with Sandra Grabman


Lloyd Nolan


Born in San Francisco to Irish-American parents, Lloyd Nolan was one of Hollywood’s most dependable and respected actors. Whether a wisecracking investigator, compassionate police officer, grouchy doctor or dastardly bad guy, he was completely believable in any role.

Lloyd and wife Mell had two children, Melinda and Jay.  Jay suffered from autism, a disability that kept him from understanding the world in which he lived and altered his behavior to such an extent that he needed specialized care. Mell and Lloyd searched near and far for help, and then they found the Institute for Achievement of the Human Potential in Philadelphia, which would give Jay the best possible care. He was enrolled at the Institute in 1956, when he was thirteen years old.  Under their care, he thrived; and the family would visit often.

In 1969, Jay had been eating dinner and choked on a piece of meat. Predating the advent of the Heimlich Maneuver, first-aid measures failed to save his life.

Lloyd was devastated.

From that moment on, he made it his mission in life to better the lives of children with disabilities and their families. He made television public-service announcements. He hosted telethons. He narrated the 1973 documentary Normalization: A Right to Respect, a project of the Atlanta Association for Retarded Children and Wooster Productions. He served as Honorary Chairman of the National Society for Autistic Children. He testified before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Labor’s Selection Subcommittee on Education in 1973. He described for them the challenges of autism and urged the government to continue funding special schools and their programs that make such a positive difference in these children’s lives.

This effort helped to bring about Public Law 94-142, which guaranteed challenged children a free and appropriate public education. Lloyd would even occasionally join the picket line when cuts to disabled children’s programs were threatened. He was wanted on major talk shows to expound his show-biz career. Instead, he wanted to talk about a much more important topic – childhood disability. They were not interested. The Jack Klugman television series Quincy was interested, though. They presented an episode entitled “A Test for the Living,” in which Lloyd’s character educated others about autism.

Autism affects roughly one in 100 children in the United States alone. Scientists around the world are searching for biological indicators. After the personal heartbreak, Lloyd Nolan subjugated his life and career, cast in the role pre-destined for him. A loving father figure, to these children of the real world, determined to offer hope for their future.

You can find more information about Lloyd Nolan in the book Lloyd Nolan: An Actor’s Life With Meaning, ISBN 978-1-59393-600-6, by Joel Blumberg and Sandra Grabman.

One Response to “Lloyd Nolan: A Champion To Remember”

  1. Maurice H Bank | 09.04.13 at 12:01 PM said…

    As a long-time fan of Old Hollywood, Lloyd Nolan was always one of my favorites. He had that screen persona that made him so likeable in any part he played, whether it was the G-Man killed in G-Men with Cagney, the marine sargeant arguing with the lovable William Bendix in Guadalcanal Diary over who was better the “yanks or dem bums,”, or as that soldier screaming over the wires “this is Manilla Calling, Manilla Calling.” He seemed like a nice person without even knowing him, and apparently the book vindicates this thought. He is missed by his fans.