David Nelson dead at 74


The last surviving member of the long-running sitcom “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” has died. David Nelson, who was 74, had suffered from colon cancer.

The popular show based on the home life of bandleader Ozzie Nelson and his wife Harriet (Hilliard) began on radio in 1944. At that time the children’s roles were voiced by child actors. But in 1949 David, then 12, and brother Ricky, 8, joined the show. It moved to television, on ABC, in 1952.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet became the longest running family sitcom ever, with new episodes airing for 14 years and making the transition from black-and-white to color. David and Ricky literally grew up on television Their real wives also became their TV wives when they married in the early 1960s. The sitcom aired on ABC until 1966.

While the TV show launched the teen-idol music career of Ricky Nelson, David chose a career behind the cameras, becoming a director. But he also continued to have occasional acting roles after the family sitcom went off the air.

Ricky died in a 1985 plane crash, 10 years after his father, Ozzie, died of liver cancer. Harriet died of heart disease in 1994.

RBR-TVBR observation: We saw David Nelson in the strangest part of his career – when he was appearing as a catcher in a professional trapeze act. He had learned how to be a catcher for the movie “The Big Circus” and then traveled with a real circus act for a while. So we saw him performing at the Murat Shrine Circus in Indianapolis. He was probably the first network TV star we’d seen in person, even though he said nothing as he waved from his swinging trapeze, so we were duly impressed.