David Nelson, last surviving member of the Nelson family made famous by the long-running TV show The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet, has died after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 74.
Nelson was the eldest son of actor and bandleader Ozzie and singer Harriet and the older brother to pop star Ricky Nelson; he and Ricky joined Ozzie and Harriet’s radio show Here Come The Nelsons in its fifth year, after both became old enough to perform. In 1952, the entire family appeared alongside Rock Hudson in the feature film Here Come The Nelsons, the success of which prompted ABC to go ahead and move the Nelsons’ show from radio to television, where it became a hit, running for 14 seasons on the network—setting the record for longest-running sitcom, which The Simpsons broke in 2004—until the same changing social climates that made other 1950s-era nuclear families seem staid prompted its retirement. By show’s end, both David and Ricky had grown into young men, with their real-life wives (in David’s case, Playboy centerfold and actress June Blair) also joining the cast.
David also produced and directed several episodes, and in addition to his work on Ozzie And Harriet, he had appearances in movies and TV shows like Peyton Place, The Big Circus, Cheech And Chong’s Up In Smoke (as a doorman at the Roxy), The Love Boat, and High School U.S.A., while his directing credits included Childish Things, Death Screams, Last Plane Out, and A Rare Breed. Nelson’s last on-screen appearance was in John Waters’ Cry-Baby, playing the father to Traci Lords’ Wanda. He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006.