Miriam Nelson

Beverly Hills, California

Sep 21, 1919 – Aug 12, 2018 (Age 98)

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Miriam Nelson, Hollywood choreographer who staged some of the most delightful dance numbers ever filmed and with a career spanning the golden eras of stage, screen, and television, died peacefully Sunday August 12th at home in Beverly Hills, California. She was 98 years old.
Miriam Nelson (born Miriam Lois Frankel on September 21, 1919 in Chicago, Illinois) began tap dancing at a very young age. When she was fourteen years old, she moved with her family to New York and performed at the famous Billy Roses Casa Mañana (with dance partner Van Johnson). She went on to perform in six Broadway musicals from 1939-1943: Sing Out The News, Yokel Boy, Very Warm For May, Higher and Higher, Panama Hattie, and Lets Face It. by the likes of Kaufman & Hart, Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein & Vincent Minnelli, Rogers and Hart and 2 shows by Cole Porter. These shows starred Buddy Ebsen, Phil Silvers, Eve Arden, Jack Haley, Danny Kaye, Nanette Fabray, Vivian Vance, Ethel Merman, Betty Hutton and her good friends and fellow frequent chorus girls June Allyson and Vera Ellen. In 1941, she was known as The Best Chorus Girl on Broadway.
After her marriage to fellow hoofer and former skater Gene Nelson, the couple made the move to California where Miriam landed a 7 year contract at Paramount Studios after just two days in Hollywood, during a chance lunch in the studio commissary!
Throughout her performing career she appeared in such Hollywood classics as Double Indemnity, Cover Girl, The Jolson Story, Breakfast at Tiffanys and Pillow Talk.
When Gene was signed by Warner Bros. to star in a series of musical films, she assisted and co-choreographed his dance numbers and coached Doris Day ((who became a life-long friend) ) and his other female costars. In his films: Tea for Two, Lullaby of Broadway, The Daughter of Rosie OGrady, and Shes Working Her Way Through College. At a time when Hollywood was dominated by male choreographers, Miriam became a major force in the field.
After her divorce from Gene Nelson, Miriam choreographed a successful string of films for Columbia and Paramount Studios and five films with her dear friend Blake Edwards. Her feature film credits include: Breakfast at Tiffanys, The Jolson Story, Picnic, Hawaii, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, and The Apartment
She expanded her activities to directing and choreographing for television, special theatrical events, and nightclub acts.
For Television she staged and choreographed Judy Garlands first TV special, The Red Skeleton Show, The Colgate Comedy Hour, Opening Day At Disneyland (Walt Disney hired her to choreograph dance numbers around Disneyland, including the renown Golden Horseshoe Revue), Father Knows Best, The Lucy Show, The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, Designing Women, two Academy Award telecasts and Ziegfeld: The Man and His Women (Primetime Emmy Nominee)...to name a few.
Night club artists Carol Channing, Ann Miller, Barbara Eden, Howard Keel, Steve and Edie, Donald OConnor, Jane Russell, Gordon and Sheila MacRae, and the world famous Playmates - all had staging and choreography created by Miriam Nelson.
Miriam conceived and staged shows for Radio City Music Hall, The Hollywood Bowl, arena shows for Jim Henson, two Super Bowl half-time shows, the opening of the New Madison Square Garden with Bob Hope and the very first Disney On Parade.
In 1953, Miriam became one of the founding members of SHARE (Share Happily and Reap Endlessly), a non-profit organization composed of women passionately dedicated and committed to raising funds for developmentally disabled, abused and neglected children, as well as medical research for all forms of developmental disabilities. Just a month ago, Miriam was honored at SHAREs 65th event where she received a standing ovation.
Miriam was known as the Marni Nixon of Tap and provided the tap sounds in many movies including those of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Ginger Rogers and many more& AND she was still tap dancing this past week at the age of 98.
Someone recently asked her if she would ever retire. Her answer Not as long as the phone keeps ringing and in 2009, her autobiography, My Life Dancing with the Stars, was published.
Known throughout the business as an upbeat person and joy to work with, she nonetheless challenged all who worked with her and drew the very best out of them. John Wayne once shouted to a group taking a break on set as Miriam walked by, Run for the hills, fellas! Or Miriam will make you dance! And she did, for thousands of performers throughout the decades.
She was predeceased by second husband, producer Jack Myers, and is survived by her son Chris Nelson, her three grandsons Christopher, Josh, Matt, and her great granddaughter, Emma.

Guest Book

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Miriam's first Broadway show "Sing out the News"
June Allison [far left]
Miriam Nelson [far right]

Miriam what a wonderful talented Lady. My daughter Jill and I were thrilled to meet her at Cypress Inn celebrating Doris Days Birthday celebration!! She was so kind snd gracious to us. RIP GREAT LADY!! Nancy Sungenis

Dancer for the Red Skelton Show.

RIP sweet lady you will be missed

It was such an honor to not only meet you, but to have quite a lengthy conversation about you working with Doris Day. Such a lovely woman and true trailblazer. Now you're Dancing in the Stars of Heaven!

RIP dear Miriam. A wonderful moment in time with you. God bless xxx

I never had the privilege of meeting Ms. Nelson, but I always admired her work. She led a long and fascinating life and I am amazed that she was still tap dancing until recently. God rest her soul.

She danced until the end. What a ride beautiful lady. So much hard work, talent and love. It was such an honour to spend some time with Miriam and interview her last year. She was so generous and so elegant, and her friendship with James was beautiful. Your light will always shine so bright.. xoxo

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