Jack Nance

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Jack Nance
Jack Nance.jpg
Nance as Pete Martell on Twin Peaks, 1990
Born Marvin John Nance
(1943-12-21)December 21, 1943
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died December 30, 1996(1996-12-30) (aged 53)
South Pasadena, California, United States
Other names Jack Nance
John Nance
Occupation Actor
Years active 1970–1996
Spouse(s) Catherine E. Coulson (m. 1968; div. 1976)[1]
Kelly Jean Van Dyke (m. 1991; d. 1991) (her death)

Marvin John Nance (December 21, 1943 – December 30, 1996), known professionally as Jack Nance and occasionally credited as John Nance, was an American actor of stage and screen.[2]

He was known for his work with director David Lynch,[2] particularly for his roles in Eraserhead,[2] Blue Velvet,[2] and Twin Peaks.[2]

Early life[edit]

Nance was born in Boston, Massachusetts and was raised in Dallas, Texas.[2] He graduated from South Oak Cliff High School. His father retired from Neiman Marcus. He worked for some time with the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. In the 1970s, Nance met David Lynch, who cast him as the lead in Eraserhead.[3]

Later career[edit]

In his later years, Nance grew a small white moustache and was a distinctive presence in many films with his peculiar twisted smile and blue eyes. After Eraserhead, Nance remained on good terms with Lynch, who cast him in nearly all of his projects:

Nance also guest-starred on a 1995 episode of My So-Called Life entitled "Weekend", in which he played an innkeeper. He also made a cameo appearance with actress Mary Woronov in Suicidal Tendencies' 1983 "Institutionalized" music video.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Nance married Catherine E. Coulson in 1968, but the couple divorced in 1976.[1] In May 1991, he married Kelly Jean Van Dyke (who worked in the adult film industry under the name Nancee Kelly). Van Dyke was the daughter of Jerry Van Dyke, briefly making Nance his son-in-law.

Second wife's suicide[edit]

Van Dyke committed suicide by hanging on November 17, 1991. According to his younger brother Richard, Nance, who was in Bass Lake, California, filming Meatballs 4 at the time, attempted to console her on the phone as she threatened suicide. A lightning storm knocked out the phones in Oregon, subsequently taking over 45 minutes for Nance and the director, Bobby Logan, to find a deputy sheriff who contacted Los Angeles police and the apartment manager. They broke in and found that she had hanged herself.

Kelly was discovered by her friend, Lisa Loring, who called out to neighbors—two young men who called 911 and cut her down in an attempt to resuscitate her until the paramedics arrived.


Nance died in South Pasadena, California, on December 30, 1996 under mysterious circumstances. On December 29, he lunched with friends Leo Bulgarini and Catherine Case. Nance had a visible "crescent shaped bruise" under his eye; and, when asked about it, he related to them the story about a brawl outside a Winchell's Donuts store on the morning of December 29. It is unclear if he was still drunk from the previous night or if he had begun drinking that morning, but it is certain that he was intoxicated at the time.[citation needed] He described the incident as, "I told off some kid. I guess I got what I deserved."[1] He soon went home, complaining of a headache.

The injuries he received caused a subdural hematoma, resulting in his death the following morning. Nance died alone in his apartment. His body was discovered on the bathroom floor by Bulgarini. An autopsy revealed that the actor's blood alcohol level was 0.24% at the time of his death.[3]

A documentary about Nance funded by Lynch, titled I Don't Know Jack, was released in 2002.






External links[edit]