Friday, December 29, 2006
Return of the "Yessssssss..." Man
One of the great character actor actors of radio and television (he never really did much film work) was the late Frank Nelson. He is of course, best remembered as the man who forever annoyed Jack Benny in both his radio and television shows for over 35 years, with his elongated "Yessssssssssss". Ususally as a floorwalker, clerk, waiter, or some other officious role, Nelson would appear and gain some of the biggest laughs of the episode.
Born in Colorado Springs in 1911, and raised in Denver, Frank Nelson started out in radio in the late 1920s at KOA in Denver; he moved to Hollywood in 1929. He married actress Mary Lansing in 1933, and they had two children. While working on the Benny program in radio, he appeared on many other shows, including Lux Radio Theatre, Fibber McGee & Molly, Abbott & Costello, Baby Snooks, Blondie as well as hundreds of others. He joined Benny in the earliest days of television, but also found time to appear with Lucille Ball in several episodes of I Love Lucy (in the last season, he neighbor Ralph Ramsey), as well as doing numerous voice overs for animated series (such as The Flinstones and The Jetsons) and commercials.
He continued to appear with Benny until the comedian's weekly series went off the air in 1965, but he returned to do bits in a couple of Jack's tv specials in the early 1970s. He did several episodes of the hit 1970s tv series Sanford & Son, as well as appearing on screen in numerous tv commercials for McDonald's hamburgers. Frank Nelson was one of the most highly regarded actors in his profession due to his work off screen for the benefit of his fellow actors, He was one of the founders of the union American Federation of Radio Actors, as well as being the driving force behind their pension and welfare fund years later. He eventually divorced Ms. Lansing, and married fellow radio actor Veola Vonn in 1970; they were married until his death from cancer in September of 1986.