Gill-Man could be considered one of the luckier classic monsters in that he had three beautiful co-stars over the course of his film series. In Creature From The Black Lagoon he swam with Julie Adams. For his finale he walked alongside Leigh Snowden in The Creature Walks Among Us. Sandwiched in the middle was Revenge Of The Creature where he got to pursue a former teen pageant winner, Lori Nelson.
Lori Nelson was born Dixie Kay Nelson on August 15, 1933 in Santa Fe, New Mexico and was the great-grandniece of U.S. General John J. Pershing. Nelson got a very early start as an actress, starring in local theater productions at the age of 2. When she was 4, her family moved to Encino, California. At age 5, Nelson won the title of Little Miss America. She would spend her childhood touring veteran’s hospitals, entertaining the patients. Her career was almost derailed and her life in danger when she contracted rheumatic fever at seven years old. She was bedridden for four years. Fortunately, when Nelson recovered she picked up where she left off entering pageants and winning Miss Encino at 17. Her success at modeling got her a seven-year contract with Universal in 1950.
In 1952, she made her film debut with Universal as Marjie Baile in the Western Bend of the River alongside James Stewart, Rock Hudson and the actress she would succeed in the Creature series, Julia (Julie) Adams. Later that year, she played Rosie Kettle in the comedy Ma And Pa Kettle At The Fair and a role in Francis Goes To West Point, part of the famous Francis The Mule film series. In 1955, she would enter the Universal Monsters world as Helen Dobson in Revenge Of The Creature. Later that year, she guest-starred on two episodes of the television series It’s A Great Life followed by a reprisal of Rosie Kettle in Ma And Pa Kettle At Waikiki. In 1956 she starred in the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis Western comedy, Pardners. That same year, she received top billing alongside Chuck Connors in Hot Rod Girl.
Lori Nelson’s career encompassed twenty years of film and television roles. She even made a comeback with a few small roles in the early 1990’s and even made a cameo in a sci-fi parody in 2005. Nelson married Johnny Mann in 1960 and the couple had two daughters, Lori Susan and Jennifer. They divorced in 1973 and ten years later, Nelson married her current husband, Joseph J. Reiner. Lori Nelson seemed to do it all as an actress and did it well. Gill-Man was a lucky creature to have such an accomplished co-star.
(Joe Grodensky – @JoeGrodensky)