Ralph Nelson

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Ralph Nelson
Portrait of Ralph Nelson.jpg
Portrait of Ralph Nelson
Born(1916-08-12)August 12, 1916
DiedDecember 21, 1987(1987-12-21) (aged 71)
Years active1950–1979
Celeste Holm
(m. 1936; div. 1939)

Beatrice Bahnsen
(m. 1945; div. 1947)

Barbara Powers
(m. 1954; died 1981)
Children4, including Ted Nelson

Ralph Nelson (August 12, 1916 – December 21, 1987) was an American film and television director, producer, writer, and actor. He was best known for directing Lilies of the Field (1963), Father Goose (1964), and Charly (1968), films which won Academy Awards.

Life and career[edit]

Nelson was born in Long Island City, New York. He served in the Army Air Corps as a flight instructor[1] in World War II.

Nelson directed the acclaimed episode "A World of His Own" of The Twilight Zone (he should not be confused with The Twilight Zone's production manager, Ralph W. Nelson). He also directed both the television and film versions of Rod Serling's Requiem for a Heavyweight.

He directed Charly, the 1968 film version of Flowers for Algernon, for which Cliff Robertson won an Academy Award, as well as several racially provocative films in the 1960s and early 1970s, including the Academy Award-winning Lilies of the Field,[2] ...tick...tick...tick..., Christmas Lilies of the Field, The Wilby Conspiracy, and Soldier Blue. The starring role in "Lilies" led to Sidney Poitier winning the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Nelson also directed the Cary Grant comedy Father Goose, the offbeat Soldier in the Rain with Jackie Gleason and Steve McQueen, the crime story Once a Thief, and Rita Hayworth's last film, The Wrath of God. He both directed, and briefly appeared in, Duel at Diablo, starring James Garner and Sidney Poitier.

Nelson's other credits include several episodes of TV's Starsky & Hutch, the '70s camp horror classic Embryo, and A Hero Ain't Nothin' But A Sandwich.

A television drama about mounting the live show of Requiem for a Heavyweight called The Man in the Funny Suit was made in 1960, with Nelson both writing and directing. Nelson, Serling, Red Skelton, Keenan Wynn and Ed Wynn appeared in it as themselves.[citation needed]

He returned to TV in the late 1970s with a string of TV movies, including a sequel to Lilies of the Field called Christmas Lilies of the Field which starred Billy Dee Williams, Maria Schell, and Fay Hauser.


He died in 1987 in Santa Monica, California at the age of 71.




  1. ^ "Radio: The Three Prosceniums". Time. December 28, 1953.
  2. ^ Sullivan, Ronald (1987-12-25). "Ralph Nelson, Early TV Director; Made 'Requiem for Heavyweight'". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-18.

External links[edit]