Ed Nelson, star of 1960s ‘Peyton Place,’ dies at 85


Actor Ed Nelson was one of the mainstays on the 1960s soap opera "Peyton Place." (APA)
August 14

Ed Nelson, a television, stage and film actor who was one of the mainstays of the 1960s prime-time soap opera “Peyton Place,” died Aug. 9 at his home in Greensboro, N.C. He was 85.

A daughter-in-law, Asta Hansen, confirmed the death but did not provide a specific cause.

On “Peyton Place,” the night-time TV drama revolving around the romantic relationships in a small New England town, Mr. Nelson played Michael Rossi during the series’ entire 1964-1969 run on ABC.

At the beginning, actress Dorothy Malone received top billing; Mia Farrow and Ryan O’Neal were propelled to stardom by their appearances on the steamy serial. By the last season, Mr. Nelson’s doctor character was mixed up in a murder trial.

In 1985, Mr. Nelson rejoined several members of the 1960s-era cast for a reunion TV movie, “Peyton Place: The Next Generation.”

Mr. Nelson made dozens of television appearances, often as a guest star on such series as “Murder, She Wrote,” “Rawhide,” “Gunsmoke” and “Wagon Train.” He hosted “The Ed Nelson Show,” a syndicated daytime talk show, in 1969 and was a regular on the short-lived 1970-71 crime drama “Silent Force.” He also played Sen. Mark Denning in the CBS daytime soap “Capitol” in the 1980s.

On film, Mr. Nelson had small parts in “Police Academy 3,” “Midway,” “Airport 1975” and others. In the late 1950s, he acted in a string of Roger Corman B-movies, including “Swamp Women,” “Attack of the Crab Monsters,” “A Bucket of Blood” and “Teenage Caveman.”

Later in his career, Mr. Nelson portrayed President Harry S. Truman in a national touring production of the one-man show “Give ‘em Hell, Harry!”

Edwin Stafford Nelson was born in New Orleans on Dec. 21, 1928, and he grew up in several places in the South. While still in high school, he joined the Navy and after military service attended Tulane University in New Orleans. He moved to New York to study acting and soon relocated to California.

During his career, Mr. Nelson served on the Screen Actors Guild’s board of directors.

After largely retiring from acting in the 1990s, he and his wife, Patsy, whom he married in 1951, returned to New Orleans, where they had met. He earned his bachelor’s degree in media arts from Tulane in 2000 and taught acting and screenwriting at various colleges. He and his wife left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, which struck in 2005.

Mr. Nelson, who published his memoir, “Beyond Peyton Place,” in 2008, is survived by his wife, six children, 14 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

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