Harriet Nelson's transition from Ozzie Nelson's band singer to his wife and then mother of their two sons transformed her into the matriarch of one of television's most wholesome and beloved families.
With Ozzie as the helpful, willing but sometimes befuddled husband and Harriet as his knowing, soft-spoken spouse who never strayed far from the kitchen, the Nelsons became a weekly symbol of a simpler, gentler America.
"The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," which began on radio in 1944 and aired on television from 1952 to 1966, is the longest-running family sitcom in TV history. In the process of producing 435 episodes, the Nelsons became an American institution.
Unlike the radio Nelsons, their TV counterparts increasingly became embroiled in the growing pains of the two boys. Rick went from a kid with a crew-cut haircut to a singing idol. The more staid David attended law school and went into practice. And when they both married in real life, their wives were brought into the show.
The closeness that Americans sensed from their favorite TV family was not coincidental. The Nelsons themselves were described as a tight-knit, loving bunch who never let their show business success cripple their home life.