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Lois Nettleton

Updated on August 10, 2016
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I'm a fan of classic TV shows and films. My articles focus on the character actors and actress who usually played supporting roles.

Bio Stats

Born: 16 August 1927 (Oak Park, Illinois, USA)

Died: 18 January 2008 (Woodland Hills, California, USA)

Cause of Death: Complications from Lung Cancer

Film and TV Appearances: 123+

Years Active: 1953 - 2006

Award Nominations: 10 (3 wins)

Hawaii Five-O (1968-1979)

as Chelsea Merriman in "Sing a Song of Suspense" (season 8)
as Chelsea Merriman in "Sing a Song of Suspense" (season 8)

Early Life

Lois June Nettleton was born on 16 August 1927 to Edward and Virginia Nettleton. In 1948, she was competed in beauty pageants as Miss Chicago and then as Miss Illinois (she was a semi-finalist in the Miss America pageant) before turning her attention to acting.

Studying at first at the Goodman Theater in Chicago, she then moved to New York City and joined The Actors' Studio. She eventually made her Broadway debut in 1949, acting in a number of plays (including as understudy in the 1955 production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof where she gained the attention of several theatre critics) and television shows before moving to Los Angeles to take care of her ailing mother.

Bonanza (1959-1973)

as Elizabeth Ann Clauson in the episodes "The Pursued: Part 1" and "The Pursued: Part 2" (season 8)
as Elizabeth Ann Clauson in the episodes "The Pursued: Part 1" and "The Pursued: Part 2" (season 8)


Although she made an uncredited appearance in 1957's Face in the Crowd, Lois didn't make her first credited appearance on film until 1962, when she appeared Dorothea Bates in Period of Adjustment.

Other films she appeared in were Come Fly with Me (1963); West of Montana (1964); The Bamboo Saucer (1968); The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1969); Pigeons (1970); Dirty Dingus Magee (1970); The Honkers (1972); The Man in the Glass Booth (1975); Echoes of Summer (1976); Deadly Blessing (1981); Soggy Bottom, U.S.A. (1981); Butterfly (1982); The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982); and Mirror, Mirror 2: Raven Dance (1994).

The joy in acting is playing as many different characters as possible.

— Lois Nettleton


After making her television debut in 1953 in an episode of the TV series Man Against Crime, Nettleton appeared regularly in a number of shows...

  • The Brighter Day (1954-1962) as Patsy Dennis from 1954 to 1957
  • Accidental Family (1967-1968) as Sue Kramer
  • You Can't Take It with You (1987-1988) as Penny Vanderhof Sycamore - 3 episodes
  • In the Heat of the Night (1988-1995) as Joanne St. John - season 2
  • General Hospital (1963-present) as Virginia Benson from 1996 to 1998
  • Crossing Jordan (2001-2007) as Evelyn - 5 episodes

Some of the TV movies and mini-series she appeared in were Meet Me in St. Louis (1959); Valley of Mystery (1967); Macbeth (1968); Any Second Now (1969); Weekend of Terror (1970); Terror in the Sky (1971); Women in Chains (1972); Fear on Trial (1975); The American Woman: Portraits of Courage (1976); Washington: Behind Closed Doors (1977); Centennial (1978-1979); Brass (1985); Manhunt for Claude Dallas (1986); The Making of a Hollywood Madam (1996); and The Christmas Card (2006).

Television shows she guest starred on included Studio One in Hollywood; Camera Three; Kraft Theatre; Decoy; Play of the Week; Naked City; Route 66; The Doctors and the Nurses; Dr Kildare; The Fugitive; Gunsmoke; The Virginian; The F.B.I.; The Name of the Game; Kung Fu; Medical Center; Insight; Hotel; The Golden Girls; The Facts of Life; Full House; Murder, She Wrote; Seinfeld; Coach; and The Pretender.

In the Heat of the Night (1988-1995)

as Joanne St. John (season 2)
as Joanne St. John (season 2)

Stage and Other Work

Nettleton made her Broadway debut in 1949 in the play The Biggest Thief in Town. Other Broadway productions she appeared in were Darkness at Noon (1951); God and Kate Murphy (1959); Silent Night, Lonely Night (1959-1960); The Wayward Stork (1956); A Streetcar Named Desire (1973); They Knew What They Wanted (1976); and Strangers (1979).

Towards the end of her career, she became a voice actress. She appeared on seven episodes of CBS Radio Mystery Theater from 1974 to 1976. Later she lent her voice to the following animated productions:

  • Spider-Man (animated TV series) in 1997
  • Herc's Adventures (video game) in 1997
  • Mickey's House of Villains (video) in 2001
  • House of Mouse (animated TV series) in 2002

Nettleton was nominated for 10 awards during her career...

  • Winner - Clarence Derwent Award (1959): For God and Kate Murphy
  • Nominated Laurel Awards (1963): Top New Female Personality - 9th place
  • Nominated Daytime Emmy Award (1975): Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Special - The ABC Afternoon Playbreak for the episode "The Last Bride of Salem".
  • Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award (1976): Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in Comedy or Drama Special - Fear on Trial (1975) for playing: "Nan Claybourne"
  • Nominated - Tony Award (1976): Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for They Knew What They Wanted
  • Winner - Daytime Emmy Award (1977): Outstanding Achievement in Daytime Drama Specials - The American Woman: Portraits of Courage (1976) shared with Gaby Monet (producer/writer) and Anne Grant (writer)
  • Winner - Daytime Emmy Award (1983): Outstanding Individual Achievement in Religious Programming - Performers - Insight for the episode "A Gun for Mandy".
  • Nominated - Razzie Awards (1983): Worst Supporting Actress - Butterfly (1982)
  • Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award (1987): Outstanding Guest Performer in a Comedy Series - The Golden Girls for playing "Jean" in the episode "Isn't It Romantic".
  • Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award (1989): Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series - In the Heat of the Night for playing "Joanne St. John".

In 1960, she married disc jockey and writer, Jean Shepherd (she had met him when she called his show) but the marriage ended in divorce seven years later.

Lois Nettleton died on 18 January 2008 leaving no survivors. She is buried at Saint Raymond's Cemetery (New) in the Bronx, New York, USA.

Period Of Adjustment
Period Of Adjustment

Lois Nettleton made her first credited screen debut as Dorothea Bates in this film.



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