(July 10, 1931 - February 6, 1968) U.S.A.
Nick Adams was an American film and television actor and screenwriter. He was noted for his roles in several Hollywood films during the 1950s and 1960s along with his starring role in the ABC television series The Rebel (1959). Decades after Nick's death from a prescription drug overdose at the age of 36, his widely publicized friendships with James Dean and Elvis Presley would stir speculation about both his private life and the circumstances of his death. In an AllMovie synopsis for Nick's last film, reviewer Dan Pavlides wrote, "Plagued by personal excesses, he will be remembered just as much for what he could have done in cinema as what he left behind."
Adams was born Nicholas Aloysius Adamshock in Nanticoke, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania to Peter Adamshock and Catherine Kutz. His father was a Ukrainian-born anthracite coal miner. The family did leave when he was five years old, after Adams' uncle was killed in a mining accident. Nick's father found a job as janitor of an apartment building along with living quarters in the basement. His mother worked for Western Electric in Kearny, New Jersey.
While still in high school Adams was offered a playing position in minor league baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals, but he turned it down because he was uninterested in the low pay. He briefly worked as a bat boy for the Jersey City Giants, a local minor league team. Some sources recount Adams made money as a teenager by hustling pool games.
In 1948, while visiting New York, 17-year-old Nick wandered into an audition for Seán O'Casey's play The Silver Tassie and met Jack Palance (who was understudying for Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire). When Palance, whose father was also a Ukrainian coal miner from Northeastern Pennsylvania, asked why he wanted to act, Adams replied, "For the money." Palance introduced him to the director of The Silver Tassie as Nick Adams. After the director declined to hire him as an extra, Palance sent Adams to a nearby junior theater group where he got his first acting job playing the role of Muff Potter in Tom Sawyer.
While trying to get a role in the play Mister Roberts, Nick had a brief encounter with Henry Fonda. who advised him to get some training as an actor. Nick's friends teased him about his acting ambitions. After a year of unpaid acting in New York, Nick hitchiked to Los Angeles.
Nick was an avid reader of fan magazines and came to believe he could meet agents and directors by being seen at the Warners Theater in Beverly Hills. He got a job there as doorman, usher, and maintenance man, which included changing the notices on the theater marquee. He was fired after he put his own name up as a publicity stunt.
Nick's earliest reported paid acting job in Los Angeles was a stage role at the Las Palmas Theater in a comedy called Mr. Big Shot. Although he was paid about $60 a week, Nick had to pay $175 for membership in Actors Equity. He also earned $25 one night at the Mocambo nightclub, filling in for Pearl Bailey who had fallen ill.
After three years of struggle and optimistic self-promotion, his first film role came in 1951, an uncredited one-liner as a Western Union delivery boy in George Seaton's Nick's (1952). This allowed him to join the Screen Actors Guild, but he was unable to find steady acting work, even when "creatively" claiming he had appeared with Palance in New York. Undaunted, Nick joined a theater workshop run by Arthur Kennedy. In January 1952, Nick enlisted in the United States Coast Guard.
Two and a half years later, in June 1954 his ship docked in Long Beach harbor and after a brash audition for director John Ford during which Nick did impressions of James Cagney and other celebrities while dressed in his Coast Guard uniform, he took his accumulated leave and appeared as Seaman Reber in the 1955 film version of Mister Roberts. Nick then completed his military service, returned to Los Angeles and at the age of 23, based on his work in Mister Roberts, was able to secure a powerful agent and signed with Warner Brothers.
Nick had a small role (as Chick) in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Also that year Nick played the role of "Bomber" the paper boy in the widely popular film adaptation of Picnic (1955) which was mostly filmed on location in Kansas and starred William Holden, Kim Novak, and Susan Strasberg. He was not perceived by casting directors as tall or handsome enough for leading roles but during the late 1950s Adams had supporting roles in several successful television productions including one episode of Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958) starring Steve McQueen and films such as Our Miss Brooks (1956), No Time for Sergeants (1958), Teacher's Pet (1958), and Pillow Talk (1959).
Nick may have first met James Dean in December 1950 while jitterbugging for a soft drink commercial filmed at Griffith Park. Nick spent three years in the US Coast Guard between the time this commercial was shot in late 1950 and the start of filming for Rebel Without a Cause in March 1955. Actor Jack Grinnage, who played Moose, recalled, "Off the set, Nick, Dennis (Hopper), and the others would go out together--almost like the gang we portrayed--but Jimmy and Corey Allen... were not a part of that." They became friends during filming. During breaks, Dean and Nick entertained cast and crew with impersonations of Marlon Brando and Elia Kazan (who had directed Dean in East of Eden).
A 1955 Warner Brothers press release quoted Dean as saying, "I shall be busy for the rest of 1955, and Nick will be doing film work for the next six months. Come 1956, however, I wouldn't be surprised to find myself with Nick doing a two-a-night nightclub routine--or acting in a comedy by William Shakespeare." When production was wrapped, Dean said in another press release, "I now regard Natalie (Wood), Nick, and Sal (Mineo) as co-workers; I regard them as friends... about the only friends I have in this town. And I hope we all work together again soon."
Following Dean's 1955 death in an automobile accident, Nick overdubbed some of Dean's lines for the film Giant. He tried to capitalize on Dean's fame through various publicity stunts. He also claimed to have developed Dean's affection for fast cars, later telling a reporter, "I became a highway delinquent. I was arrested nine times in one year. They put me on probation, but I kept on racing... nowhere."
Nick's widely publicized friendship with Elvis Presley began in 1956 on the set of Presley's film Love Me Tender during the second day of shooting. Presley had admired James Dean, and when the singer arrived in Hollywood he was encouraged by studio executives to be seen with some of the "hip" new young actors there. Meanwhile, his manager Colonel Tom Parker was worried that Elvis' new Hollywood acquaintances might influence Presley and even tell him what they were paying their managers and agents.
In 1959 Nick starred in the ABC television series The Rebel playing the character Johnny Yuma.
Nick was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as an unlikeable murder suspect in the film Twilight of Honor (1963). He campaigned heavily for the award, spending over $8,000 on ads in trade magazines, but many of his strongest scenes had been cut from the movie and he lost to Melvyn Douglas.
In 1964, Adams had a leading role opposite Nancy Malone in an episode ("Fun and Games") of The Outer Limits television series. By this time Nick's career was stalling. In 1965, after publicly insisting he would never work in films produced outside the US, NIck began accepting parts in Japanese science fiction monster movies (kaiju eiga). He landed major roles in two science fiction epics from Toho Studios in Chiyoda, Tokyo. His first Japanese movie was Frankenstein Conquers the World, in which he played Dr. James Bowen, a radiologist working in Hiroshima who encounters a new incarnation of the Frankenstein monster. Nick next starred in the sixth Godzilla film, Invasion of Astro-Monster (known in the U.S. as Monster Zero), in which he played Astronaut Glenn, journeying to the newly discovered Planet X. In both film plots his character had a love interest with characters portrayed by actress Kumi Mizuno.
Nick Adams wears an off-the-shelf motorcycle helmet in Mission Mars (1968) shortly before his death.
In early 1967 Disney released Mosby's Marauders, a now mostly forgotten but successful Civil War drama told from a southern perspective with Adams in the role of a cruel Union army sergeant. Adams guest-starred in five episodes of four TV series that year, including an installment of his friend Robert Conrad's The Wild Wild West, an appearance in Combat! and two episodes of Hondo (a short-lived western which also had an ex-Confederate theme).
Nick married former child actress Carol Nugent in 1959. They had two children, Allyson and Jeb Stuart Adams. Sometimes acrimonious marital problems reportedly interfered with his ability to get lucrative acting parts after 1963. ìBy July 1965, Adams and Nugent were legally separated; Nugent filed for divorce in September.
After finishing Los Asesinos (1968), produced by Luis Enrique Vergara and filmed in Mexico, Nick bought a plane ticket with his own money and flew to Rome to co-star with Aldo Ray in a science fiction/horror movie called Murder in the Third Dimension, but when he got there, he found the project had been dropped. Susan Strasberg, who had worked with him 13 years earlier on the hit film Picnic and was living in Italy, encountered a thoroughly demoralized Nick in a Rome bar.
On the night of February 7, 1968, his lawyer and friend, ex-LAPD officer Ervin Roeder, drove to the actor's house at 2126 El Roble Lane in Beverly Hills to check on him after a missed dinner appointment. Seeing a light on and his car in the garage, Roeder broke through a window and discovered Nick in his upstairs bedroom, slumped dead against a wall.
During the autopsy Dr. Thomas Noguchi found enough paraldehyde, sedatives and other drugs in the body "to cause instant unconsciousness." The death certificate lists "paraldehyde and promazine intoxication" as the immediate cause of death along with the notation accident; suicide; undetermined. During the 1960s, drug interaction warnings were not so prominent as they later would be, and the American Medical Association has subsequently warned these two types of drugs should never be taken together.
Decades later, Nick's highly publicized life and death at a young age and his friendships with cultural icons such as James Dean and Elvis Presley along with his reported drug consumption made his private life the subject of many reports and assertions by some writers who have claimed Adams may have been gay or bisexual.
Some writers later called Nick a "Hollywood hustler" or a "street hustler". One journalist also refers to Adams as a pool hustler who made money in pool halls when he was a teenager in New Jersey and later while struggling to make ends meet during his early years in Hollywood.
It is uncertain whether James Dean and Adams met before his service in the United States Coast Guard (1952 - 1955) and subsequent role in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). In his 1986 gossip book about gay Hollywood, Conversations With My Elders, Boze Hadleigh claimed actor Sal Mineo told him in 1972, "I didn't hear it from Jimmy (James Dean), who was sort of awesome to me when we did Rebel. But Nick told me they had a big affair." Journalist, screenwriter and author of books about Hollywood, John Gregory Dunne wrote that "James Dean was bisexual, as were Nick Adams and Sal Mineo." In his book Elvis (1981) Albert Goldman wrote, "Nick Adams ingratiated himself with James Dean precisely as he would do a year or so later with Elvis. He offered himself to the shy, emotionally contorted and rebellious Dean, as a friend, a guide, a boon companion, a homosexual lover -- whatever role or service Dean required."
According to Eric Braun, "Elvis was attracted by Adams' outgoing personality and the young actors caused quite a stir, cruising round Los Angeles with Natalie Wood, Russ Tamblyn and others on their Hondas." In 2005 Byron Raphael and Presley biographer Alanna Nash wrote that Adams may have "swung both ways" like "Adams' good pal (and Elvis' idol) James Dean. Tongues wagged that Elvis and Adams were getting it on."
Nick regularly dated actresses with whom he made movies. During the mid-1950s photographs of him with actress Natalie Wood were widely publicized in fan magazines. Modern Screen wrote at the time "their relationship has been mostly for fun" and they shared "a tendency toward moodiness and unpredictability." The magazine also reported they had given joint interviews "in which they admitted they adored each other" and "they even came terribly close to getting married" in Las Vegas. The same article also remarked that on one of their trips they "posed for innumerable publicity photographs - that was the real reason for the trip - " and "Right now, both Nick and Natalie are inclined to deny the whole Las Vegas episode."
In his 2004 biography Natalie Wood: A Life biographer and screenwriter Gavin Lambert wrote in passing, Wood's "first studio-arranged date with a gay or bisexual actor had been with Nick Adams." In his biography of gay Hollywood agent Henry Willson, Robert Hofler deals with the rise of the studio star system, in which several actors spent time on the homosexual casting couch and dated girls or even entered into sham marriages in order to cover their homosexuality.
Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia