Nelson in 1953.
Leander Eugene Berg
March 24, 1920
Astoria, Oregon, U.S.
|Died||September 16, 1996 (aged 76)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Other names||Gene Berg|
Eugene E. Nelson
|Occupation||Actor, dancer, screenwriter, director|
(m. 1941; div. 1956)
(m. 1958; div. 1974)
(m. 1990; div. 1994)
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 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 Killingsworth.
In 1959, he appeared in Northwest Passage as a young man trying to prove his innocence in a murder case. Nelson appeared on the March 17, 1960 episode of "You Bet Your Life", hosted by Groucho Marx. He and Groucho's daughter, Melinda, performed a dance number together.
Nelson directed eight episodes of The Rifleman in the 1961-62 season, the original Star Trek, the first season of I Dream of Jeannie, Gunsmoke, The Silent Force, and The San Pedro Beach Bums. He directed the Elvis Presley films Kissin' Cousins (1964), which screenplay he wrote, and Harum Scarum (1965). For the Kissin' Cousins screenplay he received a WGA award nomination for best written musical. He later taught in the Theater Arts Department at San Francisco State University in the late 1980s.
He starred as Buddy in the 1971 Broadway musical Follies, for which he received a 1972 Tony Award nomination for Featured Actor In A Musical. The production featured a score by Stephen Sondheim and was co-directed by Michael Bennett and Harold Prince.
For contribution to the motion picture industry, in 1990, Nelson was inducted into 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 his three children, Douglas, Victoria and Chris.
- Second Fiddle (1939) as Minor Role (uncredited)
- Everything Happens at Night (1939) as Skater (uncredited)
- This Is the Army (1943) as Soldier (uncredited)
- I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now (1947) as Tommy Yale
- Gentleman's Agreement (1947) as Second Ex-GI in Restaurant (uncredited)
- The Walls of Jericho (1948) as Assistant Prosecutor (uncredited)
- Apartment for Peggy (1948) as Jerry (uncredited)
- The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady (1950) as Doug Martin
- Tea for Two (1950) as Tommy Trainor
- The West Point Story (1950) as Hal Courtland
- Lullaby of Broadway (1951) as Tom Farnham
- Painting the Clouds with Sunshine (1951) as Ted Lansing
- Starlift (1951) as Gene Nelson
- She's Working Her Way Through College (1952) as Don Weston
- She's Back on Broadway (1953) as Gordon Evans
- Crime Wave (1953) as Steve Lacey
- Three Sailors and a Girl (1954) as Twitch
- So This Is Paris (1954) as Al Howard
- The Atomic Man (1955) as Mike Delaney
- Oklahoma! (1955) as Will Parker
- The Way Out (1955) as Greg Carradine
- Little New Orleans Girl (1956) as Gregory Gold
- Shangri-La (1960, TV Movie) as Robert
- 20,000 Eyes (1961) as Dan Warren
- The Purple Hills (1961) as Gil Shepard
- Thunder Island (1963) as Billy Poole
- Family Flight (1972, TV Movie) as Aircraft Carrier Captain
- S.O.B. (1981) as Clive Lytell
- Life with Archie (1962, TV Movie)
- Hand of Death (1962)
- Hootenanny Hoot (1963)
- Your Cheatin' Heart (1964)
- Kissin' Cousins (1964)
- Archie (1964, TV Movie)
- Harum Scarum (1965)
- Where's Everett (1966, TV Movie)
- The Cool Ones (1967)
- Wake Me When the War Is Over (1969, TV Movie)
- The Letters (1973, TV Movie)
- Dan August: The Jealousy Factor (1980, TV Movie)
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.[dead link]
- Smith, Dinitia (September 18, 1996). "Gene Nelson Is Dead at 76; Athletic Hollywood Dancer". The New York Times.
- Crowther, Bosley (July 10, 1952). "'She's Working Her Way Through College,' With Virginia Mayo, New Bill at Paramount". The New York Times.
- Chawkins, Steve (June 25, 2015). "JoAnn Dean Killingsworth dies at 91; Disneyland's first Snow White". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 17, 2015.
- Crowther, Bosley (October 11, 1955). "'Oklahoma!' Is Okay; Musical Shown in New Process at Rivoli". The New York Times.
- "You Bet Your Life #59-26 My, how Melinda has grown. . . ('Door', Mar 17, 1960)". YouTube. March 17, 1960. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
- " Follies Broadway" Playbill (vault), accessed November 20, 2016