Ed Nelson

Edwin Stafford Nelson (December 21, 1928 – August 9, 2014)[1] was an American actor, best known for his role as Dr. Michael Rossi in the ABC television series Peyton Place.

Ed Nelson
Nelson as Dr. Michael Rossi in Peyton Place
Edwin Stafford Nelson

(1928-12-21)December 21, 1928
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
DiedAugust 9, 2014(2014-08-09) (aged 85)
Alma materTulane University
Years active19522003
Spouse(s)Patricia Miller "Patsy" Nelson (m. 19502014, his death)

Nelson appeared in episodes of many television programs, more than fifty motion pictures, and hundreds of stage productions.

Early life

Nelson was raised in North Carolina after having been born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was educated at Edwards Military Institute and Camp Lejeune High School, playing football and basketball at the latter school.[2]

He began acting while attending Tulane University in New Orleans. He left college after two years to study at the New York School of Radio and Television Technique. He served with the United States Navy as a radioman on the light cruiser USS Dayton. He took a position as a director at WDSU-TV in New Orleans. By 1956, acting became his central focus, and he moved to the Los Angeles area.[3]


Early in his career Nelson did stunt work for B-movie producer Roger Corman[2] on the films Swamp Women (1956), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Rock All Night (1957), Carnival Rock (1957), Night of the Blood Beast (1958), The Cry Baby Killer (1958), Teenage Cave Man (1958), and A Bucket of Blood (1959). Also in 1958 he acted in and produced actor-director Bruno VeSota's science fiction horror film The Brain Eaters, which Roger Corman executive produced. That same year he was cast as the lead in Devil's Partner, though the film was not released until 1962. He also appeared in the 1960 thriller Valley of the Redwoods and the 1963 comedy drama Soldier in the Rain, starring Steve McQueen and Jackie Gleason.

Nelson's television career featured many guest starring roles, such as the talented but arrogant Dr. Wade Parsons in the 1962 episode "Doctor on Horseback" of the NBC western series, The Tall Man, starring Barry Sullivan as Sheriff Pat Garrett and Clu Gulager as Billy the Kid. In the story line Dr. Parsons works to save the life of a pregnant young woman who attempts suicide when her husband deserts her.[4]

Nelson was cast in episodes of such other westerns as Maverick, Wagon Train, Black Saddle, Have Gun – Will Travel, The Rebel (five times), Johnny Ringo, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Tombstone Territory, Laramie, Bonanza, Stoney Burke, The Dakotas, The Rifleman and Redigo. He appeared on drama and adventure series too, such as Combat!, The Fugitive, The Twilight Zone, Flight, The Silent Service, The Outer Limits, Harbor Command, Tightrope, The Blue Angels (as the arrogant flight instructor Lieutenant Dayl Martin in "The Jarheads"), Coronado 9, The Eleventh Hour, Thriller, and Channing, an ABC drama that romanticizes college life. He guest starred on Mission: Impossible and Jackie Cooper CBS military sitcom/drama, Hennesey.[4]

He made two guest appearances on CBS's Perry Mason, both times as the defendant; in 1961, he played Ward Nichols in "The Case of the Left-Handed Liar," and in 1964, he played Dirk Blake, father of the title character, in "The Case of the Missing Button".[4]

Peyton Place and later roles

In 1964, Nelson secured his most famous role, portraying Dr. Michael Rossi on the ABC drama Peyton Place, staying with the series during its entire run from 1964 to 1969. Nelson reprised his role in two made-for-TV movies, Murder in Peyton Place and Peyton Place: The Next Generation.[4]

After Peyton Place, Nelson worked in many more productions of all varieties. He teamed with former Peyton Place co-star Percy Rodriguez in a second television series, The Silent Force, which ran for 15 episodes in 1970-1971. He had guest starred with David Janssen in the very first episode of The Fugitive in 1963, and appeared as a different character in the series the next season. Subsequently, Nelson had guest starring roles on many of the popular dramas of the 1970s and 1980s, including Marcus Welby, M.D., Cannon, O'Hara, U.S. Treasury, Night Gallery, Banacek, Alias Smith and Jones, Mod Squad, Mission: Impossible, The Streets of San Francisco, Kung Fu, The F.B.I. (in 3 different roles), Adam-12, Ironside, Police Woman, Medical Center (3 roles), The Bionic Woman, Gibbsville, McMillan and Wife, Dallas, The Rockford Files (2 roles), Barnaby Jones (2 roles), Charlie’s Angels, Lou Grant, Trapper John, M.D., Vega$ (2 roles), CHiPs, Quincy M.E., Matt Houston, The Fall Guy, Dynasty, Cagney & Lacey, MacGyver, Jake and the Fatman (2 roles), and Murder, She Wrote (5 roles).

Nelson appeared in many television movies such as Along Came a Spider (1970), The Screaming Woman (1972), Runaway! (1973), Houston, We've Got a Problem (1974), The Missing Are Deadly (1975), Superdome (1978), Doctors' Private Lives (1978) and Crash (1978), and served as host on a morning talk show,The Ed Nelson Show, that he hosted for three years. During the 1980s, Nelson took on the role of patriarchal Senator Mark Denning in the daytime serial Capitol.[4] In late 1986, Nelson was upset to discover that the show's writers had turned his character into a traitor, and quit the show in disgust, last airing in early January 1987, two months prior to the show's cancellation.

He also continued appearing in theatrical films, such as Airport 1975 (1974), That's the Way of the World (1975), Acapulco Gold (1976), Midway (1976), For the Love of Benji (1977), Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986), Brenda Starr (1989), The Boneyard (1991), Who Am I? (1998) and Runaway Jury (2003).

He spent several years playing U.S. President Harry S. Truman onstage, having replaced James Whitmore for the National Tour of "Give 'Em Hell, Harry".[5]

Personal life

While living in Los Angeles, Nelson was an active member of the Screen Actors Guild and was elected to the union board for many years. Nelson was a long-standing member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and maintained a long tradition of participation in voting for the Academy Awards. In the early 1970s, he ran for city council and mayor of San Dimas, California until a Federal Communications Commission ruling said that if he appeared in television programs his political opponents must be given equal time.[6]

Later years

In 1999, Nelson returned to Tulane University to finish credits toward his undergraduate degree,[5] which he completed the following year at age 71. He and his wife, Patsy, enjoyed semi-retirement visiting their six children and fourteen grandchildren. One of his children is actor Christopher S. Nelson.

Until 2005, he had been teaching acting and screenwriting in New Orleans at two local universities there. Hurricane Katrina prompted him to move his family far to the north to Sterlington, Louisiana. At the time of his death, however, he had relocated to Greensboro, North Carolina, where he had been in hospice care. He died at age 85.[3]


Nelson died on August 9, 2014, in Greensboro, North Carolina, from congestive heart failure.[3] He was 85 years old.[1][7]

Selected filmography


  1. Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. (2 volume set). McFarland. p. 545. ISBN 9780786479924. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  2. Freese, Gene Scott (2014). Hollywood Stunt Performers, 1910s–1970s: A Biographical Dictionary, 2d ed. McFarland. ISBN 9781476614700. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  3. William McDonald. "Ed Nelson, a Star of 'Peyton Place,' Dies at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  4. ""Doctor on Horseback", May 19, 1962". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  5. Simmons, David Lee (August 12, 2014). "Ed Nelson, TV and film actor from New Orleans, dies at age 85". NOLA.com - The Times-Picayune. Archived from the original on 24 November 2017. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  6. "FCC in Another Blunder". Pasadena Independent. March 8, 1972. p. 15. Retrieved May 3, 2015 via Newspapers.com.
  7. Dagan, Carmel (August 12, 2014). "Ed Nelson, 'Peyton Place' Star, Character Actor, Dies at 85". Variety. Archived from the original on 24 November 2017. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
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