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David Nelson said his family and TV show were separate

 

 David Nelson, who died Tuesday at 74, joined his parents on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" on radio in 1949 when he was 12 and his brother, Ricky, was 8. The family's situation comedy moved to ABC-TV in 1952 and remained on the air until it was cancelled in 1966.

The TV series was produced and directed by Ozzie Nelson, who oversaw every aspect of the show, including the writing.

In a 1971 Esquire article on the Nelsons, David stressed that the Nelson family and the TV show were "totally separate."

"One was real and one wasn't," he said. "For your sanity, you had to keep that clear. Rick and I had to distinguish between our father, and the director telling us what to do. If we got the lines crossed, that's where the arguments started, and I would end up putting my fist through a wall behind the set, because I was that angry."

Noting that a "lot of families are trying to make a transition, in morals and values, from the Fifties to the Seventies," he said that in "our family, there was no generation gap, and I think it's too bad. Because I was a little old man at thirteen. I was polite, tried never to offend anyone, and I felt this great responsibility, because I wasn't just me—I was a quarter of a thing.

"Whatever I did, I felt the burden of three other people and all the crew who worked on the show. I wasn't a truck driver's son who could go out and bust people if he got mad."

--Dennis McLellan

 
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The University of Southern California and the Kappa Sigma Fraternity have seen again, the departure of a well known alumnus and respected fraternity Brother.
His comments, quoted in the obituary, were very helpful for me to better know a Brother, who passed through doors of the Delta Eta Chapter, a short time ahead of me. I will pass this sad news on to his Brothers, some who attended Hollywood High School with David.

I'm pretty sure that I still have a copy of that Esquire article!
Some recollections from the article:

Dave was an avid body surfer and would go for it when the surf was dangerously huge.

The article mentioned how the Nelson family might be in the heat of an argument ("discussion"?), the doorbell would ring, and when they answered, everyone went into the "TV Nelson family" mode, and the argument was magically (temporarily) dropped. (Sounds like old-fashioned manners, eh?)

Also, I believe Dave admitted fixing up brother Ricky with a prostitute during Rick's first tour in the U.K., so he wasn't a perfect angel as one might think!

RIP Dave!

Sometimes when people start talking about tv shows in the 50s and 60s, looking back from now, people want to go back to the old days of those shows. Does anyone really think the 50s and 60s were like how they're presented in tv shows? TV shows (especially then) reflect the hopes and desires and the things consumers wanted to buy during that time. And to be honest, some of the shows weren't that good, with a really annoying laugh track added to the soundtrack, directing people where to laugh. I think our popular television shows and movies show sides of us that maybe we don't want to see, in terms of our fantasies and desires. I never want life to be like a two dimensional television show complete with commercials.


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