Miss Lois Nettleton, 1927 -2008It’s been a bad couple of weeks to be a celebrity; the sheer number of recent show business deaths is daunting, and somehow even I missed the passing of one of my favorite actresses on January 18th.  The reliable, lovely, and extremely talented Lois Nettleton died of lung cancer (like Suzanne Pleshette) on that date, and once again we’re left knowing mostly how much we will miss her.  

" /> Miss Lois Nettleton, 1927 -2008It’s been a bad couple of weeks to be a celebrity; the sheer number of recent show business deaths is daunting, and somehow even I missed the passing of one of my favorite actresses on January 18th.  The reliable, lovely, and extremely talented Lois Nettleton died of lung cancer (like Suzanne Pleshette) on that date, and once again we’re left knowing mostly how much we will miss her.  

" /> Miss Lois Nettleton, 1927 -2008It’s been a bad couple of weeks to be a celebrity; the sheer number of recent show business deaths is daunting, and somehow even I missed the passing of one of my favorite actresses on January 18th.  The reliable, lovely, and extremely talented Lois Nettleton died of lung cancer (like Suzanne Pleshette) on that date, and once again we’re left knowing mostly how much we will miss her.  

" />

Remembering Lois Nettleton

Miss Lois Nettleton, 1927 -2008It’s been a bad couple of weeks to be a celebrity; the sheer number of recent show business deaths is daunting, and somehow even I missed the passing of one of my favorite actresses on January 18th.  The reliable, lovely, and extremely talented Lois Nettleton died of lung cancer (like Suzanne Pleshette) on that date, and once again we’re left knowing mostly how much we will miss her. 

Born in 1927, Lois came to show business from humble beginnings, from a broken home and limited circumstances.  The determined and imaginative young girl who put on shows in her backyard grew into a charming young woman with her heart already on the stage, and she took one of the few openings available to her.  She entered a beauty pageant and became Miss Chicago, parlaying Lois Nettleton in 1957's A Face in the Crowdthat exposure into study at Chicago’s famed Goodman Theater and later in New York with the Actors Studio.  Lois made her Broadway debut in 1949, and had many theatrical successes including understudying Barbara Bel Geddes in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 1955 production. 

As a successful NY stage actress she was primed to enter the verdant world of live TV drama which was flourishing during the 1950s.  She broke into the medium and became a frequent guest star on the big anthologies of the day — Studio One, Armstrong Circle Theatre — and managed to make her big screen debut in an uncredited role in the Lois and Tony Franciosa in Period of AdjustmentAndy Griffith feature A Face in the Crowd, helmed by her Cat on a Hot Tin Roof director Elia Kazan (which is probably how she got the part).  Then it was back to television for more guest roles, then Lois was spotted by MGM and became one of the last of their contract players.  After a major co-starring role in Period of Adjustment in 1962 opposite Tony Franciosa and Jane Fonda, she stepped into the role of a stewardess in 1964’s Come Fly with Me.  It was a role first offered to one of MGM’s other talented young female contractees Mariette Hartley, but Karl Malden and Lois Nettleton in Come Fly With Mewhen Hartley had to drop out when she received a hepatitis diagnosis (from a doctor who soon committed suicide) — and she later found out she didn’t have it at all — Lois got the part, opposite Karl Malden.  That same year she also made a modest western called Mail Order Bride opposite Keir Dullea, in which one of her costumes was the same wedding dress that Mariette Hartley had worn in her role as Elsa in MGM’s 1962 Sam Lois Nettleton wears Hartley's dress in Mail Order BridePeckinpah-directed Ride the High Country.   

But a career on the big screen wasn’t to be Nettleton’s strong suit.  She became instead a stalwart television performer, a perennial guest star on just about any major series of the time, including a memorable role on The Twilight Zone in an episode called “The Midnight Sun” which is an eerie tale about an Earth where the sun keeps getting hotterLois Nettleton in The Twilight Zone - The Midnight Sun and hotter, and other great dramas like Dr. Kildare, The Fugitive, Bonanza, The Nurses, East Side, West Side, Route 66, Gunsmoke and so many more.  She also had a brief try at a series of her own opposite Jerry Van Dyke in NBC’s 1967 sitcom Accidental Family, but had better luck with the hour dramas that clamored for her classy presence.  The growing world of made-for-TV movies also benefited from her performances; though often a tad on the B-movie subject matter side — Weekend of Terror, Women in Chains, Terror in the Sky (the titles tell it all) — the talented ensemble casts of TV favorites and slumming movie stars made for a lively and popular form that pepped up TV schedules throughout the 1960s and Lois Nettleton in an episode of Medical Center1970s.  In addition to the more cult-ish titles, she also appeared in pretigious TV movies like The Forgotten Man, a 1971 production co-starring Dennis Weaver about a returning Vietnam vet, and 1975’s Fear on Trial starring George C. Scott and William Devane (as blacklisted personality John Henry Faulk).  She also made a wonderful impression in her role in the sprawling 12-episode miniseries Centennial in 1978, and in the mini Washington: Behind Closed Doors in 1977.

In addition to all the TV credits which kept piling up with satisfying regularity — Kung Fu, Medical Center, Hawaii Five-O, Mary Tyler Moore, Night Gallery, Marcus Welby, M.D., Bracken’s World (in a great episode about a nude scene!) — Lois also managed to make a few big screen appearances, including 1982’s The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas opposite Burt Reynolds and DollyReynolds and Nettleton in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas Parton, 1975’s The Man in the Glass Booth with Maximilian Schell, 1970’s Dirty Dingus Magee with Frank Sinatra, 1976’s Echoes of a Summer with a very young Jodie Foster, and a few others.  She won two Daytime Emmy Awards, was nominated for several primetime Emmy acting awards, for her work in an episode of The Golden Girls, her regular role on In the Heat of the Night, and for her role in the Fear on Trial movie.

Lois Nettleton never stopped.  The TV work went on, and she also had a triumph onstage when she took over the role of Blance DuBois in a revival of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1973, and Foster, Richard Harris & Lois in Echoes of Summeras the years went on she was a frequent stage performer in NYC and other venues, including a run in A Little Night Music in Los Angeles in 1991.  There was hardly a TV show or a genre that she didn’t tackle, and thankfully she got the opportunity to play both in drama and comedy, showing off her easy versatility and grace that made every Lois Nettleton performance a special treat to behold.  One of her last TV credits was a The Lovely and Talented Lois NettletonTV movie in 2006 for the Hallmark Channel, but she had been constantly busy up until that time, also moving in to doing voice work for several popular animated series.

In terms of her private life, Lois was married to humorist/raconteur Jean Shepherd from 1960 – 1967, an interesting relationship which was forged when she and Shepherd appeared in a play together, then when Shepherd was a late-night radio call-in show host in NYC, Lois would Lois Nettleton onstage in 2004 in How To Build a Better Tulipcall in frequently and became a regular on the broadcasts.  After they divorced, Lois would never marry again.  She divided her time between an apartment in New York and a place in Los Angeles; she passed away at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Hospital in Woodland Hills, California.  (Please read the third comment below posted by Mr. Bergmann; he has more –and more accurate — information about Lois and Jean Shepherd's marriage.  Thanks, Mr. B!) 

In hundreds of performances, Lois Nettleton came Lois Nettleton in 1989across as an intelligent, warm, and genuinely gifted actress, an independent spirit who stayed true to herself when lesser talents frittered away their uniqueness.  Keep an eye out for her when you are watching television; she’ll never be far away, and you’ll never forget her.

Lois Nettleton, August 6, 1927 – January 18, 2008.

32 Responses Remembering Lois Nettleton
Posted By sandra : January 29, 2008 8:15 am

THANK YOU FOR THIS!!  I grew up watching Lois on so many TV shows and later caught a lot of her films whenever they came on TV.  She was terribly underrated.  She's terrific in PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT with Tony Franciosa.

Posted By sandra : January 29, 2008 8:15 am

THANK YOU FOR THIS!!  I grew up watching Lois on so many TV shows and later caught a lot of her films whenever they came on TV.  She was terribly underrated.  She's terrific in PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT with Tony Franciosa.

Posted By Flickhead : January 29, 2008 8:40 am

A big thanks from me, too. I didn't even know that Lois had died. A good actress, a beautiful woman…

Posted By Flickhead : January 29, 2008 8:40 am

A big thanks from me, too. I didn't even know that Lois had died. A good actress, a beautiful woman…

Posted By Eugene B. Bergmann : January 29, 2008 3:13 pm

This is a wonderful tribute to Lois Nettleton.  Minor corrections regarding her private life.  She appeared not in a play by Jean Shepherd, but in a mixed variety theater piece he created in 1959, "Look, Charlie."  In addition to Lois and Jean, it featured Shel Silverstein and Herb Gardner.  His radio show was not a call-in show–he almost never had anyone call in.  He talked, commentated, told stories, etc., all without a script,  and was a great humorist.   But one night he asked on the air in 1956 (3 years before "Look, Charlie," the off-Broadway show) for a listener who had a joke.  As a great fan of his, she called in and soon became known as "The Listener."  After a few calls he invited her out, they began dating, and eventually wed.

Posted By Eugene B. Bergmann : January 29, 2008 3:13 pm

This is a wonderful tribute to Lois Nettleton.  Minor corrections regarding her private life.  She appeared not in a play by Jean Shepherd, but in a mixed variety theater piece he created in 1959, "Look, Charlie."  In addition to Lois and Jean, it featured Shel Silverstein and Herb Gardner.  His radio show was not a call-in show–he almost never had anyone call in.  He talked, commentated, told stories, etc., all without a script,  and was a great humorist.   But one night he asked on the air in 1956 (3 years before "Look, Charlie," the off-Broadway show) for a listener who had a joke.  As a great fan of his, she called in and soon became known as "The Listener."  After a few calls he invited her out, they began dating, and eventually wed.

Posted By Medusa : January 29, 2008 4:30 pm

Hi Eugene!Thanks for the corrections!  I knew that they were in something together, but didn't know the nature of it exactly!  And the timing — nothing I read had the exactly sequence of events…sorry about the errors.What an amazing story!  I will put an addendum after that paragraph asking folks to read your comment for the right story (rather than changing the text and stealing your info.)Lois Nettleton was so lovely.  Her credits read like a history of stage and television.  Definitely one of those actor's actors that they talk about. Thanks again for reading and setting us all straight on those fascinating details of Lois and Jean Shepherd.much appreciated,Medusa

Posted By Medusa : January 29, 2008 4:30 pm

Hi Eugene!Thanks for the corrections!  I knew that they were in something together, but didn't know the nature of it exactly!  And the timing — nothing I read had the exactly sequence of events…sorry about the errors.What an amazing story!  I will put an addendum after that paragraph asking folks to read your comment for the right story (rather than changing the text and stealing your info.)Lois Nettleton was so lovely.  Her credits read like a history of stage and television.  Definitely one of those actor's actors that they talk about. Thanks again for reading and setting us all straight on those fascinating details of Lois and Jean Shepherd.much appreciated,Medusa

Posted By moira : January 29, 2008 6:16 pm

Thanks so much for writing this interesting tribute to a talented lady. I had no idea that Lois Nettleton and Jean Shepard were married. What an interesting pair they must have been. I bet Mr. Shepard fell a bit in love with her beautiful speaking voice when she was "The Listener" on his radio program.Does anyone remember her role as a woman who helped Lou Grant (Ed Asner) after his character's divorce on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"? It was very touching and funny.

Posted By moira : January 29, 2008 6:16 pm

Thanks so much for writing this interesting tribute to a talented lady. I had no idea that Lois Nettleton and Jean Shepard were married. What an interesting pair they must have been. I bet Mr. Shepard fell a bit in love with her beautiful speaking voice when she was "The Listener" on his radio program.Does anyone remember her role as a woman who helped Lou Grant (Ed Asner) after his character's divorce on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"? It was very touching and funny.

Posted By RHS : January 30, 2008 2:54 pm

Not that I think it was the apex of her talent, but Lois Nettleton was sexy!  Sure, she padded about in lingerie, drenched in perspiration, on that Twilight Zone episode but even in parts in which she was fully clothed there was something beguiling about the woman in a totally useful, real, lived-in way that is leagues beyond the add-water-and-mix vixens who dominate the screens today. 

Posted By RHS : January 30, 2008 2:54 pm

Not that I think it was the apex of her talent, but Lois Nettleton was sexy!  Sure, she padded about in lingerie, drenched in perspiration, on that Twilight Zone episode but even in parts in which she was fully clothed there was something beguiling about the woman in a totally useful, real, lived-in way that is leagues beyond the add-water-and-mix vixens who dominate the screens today. 

Posted By Cinemaven : January 30, 2008 6:42 pm

I saw that '73 show of "Streetcar…" TWICE just for her. She had a great voice…fragility and yes…SEXY. I loved her episode of "Golden Girls" where as a lesbian she falls for Rose. Oh geez! What a lost. I think she and Pleshette got lost in the Heath Ledger juggernaut. But fans know her passing was a said day indeed. Unfortunately it happened on my birthday. Sheesh! RIP Lois. You'll be missed  

Posted By Cinemaven : January 30, 2008 6:42 pm

I saw that '73 show of "Streetcar…" TWICE just for her. She had a great voice…fragility and yes…SEXY. I loved her episode of "Golden Girls" where as a lesbian she falls for Rose. Oh geez! What a lost. I think she and Pleshette got lost in the Heath Ledger juggernaut. But fans know her passing was a said day indeed. Unfortunately it happened on my birthday. Sheesh! RIP Lois. You'll be missed  

Posted By KarenH : January 30, 2008 8:26 pm

       Of course I remember Ms. Nettleson from the famous Twlight Zone 'Midnight Sun' episode, I remember her for so many other wonderful performances.           She was a lovely actress and will be missed by many fans.

Posted By KarenH : January 30, 2008 8:26 pm

       Of course I remember Ms. Nettleson from the famous Twlight Zone 'Midnight Sun' episode, I remember her for so many other wonderful performances.           She was a lovely actress and will be missed by many fans.

Posted By Shelly Silver : January 31, 2008 10:56 am

I loved Ms. Nettleton and also had the privilege of seeing her in "Streetcar." She was just incandescent-absolutely wonderful. I also loved her as Carly's adoptive mom-I think!-in "General Hospital."I miss both and her Ms. Pleshette. God rest their souls!

Posted By Shelly Silver : January 31, 2008 10:56 am

I loved Ms. Nettleton and also had the privilege of seeing her in "Streetcar." She was just incandescent-absolutely wonderful. I also loved her as Carly's adoptive mom-I think!-in "General Hospital."I miss both and her Ms. Pleshette. God rest their souls!

Posted By Barbara Doss : January 31, 2008 11:56 am

What a lovely and talented woman.  I am so saddened by her death.  Her episode on the Golden Girls touches my heart everytime I see it.  She seemed like such a wonderful, warm and lovely person on the screen- I'm sure she was that way in real life as well.  I hope she knew how many fans she had who are really saddened at her passing.  I hope her passing was a peaceful one and that she was not alone.  How wonderful that we will always have her and the wonderful Suzanne Pleshette with us on the screen forever! 

Posted By Barbara Doss : January 31, 2008 11:56 am

What a lovely and talented woman.  I am so saddened by her death.  Her episode on the Golden Girls touches my heart everytime I see it.  She seemed like such a wonderful, warm and lovely person on the screen- I'm sure she was that way in real life as well.  I hope she knew how many fans she had who are really saddened at her passing.  I hope her passing was a peaceful one and that she was not alone.  How wonderful that we will always have her and the wonderful Suzanne Pleshette with us on the screen forever! 

Posted By Kevin Killian : February 1, 2008 2:01 pm

What a shame, I saw her just a few months back in the underrated Come Fly with Me.  I was one of those who sat there in the theater stunned at her portrayal of Blanche DuBois back in the early 1970s.  I was at a matinee and I wondered how she could scrape herself back together and do an evening performance, for she had given so much to her audience.  But she was a pro.  She played opposite James Farentino who was just out of his league I thought.  God bless Lois Nettleton.

Posted By Kevin Killian : February 1, 2008 2:01 pm

What a shame, I saw her just a few months back in the underrated Come Fly with Me.  I was one of those who sat there in the theater stunned at her portrayal of Blanche DuBois back in the early 1970s.  I was at a matinee and I wondered how she could scrape herself back together and do an evening performance, for she had given so much to her audience.  But she was a pro.  She played opposite James Farentino who was just out of his league I thought.  God bless Lois Nettleton.

Posted By Linda : February 19, 2008 11:28 am

Lois Nettleton was a great actress and she took a lot of pride in her freedom and ability as a woman to stand on her own two feet- she took care of herself  all her life, all 80 years of being a hard working actress and I am always disappointed that her brief marriage to Jean Shepherd is given so much weight- he was NOT a significant part of her life. Her mother was a significant part of her life and she was an incredibly devoted daughter to her – her freedom as a person and her desire to act and her spirituality were the other  significant aspects to her….I celebrate what an exceptional role model she was for so many women…..

Posted By Linda : February 19, 2008 11:28 am

Lois Nettleton was a great actress and she took a lot of pride in her freedom and ability as a woman to stand on her own two feet- she took care of herself  all her life, all 80 years of being a hard working actress and I am always disappointed that her brief marriage to Jean Shepherd is given so much weight- he was NOT a significant part of her life. Her mother was a significant part of her life and she was an incredibly devoted daughter to her – her freedom as a person and her desire to act and her spirituality were the other  significant aspects to her….I celebrate what an exceptional role model she was for so many women…..

Posted By Medusa : February 19, 2008 11:49 am

Thank you for mentioning her devotion to her beloved mother, which I had read of in a few places.  And you know how it is when celebrities mate, and mate each other, especially – it always gets a ton of press.  The abiding impression we get of Lois is of her individual and indomitable spirit and talent.  You can tell by the comments here how much she was loved and respected — and will be missed – by her audience.Thanks for the wonderful comments, Linda!– m

Posted By Medusa : February 19, 2008 11:49 am

Thank you for mentioning her devotion to her beloved mother, which I had read of in a few places.  And you know how it is when celebrities mate, and mate each other, especially – it always gets a ton of press.  The abiding impression we get of Lois is of her individual and indomitable spirit and talent.  You can tell by the comments here how much she was loved and respected — and will be missed – by her audience.Thanks for the wonderful comments, Linda!– m

Posted By Joe Mak : December 26, 2009 11:58 pm

I loved her. Those green eyes in all three episodes of The Fugitive. But it was her nature that got me. I want someone like her. My favorite actress of all time. The BEST ever ! I miss you Lois…

Posted By Joe Mak : December 26, 2009 11:58 pm

I loved her. Those green eyes in all three episodes of The Fugitive. But it was her nature that got me. I want someone like her. My favorite actress of all time. The BEST ever ! I miss you Lois…

Posted By Maximillian : April 6, 2010 8:35 am

I stumbled on this news only recently, after being compelled
to do a web search after re-visiting the classic Twilight Zone
episode that featured Lois.

Even IF that had been the only thing she ever did, she’d
be worthy of remembering.

So much is said of her talent and disposition.

I’d like to add, that IMO, nobody, but nobody
has ever looked better non camera than her.

Astonishing eternal beauty.
With apparently a personality to match.

I can’t get over the photos of her at one of her last
public appearances at the Twilight Zone convention,
still looking absolutely astonishing.

May God loves look after her and keep her for eternity.

She gave us so much.

Further comments and replies are welcome.

MaX

Posted By Maximillian : April 6, 2010 8:35 am

I stumbled on this news only recently, after being compelled
to do a web search after re-visiting the classic Twilight Zone
episode that featured Lois.

Even IF that had been the only thing she ever did, she’d
be worthy of remembering.

So much is said of her talent and disposition.

I’d like to add, that IMO, nobody, but nobody
has ever looked better non camera than her.

Astonishing eternal beauty.
With apparently a personality to match.

I can’t get over the photos of her at one of her last
public appearances at the Twilight Zone convention,
still looking absolutely astonishing.

May God loves look after her and keep her for eternity.

She gave us so much.

Further comments and replies are welcome.

MaX

Posted By Maximillian : April 6, 2010 8:40 am

“I loved her. Those green eyes in all three episodes of The Fugitive. But it was her nature that got me. I want someone like her. My favorite actress of all time. The BEST ever ! I miss you Lois…”

Well said Joe.

I can relate to your most heart felt sentiments.

Max

Posted By Maximillian : April 6, 2010 8:40 am

“I loved her. Those green eyes in all three episodes of The Fugitive. But it was her nature that got me. I want someone like her. My favorite actress of all time. The BEST ever ! I miss you Lois…”

Well said Joe.

I can relate to your most heart felt sentiments.

Max

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