Last year, 2012, saw the passing of one of the most famous actresses of “B” movies of the 1940s, Eylse Knox.
Although she made only one horror film during her long career, The Mummy’s Tomb with Lon Chaney Jr., she is someone associated with Horror Films. Perhaps that’s because she spent almost all of her peak years at Universal, the studio known for that genre.
Hello Everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here today to discuss the beautiful Ms. Knox, not as a star of B films but as a matriarch of a new show biz dynasty.
A few weeks ago we started a discussion about the family business of “Show Business,” how children of people who are actors and directors often go into the same profession. There are obvious examples: The Barrymores, The Fondas, The Hustons, The Redgraves.
And there are some show business dynasties which are less obvious, usually when one or another of the clan surpasses the others in popularity. For example, there’s the Knox-Harmon-Nelson clan, a melding of two of the 1940s families of modest successes who have spawned a new generation.
It started with Elyse Knox and Tom Harmon. He had been a very successful football star at the University of Michigan, a Heisman Trophy winner. He went pro, but then The U. S. was thrust into WW II and Harmon became a pilot and a decorated hero winning both the Purple Heart and a Silver Star.
Although he had a brief career as an actor, after the War he returned to football and signed with The Los Angeles Rams. After that he had a successful career as a sports announcer.
Meanwhile Eylse had semi retired to bear their three children, Kristin, Kelly and Mark. The Harmons had a beach house in Laguna Beach and one of their neighbors there were Ozzie and Harriet Nelson and their sons David and Ricky. Kristin set her sights on Ricky Nelson then at the height of his popularity on TV and with his hit records.
Though they were very young at the time they were allowed to date, and they eventually married. Kristin tried acting, but soon Elyse and Harriet were grandmothers to Tracy Nelson (who’s had a modest success on TV), twins Gunnar and Matthew, (who grew up to form the successful rock duo, Nelson), and later, Sam.
Kristin’s gave up acting but has become a well known painter. Sister Kelly (who was once married to John DeLorean, of automobile fame), also entered the business. She had a successful TV commercial spot as the Tic Tac girl. But her acting career never clicked.
Their kid brother, though, has become a great success as an actor. Mark Harmon started out by seemingly duplicating his father’s career, as a football star. He was star quarterback for the UCLA Bruins.
Today, anyone who watches television knows Harmon as Leroy Jethro Gibbs on the hit series, NCIS, which has been a staple on CBS for years and is still one of the Top Ten in the ratings. Although his film career never took off he has appeared in dozens of features.
Mark’s been married for the last 26 years to actress Pam Dawber of Seventies tv sitcom Mork and Mindy fame (an early Robin Williams played Mork). Their older son, Sean Thomas Harmon, has begun his acting career by appearing on several NCIS episodes — as the young Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
Thus we’re in the third generation of Harmons. And Nelsons.