Sad news today for classic horror fans, as Hollywood Report announces the death 1950s starlet Lori Nelson, who was most famously was kidnapped by a watery monster in Revenge of the Creature, the first of two sequels spawned from 1954’s Creature From the Black Lagoon. She was 87.
Nelson had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for several years and died Sunday at her home in the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles, her daughter Jennifer Mann said.
In the movie, Nelson played the ichthyology student named Helen who is kidnapped by a lovelorn “Gill Man” (played by both Tom Hennesy and Ricou Browning).
She later claimed she didn’t want to make the movie but in the end was glad she did.
“I played opposite Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Jimmy Stewart, Dean Martin and Audie Murphy, but who’s the leading man everybody wants to ask me about? The Gill Man!” she said in an interview for Tom Weaver’s book The Creature Chronicles: Exploring the Black Lagoon Trilogy. “It’s so funny, Universal had to twist my arm a little to be in a monster movie. But if I knew then how popular they would remain, I would have twisted their arm to be in a couple more.”
In addition to Revenge of the Creature, Nelson starred as one of the Kettle kids in Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair (1952) and Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki (1955); as Barbara Stanwyck‘s daughter in Douglas Sirk’s All I Desire; in I Died a Thousand Times (1955), a remake of the Humphrey Bogart classic High Sierra in which she portrayed the club-footed love interest of Jack Palance‘s crook; and Pardners (1956), with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in their second to last film together.
She was born Dixie Kay Nelson on Aug. 15, 1933, in New Mexico. At two-and-a-half years old, she was voted Santa Fe’s most talented and beautiful child, and toured the state billed as “Santa Fe’s Shirley Temple.” At age four, Nelson moved to Hollywood with her parents where was named Little Miss America.
In the 1950s, as her movie career was taking off, she was “romantically” linked to Tab Hunter. Both she and Debbie Reynolds took turns “dating” the closeted hunk, appearing in dozens of movie magazines together.
Nelson was one of Debbie’s bridesmaids at her 1955 wedding to singer Eddie Fisher. She also was engaged to actor Burt Reynolds, but the two “ended up calling it quits,” her daughter said. Nelson then was married to late composer Johnny Mann from 1960 until their 1973 divorce; they had two children, Lori and Jennifer.
She married then-LAPD detective Joseph J. Reiner in 1983; he survives her.