(April 16, 1917–April 7, 2007; birth name: Haakon Robert Nielsen): Likable American stage and screen actor who was the first actor to play James Bond, making his debut in Casino Royale, a one-hour live television dramatization that was broadcast on CBS’s Climax Mystery Theater on October 21, 1954. Little more than a year after Ian Fleming published his first Bond novel, and long before any semblance of a 007 following had been established in the United States, Barry Nelson’s Bond was introduced as an American agent fighting against Soviet operatives in Monte Carlo. Not only did Bond debut in the States as a Yank counterspy, he was also given an outrageous nickname—“Card Sense Jimmy Bond”—by a British agent named Clarence Leiter (Michael Pate).
A native of San Francisco, Nelson made his credited motion picture debut opposite William Powell and Myrna Loy in director W. S. Van Dyke’s Shadow of the Thin Man (1941). Two years later, he was a member of Robert Taylor’s embattled US Army squad battling the Japanese in Bataan. Later generations will remember him as Dean Martin’s fellow pilot Anson Harris in Airport (1970), and Ullman, the hotel manager who hires Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick’s horror thriller The Shining (1980).