Lori Nelson (born Dixie Kay Nelson; August 15, 1933 – August 23, 2020) was an American actress and model mostly active in the 1950s and early 1960s. She is perhaps best known for her roles in the TV series How to Marry a Millionaire and the films Revenge of the Creature, All I Desire, and I Died a Thousand Times.
Born Dixie Kay Nelson in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Nelson was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. R.A. Nelson. She was the great-grandniece of John J. Pershing. She began her career at the age of 2 appearing in local theater productions. When she was 4 years old, her family moved to Encino, California. At the age of 5, she won the title of "Little Miss America." During her childhood, she toured veterans' hospitals entertaining patients, acted in productions of little theaters, and modeled for photographers.
At age 7, Nelson contracted rheumatic fever which left her bedridden for four years. After she recovered, she returned to pageants and won the title of Miss Encino at age 17. After graduating from Canoga Park High School, Nelson worked as a model.
In 1950, she was signed to a 7-year contract with Universal-International after a studio scout saw her performing in a little theater production. She made her film debut in the 1952 Western Bend of the River.
Later that year, she appeared as "Rosie Kettle" in the comedy film Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair, followed by a supporting role in Francis Goes to West Point. In 1955, Nelson guest starred in two episodes of It's a Great Life, and reprised her role as "Rosie Kettle" in Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki.
That same year, she co-starred in the Creature From the Black Lagoon sequel Revenge of the Creature and Underwater! with Jane Russell and Richard Egan.
Her supporting roles in films included the low-budget sci-fi story Day the World Ended (1955), directed by Roger Corman, and a big-budget Paramount Pictures comedy-Western, Pardners, starring Martin and Lewis in one of their final films together.
Nelson had a featured role in I Died a Thousand Times, a 1955 remake of High Sierra, as well as in 1954's Destry, a remake of Destry Rides Again. She was one of the leads in an 18th-century adventure story Mohawk.
Nelson had top billing in the street-racing film Hot Rod Girl, also starring Chuck Connors, and the following year she co-starred opposite Mamie Van Doren as law-breakers sentenced to work on a "punishment" farm in Untamed Youth.
In November 1957, Nelson co-starred with Van Johnson in the TV movie The Pied Piper of Hamelin, which aired as a Thanksgiving Day special.
Also in 1957, she was cast in one of the three lead roles in the syndicated sitcom How to Marry a Millionaire. Based on the 1953 film of the same name, Nelson starred as Greta Hanson, a brainy psychology major who works as an usher on a television game show. The series also starred Barbara Eden and Merry Anders. Nelson opted to leave the series after the first season, and her character was written out.
After leaving the series, Nelson continued with guest roles on Wagon Train, Tales of Wells Fargo, The Tab Hunter Show, Bachelor Father, and Armstrong Circle Theatre. She took a 10-year break from acting in 1961 and returned with a guest role in Family Affair in 1971. Dramatically Nelson worked sporadically thereafter. She made only three on-screen appearances in the 1990s, including a role in the direct-to-video release Mom, Can I Keep Her? (1998). Her last role was in the 2005 low-budget science fiction horror film The Naked Monster, in which she reprised her role from Revenge of the Creature.
In the early 1950s, Nelson dated actor Tab Hunter. The relationship was fodder for gossip columnists at the time, and there was speculation that the two would marry. In his 2005 autobiography Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, Hunter admitted he considered marrying Nelson but was struggling to come to terms with his true sexuality. While Hunter was dating Nelson, he was secretly involved with figure skater Ronald Robertson. Nelson and Hunter eventually stopped dating but remained friendly. Hunter later cast Nelson in two guest-starring roles on his sitcom The Tab Hunter Show.
Marriages and children
On December 10, 1960, Nelson married composer Johnny Mann in Los Angeles. The couple had two daughters, Lori Susan and Jennifer, then divorced in April 1973. In April 1983, Nelson married police officer Joseph J. Reiner.
Nelson died on August 23, 2020, at her home in Porter Ranch, Los Angeles, eight days after her 87th birthday. She was suffering from Alzheimer's disease for several years before her death.
Year Title Role Notes
1952 Bend of the River Marjie Baile
1952 Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair Rosie Kettle
1952 Francis Goes to West Point Barbara Atwood
1953 All I Desire Lily Murdoch
1953 The All American Sharon Wallace
1953 Walking My Baby Back Home Claire Millard
1953 Tumbleweed Laura Alternative title: Three Were Renegades
1954 Destry Martha Phillips
1954 Underwater! Gloria Alternative title: The Big Rainbow
1955 Revenge of the Creature Helen Dobson
1955 Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki Rosie Kettle
1955 Sincerely Yours Sarah Cosgrove
1955 I Died a Thousand Times Velma
1955 Day the World Ended Louise Maddison
1956 Mohawk Cynthia Stanhope
1956 Pardners Carol Kingsley
1956 Hot Rod Girl Lisa Vernon
1957 Untamed Youth Jane Lowe
1957 Outlaw's Son Lila Costain
1991 Black Gaucho
1998 Mom, Can I Keep Her? Stephanie
2005 The Naked Monster Dr. Helen Dobson
Year Title Role Notes
1955 It's a Great Life Vera Thompson 2 episodes
1955–56 Climax! Mary 2 episodes
1957 The 20th Century Fox Hour Cathy Devlin Episode: "Threat to a Happy Ending"
1957 The Pied Piper of Hamelin Mara TV movie
1957–58 How to Marry a Millionaire Greta Hanson 39 episodes
1959 Wanted: Dead or Alive White Antelope aka Doris Albright Episode: "Bounty for a Bride"
1959 The Texas Elizabeth Episode: "The Man Hater"
1959 Wagon Train Charity Steele Episode: "The Steele Family Story"
1959 The Millionaire Lorraine Daggett Episode: "Millionaire Lorraine Daggett"
1959 General Electric Theater Sylvia Episode: "Night Club"
1959 Sugarfoot Ellen Conway Episode: "The Gaucho"
1959 Tales of Wells Fargo Susan Episode: "Relay Station"
1960 Lock-Up Honey Evans Episode: "The Seventh Hour"
1960–61 The Tab Hunter Show Various roles 2 episodes
1961 Dante Cynthia Rogers Episode: "Dial D for Dante"
1961 Laramie Grace Episode: "Trigger Point"
1961 Bachelor Father Spring Loring Episode: "Drop That Calorie"
1961 Whispering Smith Mrs. Venetia Molloy Episode: "Double Edge"
1961 Armstrong Circle Theatre Mrs. Median 2 episodes
1971 Family Affair Dr. Joan Blanton Episode: "Goodbye, Mrs. Beasley"
1994 Secret Sins of the Father Mrs. Lieber TV movie
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2. Weaver, Tom; Schecter, David; Kronenberg, Steve (2017). The Creature Chronicles: Exploring the Black Lagoon Trilogy. McFarland. ISBN 9781476615806. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
3. "'Queen' to Open New Rosedale Encino Nursery". The Van Nuys News. California, Van Nuys. September 29, 1949. p. 35. Retrieved February 24, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
4. "Hollywood's Newest Look". The Miami News. Florida, Miami. April 5, 1952. p. 13. Retrieved February 24, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
5. Strong, Edwin J. (September 7, 1952). "Lori Nelson to Come Out as Dancing Star". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. p. Part IV-3. Retrieved February 24, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
6. "Once Rheumatic Heart Victim Chosen as Queen". The Los Angeles Times. February 5, 1956.
7. "Kin of Fame General Perishing Wins Title of National Buddy Poppy Girl". Lodi News-Sentinel. May 22, 1956. p. 6. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
8. "All I Desire (1953) – Notes". TCM Movies. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
9. "Lori Nelson Biography". glamourgirlsofthesilverscreen.com. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
10. "Lori Nelson". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
11. "Lori Nelson List of Movies and TV Shows". TV Guide. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
12. Richie, Hope Lawder. "Low On Dough, High On Hope". Reading Eagle. November 16, 1958. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
13. Ruberto, Toni (January 29, 2006). "Nonfiction / 'Sigh guy' Tab Hunter delivers sensitive take on life, loves". The Buffalo News. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
14. "Obituary: Tab Hunter". Irish Independent. July 15, 2018. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
15. (Hunter 2005, pp. 75–76)
16. (Hunter 2005, p. 227)\
Hunter, Tab; Muller, Eddie (2005). Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. Algonquin Books. ISBN 1-56512-466-9