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Nelson as Dr. Michael Rossi in Peyton Place
|Born||Edwin Stafford Nelson
December 21, 1928
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
|Died||August 9, 2014
Greensboro, North Carolina, U.S.
|Cause of death||Congestive heart failure|
|Alma mater||Tulane University|
|Spouse(s)||Patricia Miller "Patsy" Nelson (m. 1950-2014, his death)|
Nelson appeared in episodes of many television programs, more than fifty motion pictures, and hundreds of stage productions. Until 2005, he had been teaching acting and screenwriting in New Orleans at two local universities there. Hurricane Katrina prompted him to move his family far to the north to Sterlington, Louisiana. At the time of his death, however, he had relocated to Greensboro, North Carolina, where he had been in hospice care. He died at age 85.
Early life and career
Nelson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He began acting while attending Tulane University in New Orleans. He left college after two years to study at the New York School of Radio and Television Technique. He served with the United States Navy as a radioman on the light cruiser USS Dayton. He took a position as a director at WDSU-TV in New Orleans. By 1956, acting became his central focus, and he moved to the Los Angeles area.
Early in his career he worked with B-movie producer Roger Corman on the films Swamp Women (1956), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Rock All Night (1957), Carnival Rock (1957), Night of the Blood Beast (1958), The Cry Baby Killer (1958), Teenage Cave Man (1958), and A Bucket of Blood (1959). Also in 1958 he acted in and produced actor-director Bruno VeSota's science fiction horror film The Brain Eaters, which Roger Corman executive produced. That same year he was cast as the lead in Devil's Partner, though the film was not released until 1962. He also appeared in the 1960 thriller Valley of the Redwoods and the 1963 comedy drama Soldier in the Rain, starring Steve McQueen and Jackie Gleason. His television career featured many guest starring roles, such as the talented but arrogant Dr. Wade Parsons in the 1962 episode "Doctor on Horseback" of the NBC western series, The Tall Man, starring Barry Sullivan as Sheriff Pat Garrett and Clu Gulager as Billy the Kid. In the story line Dr. Parsons works to save the life of a pregnant young woman who attempts suicide when her husband deserts her.
Nelson was cast in episodes of such other westerns as Maverick, Wagon Train, Black Saddle, Have Gun – Will Travel, The Rebel (five times), Johnny Ringo, Gunsmoke, Tombstone Territory, Laramie, Bonanza, Stoney Burke, The Dakotas, "The Rifleman" and Redigo. He appeared on drama and adventure series too, such as Combat!, The Fugitive, The Twilight Zone, Flight, The Silent Service, The Outer Limits, Harbor Command, Tightrope, The Blue Angels (as the arrogant flight instructor Lieutenant Dayl Martin in "The Jarheads"), COronado 9, The Eleventh Hour, Thriller, and Channing, an ABC drama that romanticizes college life. He guest starred on Mission: Impossible and Jackie Cooper CBS military sitcom/drama, Hennesey.
He made two guest appearances on CBS's Perry Mason, both times as the defendant; in 1961, he played Ward Nichols in "The Case of the Left-Handed Liar," and in 1964, he played Dirk Blake, father of the title character, in "The Case of the Missing Button".
Peyton Place and later roles
In 1964, Nelson secured his most famous role, portraying Dr. Rossi on the ABC drama Peyton Place, which ran from 1964 to 1969. Nelson's fellow cast members included Mia Farrow, Warner Anderson, and Dorothy Malone. By 1968, all of the original stars had left the series, and Nelson became the lead actor on the show. Nelson reprised his role in two made-for-TV movies, Murder in Peyton Place and Peyton Place: The Next Generation.
After Peyton Place, Nelson worked in many more productions of all varieties often as a guest star on such series as Gibbsville, McMillan and Wife and Murder, She Wrote. He teamed with former Peyton Place co-star Percy Rodriguez in a second television series, The Silent Force, which ran for 15 episodes in 1970-1971. He guest starred with David Janssen in the very first episode of The Fugitive in the early 1960s. He appeared in many television movies such as Along Came a Spider (1970), The Screaming Woman (1972), Runaway! (1973), Houston, We've Got a Problem (1974), The Missing Are Deadly (1975), Superdome (1978), Doctors' Private Lives (1978) and Crash (1978), and served as host on a morning talk show,The Ed Nelson Show, that he hosted for three years. During the 1980s, Nelson took on the role of patriarchal Senator Mark Denning in the daytime serial Capitol. In late 1986, Nelson was upset to discover that the show's writers had turned his character into a traitor, and quit the show in disgust, last airing in early January 1987, two months prior to the show's cancellation.
He also continued appearing in theatrical films, such as Airport 1975 (1974), That's the Way of the World (1975), Acapulco Gold (1976), Midway (1976), For the Love of Benji (1977), Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986), Brenda Starr (1989), The Boneyard (1991), Who Am I? (1998) and Runaway Jury (2003).
While living in Los Angeles, Nelson was an active member of the Screen Actors Guild and was elected to the union board for many years. Nelson was a long-standing member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and maintained a long tradition of participation in voting for the Academy Awards. In the early 1970s, he ran for city council and mayor of San Dimas, California until a Federal Communications Commission ruling said that if he appeared in television programs his political opponents must be given equal time.
In 1999, Nelson returned to Tulane University to finish credits toward his undergraduate degree, which he completed the following year at age 71. He and his wife, Patsy, enjoyed semi-retirement visiting their six children and fourteen grandchildren. One of his children is actor Christopher S. Nelson.
- The Steel Trap (1952) as Man in Ticket Line at Airport (uncredited)
- New Orleans Uncensored (1955) as Charlie
- Swamp Women (1956) as Police Sergeant
- Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957) as Ensign Quinlan
- Rock All Night (1957) as Pete
- Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) as Tom
- Bayou (1957) as Etienne
- Hell on Devil's Island (1957) as Guard No. 2 (uncredited)
- Teenage Doll (1957) as Police Officer 'Dutch' / Blind Man
- Carnival Rock (1957) as Cannon
- Street of Darkness (1958) as Slavo
- Teenage Caveman (1958) as Blond Tribe Member
- She Gods of Shark Reef (1958) as Guard (uncredited)
- Night of the Blood Beast (1958) as Dave Randall
- The Cry Baby Killer (1958) as Rick Connor
- Hot Car Girl (1958) as Second Cop at Soda Bar (Driver)
- The Brain Eaters (1958) as Dr. Paul Kettering
- I Mobster (1959) as Sid - Henchman (uncredited)
- The Young Captives (1959) as Norm Britt
- T-Bird Gang (1959) as Alex Hendricks
- A Bucket of Blood (1959) as Art Lacroix
- Valley of the Redwoods (1960) as Dino Michaelis
- Code of Silence (1960) as Paul Lane
- Elmer Gantry (1960) as Man on Phone at Sister Sharon Headquarters (uncredited)
- Devil's Partner (1961) as Nick Richards / Pete Jensen
- Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) as Captain at Nightclub Announcing Call-up of Officers (uncredited)
- Soldier in the Rain (1963) as MP Sgt. James Priest
- The Man from Galveston (1963) as Cole Marteen
- Time to Run (1973) as Warren Cole
- Airport 1975 (1974) as Major John Alexander
- That's the Way of the World (1975) as Carlton James
- Acapulco Gold (1976) as Ray Hollister
- Midway (1976) as Admiral Harry Pearson
- For the Love of Benji (1977) as Chandler Dietrich
- Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986) as Governor Neilson
- Brenda Starr (1989) as President Harry S. Truman
- Deadly Weapon (1989) as General Stone
- The Boneyard (1991) as Jersey Callum
- Cries of Silence (1996) as Dr. August Claiborne
- Who Am I? (1998) as General Sherman
- Tony Bravo in Scenes from a Forgotten Cinema (2000) as Ghost of Mary's Dad
- Runaway Jury (2003) as George Dressler (final film role)
- William McDonald. "Ed Nelson, a Star of 'Peyton Place,' Dies at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
- ""Doctor on Horseback", May 19, 1962". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
- "FCC in Another Blunder". Pasadena Independent. March 8, 1972. p. 15. Retrieved May 3, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.