FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – As a guy who has loved TV since birth, there are just some actors and actresses you never forget, whether they be in a starring role or as a character actor. Character actors can make or break a TV show. And one such guy who was successful was Frank Nelson.
His name may not be familiar to you, but if you saw or heard him, you would know who he was. A guy of average height and looks, dark hair combed back, with a neatly kept mustache, he generally played salesmen or hotel clerk roles. He brought laughs to the audience with his signature greeting in a long, drawn out pitch, “Yessssssssssssssssssssss?” and with a big smile. Born in 1911 in Colorado Springs, he got his start at KOA Radio in Denver and then moved to Hollywood in 1929. His first claim to fame was on Jack Benny’s radio show during the 1940s and 1950s where he perfected the character he would later become famous for.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz used him extensively for parts in I Love Lucy, appearing in 11 episodes during its six year run on CBS. He was radio game show host Freddy Fillmore, Ralph Ramsey (the Ricardos’ Connecticut neighbors), and many others. He made 28 appearances on The Jack Benny Show from 1953-1963, also on CBS Radio and Television. Again, he was cast as a salesman, railroad conductor, hotel clerk, waiter, ticket agent or department store busybody. All starting with that big deep resonant voice saying one word: “Yessssssssssssssssssssssss?” That alone brought the house down along with the reactions of those he was speaking to, whether it be Jack Benny or Lucy Ricardo. He was a master of snarky one liners that were hilarious along with the reactions of the person who was the target of those comments! He also was a seasoned voice talent on shows such as The Jetsons, The Snorks, The Flintstones, Dinky Dog and Mister Magoo.
He was a charter member of AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and later became its president in 1954 (the year I was born!). He was a driving force for actors and actresses to have pension plans once they retired. The Frank Nelson Fund was later established under AFTRA auspices to assist members facing temporary but serious financial hardships.
Nelson passed away in 1986.
Enjoy this clip with Frank from The Jack Benny Show!