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Made possible by the John H. Mitchell Television Programming Endowment

The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet—70th Anniversary Celebration

The Nelson family.
June 12, 2022 - 7:00 pm
In-person: 
actor-musician Sam Nelson, actress Tracy Nelson, son and daughter of Ricky Nelson.

Of the many sitcoms from the 1950s depicting a homogenous vision of suburban family life, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet (1952-1966) remains among the most beloved in the public imagination. The indelible space the iconic program continues to hold in pop culture is undoubtedly owed to the collective talents and charisma of the real-life Nelson family, cast in the program as fictionalized versions of themselves. Created by former bandleader Ozzie Nelson and starring himself and spouse, former singer and RKO contract payer Harriet Nelson, and young sons David and Ricky, Ozzie & Harriet ingeniously blurred elements of Hollywood and reality, not only through casting but by incorporating a replica of their Los Angeles home as the setting for the gently comedic series. By extension, the natural chemistry between the family members, first successfully explored by Ozzie on radio and in a feature film (Here Come the Nelsons, 1952), adapted seamlessly to the intimacy of the small screen.

The timeless popularity of Ozzie & Harriet is anchored by the enduring legacy of Ricky Nelson. Early in the series' long run, Ricky emerged from the gifted family ensemble with a scene-stealing rebellious streak and his own catchphrase (“I don’t mess around, boy”). When Ricky showed an interest in rock & roll in real-life, Ozzie intuitively incorporated his son’s innate musical talent into a special episode, “Ricky, the Drummer” (1957), that catapulted the teen into superstardom, with album sales that rivaled Elvis for a time. Over a decades-long music career, Rick Nelson would go on to establish himself as an artist of considerable depth beyond his famous TV role. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, two years after his tragic death at age 45.

Please join us as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet with a special screening of two episodes recently restored by MPI Home Video from 35mm negatives held at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Presented with original commercials and bonus archival footage.

—Mark Quigley, John H. Mitchell Television Curator

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet: “Ricky, the Drummer”

U.S., 4/10/1957

Ricky’s dream of sitting in with a traveling band comes true when Ozzie secretly arranges for him to sub for the drummer and sing a song. The episode launched Ricky Nelson's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career as a musician.

DCP, b&w, 30 min. ABC. Production: Stage Five Productions. Producer: Ozzie Nelson. Director: Ozzie Nelson. Writers: Ozzie Nelson, Dick Bensfield, Perry Grant, Don Nelson. With: Ozzie Nelson, Harriet Nelson, David Nelson, Ricky Nelson, Pete Candoli.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet: “Tutti Frutti Ice Cream”

U.S., 12/11/1957

A late-night craving sends Ozzie and pal Darby (Parley Baer) on a seemingly impossible quest to find tutti frutti ice cream. After airing, the episode sparked a nationwide spike in retail sales of the flavor.

DCP, b&w, 30 min. ABC. Production: Stage Five Productions. Producer: Ozzie Nelson. Director: Ozzie Nelson. Writers: Don Nelson, Jay Sommers, Ozzie Nelson. Story: Perry Grant, Dick Bensfield. With: Ozzie Nelson, Harriet Nelson, David Nelson, Ricky Nelson, Parley Baer.