R.I.P. Lori Nelson, costar of both Barbara Eden and the Creature from the Black Lagoon

This Svengoolie favorite also played the daughter of Ma and Pa Kettle. She was 87.

Image: The Everett Collection

"I played opposite Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Jimmy Stewart, Dean Martin and Audie Murphy," Lori Nelson once declared in the book The Creature Chronicles: Exploring the Black Lagoon Trilogy (Tom Weaver, 2014). "But who's the leading man everybody wants to ask me about? The Gill Man!" Nelson was one of three bathing beauties who lured the iconic Creature from the depths in the three Universal horror classics. Julie Adams starred in the original Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). Nelson slipped on the swimsuit for the sequel, Revenge of the Creatures (1955). Leigh Snowden played the damsel in distress in The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).

Revenge of the Creature was the only 3D sequel to a 3D film released in the golden age of the eye-popping format, the Fifties. It also happened to feature the screen debut of a young aspiring actor named Clint Eastwood. Nelson's swimming skills came in handy in 1955, as she also appeared that year in the Howard Hughes adventure Underwater! with Jane Russell.

A contract player with Universal-International Studios, Nelson also twice starred as Rosie, the daughter of country humor stalwarts Ma and Pa Kettle, the sort of spiritual forerunners to The Beverly Hillbillies, in the films Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair and Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki.

Nelson's career as a Fifties starlet cast her alongside several television idols. As the title character and headliner in Hot Rod Girl (1956), she shared top billing with Chuck Connors. She was Barbara Stanwyck's daughter in Douglas Sirk's All I Desire. Her own television debut landed her on It's a Great Life, the sitcom starring Frances Bavier in her major pre-Aunt Bee incarnation.

Two years later, Nelson would nab her greatest television gig, as one of the leads in How to Marry a Millionaire. The 1957 sitcom was an adaptation of the 1953 romcom starring Marilyn Monroe. The small-screen version cast relative newcomer Barbara Eden in the Monroe role, as the myopic ditz. Nelson's character, Greta Hansen, had the brains. Nelson left the series after the first season.

"I felt that I was the biggest of the three actresses in terms of star status…. I felt that I needed to move on. I didn't need to be stuck in that little series that was in syndication," she said in the book Lost Laughs of '50s and '60s Television: 30 Sitcoms That Faded Off Screen (David Tucker, 2010). However, other reports (and her costars) claimed she was fired.

Nelson continued to pop up on TV here and there, in episodes of Wagon Train, Laramie and Bachelor Father. Her final significant appearance came on Family Affair. Nelson died on August 23, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She was 87.

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rayann2320 12 days ago
James arness was a very handsome gentleman love this show I watch every day Gunsmoke and The Rifleman 👍🇺🇸
MrsPhilHarris 24 days ago
Not sure how to read what she said about leaving How To Marry A Millionaire. Whether she honestly meant she was too big for the show, or if she meant she had thought too much of herself when she was young.
texasluva MrsPhilHarris 24 days ago
I have never seen How To Marry A Millionaire TV series. It is a good question why she moved on and can only go on this and assumptions as to her leaving.:
How to Marry a Millionaire was generally well received by critics and audiences and a second, abbreviated season was ordered. However, Lori Nelson's character was written out and a new character, Gwen Kirby (Lisa Gaye), was added to the cast.[5] Nelson later said she chose to quit the show stating, "I felt that I was the biggest of the three actresses in terms of star status...I felt that I needed to move on. I didn't need to be stuck in that little series that was in syndication."[5] However, Nelson's co-star Merry Anders said that Nelson was fired. According to Anders, the series' entire first season, 39 episodes, was shot before the series debuted on television. While promoting the series shortly before its debut, Nelson gave an interview in which she said that was disappointed with her role. She stated she felt her role was not as well defined as her co-stars' who were more clearly based on their movie counterparts (Mike McCall was patterned after Lauren Bacall's role while Barbara Eden's character was a combination of the Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe role). Anders stated that when the series' production company, National Telefilm Associates, got wind of Nelson's remarks, they fired her.
texasluva MrsPhilHarris 24 days ago
Just a follow up on Lori Nelson. A bazaar career unfolded after she left How To Marry a Millionaire in 1958. She only had TV series gigs 1958-1961 with mostly one episode. Then disappeared for 10 years and one episode in 1971. Then 20 years later in 1991 was in a movie made in Brasil called the Black Gaucho (English name). She was far down the cast list with no character name. A movie that was rated 2.2 and not one person gave it a written review (just numerical). She was married from 1960 to Johnny Mann until 1973. Though her early career 1952-1957 showed much promise it more or less slid right off Hollywood by her choice or the industry. She married again in 1983 to a Joe Reiner. Her first husband Johnny Mann was famous as a musical director-composer and other assorted arrangements. Sad to see she has departed and such a very interesting life.
MrsPhilHarris texasluva 23 days ago
That is interesting. Almost like she vented (or complained) and essentially shot herself in the foot and maybe killed her career.
Jon 24 days ago
RIP, she died on Barbara Eden's birthday.
cperrynaples 25 days ago
Will any of these movies be screened on Svengoolie soon?
texasluva cperrynaples 24 days ago
That is really hard to say. For right now you can only get from Svengoolie a news letter at start of each month which will give you that months showing. MeTV only has the next two on schedule. Coming up is THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB 8/29 and THE BLOB (9/5). I would bet they have shown The Creature From The Black Lagoon before and will in the future. Svengollie has to sign contracts to show a certain film. Sometimes in that contract they have to show it twice in one year (that is why sometime repeats show more often then liked). My TV menu only shows the next two coming up for watching. I just found this on TCM-The Creature From The Black Lagoon is showing twice in the near future. Sept. 26 2:00 A.M (EST) and Oct 12th 2:00 P.M (EST). The others (obscure creature movies) are not shown much I would assume but if anyone to show it would absolutely be Svengoolie. Ma and Pa Kettle- Hot Rod Girl and others might eventually be seen on TCM. Their schedule usually goes for up to 3 months ahead.
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