Image of Harriet Nelson

Harriet Nelson

Harriet Nelson will always have a secure place alongside Barbara Billingsley and Jane Wyatt in the "TV's Golden Age Mom Hall of Fame." For fourteen years, she, husband Ozzie Nelson, and their two boys, David Nelson and Ricky Nelson, were the quintessential role models of the '50s ideal nuclear family. Harriet, the daughter of actors, was practically born in a trunk. She made her debut amid the footlights at age 6 weeks with her parents. The Iowa beauty attended St. Agnes Academy in her early years. Quite a dazzler in her youth, she was playing vaudeville when she attracted the attention of saxophone-playing Ozzie Nelson and was hired by him as vocalist for his orchestra in 1932. They married three years later. Harriet had a bold, sassy edge to her that proved a perfect counterpoint to Ozzie's genial, stumbling personality in their off-the-cuff routines. During the '40s, they were regulars on Red Skelton's radio show and even took over the comic's time slot when Red was drafted into the army. As Harriet Hilliard, she moved to leading lady status in a number of cool, snazzy war-era musicals, the most notable as "second lead" to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Follow the Fleet (1936). Other minor efforts included Cocoanut Grove (1938), Sweetheart of the Campus (1941) with Ozzie, Juke Box Jenny (1942), and Honeymoon Lodge (1943), also with Ozzie. Breezy, tuneful films, but nothing to write home about. Once Harriet partnered with Ozzie in their own radio series "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" in 1944, the family-oriented woman's career became unequivocally bound to his. They extended their devoted radio audience to TV (1952-1966). The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet (1952), which now included both their sons, made household names of the entire clan. David followed in his father's footsteps as director/producer, while Ricky turned pop teen idol with such hits as "Hello, Mary Lou" and "Travelin' Man," songs that were introduced on the show. Following the show's long run, Ozzie and Harriet lay back a bit and settled in Laguna Beach, California, touring occasionally on stage. A second series entitled Ozzie's Girls (1973) lasted only one season. Following Ozzie's death in 1975, Harriet turned somewhat reclusive, save for a few mini-movies or guest spots. She never fully recovered from son Ricky's death in a plane crash in 1985. She was the doting grandmother of actress Tracy Nelson and of twin rockers Matthew Nelson and Gunnar Nelson, who were simply called "Nelson." A heavy smoker most of her life, she never smoked in public, feeling it did not befit her "perfect mom" image. She died of emphysema and congestive heart failure in 1994.

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Jul 18, 1909 In Des Moines, Iowa, USA
Movie/TV Credits:
First Appeared:
In the movie Follow the Fleet 1936-02-20
Latest Project:
Series Ozzie's Girls 2022
Known For
Poster of Happy Days
Poster of Night Gallery
Poster of What's My Line?
Poster of Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra
Series Ozzie's Girls Unknown 2022
Series Father Dowling Mysteries Unknown 1989-01-20
Movie High School U.S.A. Mrs. Crosley 1984-05-26
Movie The First Time Charlotte 1982-11-08
Series Aloha Paradise Unknown 1981-02-25
Movie Death Car on the Freeway Mrs. Sheel 1979-09-24
Series The Love Boat Henrietta McDonald 1977-09-24
Movie Smash-Up on Interstate 5 June Pearson 1976-02-02
Series Happy Days Unknown 1974-01-15
Series Night Gallery Unknown 1970-12-16
Series The Barbara McNair Show Unknown 1969-09-13
Movie The Movie Orgy Self (archival footage) 1968-01-01
Movie The Fat Spy Punjab, The Sikh 1966-05-11
Movie Hollywood My Home Town Unknown 1965-12-31
Series The Merv Griffin Show Self 1962-10-01
Movie Disneyland '59 Self 1959-06-15
Movie Here Come the Nelsons Harriet Nelson 1952-02-23
Series This Is Your Life Unknown 1952-10-01
Series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet Harriet 1952-10-03
Series What's My Line? Self - Mystery Guest 1950-02-02
Movie Swingtime Johnny Linda 1944-02-04
Movie Hi, Good Lookin'! Kelly Clark 1944-03-22
Movie Take It Big Jerry Clinton 1944-06-09
Movie Hi, Buddy Gloria Bradley 1943-02-26
Movie The Falcon Strikes Back Gwynne Gregory (as Harriet Hilliard) 1943-04-01
Movie Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra Unknown 1943-03-27
Movie Gals, Incorporated Gwen Phillips (as Harriet Hilliard) 1943-07-09
Movie Honeymoon Lodge Lorraine Logan aka Jenny Hockadayl 1943-07-23
Movie Juke Box Jenny Genevieve Horton 1942-03-27
Movie Sweetheart of the Campus Harriet Hale 1941-06-26
Movie Confessions of Boston Blackie Diane Parrish 1941-12-08
Movie Cocoanut Grove Linda Rogers 1938-05-20
Movie New Faces of 1937 Patricia 1937-07-02
Movie The Life of the Party Mitzi Martos 1937-09-03
Movie Follow the Fleet Connie Martin 1936-02-20