Doctor of Humane Letters, Columbia University, 1974.
Although well into middle age before he directed a movie. Nelson must presumably be dealt with as typical of the new type of commercial director, desperate for novelty and managing to string a few successful films together. He was prepared to compromise with sentimentality or savagery and, seemingly, there are those not disturbed bv the lack of moral or intelligent locus in his films. Thus, although his pictures are all overemphatic— whether in the oozing self-pity of Anthony Quinn in Requiem for a Heavyweight; the prettiness of Sidney Poitier won over by a chorus of German nuns; the slick ironv with which idiot becomes genius in Charly; or the gratuitous violence in Soldier Blue—the human content seems always reduced or bowdlerized. That such a director should thrive, let alone work, is one of those ghastly cracks in the ground that the world has to school itself to step over. His only passable movie. Soldier in the Rain, owes its merit to the script by Blake Edwards and to Tuesday Weld.
Nelson had a career of thirty years as a stage actor, a dramatist and theatrical producer, and a TV director—all with some success. His first film came after he had won an Emmy for the TV production ol Rod Serling’s play, Requiem for a Heavyweight. Twice—for Sidney Poitier, and for Cliff Robertson in Charly—Nelson's special vulgarization led to Oscars. And in Duel at Diablo and Soldier Blue he has an unenviable place in the continuing history of gruesome, picturesque bloodletting, at the cost of emotional or dramatic significance. The Wrath of God is an odious use of Robert Mitchum as a gun-toting bogus priest, as disrespectful to the memory of Night of the Hunter as to Nelson’s cozy gathering of nuns in Lilies of the Field.
Captain United States Army Air Force, 1941-1945. Fellow National Theatre Conference. Member Authors League American (life), Dramatists Guild, Writers Guild American, Actors Equity, Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of television and Radio Artists, Directors Guild American, American Society of Composers, Director Guild Mexico (honorary), Players Club.
Children by previous marriage: Theodor, Ralph Bahnsen. Married Barbara Powers, February 6, 1954 (deceased). Children: Peter Powers, Meredith Liv.