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Barry Nelson

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Barry Nelson
Nelson in 1962
Robert Haakon Nielsen

(1917-04-16)April 16, 1917
DiedApril 7, 2007(2007-04-07) (aged 89)
Years active1938–1990
(div. 1951)
Nansilee Hoy
(m. 1951)

Barry Nelson (born Robert Haakon Nielsen;[1] April 16, 1917 – April 7, 2007)[2] was an American actor, noted as the first actor to portray Ian Fleming's secret agent James Bond.[3]

Early life


Nelson was born in San Francisco, the son of Norwegian immigrants, Betsy (née Christophersen) and Trygve Nielsen.[4] His year of birth has been subject to some debate, but is listed as 1917 on both his 1943 Army Air Forces enlistment record and his 1993 voter registration records.[5][6] He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1941, where he performed as an actor in student theatre productions.[7]



With MGM, Nelson made his screen debut in the role as Paul Clark in Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, with Donna Reed.[8] He followed that with his role as Lew Rankin in the film noir Johnny Eager (1942) starring Robert Taylor and Lana Turner.[9]

During his service in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, Nelson debuted on the Broadway stage in Moss Hart's play Winged Victory (1943) in the role of Bobby Grills. His next Broadway appearance was as Peter Sloan, playwright, in Hart's Light Up the Sky (1948).[10] He appeared on Broadway with Barbara Bel Geddes in the original Broadway production of The Moon Is Blue. During the play's run, he also starred in a CBS half-hour drama called The Hunter, premiering in July 1952. He played Bart Adams, a wealthy young American whose business activities involved him in a series of adventures. He also appeared with Lauren Bacall in the Abe Burrows comedy Cactus Flower in 1965[2] and with Dorothy Loudon in The Fig Leaves Are Falling in 1969. Nelson performed another Broadway role, that of Gus Hammer in The Rat Race (1949).[10]

He was the first actor to play James Bond on screen in a 1954 adaptation of Ian Fleming's novel Casino Royale on the television anthology series Climax! (preceding Sean Connery's interpretation in Dr. No by eight years).[9] Reportedly this was considered a pilot for a possible James Bond television series, though it is not known if Nelson intended to continue playing the character. Nelson played James Bond as an American agent whom some in the program call "Jimmy". In 2004, Nelson said, "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."[11] Bond did not become well known in the U.S. until President John F. Kennedy listed From Russia, with Love among his 10 favorite books in a March 17, 1961, Life article.[12]

The program also featured Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre, the primary villain. Nelson later noted the opportunity to work with Lorre was the reason he took the role.[8] Originally broadcast live, the production was believed lost until a kinescope emerged in the 1980s. It was released to home video and is currently available on DVD as a bonus feature with the 1967 film adaptation of the novel.[11]

During the 1959 television series, Nelson starred in 39 episodes of Hudson's Bay, playing Johnathon Banner.[13]

Nelson appeared as Grant Decker in "Threat of Evil", a 1960 episode of The DuPont Show with June Allyson. His additional television credits include guest appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ben Casey, The Twilight Zone (episode "Stopover in a Quiet Town"), Dr. Kildare, and in later years playing a hobo on an episode of The Ropers. He appeared regularly on television in the 1960s, having been one of the What's My Line? mystery guests and later serving as a guest panelist on that popular CBS quiz show. Nelson was also a semi-regular panelist on the daytime and nighttime versions of To Tell the Truth for three years of its run from 1962 to 1965, as well as a guest panelist a few times in 1967.[14] Nelson appeared second-most-frequently on the daytime show in the three years he was a semi-regular. He was one of the various hosts of the NBC Radio program Monitor during the mid-1960s.[15] Nelson appeared in both the stage and screen versions of Mary, Mary.[8][10]

He directed the 1968 play The Only Game in Town, as well as starring as Joe. In 1978, he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Dan Connors in the Broadway musical The Act (1977) with Liza Minnelli.[8] Nelson had a notable role as Stuart Ullman, the manager of the Overlook Hotel, in the Stanley Kubrick horror film The Shining (1980). His final appearance on Broadway was as Julian Marsh in 42nd Street (1986).[10]

"He was a very naturalistic, believable actor," said his agent, Francis Delduca. "He was good at both comedy and the serious stuff."[2]

Personal life


Nelson was married twice – first to actress Teresa Celli, from whom he was divorced in 1951 (according to his New York Times obituary), and later to Nansilee ("Nansi") Hoy, to whom he was married until his death.[16]

Nelson and his second wife divided their time between homes in New York and France.[17]

Nelson died on April 7, 2007, while traveling in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, nine days before his 90th birthday.[2]




Year Title Role Notes
1938 Comet Over Broadway Garage Mechanic uncredited
1941 Shadow of the Thin Man Paul Clark
Johnny Eager Lew Rankin
1942 A Yank on the Burma Road Joe Tracey
Dr. Kildare's Victory Samuel Z. Cutter
Rio Rita Harry Gantley
The Affairs of Martha Danny O'Brien
Eyes in the Night Mr. Busch
1943 The Human Comedy Norman Dana (aka "Fat")
Bataan F.X. Matowski
A Guy Named Joe Dick Rumney
1944 Winged Victory Robert Edward "Bobby" Crills
1947 The Beginning or the End Colonel Paul Tibbetts Jr.
Undercover Maisie Lieutenant Paul Scott
1948 Tenth Avenue Angel Al Parker
Command Decision Cumquat B-Baker crewman voice, uncredited
1951 The Man with My Face Charles "Chick" Graham / Albert "Bert" Rand
1956 The First Traveling Saleslady Charles Masters
1963 Mary, Mary Bob McKellaway
1967 The Borgia Stick Hal Carter TV movie
1969 Seven in Darkness Alex Swain TV movie
1970 Airport Captain Anson Harris
1971 My Wives Jane Nat Franklin TV movie
1972 Pete 'n' Tillie Burt
Climb an Angry Mountain Lieutenant Frank Bryant TV movie
1974 Fools, Females and Fun Dr. David Markham TV movie
1980 The Shining Stuart Ullman
Island Claws Dr. McNeal
1982 Poltergeist Actor on television uncredited




  1. ^ Haakon R Nielsen California Birth Index
  2. ^ a b c d Risling, Greg (April 13, 2007). "Actor Barry Nelson Dies at 89". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved April 13, 2007.
  3. ^ Maçek III, J.C. (October 5, 2012). "The Non-Bonds: James Bond's Bitter, Decades-Long Battle... with James Bond". PopMatters.
  4. ^ Robert Neilsen United States Census, 1930
  5. ^ National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946
  6. ^ Los Angeles County Voter Registration Record, Venice, California, 1993
  7. ^ 1937 UC Berkeley Yearbook
  8. ^ a b c d McLellan, Dennis (April 14, 2007). "First Bond starred on Broadway with Bacall, Minnelli, Bel Geddes". The News Tribune. Tacoma, Washington. Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 17, 2007. Retrieved April 14, 2007.
  9. ^ a b "First James Bond star dies aged 89". Metro. London. April 14, 2007. Retrieved April 14, 2007.
  10. ^ a b c d "Barry Nelson". Internet Broadway Database. Archived from the original on April 18, 2007. Retrieved April 14, 2007.
  11. ^ a b "Barry Nelson (1920-2007)". Mi6-HQ.com. April 13, 2007. Retrieved April 14, 2007. Nelson 2004 quote from Cinema Retro interview cited here.
  12. ^ Sidey, Hugh (March 17, 1961). "The President's Voracious Reading Habits". Life. Vol. 50, no. 11. ISSN 0024-3019. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
  13. ^ Wisconsin Center for Film
  14. ^ "To Tell the Truth: 1962-65 Daytime Panel Guide".
  15. ^ Sounds of NBC Monitor–1966 – The Monitor Tribute Pages. Retrieved January 1, 2024.
  16. ^ "Barry Nelson, Broadway and Film Actor, Dies at 86". The New York Times. April 14, 2007. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  17. ^ Zydel, Devin (April 13, 2007). "Barry Nelson (1920-2007)". CommanderBond.net. Archived from the original on May 18, 2007. Retrieved April 14, 2007.