Friday, April 13, 2007

Two Actors Pass On

It seems this April has not been a good month for celebrities, as it seems as if several have passed on. Recently two actors died. And while they may not be the most famous names, I think they are names readers might recognise.

The first actor to pass on was Barry Nelson, an MGM contract player in the Golden Age of Hollywood and the first man to play James Bond (albeit a very Americanised one). He died on April 7 at the age of 89.

Nelson was born Robert Haakon Nielsen April 16, 1920 in San Francisco. He participated in theatre at the University of California in Berkley and upon graduation was almost immediately signed to a contract at MGM. His first screen role was in Shadow of the Thin Man in 1941. He went on to star in A Yank on the Burma Road, Undercover Maisie, A Time to Kill, and Tenth Avenue Angel. Nelson served in the Army during World War II and appeared with other actors turned soldiers in the wartime play Winged Victory.

With the Fifties Nelson's career shifted towards television. His first appearance on the small screen was on The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre in 1948. He would appear on such series as Robert Montgomery Presents, Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ben Casey, The Twilight Zone, and Murder, She Wrote. He starred in the TV series The Hunter, My Favorite Husband, and Hudson's Bay. His most significant television appearance may well have been on the anthology series Climax in an adaptation of Casino Royale, in which he became the first actor to portray James Bond.

Nelson also had a significant career on stage. He made his Broadway debut in Winged Victory in 1943. He went onto to appear in such plays as The Moon is Blue, Cactus Flower, The Only Game in Town, and The Act. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in The Act in 1978.

In Nelson's later years he would appear in such films as Pete 'n' Tillie and The Shining.

The second actor to die recently was Roscoe Lee Browne. He died at he age of 81 after about with cancer.

Browne was born May 2, 1925 in Woodbury, New Jersey. He attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and took post-graduate courses at Middlebury College in Vermont, Columbia University in New York, and the University of Florence in Italy.

Browne's first experiences as a professional actor were with New York City's Shakespeare Festival Theatre. He made his screen debut in 1961 in The Connection. He would go onto appear in the films Black Like Me, The Comedians, Topaz, and The Cowboys. Gifted with a rich baritone, he narrated the movie Babe.

Browne did considerable work on the stage. He appeared on Broadway in the plays The Cool World, Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright, The Ballad of the the Sad Cafe, and Two Trains Running. He nominated for a Tony Award for his role in Two Trains Running, and won an Obie in 1965 for the off Broadway play Benito Cereno. He wrote and directed A Hand is On the Gate: An Evening of Negro Poetry and Folk Music in 1966.

Browne appeared extensively on television, making his debut in an episode of East Side/West Side in 1963. He also appeared in the series The Invaders, The Name of the Game, Bonanza, Sanford and Son, Barney Miller, and Law and Order. He was a regular on the American version of That Was the Week That Was, Soap, and Miss Winslow and Son.

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