Those who grew up in the 1950s and '60s had plenty of wonderful fathers to look up to – they were right there on their TV screens. Ward Cleaver (played by Hugh Beaumont) of Leave it to Beaver… Jim Anderson (played by Robert Young) of Father Knows Best… and maybe the greatest of them all, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet’s Ozzie Nelson, who would have turned 106 today.
Nelson wasn't only playing a part, of course. Long before Ozzy and Sharon and the Osbourne clan captivated viewers, Ozzie and Harriet were the must-see real-life TV family. Nelson really was the father of the show's two sons, David and Ricky, and he was in reality the husband of TV wife Harriet. In fact, the show was conceived because Nelson – a busy bandleader before sitcom success – wanted to spend more time being a husband and father.
And – on the show, at least – he was a dream of a dad. He gave advice, but he wasn't overly stuffy. Sometimes his advice was a little off, sometimes he bumbled things a bit, but it made him all the more lovable. Seemingly he was always around, always available. And he brought up a happy, well-adjusted TV family.
The Nelsons were playing fictional versions of themselves, but it didn't matter. Audiences of the '50s and ‘60s loved getting what seemed to be a glimpse into the real life of beloved stars… and a couple of teen heartthrobs, too. And they loved watching Ozzie be a dad – the perfect dad, even with a few imperfections.
Written by Linnea Crowther. Originally published March 2012.