Film Title: Here Come the Nelsons
Studio: Universal Pictures
Silent or Talkie: Talkie
- Ozzie Nelson
- Harriet Nelson
- David Nelson
- Ricky Nelson
- Rock Hudson
In March of 1944, comedian Red Skelton was drafted into the Army. Ozzie Nelson and his wife Harriet Hilliard suddenly found themselves out of work as they had been appearing regularly on Skelton’s radio series, The Red Skelton Show, since 1941. So Ozzie decided it might be time to fashion his own radio show. In the fall of that same year The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was first broadcast.
The show was an immediate success and ran on radio until 1954. Ozzie and Harriet’s real life sons joined the cast of the program in 1949, playing Ozzie and Harriet’s children. In 1951 the ABC television network approached Ozzie about transferring their radio show to television. Ozzie was intrigued with the idea, but wanted to make sure that the family humor the show was noted for would come across in a visual medium as well as it did on radio. He and his writing partners concocted a script featuring the Nelson family and had no trouble selling Universal on a modestly budgeted feature that would star radio’s “favorite family.” Here Come the Nelsons was released to theaters in January 1952, and it was an immediate success. By October of the same year The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet debuted on the ABC television network. It ran for 14 seasons and ended its run in 1966, having produced 435 half-hour television episodes (in addition to 402 different episodes produced for radio – for two years new episodes of both the radio and television show ran concurrently). It still holds the record for the longest running live-action television situation comedy of all time.
For Here Come the Nelsons (to borrow the intro from their television show), “Here’s Ozzie who plays the part of Ozzie Nelson, and of course his lovely wife Harriet as Harriet Nelson. The older of the Nelson boys, David, appears as David Nelson and his younger brother, the irrepressible Ricky, played by Ricky Nelson.” For this incarnation of the Nelson family, they live in Hillsdale, and Ozzie has a job! It’s centennial week in Hillsdale and the town is pulling out all the stops. Ozzie, however, has problems of his own. He’s an advertising executive and his boss H.J. Bellows (Gale Gordon) has given him the most important campaign in the firm’s history: to launch Foundation Builders Incorporated’s new line. “Foundations . . . for houses?” Ozzie asks with disbelief. “No, for women,” Bellows replies. “You know girdles and corsets . . . well . . . you know.” Meanwhile, Harriet has gone with her friend Clara Randolph (Ann Doran) to drop off a bunch of boys for rehearsal at the fair grounds and they run into the world-famous astrologer Clifford Hastings (Frank Nelson). Hastings tells Harriet that Ozzie’s stars are aligned in a volatile position at the moment. Back at his office, Ozzie is surprised to encounter a beautiful young woman who introduces herself as Barbara Schutzendorf (Barbara Lawrence), his old college chum Gordon Schutzendorf’s little sister. She’s riding with a rodeo troupe and is having trouble finding a room because of the centennial; so, of course, Ozzie offers her their guest room. But unbeknownst to Ozzie, Harriet receives a phone call that she thinks is another old chum of Ozzie’s and offers him the room. The stage is set for comic misadventure. Someone will attempt to ride the horse Dynamite the “Montana Man-Killer”, the Nelson’s other houseguest Charles E. Jones (Rock Hudson) may not be what he seems, Ricky will be kidnapped, there will be an improbable chase on horseback, Ricky will get to utter his signature line: “I don’t mess around boy”, and a barricade of girdles and corsets may be what it takes to catch two fleeing crooks.
Here Come the Nelsons is an enjoyable little trifle. The humor, especially Ozzie’s, is played much broader than it ever would be on the television series. The relationship between David and Ricky is still very fun to watch. A number of fine character actors of the period decorate the proceedings to good effect: Jim Backus, Gale Gordon, Ann Doran, Lillian Bronson, Sheldon Leonard, and Frank Nelson – all faces well known to audiences of the day. Rock Hudson deports himself nicely in a relatively early role. And if you’re a fan of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, it is quite fun to view this prototype for the series.
Unfortunately, Universal has not released this film to DVD, although it was released on VHS in 1998. It’s too bad because for fans it is the missing link in the Nelson chain.
If you are a fan of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet this is a must see. If you’re curious about the Nelson family, the television series is much more available and is actually better. If you’re neither curious nor a fan, there are lots of better films out there.
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