David Nelson, who grew up under the spotlight, first on radio, then on television and film, has died of complications from colon cancer. He was 74.
Nelson was the last surviving cast member from The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, a sitcom featuring his actual family: his parents, Ozzie and Harriet, and his younger brother, Ricky. The show had its start on radio in 1944, and brought on David and Ricky in 1949. Four years later, the show moved to television, where it would become the longest-running family sitcom in history, ending in 1966.
(More on TIME.com: See the 100 best TV shows of all-TIME.)
The television program blurred the line between fact and fiction, bringing on David and Ricky’s actual wives to play their fictional wives, and even having David’s character go go college and join a fraternity when he did in real life. And even still, some blamed the program for portraying a too-perfect family that could not be replicated, not even by the real Nelson family. “It’s an awfully big load to carry, to be everyone’s fantasy family,” David told Esquire in 1971.
After the show ended, he had occasional acting roles; his final role was in Cry-Baby, director John Waters’ spoof of the 1950s. He is survived by his wife, his five children and his seven grandchildren. (via Los Angeles Times)
(More on TIME.com: See the top 10 TV series of 2010.)