Nelson in 1953.
|Born||Leander Eugene Berg
March 24, 1920
Astoria, Oregon, U.S.
|Died||September 16, 1996
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Other names||Gene Berg
Eugene E. Nelson
|Occupation||Actor, dancer, screenwriter, film and television director|
|Spouse(s)||Miriam Franklin (1941–1956) 1 child
Marilyn Morgan (1958–1974) 2 children
Jean Martin (1990 – ?)
Born Leander Eugene Berg in Astoria, Oregon, he moved to Seattle when he was one year old. He was inspired to become a dancer by watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films when he was a child. After serving in the Army during World War II during which he also performed in the musical This Is the Army, Nelson landed his first Broadway role in Lend an Ear, for which he received the Theatre World Award. He also appeared onstage in Follies, which garnered him a Tony Award nomination, and Good News. Nelson's longtime professional dance partner during the 1950s was actress JoAnn Dean.
Gene Nelson co-starred with Doris Day in "Lullaby of Broadway" in 1951. He played Will Parker in Oklahoma! and also starred as Buddy in the 1971 Broadway musical Follies, for which he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor. The iconic production featured a score by Stephen Sondheim and was co-directed by Michael Bennett (also choreographer) and Harold Prince (also producer); the cast also included Alexis Smith, Yvonne de Carlo, Dorothy Collins, Ethel Shutta, and John McMartin.
Nelson directed episodes of the original Star Trek, the first season of I Dream of Jeannie, Gunsmoke, The Silent Force, and The San Pedro Beach Bums. In 1959, he appeared with Keith Larsen and Buddy Ebsen in the NBC adventure series Northwest Passage as a young man trying to prove his innocence in a murder case.
Nelson also directed the Elvis Presley films Kissin' Cousins (1964) and Harum Scarum (1965). He also co-wrote the Kissin' Cousins screenplay for which he received a WGA award nomination for best written musical.
He also taught in the Theater Arts Department at San Francisco State University in the late 1980s.
For Nelson's contribution to the motion picture industry, in 1990, he was inducted to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Nelson's star is located at 7005 Hollywood Boulevard.
Nelson died of cancer, aged 76, in Los Angeles. He was survived by three children, Douglas, Victoria and Chris.
Awards and nominations
|1951||Golden Globe Award||Win||Most Promising Newcomer||Tea for Two|
|1965||Writers Guild of America Award||Nominated||Best Written American Musical||Kissin' Cousins (Shared with Gerald Drayson Adams)|
- "The New York Times". The New York Times.
- Dinitia Smith (September 18, 1996). "Gene Nelson Is Dead at 76; Athletic Hollywood Dancer". The New York Times.
- Bosley Crowther (July 10, 1952). "' She's Working Her Way Through College,' With Virginia Mayo, New Bill at Paramount". The New York Times.
- Chawkins, Steve (2015-06-25). "JoAnn Dean Killingsworth dies at 91; Disneyland's first Snow White". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-07-17.
- Bosley Crowther (October 11, 1955). "'Oklahoma!' Is Okay; Musical Shown in New Process at Rivoli". The New York Times.