New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Claim to Fame
Dr. Michael Rossi in the ABC television series Peyton Place.
Full Name at Birth
Edwin Stafford Nelson
Actor, Screenwriter, Teacher, Producer
Edwin Stafford "Ed" Nelson (December 21, 1928 – August 9, 2014) was an American actor best known for his role as Dr. Michael Rossi in the ABC television series Peyton Place. He was a native of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Place of Death
Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
Profile Bio Text
Edwin Stafford Nelson, or Ed Nelson (December 21, 1928 – August 9, 2014), was an American actor best known for his role as Dr. Michael Rossi in the ABC television series Peyton Place. He was a native of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Nelson appeared in episodes of many television programs, more than fifty motion pictures, and hundreds of stage productions. 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, north of Monroe, in Ouachita Parish, in northeastern Louisiana. At the time of his death, however, he had relocated to Greensboro, North Carolina, where he had been in hospice care and expired at the age of eighty-five.
Nelson 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 a tour of duty 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.
Early in his career he worked with famed B-movie producer Roger Corman on the films such as Cry Baby Killer, A Bucket of Blood, Teenage Cave Man, and Attack of the Crab Monsters. In 1958 he participated in Bruno VeSota's science fiction horror film The Brain Eaters. In the same year he was cast as the lead in Devil's Partner but the film was not released until 1962.
His 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. Dr. Parsons works to save the life of a pregnant young woman who attempts suicide when her husband deserts her.
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, Tombstone Territory, Laramie, Bonanza, Stoney Burke, The Dakotas, "The Rifleman" and Redigo.
He appeared on drama and adventure series too, such as The Fugitive, The Twilight Zone, 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 also guest starred on Mission: Impossible and Jackie Cooper CBS military sitcom/drama, Hennesey.
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."
Peyton Place and later roles
In 1964, Nelson secured his most famous role portraying Dr. Rossi on the ABC drama Peyton Place, which ran from 1964 to 1969. Nelson's fellow cast members included Mia Farrow, Ryan O'Neal, and Dorothy Malone. By 1968, all of the original stars had left the series, and Nelson became the lead actor on the show. Nelson reprised his role in two made-for-TV movies, Murder in Peyton Place and Peyton Place: The Next Generation.
After Peyton Place ended, Nelson worked in many more productions of all varieties, including starring role in many movies of the week, a second television series, 'The Silent Force, and a morning talk show which he hosted for three years.
In 1977, Nelson portrayed a dangerous impostor in the adventure film For the Love of Benji. During the 1980s, Nelson took on the role of Senator Mark Denning in the daytime soap opera Capitol.
Nelson also spent a couple of years as U.S. President Harry Truman onstage, having replaced James Whitmore for the National Tour of "Give 'Em Hell, Harry."
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 1999, Nelson returned to Tulane University to finish credits toward his undergraduate degree, which he completed the following year at the age of seventy-one. He and his wife, Patsy, enjoyed semi-retirement visiting his six children and fourteen grandchildren.
Nelson died on August 9, 2014 in Greensboro, North Carolina from congestive heart failure.
Cause of Death
Congestive Heart Failure
Couple Profile Source
Tulane University in New Orleans (2 years), New York School of Radio and Television Technique
Talent Agency (e.g. Modelling)
The Spotlight Talent Agency
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