Gene Nelson was a singing and dancing actor best remembered as the definitive cowboy Will Parker in the 1955 film version of "Oklahoma!"
His "Oklahoma!" narrative of the song "Kansas City" became a star turn as he spun a lasso along with his news of what was "up to date" in that wonderful, faraway place.
Nelson was most popular in Hollywood during the 1950s era of musical films, lending his easy drawl and loose-limbed dancing to "The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady," "Tea for Two," "Lullaby of Broadway," "Three Sailors and a Girl" and "This Is Paris."
He also appeared with Ronald Reagan in "She's Working Her Way Through College."
Unable to transfer successfully to non-musical films as the demand for song-and-dance men declined, Nelson turned to directing.
Nelson directed light films such as "Hootenanny Hoot," "Kissin' Cousins" and "Your Cheatin' Heart." For television, he directed episodes of the popular series "The Rifleman," "The Donna Reed Show," "I Dream of Jeannie" and "The Mod Squad."
He continued to take occasional dramatic acting roles, and in 1971 appeared on Broadway — singing and dancing again — with other stars of musicals in "Follies."
Nelson grew up in Santa Monica and was inspired to go into show business when he saw Fred Astaire dance in "Flying Down to Rio." Nelson began his career as a skater with Sonja Henie's ice show in the late 1940s. He danced on Broadway in "This Is the Army" and "Lend an Ear," and moved easily into dancing and singing roles in Hollywood.