Me-TV has been showing holiday episodes of various shows, not all of which they carry on their usual line-up which is great, and I’ve been watching some of them. Last week I caught a Christmas episode of MacGyver and it reminded me that I needed to write a guest star post about the wonderful Jeanette Nolan, who is pretty great in that ep.
Jeanette Nolan has 200 credits listed on the IMDB and most of them are TV shows. There is plenty of chances to catch this wonderful character actress in reruns, especially if you like Westerns because I think she was in every Western TV show that ever aired. That’s a slight exaggeration because she was never on Big Valley or High Chaparral, but she did do a whole lot, including: The Restless Gun, Lawman, The Rough Riders, Black Saddle, The Rebel, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Bat Masterson, Outlaws, Have Gun-Will Travel, Laramie, Wagon Train (with her husband John McIntire), A Man Called Shenandoah, Bonanza, Laredo, The Virginian (she did 27 episodes as a recurring character), Alias Smith and Jones, and Gunsmoke (which I will talk about more in a minute).
The woman had a niche for a good long while. Part of that was probably due to the fact that both she and her husband sort of specialized in playing characters that were much older than they actually were. You need an older, spitfire of a woman on the prairie, then you get Jeanette Nolan. Because there seems to be a touch of spitfire to every character I’ve seen her play and I’m not complaining about that.
Jeanette Nolan plays one of my favorite characters in all of the reruns I watch or have watched. Dirty Sally is a recurring character on Gunsmoke (she was in 8 episodes, three of them playing Dirty Sally, but the rest of them playing different characters, including Festus’s aunt, I believe) and she ended up getting her own series called Dirty Sally that only ran for 14 episodes and I’m sorry I’ve yet to see it. Dirty Sally is a fabulous character. A dirty, old, toothless woman that uses chewing tobacco and tells everyone what she thinks and saves Dack Rambo and pals around with drunk Jack Albertson in various episodes. It’s an incredibly fun character and Jeanette Nolan owns it with every fiber of her being. She made herself look toothless and about twenty years older than she actually was. Fantastic.
But a good character actress, and Jeanette Nolan is a good character actress, cannot be contained. So along with all of the Westerns, she also did a lot of police/detective shows including: Dragnet (1958), Peter Gunn, Perry Mason, Hawaiian Eye, Hawaii Five-0 (a nifty episode that I like a lot), Ironside, the Longstreet pilot (how I miss TV movie night on Me-TV), Mannix, The Streets of San Francisco, Police Woman, Columbo, Charlie’s Angels, Hart to Hart, TJ Hooker, Matt Houston, Cagney and Lacey, and Hunter.
If you like medical shows, she did Ben Casey, Marcus Welby MD, Dr. Kildare, Medical Center, Trapper John MD, and Emergency! (her character in that episode is a woman spending her 80th birthday in the hospital; she would have been 61 when the episode aired).
If you prefer family friendly fare, she was on Lassie, My Three Sons, The Mothers-in-Law, and The Waltons. If your family is weird, you can find her on Thriller, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Twilight Zone, and Night Gallery. If your family is funny, she appeared on F-Troop, Night Court, and Golden Girls (playing Rose’s mother even though she was only 11 years older than Betty White).
And if none of that excites you, then perhaps knowing that she did both Love Boat and Fantasy Island will.
Because we all know that’s gold.
And so is Jeanette Nolan.