On this day April 4th, I wanted to take a look at a celebrity's birthday not just because we were do for an article on it, but it is my birthday! No presents please. For this article I picked a star who is not really a classic Hollywood star but I respect and have followed his work for years. On this day in 1944, accomplished actor Craig T. Nelson was born. Nelson was born in Spokane, Washington, the son of Vera Margaret (née Spindler), a dancer, and businessman Armand Gilbert Nelson. Nelson has a brown belt in karate and attended the University of Arizona and Central Washington University.
His father, Armand Nelson, played the drums in Bing Crosby's high school band before giving up music to work in an aluminum plant, while his mother, Vera Nelson, was a professional dancer. A towering 6'3" with a muscular frame, Nelson excelled at golf, football, basketball, and baseball in high school. Despite his athletic prowess, it was Nelson's acting talent that earned him a scholarship to study drama at the University of Arizona.
In 1969, after meeting a "drunken and insane so-called producer" who wanted Nelson to co-star in a film with Wally Cox, Nelson dropped out of college and moved to Hollywood. Around this time, Nelson changed his middle name to Theodore—he had discovered that there was already a Craig Richard Nelson (The Paper Chase; Honey I Shrunk the Kids) registered in the Screen Actors Guild. Upon arriving in Los Angeles, Nelson worked briefly as a security guard in a soap factory until he found work as a comedy writer. In 1970, he was hired to write material for legendary radio comedians Al Lohman and Roger Barkley and for the comedy TV series The Tim Conway Show. Nelson then made his acting debut in the 1971 vampire horror sequel The Return of Count Yorga. He landed several other minor acting gigs during this period, including a guest spot on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1973.
By that time Nelson and his wife Robin already had two children (Tiffany and Christopher) and were struggling to pay the bills, so Nelson decided to quit acting and move his family to rural Mount Shasta in northern California. During his time off from acting, Nelson cycled through a variety of professions. He worked as a carpenter, logger, plumber and teacher, but without formal training in any of these professions he again struggled to make ends meet. By 1977, Nelson's family was on welfare and receiving food stamps.
In 1978, Nelson and his wife divorced and he moved back to Hollywood to try his luck with acting once again. He quickly landed a role in Al Pacino's 1979 film And Justice For All, which was nominated for two Academy Awards. Nelson got his big break three years later when he starred in the 1982 horror classic, Poltergeist. Produced by Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist was both critically acclaimed and widely popular, establishing Nelson as a Hollywood notable. Fueled by the success of Poltergeist, Nelson enjoyed steady work in television and film throughout the 1980s and beyond.
He played Tom Cruise's football coach in the 1983 film All the Right Moves, then earned critical praise for his portrayal of Air Force Colonel Raynor Sarnac in the 1984 TV series Call to Glory. Impressed by his depiction of a football coach in All the Right Moves, in 1989 ABC tapped Nelson to play Hayden Fox on the TV series Coach. Nelson's particular brand of deadpan humor proved a perfect fit for the tough but good-humored Coach Hayden. Coach ran for eight seasons and earned Nelson the 1992 Emmy Award (outstanding lead actor in a comedy series).
Since Coach went off the air in 1997, Nelson has landed several other major leading roles. From 2000-2004, he starred as police Chief Jack Mannion in the CBS police drama The District. Nelson then moved into voice acting, playing the voice of Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) in Disney's highly acclaimed 2004 animated film The Incredibles. Nelson is currently starring in the NBC drama Parenthood, after turning down the lead role in the ABC comedy Modern Family. No matter what Nelson does, he does it with style and talent. Even the worst shows or movies, Nelson has helped to make better and continues to as he reaches another birthday...