Nancy Kelly was an American actress, who was a major movie leading lady in the 1930s, making 36 movies between 1926 and 1977, including portraying Tyrone Power’s love interest in the classic Jesse James, which also featured Henry Fonda, and playing opposite Spencer Tracy in Stanley and Livingstone later that same year.
Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, Kelly was a child star, who had made so many movies by the time she was nine years old, that Film Daily called her “the most photographed child in America due to commercial posing.” She also played Dorothy Gale in a 1933 to 1934 radio show based on the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
As an adult actress, she was leading lady in a range of movies in the 1930s and ’40s, and was a two-time winner of the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre as well as a Tony Award winner for her performance in The Bad Seed, which she followed up by starring in the film version in 1956 and receiving a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also starred on television, including leading roles in “The Storm” for Thriller in 1961 and ” “The Lonely Hour” for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1963. In 1957 Kelly was nominated for the Emmy Awards for Best Single Performance by an Actress for TV episode “The Pilot” in Studio One.
She was the older sister of actor Jack Kelly, who played “Bart Maverick” alongside James Garner and Roger Moore in the television series Maverick. Nancy Kelly and Jack Kelly strongly resembled each other in their facial structures but never acted together in a film. Nancy Kelly’s acting career was much more successful than her younger brother’s, whose career gradually faded out after Maverick.