James Nelson Dead: Sound Editor, Producer Dies at 82

James Nelson, a sound editor, supervising sound editor and producer for film and television with more than 180 credits, including “Easy Rider,” “Five Easy Pieces,” “The Exorcist” and “American Graffiti,” has died. He was 82.

Director Monte Hellman, on whose classic 1971 film “Two-Lane Blacktop” Nelson worked, said, “He was one of my closest, dearest friends. He’s worked on all my movies. His first work was in sound editing and he did that on all my movies and even on the last one, ‘Road to Nowhere,’ he came in as a consultant just to make sure everything was right because I just wouldn’t do anything without his approval.”

Nelson was the supervising sound editor, often uncredited, on some of the classics of 1960s and ’70s cinema: Richard Rush’s film “Psych-Out” and Rafelson’s classic “Head,” both in 1968; “Easy Rider” in 1969; Rafelson’s “Five Easy Pieces”; Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun”; Jack Nicholson’s directing debut, “Drive, He Said”; Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Last Picture Show”; Bob Fosse’s “Cabaret”; Michael Ritchie’s “The Candidate”; Bob Rafelson’s “The King of Marvin Gardens”; William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist”; George Lucas’ “American Graffiti”; and Terrence Malick’s “Badlands,” among others.

Nelson was said to have been a producer on “Star Wars” but was said to have had a fight with Lucas and have pulled his name from the credits.

Nelson was the uncredited sound effects editor on the 1956 film “Rock Around the Clock,” starring Bill Haley and the Comets, and on a number of other rock ‘n’ roll themed movies in the late ’50s and early ’60s, as well as on the 1958 film “The Girl Most Likely,” starring Jane Powell; John Frankenheimer’s 1962 “Birdman of Alcatraz” (on which he was credited for special sound effects); 1963 musical adaptation “Bye Bye Birdie”; a number of the so-called beach party movies.

His feature producting credits include an associate producer credit on James Bridges’ nuclear meltdown thriller “The China Syndrome,” starring Jane Fonda.

TV series credits include “Circus Boy” in 1957, “The Frank Sinatra Show,” “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,” “Father Knows Best,” “Naked City,” “Dennis the Menace,” “The Donna Reed Show,” “Hazel” (on which he was credited as the supervising sound editor on all 114 episodes), “The Andy Griffith Show” (credited sound editor for 30 episodes), “Get Smart” (credited supervising sound editor on 30 episodes), “The Monkees” (credited on 58 episodes); “Tarzan” (59 episodes); and “The Brady Bunch” (49 episodes).

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