Nancy Kelly (1921 - 1995)

Nancy Kelly
1921 - 1995
updated May 24, 2020
Nancy Kelly was born on March 25, 1921. She died in 1995 at 73 years old.

Nancy Kelly (March 25, 1921 – January 2, 1995) was an American actress. A child actress and model, she was a repertory cast member of CBS Radio's The March of Time and became a movie leading lady in the late 1930s, while still in her teens. She made 36 movies between 1926 and 1977, including portraying Tyrone Power's love interest in the classic Jesse James (1939), which also featured Henry Fonda, and playing opposite Spencer Tracy in Stanley and Livingstone later that same year. She had her greatest success in a character role, the distraught mother in The Bad Seed, receiving a Tony Award for the 1955 stage production and an Oscar nomination for the 1956 film adaptation.
Of Irish descent, Kelly was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, into a theatrical family. Her mother was silent film actress Nan Kelly, who coached her and managed her career. As a child actress, Kelly appeared in 52 films made on the East Coast by the age of 17. Her younger brother was actor Jack Kelly, most noted for playing the role of Bart Maverick, one of the two leads, alongside James Garner or Roger Moore from 1957 to 1962 in the ABC television series Maverick. Nancy Kelly and Jack Kelly bore an obvious family resemblance to each other but never worked together in film or television.
As a child model, her image had appeared in so many different advertisements by the time she was nine years old that Film Daily commented, "Nancy has been referred to as 'the most photographed child in America,' largely because of her commercial posing."
Kelly worked extensively in radio in her adolescent years. She played Dorothy Gale in a 1933–34 radio show, The Wizard of Oz, based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Kelly was the first ingenue on CBS Radio's The March of Time series, with a vocal versatility that made it possible for her to portray male parts as well as female. She also portrayed Eleanor Roosevelt.
As an adult, she was a leading lady in 27 movies in the 1930s and '40s, including director John Ford's Submarine Patrol, the comedy He Married His Wife with Joel McCrea, Frontier Marshal with Randolph Scott as Wyatt Earp, and Tarzan's Desert Mystery with Johnny Weissmuller. Kelly was subsequently a two-time winner of the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre as well as a Tony Award winner for her performance in The Bad Seed which she followed up by starring in the 1956 film version, receiving a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also starred on television, including leading roles in "The Storm" (1961) episode of Thriller and "The Lonely Hours" (1963) episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. In 1957 she was nominated at the 9th Primetime Emmy Awards for an Emmy Award for Best Single Performance by an Actress for the episode "The Pilot" in Studio One.
Kelly was a Republican who supported Dwight Eisenhower during the 1952 presidential election.
Kelly was married to actor Edmond O'Brien briefly from 1941–1942, and then to Fred Jackman, Jr., son of silent Hollywood cameraman and director Fred Jackman, from 1946 to 1950. She was married to theater director Warren Caro from 1955 to 1968. She and Caro had a daughter, Kelly Caro, in 1957.
Kelly died at her Bel Air, California, home on January 2, 1995, from complications of diabetes at the age of 73. She was survived by a daughter and three granddaughters. She was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Walk of Fame
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Blvd. She was inducted on February 8, 1960.

Nancy Kelly Biography

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• The Untamed Lady (1926) with Gloria Swanson
• Mismates (1926) with Warner Baxter
• The Great Gatsby (1926) with Warner Baxter and William Powell
• Girl on the Barge (1929) with Jean Hersholt
• Glorifying the American Girl (1929; uncredited) with Mary Eaton
• Convention Girl (1935) with Shemp Howard
• Submarine Patrol (1938; directed by John Ford) with Preston Foster
and George Bancroft
• Jesse James (1939) with Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, and Randolph Scott
• Tail Spin (1939) with Alice Faye, Constance Bennett, Charles Farrell,
and Jane Wyman
• Frontier Marshal (1939) with Randolph Scott as Wyatt Earp
• Stanley and Livingstone (1939) with Spencer Tracy and Walter Brennan
• He Married His Wife (1940) with Joel McCrea
• Sailor's Lady (1940) with Joan Davis and Dana Andrews
• Private Affairs (1940) with Hugh Herbert and Robert Cummings
• One Night in the Tropics (1940) with Allan Jones and Abbott & Costello
• Scotland Yard (1941) with Edmund Gwenn
• A Very Young Lady (1941) with Jane Withers
• Parachute Battalion (1941) with Robert Preston, Edmond O'Brien, Harry Carey,
and Buddy Ebsen
• Fly-by-Night (1942; directed by Robert Siodmak) with Richard Carlson
• To the Shores of Tripoli (1942) with John Payne, Maureen O'Hara,
and Randolph Scott
• Friendly Enemies (1942) with Charles Ruggles
• Tornado (1943) with Chester Morris
• Women in Bondage (1943) with Gail Patrick
• Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943) with Johnny Weissmuller
• Gambler's Choice (1944) with Chester Morris
• Show Business (1944) with Eddie Cantor and George Murphy
• Double Exposure (1944) with Chester Morris
• Betrayal from the East (1945) with Lee Tracy
• Song of the Sarong (1945) with William Gargan
• The Woman Who Came Back (1945) with John Loder and Otto Kruger
• Follow That Woman (1945) with William Gargan and Regis Toomey
• Murder in the Music Hall (1946) with Vera Ralston
• Crowded Paradise (1956) with Hume Cronyn
• The Bad Seed (1956) with Patricia McCormack
• Murder at the World Series (1975) with Lynda Day George

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Amanda S. Stevenson
10.0k+ favorites
She was walking along Central Park South pushing a baby carriage with a newborn in it. I said, "Aren't you Nancy Kelly, the famous actress?" That delighted her because I was about 14. I took a photo of the baby and got her autograph. I brought her the photo when I developed it. She was so nice to me.
May 24 · Reply

Nancy Kelly Obituary

This obit of Nancy Kelly is maintained by Nancy's followers. Contribute to her obituary and include details such as cemetery, burial, newspaper obituary and grave or marker inscription if available.

Obituary: Nancy Kelly
Friday 20 January 1995 01:02
Nancy Kelly, actress: born Lowell, Massachusetts 25 March 1921; married 1941 Edmond O'Brien (marriage dissolved 1942), 1946 Fred Jackson Jr (marriage dissolved 1950), 1955 Warren Cato; died Bel Air, California 2 January 1995.
Although she made more than 30 films and received an Academy Award Best Actress nomination, Nancy Kelly's greatest triumphs were in the theatre.
One of New York's most successful child models from infancy, she made her first appearance on the Broadway stage at the age of 10 in Give Me Yesterday (1931). A role in Rachel Crothers's Susan and God (1937), which ran for two seasons on Broadway with Gertrude Lawrence heading the cast, led to a 20th-Century Fox screen-test for Kelly, swiftly followed by a long-term contract and a leading role in John Ford's Submarine Patrol (1938). Frank S. Nugent wrote in the New York Times: "Here's a morning g un forNancy Kelly, who has the responsibility of being the only girl in the cast, not merely by being as decorative as she is, but with a charming and assured performance. Miss Kelly bears watching; in fact, it will be a pleasure."
A year later, the same paper's Bosley Crowther was equally enamoured of Kelly, to the extent that he actually forgave Fox for crowbarring her into Stanley and Livingstone as the patently fictitious object of Henry Morton Stanley's affection. "We don't see," he wrote, "how any one could be so officious as to demand that the presence of an actress so charming must also be supported by documents."
Despite effusions from critics, Fox assigned Kelly a pallid "Outlaw's Noble Wife" role in Jesse James (1939), put her into minor fluff like He Married His Wife and Sailor's Lady (both 1940), and loaned her out for the likes of One Night in the Tropics and Parachute Battalion (both 1941). Her last film for 20th Century-Fox was To the Shores of Tripoli (1942) in which the studio showed its indifference by letting her lose John Payne to Maureen O'Hara.
A return to Broadway to play Alec Guinness's wife in Terence Rattigan's London success Flare Path (1942) was a disappointment; the play ran only three weeks. In Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943), Kelly was cast as a wisecracking vaudeville magician in a plot that also found room for Nazis, giant spiders, sinister Arabs and dinosaurs. In Show Business (1944) she played a scheming burlesque performer, hell-bent on breaking up the marriage of George Murphy and Constance Moore. Such was the skill of her acting that she actually managed to simulate convincing lust for Murphy.
After a handful of films in which she was paired with such fading leading men as William Gargan, Lee Tracy and Chester Morris, Kelly returned to Broadway. Her experience with the studios could only have helped her performance as John Garfield's Hollywood-hating wife in Clifford Odets's searing play The Big Knife (1949). Four years later she played another tortured Odets wife in a tour of The Country Girl. Her performance as the agonized mother of an eight-year-old murderess in Maxwell Anderson's Broadway hit The Bad Seed (1954-55) won her a Tony Award. Two years later Kelly and other key members of the New York cast journeyed west to make the screen version. She received her Oscar nomination for her work in the film.
Kelly twice received the Sarah Siddons Actress of the Year Award in a theater career that embraced such disparate playwrights as Shakespeare, Neil Simon and Edward Albee. Her television work included Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Climax and The Pilot (1956), a TV biography of Sister Mary Aquinas, a noted educator and the first nun to be granted a pilot's licence. Variety reported: "Miss Kelly humanized Sister Mary and made a colorful, interesting and touching character out of her." For this performance, Nancy Kelly added an Emmy Award to her crowded mantelpiece.

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1921 - 1995 World Events

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In 1921, in the year that Nancy Kelly was born, on November 11th, the first burial was held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. The body of an unknown soldier - selected by Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger who was highly decorated for valor and received the Distinguished Service Cross in "The Great War" - was brought back from France (World War 1) and placed in the newly completed tomb. President Warren G. Harding officiated at the interment ceremonies.

In 1936, by the time she was merely 15 years old, on November 2nd, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) debuted the world's first regular high-definition television service. The channel had a short schedule - Monday through Saturday, 3:00p to 4:00p and 9:00p to 10:00p. The first broadcast was "Opening of the BBC Television Service".

In 1951, she was 30 years old when on June 25th, CBS began broadcasting in color. There were well over 10 million televisions by that time. The first show in color was a musical variety special titled "Premiere". Hardly anyone had a color TV that could see the show.

In 1982, at the age of 61 years old, Nancy was alive when on September 14th, Princess Grace of Monaco (American actress Grace Kelly), 52, died of injuries when her car plunged off a mountain road. Her 17 year old daughter, Stephanie, was also in the car and suffered serious injuries but recovered. It's believed that the accident was caused when Princess Grace, who was driving, had a mild stroke.

In 1995, in the year of Nancy Kelly's passing, on May 19th, the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil - before 9/11 - took place in Oklahoma City. A truck bomb went off outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown - killing 68 people, injuring more than 680 others, and destroying one-third of the building. The most disturbing images were of children - a daycare center was hit by the bomb. The deadliest incident of domestic terrorism ever, Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and Michael Fortier were convicted of the bombing.

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