(Oct 24 1936 – Jan 11, 2011)
Band leader husband Ozzie Nelson and singer Wife Harriet joined the cast of The Red Skelton Show in 1941. They were given the chance to develop a family sitcom when comedian Red Skelton was drafted in 1944. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet premiered on CBS on Oct 8, 1944. Their sons, David and Ricky, were too young to work on the radio when the series started, but joined the program, playing themselves, five years later. 402 radio episodes were produced.
When the show made the move to television, Ozzie Nelson, who wrote and directed, as well as starred on the show, negotiated an unprecedented 10 year contract with ABC, to be paid whether the show was cancelled or not.
David and Rick grew up in front of the cameras. The family’s actual home at 1822 Camino Palmero St, LA, was used for exterior shots and the sound stage was set up to recreate the interior of the home. As the boys grew into men, the show followed then. David’s character graduated from college he went to work in a local law firm, where Rick later clerked. When the young men married in real life, their brides joined the cast.
Younger Rick was considered “the Cute One” and often out shown his brother. In an early episode, Ricky tries to get David to take him to the movies. David wants to hang out with his pals.
“A guy can have a couple of friends in this world, can’t he?” David says.
“Oh, yeah?” fires back Ricky. “If it wasn’t for me, you’d be an only child.”
Ricky Nelson became a singing teen idol, but in later years was haunted by drug addiction. He lost his life in a plane crash while in route to a New Years Eve performance in 1985.
David Nelson owned his own production company and produced television commercials and feature films. Ozzie and Harriet Nelson are honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their radio work at 6260 Hollywood Blvd. The three elder Nelsons each have a Star honoring their Television work, and Ricky Nelson has on for Recording. David Nelson’s Star is at 1501 Vine St.
Enjoy this March 6, 1949 broadcast of Ozzie and Harriet with appearance by 13-year old David Nelson: