Evelyn Nelson’s brief but impactful journey through the world of early Hollywood cinema unfolded against the backdrop of the Arizona landscape, where she was born in Chloride to William Henry and Georgia P. Nelson.
She shared this journey with her sister, Pauline D. Nelson, who was a year older.
Nelson’s celluloid debut occurred in 1920 with the comedy short “Springtime.” In this cinematic venture, she played the daughter to The Commissioner, a character brought to life by the legendary Oliver Hardy. Although her filmography comprises only fifteen credits, each entry reflects her commitment to the craft. Her roles spanned various studios, including Century, Christie, Fox, and Hal Roach.
The Western genre became a significant canvas for Nelson’s talents, particularly when she starred alongside Jack Hoxie, portraying the leading lady in nine Westerns. These roles not only showcased her acting prowess but also solidified her presence in a genre that resonated with audiences of the time.
Behind the scenes, Nelson found herself entangled in a real-life drama of love and heartbreak. Her heart led her to actor Wallace Reid, a figure already bound by marriage. Despite her affection, Reid chose to remain committed to his wife, leaving Nelson with a heartache that transcended the reel world.
Tragically, on a fateful day in June 1923, Evelyn Nelson’s life took a dark turn. She was discovered lifeless in a room filled with gas, her mother, Mrs. George P. Nelson, making the heartbreaking discovery upon her return from a visit to her son-in-law Charles L. King. The duo resided at 6231 De Longpre Avenue in Los Angeles, California.
The circumstances surrounding Nelson’s death hinted at a troubled soul. Police investigations uncovered two poignant notes in her room. One note alluded to her weariness, expressing her intent to bring an end to her own life. The second note held a poignant farewell: “I am just about gone and will soon be with my friend Wally.” This reference to Wally, undoubtedly Wallace Reid, echoed the pain of a heartbroken woman seeking solace in the afterlife.
Wallace Reid, the object of Nelson’s affection, had met his demise just a few months earlier, grappling with the demons of narcotics dependency. The parallel tragedies painted a poignant picture of lives intertwined with both the glitz of Hollywood and the harsh realities that lay beneath the surface.
Evelyn Nelson left this world at the tender age of 23, her promising career and personal struggles forever frozen in the annals of Hollywood history. Her brief but impactful presence serves as a reminder of the fragility that often hides behind the glamour of the silver screen, leaving behind a legacy that transcends the celluloid frames of her time.