Harriet Nelson

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Harriet Nelson
Nelson in 1964
Peggy Lou Snyder

(1909-07-18)July 18, 1909
DiedOctober 2, 1994(1994-10-02) (aged 85)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills
Other namesHarriet Hilliard
  • Actress
  • singer
Years active1932–1989
Roy Sedley
(m. 1930; annul. 1933)
(m. 1935; died 1975)
ChildrenDavid Nelson
Ricky Nelson
RelativesKristin Nelson (daughter-in-law)
Tracy Nelson (granddaughter)
Matthew Nelson (grandson)
Gunnar Nelson (grandson)

Harriet Nelson (formerly Hilliard; born Peggy Lou Snyder; July 18, 1909 – October 2, 1994) was an American actress.[1] Nelson is best known for her role on the sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

Early life and career[edit]

Diana Gibson, Marjorie Weaver, and Hilliard (1937)

Nelson was born Peggy Lou Snyder in Des Moines, Iowa,[2] the daughter of Hazel Dell née McNutt (1888–1971) and Roy Hilliard Snyder (1879–1953).[3] She appeared on the vaudeville stage when she was three years old and made her debut on Broadway in her teens.[4]

Harriet Hilliard, c. 1936

She frequented the Cotton Club, began smoking at age thirteen. She wed the comedian, Roy Sedley (1901-1989), in 1930. They were briefly married, but Roy was abusive and lived what has been described as "a high-flying life".[4] They separated a year later, and the marriage was annulled in 1933.[5] She left high school before graduating and joined the Corps de Ballet at the Capitol Theater, later dancing in the Harry Carroll Revue and working as a straight woman for comedians Ken Murray and Bert Lahr.[6] By 1932, she was still performing in vaudeville when she met the saxophone-playing bandleader Ozzie Nelson. Nelson hired her to sing with the band, under the name Harriet Hilliard. They married three years later.

Hilliard had a respectable film career as a solo performer, apart from the band. RKO Radio Pictures signed her to a one-year contract in 1936, and she appeared in three feature films, the most famous being the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical Follow the Fleet. She was very much in demand during the World War II years for leading roles in escapist musicals, comedies, and mysteries.

In Ozzie Nelson's book, he wrote that Harriet was quite popular during her short time at RKO, and that he and she wanted her to continue her solo film career. However, they decided it was more important for her to continue with the band and subsequent radio show.[7]

Although the couple occasionally appeared together in movies, either as a duo (in Honeymoon Lodge) or as separate characters (in Hi, Good Lookin'!), they are best known for their broadcasting efforts. In 1944, the Nelsons began a domestic-comedy series for radio, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. It was highly popular and made a successful transition to television. It was one of the stalwarts of the ABC-TV schedule from 1952 to 1966. The Nelsons' two sons, Ricky and David, were featured continuously on the show. Peter Jones, director of the television documentary Ozzie and Harriet: The Adventures of America's Favorite Family, has described Harriet Nelson: "She was a bombshell. She liked gay people. She liked a good off-color joke. She enjoyed her cocktails at night. She had the talent to go on and be a big star, but she made that decision to be Ozzie's wife."[4]

In 1973, Ozzie and Harriet also appeared in the sitcom Ozzie's Girls.[1]

In 2009, Harriet was included in Yahoo!'s Top 10 TV Moms from Six Decades of Television for the time period 1952–1966.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Harriet (then known as Peggy Lou Snyder) wed the comedian Roy Sedley (1901-1989), in 1930. They were briefly married, but Roy was abusive and lived what has been described as "a high-flying life". [4] They separated a year later, and the marriage was annulled in 1933. [5] In 1935, she married bandleader Ozzie Nelson.[9] They had two sons, David (born in 1936) and Eric (known as Ricky, born in 1940).[10] The couple remained married until Ozzie's death from liver cancer in 1975.[11] Her grandchildren include actress Tracy Nelson and musicians Matthew and Gunnar Nelson. She was also the mother-in-law of Rick's wife Kristin Harmon and David's wife June Blair.

Nelson and her husband were charter members of the Hollywood Republican Committee.[12]

Later years and death[edit]

In 1978, Harriet Nelson moved full-time to the Laguna Beach, California, beach home the family had built in 1954.[13] She died of congestive heart failure on October 2, 1994.[2] She is interred with her husband and younger son Ricky (who died in a plane crash in 1985) in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.

For her contribution to the television industry, Harriet Nelson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6801 Hollywood Boulevard.


The Nelson family (clockwise from top) David, Ricky, Ozzie and Harriet, 1952
Year Title Role Notes
1932 The Campus Mystery Wanda Perry
1936 Follow the Fleet Connie Martin
1937 New Faces of 1937 Patricia "Pat" Harrington
1937 The Life of the Party Mitzi Martos
1938 Cocoanut Grove Linda Rogers
1941 Sweetheart of the Campus Harriet Hale Alternative title: Broadway Ahead
1941 Confessions of Boston Blackie Diane Parrish
1942 Canal Zone Susan Merrill
1942 Juke Box Jenny Genevieve Horton
1943 Hi, Buddy Gloria Bradley
1943 The Falcon Strikes Back Gwynne Gregory
1943 Gals, Incorporated Gwen Phillips Alternative title: Gals, Inc.
1943 Honeymoon Lodge Lorraine Logan
1943 Swingtime Johnny Linda
1944 Hi, Good Lookin'! Kelly Clark
1944 Take It Big Jerry Clinton
1952 Here Come the Nelsons Harriet Alternative title: Meet the Nelsons
1952-1966 The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet Harriet Nelson 434 episodes
1969-1973 Love, American Style 3 episodes
1972 Night Gallery Helena Millikan Episode: "You Can Come Up Now, Mrs. Millikan/Smile, Please"
1973 Ozzie's Girls Harriet Nelson 24 episodes
1976 Once an Eagle Harriet Nelson Miniseries
1976 Smash-Up on Interstate 5 June Pearson Television movie
1977 NBC Special Treat Elderly shopkeeper Episode: "Five Finger Discount"
1977 The Love Boat Henretta McDonald Episode: "The Identical Problem/Julie's Old Flame/Jinx"
1978 Fantasy Island Winnie McLaine Episode: "The Over the Hill Caper/Poof! You're a Movie Star"
1979 Death Car on the Freeway Mrs. Sheel Television movie
1979 A Christmas for Boomer Television movie
1981 Aloha Paradise Episode: "Best of Friends/Success/Nine Karats"
1981 An Ozzie and Harriet Christmas Self TV special on KTLA in Los Angeles
1982 Happy Days Marge Episode: "Empty Nest"
1982 The First Time Charlotte Television movie
1983 The Kid with the 200 I.Q. Professor Conklin Television movie
1987 Time Out for Dad Mary McLaughlin Television movie
1989 Father Dowling Mysteries Sister Agnes Episode: "The Man Who Came to Dinner Mystery", (final television appearance)


  1. ^ a b "Harriet Hilliard". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-05-08. Retrieved 2011-05-02.
  2. ^ a b "Harriet Nelson, 85, Matriarch Of 'Ozzie and Harriet' Show". The New York Times. 1994-10-04. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
  3. ^ [1] Archived November 24, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b c Weinraub, Bernard (18 June 1998). "Dousing the Glow Of TV's First Family; Time for the Truth About Ozzie and Harriet". New York Times. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  5. ^ "Nelson, Harriet Hilliard". Encyclopedia.com. The Gale Group, Inc. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  6. ^ Folkart, Burt A., and Dennis Mc Lellan (4 October 1994). "Harriet Nelson, '50s model mother, dies at age 85". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 3 November 2013.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Nelson, Ozzie (1973). Ozzie. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0136477682.
  8. ^ Adair, Aly (February 27, 2009). "Top 10 Favorite TV Moms". Yahoo!. Archived from the original on October 21, 2012. Retrieved June 17, 2012.
  9. ^ Homer, Sheree (2012). Rick Nelson, Rock 'n' Roll Pioneer. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-7864-6060-1.
  10. ^ Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places : The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3rd ed.). McFarland & Company. p. 545. ISBN 978-0-7864-7992-4.
  11. ^ "The New York Times Biographical Service". The New York Times Biographical Service. 28: 108. 1974. ISSN 0161-2433 – via WorldCat.
  12. ^ "Film Notables Open Drive for G.O.P. President". Los Angeles Times. 1947-10-20. p. 8.
  13. ^ "Memories of Life With Ozzie". Nashua Telegraph. Los Angeles Times News Service. September 1, 1981. p. 29.

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