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Barry Nelson (April 16, 1917 – April 7, 2007) was an Americanmarker actor, noted as the first actor to portray Ian Fleming's secret agent James Bond.


Early life

Nelson was born Robert Haakon Nielsen in San Franciscomarker, Californiamarker, of Norwegianmarker ancestry, the son of Betsy (née Christophsen) and Trygve Nielsen. He began acting in school at the age of fifteen. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeleymarker in 1941 and, because of his theatrical efforts in school, was almost immediately signed to a motion picture contract by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.


Nelson made his screen debut in the role as Paul Clark in Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, with Donna Reed. He followed that with his role as Lew Rankin in the film noir crime/drama Johnny Eager (1942) starring Robert Taylor and Lana Turner.

During his military service in World War II, Nelson debuted on the Broadwaymarker stage in one of the leading roles, Bobby Grills, in Moss Hart's play Winged Victory (1943). His next Broadway appearance was as Peter Sloan in Hart's Light Up the Sky (1948), which was a first-rate success. He went on to appear on Broadway with Barbara Bel Geddes in the original Broadway production of The Moon is Blue; he was the last surviving original cast member of the production. During the play's run he also starred in a CBS half-hour drama called The Hunter, premiering in July 1952. He played Bart Adams, a wealthy young American whose business activities involved him in a series of adventures.He also appeared opposite Lauren Bacall in the Abe Burrows comedy Cactus Flower in 1965 and with Dorothy Loudon in The Fig Leaves Are Falling in 1969. Another Broadway role, that of Gus Hammer in The Rat Race (1949), kept Nelson away from the movies again, but after it closed he starred in the dual roles as Chick Graham and Bert Rand in The Man with My Face (1951), which was produced by Ed Gardner of radio fame.

He was the first actor (and, to date, the only American) to play James Bond on screen, in a 1954 adaptation of Ian Fleming's novel Casino Royale on the TV anthology series Climax! (preceding Sean Connery's interpretation in Dr. No by eight years). Reportedly this was considered a pilot for a possible James Bond television series, though it's not known if Nelson intended to continue playing the character. Nelson played James Bond as an American named "Jimmy Bond".

The program also featured Peter Lorre as the primary villain; Nelson later noted Lorre was the reason he took the role. Originally broadcast live, the production was believed lost to time until a kinescope emerged in the 1980s. It was subsequently released to home video, and is currently available on DVD as a bonus feature with the 1967 film adaptation of the novel.

Nelson appeared as Grant Decker in the 1960 episode "Threat of Evil" of CBS's anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson. His additional television credits include guest appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ben Casey, The Twilight Zone and Dr. Kildare. He appeared regularly on TV in the 1960s, having been one of the What's My Line? mystery guests and later served as a guest panelist on that popular CBS quiz show. Nelson appeared in both the stage and screen versions of Mary, Mary. In 1978, he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Dan Connors in The Act (1977) with Liza Minnelli. His final appearance on Broadway was as Julian Marsh in 42nd Street (1986). William Goldman, in his 1968 book The Season, called Nelson a consummately professional actor.

"He was a very naturalistic, believable actor," said his agent, Francis Delduca. "He was good at both comedy and the serious stuff."

Among his other film credits were Airport and The Shining (as the hotel manager who interviews Jack Nicholson for a job opening), and he also appeared on such TV shows as Murder, She Wrote, Dallas and Magnum, P.I. More recently, Nelson and his second wife spent a lot of time travelling. He planned to write a couple of books about his time on stage and in Hollywood.

Personal life

Nelson had two wives, actress Teresa Celli, married in 1951 and later divorced, and Nansilee ("Nansi") Hoy, to whom he was married until his death. Nelson and his second wife divided their time between homes in New York and Francemarker. Until his death, Nelson could be seen publicly at American Civil War shows across America. He was a close friend of tenor Mario Lanza.

According to his widow Nansi, Barry Nelson died on April 7, 2007, while traveling in Bucks County, Pennsylvaniamarker, nine days before his 90th birthday. The cause of death was not disclosed.



  1. Barry Nelson Biography (1925-)

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