Oct. 2, 1994 Laguna Beach Orange County California, USA
July 18th, 2014
Singer/Actress. Born Peggy Sue Snyder to actor parents in Des Moines, Iowa. Using the family’s professional name, she was hired as a vocalist for Ozzie Nelson’s orchestra in 1932 as Harriet Hilliard. Ozzie and Harriet were married in 1935. She was a recording artist for various labels and in 1936 began appearing in films in leading-lady roles. In the early 1940's she performed on Red Skelton’s radio show. From 1944 through 1954 she and husband Ozzie starred in “The Ozzie and Harriet Radio Show on CBS, NBC and ABC. Their sons David and Ricky also made appearances on the show. In 1951 the family made a feature film “Here Come the Nelsons” which was followed in 1952 by their television show. “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” ran for 15 years on ABC. The show’s 435 episodes ran through 1966, making it the longest running situation comedy on television. Semi-retired after the show ended, Harriet appeared in the 1973 series “Ozzie’s Girls” and several made-for-tv movies in the seventies and eighties.
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.
Before the show aired, Ozzie Nelson persuaded ABC to agree to a 10-year contract that paid the Nelsons whether the series was canceled or not. The unprecedented contract and Ozzie's insistence on perfection in the show's production paid off in the show's remarkable longevity. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet premiered on ABC on October 10, 1952, staying until September 3, 1966.
THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET
The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet was one of the most enduring family-based situation comedies in American television. Ozzie and Harriet Nelson and their sons David and Ricky (16 and 13 respectively at the time of the program's debut) portrayed fictional versions of themselves on the program. The Nelsons embodied wholesome, "normal" American existence so conscientiously (if blandly) that their name epitomized upright, happy family life for decades.
Ozzie and Harriet started out on radio, a medium to which bandleader Ozzie Nelson and his singer/actress wife Harriet Hilliard had gravitated in the late 1930s, hoping to spend more time together than their conflicting careers would permit. In 1941 they found a permanent spot providing music for Red Skelton's program, a position that foundered when Skelton was drafted in 1944. In that year, the energetic Ozzie Nelson proposed a show of his own to network CBS and sponsor International Silver--a show in which the Nelsons would play themselves. Early in its run, the radio Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet jettisoned music for situation comedy. Ozzie Nelson himself directed and co-wrote all the episodes, as he would most of the video shows.
The Nelsons signed a long-term contract with ABC in 1949 that gave that network the option to move their program to television. The struggling network needed proven talent that was not about to defect to the more established---and wealthier--CBS or NBC.
The television program premiered in 1952. Like its radio predecessor, it focused on the Nelson family at home, chronicling the growing pains of the boys and their parents and dealing with mundane issues like hobbies, rivalries, schoolwork, club membership, and girlfriends. Eventually the on-screen David and Ricky (although never the off-screen David and Ricky) graduated from college and became lawyers. When the real David and Rick got married, to June Blair and Kristin Harmon respectively, their wives joined the cast of Ozzie and Harriet on television as well as in real life.
Ozzie and Harriet lasted 14 years on American television, remaining on the air until 1966. Although never in the top ten of rated programs, it did well throughout its run, appealing to the family viewing base targeted by ABC. The program picked up additional fans in April 1957, when Rick sang Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin'" on an episode titled "Ricky the Drummer."
As soon as the Nelsons realized how popular their singing son was going to be, the televisual Rick was given every opportunity to croon over the airwaves by his father/director/manager. Sometimes his songs fitted into the narrative of an episode. Sometimes they were just tacked onto the end--early music videos of Rick Nelson in performance.
Despite this emphasis on Rick's vocal performances, and despite the legion of young fans the program picked up because of its teenage emphasis, the character of Ozzie dominated the program. The genial, bumbling Ozzie was the narrative linchpin of Ozzie and Harriet, attempting to steer his young sons into the proper paths (usually rather ineffectually) and attempting to assert his ego in a household in which he was often ill at ease.
That ego, and that household, were held together by wise homemaker Harriet. Although she may have seemed something of a cipher to many viewers, clad in the elegant dresses that defined the housewife on 1950s television, Harriet represented the voice of reason on Ozzie and Harriet, rescuing Ozzie--and occasionally David and Rick--from the consequences of over-impulsive behavior.
Ironically, in view of the weakness of paterfamilias Ozzie's character, the program was viewed, during its lengthy run as now, as an idealized portrait of the American nuclear family of the postwar years. The Nelsons eventually shifted their program into color and into the 1960s. Nevertheless, in spirit, and in the popular imagination, they remained black-and-white denizens of the 1950s.
Ozzie Nelson...................................................Himself Harriet Nelson..................................................Herself David Nelson...................................................Himself Eric "Ricky" Nelson..........................................Himself "Thorny" Thornberry (1952-59)....................Don DeFore Darby (1955-61).........................................Parley Baer Joe Randolph (1956-66)...............................Lyle Talbot Clara Randolph (1956-66)......................Mary Jane Croft Doc Williams (1954-65)..............................Frank Cady Wally (1957-66)..........................................Skip Jones Butch Barton (1958-60)...........................Gordon Jones June (Mrs. David) Nelson (1961-66)................June Blair Kris(Mrs. Rick) Nelson(1964-66).............Kristin Harmon Fred (1958-64).........................................James Stacy Mr. Kelley (1960-62)......................................Joe Flynn Connie Edwards (1960-66).................Constance Harper Jack (1961-66)........................................Jack Wagner Ginger (1962-65)................................Charlene Salerno Dean Hopkins (1964-66)...............................Ivan Bonar Greg (1965-66)....................................... Greg Dawson Sean (1965-1966)....................................Sean Morgan
PRODUCERS Ozzie Nelson, Robert Angus, Bill Lewis, Leo Penn
PROGRAMMING HISTORY 435 Episodes ABC
October 1952-June 1956 - Friday 8:00-8:30 October 1956-September 1958 - Wednesday 9:00-9:30 September 1958-September 1961 - Wednesday 8:30-9:00 September 1961-September 1963 - Thursday 7:30-8:00 September 1963-January 1966 - Wednesday 7:30-8:00 January 1966-September 1966 - Saturday 7:30-8:00
Cause of death: Congestive Heart Failure
Burial: Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) Los Angeles Los Angeles County California, USA Plot: Revelation, Lot 3540
*Hazel Dell McNutt Hilliard
Birth: May 8, 1888
Death: Auq. 1, 1971
Mother of actress Harriet Nelson.
Grandmother of singer/actor Ricky & David Nelson.
Spouse: Roy Hilliard Snyder (1879 - 1953
Snyder was an actor and stage director for a number of years and was also a director of the Princess stock company in Des Moines. He was in Des Moines as a representative of a Hollywood dramatic school at the time of his death from a heart attack. He died enroute to his home in Hollywood.
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