Barry Nelson (1917 - 2007)



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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

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


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

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Heart Failure

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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.

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Barry Nelson, Broadway and Film Actor, Dies at 86

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

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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
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