Obit of the Day: “Nels Oleson”
Richard Bull, best known for played the harried husband and father Nels Oleson on Little House on the Prairie, died on February 3, 2014 according to Alison Angrim, the actress who played his daughter Nellie.
A native of Zion, Illinois, Mr. Bull got his start in theater in Chicago at the Goodman Theater. He would move to Los Angeles in the 1950s to start a career in film and television that would span 55 years.
His first on-screen appearance was in the 1950s drama Medic. He would appear in small roles in such films as Fear Strikes Out, Three Came Back, and the original Thomas Crown Affair. On television, he would guest star on Gomer Pyle, Alfred Hitchock Presents, and Peyton Place. The first regular role he landed was as a doctor on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea where he appeared in 27 episodes.
In 1974, he was cast as Nels Oleson, proprietor of Oleson’s Mercantile in Walnut Grove, on Little House on the Prairie. Nels Oleson was a sympathetic character who was constantly bullied and belittled by his wife Harriet and his two spoiled children Nellie and Willie. Mr. Bull would appear in the series entire nine-year run including three television specials.
After the show ended in 1983, Mr. Bull continued to work for the next three decades. He made appearances on Highway to Heaven, which co-starred his former LHOP castmates Michael Landon and Victor French, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, and ER. His film roles were fewer but he appeared in the acclaimed films Sugar and Normal.
Mr. Bull’s final on-screen appearance was in the Chicago-based series Boss in 2011 as an “elderly farmer.” Mr. Bull was living at the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement community at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife, Bobbi Collentine, also an actor, to whom he was marred for 65 years.
Ms. Angrim wrote about Mr. Bull, “ In real life, he was just as kind, intelligent, thoughtful and reasonable as you’d expect Nels Oleson to be.”
Sources: HighlightHollywood.com, IMDB.com, and Wikipedia
(Image of Richard Bull as Nells Oleson form 1974 is copyright NBC/Universal and courtesy of IMDB.com)