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Friday, September 30, 2022

Chronicles of South Bay: Ozzy and Harriet spend their offscreen summer in Hermosa Beach during the 1940s

Ozzy Nelson was thinking about a way to make a living after turning to music after the stock market crash of 1929.

Nelson was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1906. He went to Rutgers, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and a law degree in 1930. He earned money by playing the saxophone in a side band during college.

When job prospects dwindled after graduation during the Great Depression, he turned to music. They decided to form a bigger band, the Ozzy Nelson Band, which played gigs mostly in and around New York City.

Nelson’s effortless singing style and sense of humor helped popularize the group, and Brunswick Records quickly signed him to a contract. In 1932, aspiring actress Harriet Hilliard became the lead singer of the group.

The pair’s relationship eventually turned into a romance, and Ozzy and Harriet married in 1935. He continued to perform with the band, which had a #1 hit that year, “And Then Some.”

Hilliard starred in several films, including “Follow the Fleet” with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Ozzy’s show business sense led him to a series of film appearances and comedic musical short subjects, which he led his band.

All roads seemed to lead to California, and the couple moved there in 1941 to guest appear on Red Skelton’s new radio show. At first, they lived in San Rafael, then decided to move south and be closer to the movie studios of Harriet and Los Angeles nightclubs for Ozzy’s band.

As summer was approaching, they decided to rent a house in Hermosa Beach, close enough to the Culver City studio, where Harriet still took the family to enjoy beach life together over the summer. Worked to be allowed to spend.

The family, 3133 The Strand, would rent the house to use as their summer retreat for more than a decade every year, except in the years they traveled abroad.

In November 1941, he bought a house at the foot of the Hollywood Hills at 1822 Camino Palmero St.

Its Cape Cod-style exterior would become familiar to millions when it became part of the opening credits of “The Adventures of Ozzy and Harriet” in its early years on television. (When the home was sold after Nelson’s death, the new owners claimed it was haunted.) It became a permanent family home for the next three decades.

On October 8, 1944, “The Adventures of Ozzy and Harriet” debuted on the radio, using child actors to play David and Ricky. Its naturalistic depiction of everyday American family life was a revelation at the time, and the show was an instant success. It became even more popular in 1949 after the real Nelson children began drawing themselves.

Clockwise from bottom, Ozzy, Harriet, David and Ricky Nelson in 1952, the year in which “The Adventures of Ozzy and Harriet” debuted on television. (ABC-TV promotional photo)

The radio show led to the 1952 film, “Here Come the Nelson”, which led to the ABC-TV weekly “Ozzie and Harriet” series.

According to John R. Holmes’ biography, “The Adventures of Ozzy Nelson: The Life and Career of America’s Favorite Pop” (McFarland, 2021), the Nelson family watched after its first successful season on television ended in the spring of 1953. Ahead for a holiday in Paris to relax. But, weary of the rigors of filming, he decided to return to Hermosa Beach House for the summer instead.

During this welcoming holiday, 13-year-old “Irresistible” Ricky learned how to dive and surf at Hermosa. He would use his diving skills next season, performing one and a half somersaults on the family TV show.

He and his family also became aware of the reach of television fame when total strangers rang their doorbell, including a 4-year-old girl who asked Harriet, “Can Ozzy come out and play?”

The beachfront home, at the western terminus of Longfellow Avenue, was originally built in 1905, and has been remodeled several times over the years. It was last sold in March 2021 for $7.35 million.

The family summer in Hermosa Beach ended after the summer of 1955. That year, Nelson bought the lot in the Lagunita section of Laguna Beach, where he built his permanent summer home.

The elder Nelson returned to Lagunita when “Ozzie & Harriet” ended its 24-year record on network television in 1966. It became the family’s permanent home in 1977, when Harriet sold the house to Hollywood Hills two years after Ozzy’s death from cancer. in 1975.

World Nation News Desk
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