Before the big screen adaptations starring Sean Connery in the 1960’s and well before Daniel Craig’s initial outing as 007 in the recent hit “Casino Royale” there was one actor who carried the esteemed title of being the original James Bond; Barry Nelson.
Nelson was the first actor to star as the suave secret agent in film, in 1954 in a television movie, the first ever film adaptation of Ian Fleming’s secret spy novels.
Barry Nelson played Bond in a TV adaptation of Casino Royale, a role that would later be reprised in remakes starring Sean Connery in 1967 and most recently Daniel Craig in 2006. The original film itself would later be syndicated by movie houses and television stations worldwide, and decades later released on a remastered DVD.
Nelson was an accomplished actor of both stage and screen, starring in Broadway shows “Seascape”, “Mary. Mary” and “The Act” co-starring Liza Manelli. Nelson appeared in feature films such as “Airport” and the character of Stuart Ullman in the original 1980 film adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Shining”. Nelson also had guest appearances on many television series including “Murder She Wrote”, “Dallas” and “Magnum P.I.”.
Nelson got his start as a contract actor with MGM Studios in Hollywood in 1942 and a few short years later entered the Army during World War II. During part of his tour of duty Nelson used his talents to perform in a play called “Winged Victory” with other soldiers in order to entertain fellow American troops. When Nelson returned home after the war was over “Winged Victory” was adapted into a live stage performance which Nelson co-starred in with George Reeves.
Nelson died at the age of 89 on April 7th, 2007, while traveling through Pennsylvania. The cause of death and details are not immediately known at the time of this writing.
“He was a very naturalistic, believable actor,” said his agent, Francis Delduca. “He was good at both comedy and the serious stuff.”
Nelson’s contributions to both stage and screen, as well as his immortal contribution to pop culture’s most beloved secret agent, will be fondly remembered by fans and colleagues alike.