partner
Add a child
Add a sibling

You can add or remove people from Barry's family tree by clicking here.

Obituary

This obit of Barry Nelson is updated by the community. Edit this biography to contribute to his obituary. Include details such as cemetery, burial, newspaper obituary and grave or marker inscription if available.

Barry Nelson, Broadway and Film Actor, Dies at 86
By STUART LAVIETES APRIL 14, 2007

Barry Nelson, an actor who had a long career in film and television, starred in some of the more durable Broadway comedies of the 1950s and ’60s, and achieved a permanent place in the minds of trivia buffs as the first actor to portray James Bond, died last Saturday, his wife said yesterday. He was 86.
The cause was not immediately known. His wife, Nansi Nelson, said he died while traveling in Bucks County, Pa., The Associated Press reported.
Mr. Nelson became familiar to many moviegoers in his middle years, appearing in films like “Airport” and “The Shining.” But it was onstage more than half a century ago that he made perhaps a more enduring mark. Though not a matinee idol, he was blond and handsome and excelled in light romantic comedies, often playing the somewhat overmatched partner of an irrepressible leading lady.
He was a likable young architect who picked up a chirpy Barbara Bel Geddes in one of the most popular Broadway shows of the early 1950s, “The Moon Is Blue.”
He and Ms. Bel Geddes teamed again from 1961 through 1964, this time as a divorcing couple in Jean Kerr’s “Mary, Mary.” Soon after that show closed, he embarked on another long run opposite Lauren Bacall in “Cactus Flower.”
Mr. Nelson maintained his popularity in the 1970s, even as Broadway comedies began to take a darker view of relationships and marriage.
He starred with Deborah Kerr in Edward Albee’s “Seascape” and played a leading role in Alan Ayckbourn’s trilogy, “The Norman Conquests.”
He continued to perform in pure entertainments as well, earning a Tony nomination in 1978 for best actor in a musical for his role in the Liza Minnelli showcase “The Act.”
Born Robert Haakon Nielsen in San Francisco on April 16, 1920, he graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1941. Spotted by a talent scout, he was soon signed to an MGM contract and appeared in studio films like “Shadow of the Thin Man” (1941) and “Johnny Eager” and “Dr. Kildare’s Victory,” both in 1942. He landed a lead role the same year in “A Yank on the Burma Road,” playing a cabdriver who winds up leading a convoy of trucks for the Chinese government.
Joining the Army and assigned to an entertainment unit, he made his Broadway debut in 1943, billed as Pvt. Barry Nelson, in Moss Hart’s wartime morale builder, “Winged Victory.” He also appeared in the 1944 film version of the play.
Mr. Nelson starred in a number of television series in the 1950s, including a cold war spy adventure, “The Hunter”; a domestic comedy, “My Favorite Husband”; and a Canadian fur-trapping saga, “Hudson’s Bay.”
But it was in an unremarkable one-hour television production in 1954 that he left a lasting mark, or asterisk. That was when he played Jimmy Bond, an Americanized version of Ian Fleming’s lady-killing international spy, in an adaptation of “Casino Royale” for the CBS anthology series “Climax!”
Sean Connery’s Bond followed Mr. Nelson’s eight years later, in “Dr. No.”
In 1964 he starred in one of the most memorable episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” “Stopover in a Quiet Town,” in which a stranded couple wake up in a typical small town to find that it is completely deserted and deathly quiet except for the sound of a child’s laughter.
He appeared in another creepy classic, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror film, “The Shining,” playing the manager of the haunted and virtually empty hotel.
Mr. Nelson’s movie credits also include the 1963 adaptation of “Mary, Mary,” with Debbie Reynolds in the Barbara Bel Geddes role, and the 1970 disaster film “Airport,” in which he played an airline captain. He was a familiar face to television viewers throughout the 1970s and 1980s, appearing in cameo roles on many popular shows, including “Cannon,” “Taxi,” “Dallas” and “The Love Boat.”
Mr. Nelson’s first marriage, to the actress Teresa Celli, ended in divorce in 1951. He and his wife, Nansi, were married in 1992. He had no children from either marriage.

Share a Memory about Barry Nelson

What do you remember about Barry Nelson? Share your memories of special moments and stories you have heard about him. Or just leave a comment to show the world that Barry is remembered.

He was a friend of mine for many years.
Jun 25, 2018 · Reply
Went on a date and he couldn't get a taxi. Tried the subway and he was mobbed by autograph hounds. It was very funny because they all knew me which puzzled him. How I could I be such a big celebrity and he didn't know what I had done. Well, it's because I had been an autograph hound myself ten years before the date!
Jul 12 · Reply
Write a comment

Other Records of Barry Nelson

ADVERTISEMENT BY ANCESTRY.COM

Sources

Success Stories from Biographies like Barry Nelson

I have to tell you a VERY special story about how AncientFaces helped to reunite our family. For 13 years, I have been searching for my grandmother's missing sister. She just disappeared from the family in the 1930s without a trace. No one ever knew where or when she died or where she was buried. My years of searching have just run into dead ends, so I had given up. Today, out-of-the-blue, a young lady called me and said that she had seen a photograph on AncientFaces and one of the women in the photo was her grandmother! Little did I know that she had left a small child behind when she died so young of TB. You can imagine our shock and excitement at finding each other and a whole new family that we never knew existed. We only live one state away from each other and very soon plan to have all family members meet to share our sides of "the story" and of course, many, many more picturesl AncientFaces...... without you, this family may never have been complete and Aunt Grace would have been lost to us forever. I hope you realize what a valuable service you provide and how grateful we are to have found you. Thank you!!!! -Lynda B.
I never knew my biological family. My family is my mother and father who raised me. But, as I got older I got curious about my heritage. It took me years of investigation to finally discover my parents’ names. Well, I get goosebumps just writing this, I have found my biological family because of AncientFaces. Yes!! I did a search for my [parents' names] and was shocked to find a photo of them on AncientFaces! I cannot tell you the feeling that came over me when I saw this photo - to see the faces of my biological parents…JUST LIKE THAT. I left a comment on the photo and you won’t believe this - the owner of the photo is MY SISTER!!! Yes, I have a LITTLE sister! It turns out my parents were too young when they had me and had to give me up. My little sister knew I existed and wanted to find me but had no way of doing it. Thanks to you I am meeting my little sister for the first time next month. GOD BLESS YOU ANCIENTFACES. -Anonymous
We have found our missing relative entirely thanks to AncientFaces. We have received a much clearer photo of Captain Grant from his Son. The picture we on AncientFaces is an old yellowed newspaper photo. I am attaching the new photo and ask that you take the old one out and put the new clear picture in its place. With our Canadian Remembrance Day here in 2 days - the timing could not be better. Thank You, AncientFaces. My long lost Aunt is now 86 years old and her Son and I are talking by phone and e-mails. Captain Grant was his Father and died in France in 1944 and is buried there. By posting pictures of the visit to his gravesite - we connected through one of his brothers. Amazing that our prayers have been answered. Thank you -Beth B.
I came home for lunch yesterday and decided to look at my email before going back to work. The weekly newsletter that I subscribe to from the Logan Family History Center had this message in it about AncientFaces. I clicked on the link and the first search I did was for Woodruff, and Mamie was the first picture that came up. I could hardly stand it. I was late getting back to work. I had to add comments and write to you. Thank you for noticing her in the store and for the website. I can't help but wonder how many other family pictures may have ended up in that store and why. I also can't help but feel that it was meant to be and that there is a purpose that this picture is coming home as you say. What are the chances of this all just happening? It's amazing that you even picked it up at the store and then went to all the extra effort to post it. It makes me feel as though you have been my friend forever. It certainly has given me a connection to you, and I have a love for what you do. I just can't tell you how excited I am. I can't even hold it in. -Cathy K., Utah
I have previously submitted several pictures of my grandfather August Zemidat. I have tried for many years to find anyone with that name, and I have searched many genealogy web sites to no avail. Recently I was contacted by someone who saw my pictures on AncientFaces who may well be a cousin. She also provided me with information that seems to indicate her grandparents were my grandfather’s siblings. Considering the many years I have been searching for the name Zemidat, I find this is absolutely amazing that I have finally found a family member. Thank you AncientFaces -Ron D.
I love AncientFaces, a while back I saw that you had labeled Garcia surname pictures. At the time I didn’t have all my family facts for my research. Anyway, I wandered into your site just to check it out AND NOW 1 YEAR LATER I received a picture from an 87 year old aunt and guess what you had this very same picture on your site!! (They were my great aunts and my great-grandmother!). Thank you… -Angela M.
I have loved AncientFaces since I first found it, it's the first thing I check when I turn on the computer. There was a time when even in the most modest households there were three cherished possessions, a family Bible. a family album and a fancy lamp. It was usual for the family to gather in the parlour, generally on Sunday and talk, tell stories of family and friends with the photos in the albums as illustration. Sadly in our modern electronic age we have fallen away from the oral tradition and interest in history has waned. I was quite shocked on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic to see so many comments from younger people who were surprised to learn that the Titanic wasn't just a movie. This is why AncientFaces is so important, to me it's the electronic age version of the oral tradition on a global scale and the sheer volume of people who follow, comment and contribute seems to prove the point. We are all grateful to you all for providing us with this wonderful site. - Arba M.