- Years active
Lori Nelson (born August 15, 1933) is an American actress and former model.
Born Dixie Kay Nelson in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Nelson is the great grandniece of John J. Pershing. She began her career at the age of 2 appearing in local theater productions. When Nelson was 4 years old, her family moved to Encino, California. At the age of 5, she won the title of Little Miss America. During her childhood, she toured veteran's hospitals entertaining patients. At age 7, Nelson contracted rheumatic fever which left her bedridden for four years. After she recovered, she returned to pageants and won the title of Miss Encino at age 17. After graduating from Canoga Park High School, Nelson worked as a model. In 1950, she was signed to a 7-year contract with Universal-International.
Nelson made her film debut in the 1952 Western Bend of the River. Later that year, she appeared as "Rosie Kettle" in the comedy film Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair, followed by a supporting role in Francis Goes to West Point. In 1955, Nelson guest starred in two episodes of It's a Great Life, and reprised her role as "Rosie Kettle" in Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki. That same year, she co-starred in the Creature From the Black Lagoon sequel Revenge of the Creature.
She continued in supporting roles in films including Day the World Ended (1955), and the comedy-Western Pardners, starring Martin and Lewis. In 1956, she won a starring role in the action film Hot Rod Girl opposite Chuck Connors. The following year, she co-starred opposite Mamie Van Doren in Untamed Youth. In November 1957, Nelson co-starred with Van Johnson in the television film The Pied Piper of Hamelin, which aired on NBC as a Thanksgiving Day television special.
In 1957, she was cast in one of the three lead roles in the syndicated sitcom How to Marry a Millionaire. Based on the 1953 film of the same name, Nelson starred as "Greta Hanson", a brainy psychology major who works as an usher on a television game show. The series also starred Barbara Eden and Merry Anders. Nelson opted to leave the series after the first season and her character was written out.
After leaving the series, Nelson continued with guest roles on Wagon Train, Tales of Wells Fargo, The Tab Hunter Show, Bachelor Father, and Armstrong Circle Theatre. She took a ten-year break from acting in 1961 and returned with a guest role in Family Affair in 1971. Nelson has since worked sporadically. She made only three on-screen appearances in the 1990s including a role in the direct-to-video release Mom, Can I Keep Her? (1998). Her last role to date was in the 2005 low-budget science fiction horror film The Naked Monster, in which she reprised her Revenge of the Creature role.
In the early 1950s, Nelson dated actor Tab Hunter. The relationship was fodder for gossip columnists at the time and there was speculation that the two would marry. In his 2005 autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, Hunter admitted that he considered marrying Nelson but was still struggling to come to terms with his true sexuality. While Hunter was dating Nelson, he was also secretly involved with figure skater Ronald Robertson. The two eventually stopped dating but remained friendly. Hunter later cast Nelson in two guest starring roles on his NBC sitcom The Tab Hunter Show.
In 1960, Nelson was briefly engaged to Burt Reynolds.
On December 10, 1960, Nelson married composer Johnny Mann in Los Angeles. The couple had two daughters, Lori Susan and Jennifer, before divorcing in April 1973. In April 1983, Nelson married police officer Joseph J. Reiner.<< Less Bio