David Nelson, best remembered as the older brother in the long-running television show The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet (1952–66), died on Jan. 11 in Los Angeles. He was 74.
David Nelson was the last surviving member of the Ozzie & Harriet cast: Ricky Nelson, who battled drug addiction for years, died in a plane crash in 1978. Harriet Hilliard (Nelson) died in 1994. Ozzie Nelson died in 1975.
Surprisingly, the blond, blue-eyed, incredibly handsome Nelson (born Oct. 24, 1936, in New York City) didn’t have much of a film career, appearing in supporting roles in only a handful of films. Most notable among these are Mark Robson’s Academy Award-nominated potboiler Peyton Place (1957), in which Nelson played Hope Lange’s sweetheart (things go sour after she gets raped by her drunken stepfather, Arthur Kennedy); and Joseph M. Newman’s The Big Circus (1959), a cliche-ridden circus melodrama that makes The Greatest Show on Earth look as daring as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.
Nelson was also one of Clifton Webb’s many children in Henry Levin’s enjoyable The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (1959), in which Webb – of all people – played a man with two families; was a member of Burl Ives’ gang of outlaws in André De Toth’s Western Day of the Outlaw (1959); and supported Esther Williams and Cliff Robertson in another circus movie, James B. Clark’s The Big Show (1961), the poorly received second remake of House of Strangers (1949). (Edward Dmytryk directed the first, Broken Lance , which had a Western setting.)
Nelson’s last film appearance was in the John Waters’ movie Cry-Baby (1990), in which the older son of the pathologically wholesome Nelson family played the father of porn superstar Traci Lords.