Gypsy Actor…Lois Nettleton

After actor Carroll O’Connor left the series “All in the Family” he went on to another series that lasted for several years called “In The Heat Of The Night. ” The series took place in ” the new South” – a little city in Mississippi. One of the regulars on this series was a woman called Joanne St. John. I had remembered the actress who played that part from several different TV roles for many years. Her name was Lois Nettleton and if you have ever watch TV in the last 40 years then you to have seen her face.

Lois Nettleton has taken her Final Taxi at age 80. She appeared in over 120 films and TV shows during her career.

Miss Chicago 1948 (and a semi-finalist at that year’s Miss America Pageant), she was was born Lois June Nettleton on August 6, 1929 in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois.

She studied acting in Chicago before moving to New York to join the Actors’ Studio. Her Broadway debut came in Darkness at Noon and The Biggest Thief in Town, both 1949 productions. Returning to Chicago, she co-starred with Burt Reynolds in The Rainmaker.
Soon she became well-known on Broadway for appearing in Tennessee Williams’ plays. Theater critics noticed her when she was in the 1955 Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, staged by Elia Kazan. Barbara Bel Geddes’s understudy in the role of Maggie the Cat, she got to play Maggie herself once in a while.

Starring roles came in Silent Night, Lonely Night and The Wayward Stork. She was nominated for a Tony Award in 1976 for They Knew What They Wanted, and won the Clarence Derwent Award for God and Kate Murphy.

She won enthuastic reviews in New York and across the Unted States for her part as Blanche DuBois in the 1973 revival of Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire.

Nettleton said in interviews that theater was her first love, but she moved to Los Angeles to be closer to her ailing mother. In Hollywood, starting in the 1950s, she was a guest actress on dozens of leading television series.

She had roles on Kraft Television Theatre and Studio One in the 1950s and appeared on The Twilight Zone in a 1961 episode titled The Midnight Sun. She played a woman coping with the radically shifting climate after the Earth falls out of orbit. Sci-fi genre fans will also remember her work in “Night Gallery” ” The Flash” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”

Nettleton also had roles on Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Route 66, The FBI and The Fugitive in the 1960s and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Kung Fu, Medical Center, Cannon, Hawaii Five-O in the ’70s, among other series. She was a regular on the short-lived series “The Accidental Family.”

For two years in the late 1980s she was a regular on the police drama In the Heat of the Night. She also appeared on The Golden Girls, The Facts of Life, Murder She Wrote and Cagney & Lacey.

For three years in the 1990s, she had a role as Virginia Benson on the soap opera General Hospital. She also appeared in Seinfeld, Babylon 5, Baywatch, Full House and Coach.

She won Emmy Awards for daytime television for her role as suffragette Susan B. Anthony in The American Woman: Portraits in Courage in 1976 and her performance in an episode of the religious program Insight in 1983.

She made her movie debut in 1962 in Period of Adjustment, based on a play by Williams, opposite Tony Franciosa, Jane Fonda and Jim Hutton. The film is about two couples in rocky marriages. She also had roles in Mail Order Bride in 1964, The Man in the Glass Booth in 1975 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1982.

Other feature film credits include “Come Fly With Me,” “Mail Order Bride,” “The Bamboo Saucer,” “The Good Guys and the Bad Guys,” “Dirty Dingus Magee,” “The Honkers,” “Echoes of a Summer,” “Soggy Bottom, USA,” “Deadly Blessing,” “The Feminine Touch” and “Butterfly” (she was nominated for the Razzie Award for worst supporting actress for that movie.)

Nettleton was a regular on the TV show “Crossing Jordan” playing Evelyn, the woman who is dating Jordan’s father, Max .

Lois Nettleton was married to the one and only Jean Shepherd, ( A Christmas Story) the radio and television humorist and writer, for seven years. Nettleton and Shepherd clicked when she called the humorist’s nightly radio show at WOR in the 1950s; the beguiled Shepherd broadcast their telephone conversations on the air. They appeared together in Shepherd’s off-Broadway play “Look Charlie” in 1959.

“It takes courage to be … a gypsy actor like I am,” Nettleton told the Los Angeles Times in 1985, adding that she liked playing a variety of roles. “I’m a character actress. I always wanted to be as different in everything as possible,” she said.

6 Responses

  1. Her appearance in the “Midnight Sun” episode of the Twilight Zone stands out in my mind as a real tour de force. It’s one of the must sees every year during the marathons. Not that any actors working for Rod Serling ever “phoned in” their performances, but she was totally committed to the role. She’ll be missed.

    • Not to mention Allan, that nobody, nobody ever, ever,
      before, or since, looked that good in front
      of the camera.

      She was truely devistating and astonishingly beautifull,
      in every sense.


  2. I watched her for years-like many greats, she played herself over and over. She will indeed be missed.

  3. Hi just figured i would let you know i had a issue with your blog appearing blank also. Must be chimpanzees in the system.

  4. Nice looking website!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: