Nick Adams was born as Nicholas Aloysius Adamshock, the son of a Ukrainian-born anthracite coal miner near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Adams' family moved to New Jersey when he was five years old.
"My father piled all our belongings into an old jalopy, with our bedding on top. We didn't know where we were going. He started driving, and ran out of gas and money in Jersey at Audubon Park. A man came over and started talking to us, a Mr. Cohn. He said to my father 'You look like you need a job,' and my father said 'I do.'"
He is said to have made money as a teenager by hustling pool games and working as a bat boy for a local baseball team. He was later offered a playing position in minor league baseball but turned it down because he was uninterested in the low pay.
While trying to get a role in the play Mister Roberts
in New York he had a brief encounter with Henry Fonda, who advised him to get some training as an actor. Eventually hitchhiking to Los Angeles he worked at various jobs (and was reportedly fired from one as a theater usher after putting his name on display as a publicity stunt).
After serving in the United States Coast Guard, following much persistence and creativity Adams appeared in the 1955 film version of Mister Roberts
. In Rebel Without A Cause
(1955), starring James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, Adams had a supporting role, reportedly gaining a reputation as both a prankster and a scene-stealer on the set.
Adams made another appearance in the widely popular film adaptation of Picnic
(1955) which was mostly filmed on location in Kansas. He was not perceived by casting directors as tall or handsome enough for leading roles but during the late 1950's he had supporting roles in several successful films, such as No Time For Sergeants
In 1959, Nick Adams starred in the television series The Rebel
, playing the character Johnny Yuma, an ex-Confederate, journal-keeping "trouble-shooter" in the old American west, which ran on ABC. Though credited as a co-creator of The Rebel
, Adams had no role in writing the pilot or any of the series' episodes. The show's creator, Andrew J. Fenady, wrote the pilot episode after his friend, Adams, urged him to create a starring vehicle for him. Close friend Red West got his first stunt performer work on The Rebel
and went on to a very successful career in Hollywood. After the series was cancelled in 1961, Adams went back to film work, along with a role in the short-lived television series Saints And Sinners
He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance 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. During this period, Adams appeared as a guest panelist on the CBS-TV quiz program, What's My Line
By 1964 his career stalled. He had high hopes his performance in Young Dillinger
(with Robert Conrad) would be critically acclaimed but the project had low production values and both critics and audiences rejected the film. In 1965, Adams was forced to accept parts in Japanese movies. He landed major roles in two science fiction epics from Toho Studios in Chiyoda, Tokyo. The first was the sixth Godzilla
film, titled Invasion Of Astro-Monster
(known in the U.S. at the time as Monster Zero
), in which he played Astronaut Glenn, journeying to the newly discovered Planet X. In Frankenstein Conquers The World
Adams played the role of Dr. Bowen. In both film plots, his character had a love interest with characters portrayed by actress Kumi Mizuno.
His friendships with megastars such as James Dean (a cultural icon who also died tragically young) and Elvis Presley and his reported drug consumption have made his private life the subject of various reports even decades later.
His marriage to former child actor Carol Nugent, who had also appeared in an episode of The Rebel
, produced two children (Allyson Lee Adams in 1960 and Jeb Stuart Adams in 1961, both of whom later pursued acting careers). Sometimes acrimonious marital problems reportedly interfered with his ability to get lucrative acting parts after 1963.
According to Peter L. Winkler, Adams "shocked audiences by announcing that he was leaving his wife" while appearing on The Les Crane Show
to plug Young Dillinger
early in 1965. After that announcement, Nick's career and personal life went into a tragic freefall. Nick and Carol publicly announced a reconciliation a week later", on January 19, 1965.
This was reported by several newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. At the end of July 1965, they decided on a legal separation. Carol filed for divorce in September. Nick was still in Japan when Carol was granted a divorce and custody of the children on Oct. 12. On Jan. 26, 1966, Nick and Carol announced another reconciliation on a local television show, Bill John's Hollywood Star Notebook
. It wouldn't last. On Nov. 26, 1966, Carol resumed divorce proceedings and obtained a restraining order against Nick. Carol alleged that Nick was "prone to fits of temper" and in a special affidavit charged that Nick had "choked her, struck her and threatened to kill her during the past few weeks..." It was the beginning of an acrimonious, contested divorce and child-custody battle." ... On January 20, 1967, while waiting for a court hearing to begin, Nick was served with an $110,000 defamation suit by his wife's boyfriend. However, on January 31, Nick won temporary custody of his children. It was a hollow victory in his tug of war with his wife. His son Jeb Adams said, "He saw it as a competition, basically, more than anything of getting custody of us. But, a matter of a week or two later, he gave us back to my mom." Adams' wife later regained legal custody of the children. However, as Carol Adams is listed as Nick Adams' spouse on his death certificate, it is evident that the divorce had not become finalized when the actor died.
In Japan, Adams and actress Kumi Mizuno may have had a short affair. "That's one of the reasons my parents were divorced," says Adams' daughter, playwright Allyson Lee Adams. "My dad had a penchant for becoming infatuated with his leading ladies. It was a way for him to take on the role he was playing at the time."
On the night of February 7, 1968, his lawyer and friend Erwin 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 Adams in his upstairs bedroom, slumped against a wall and wearing a shirt, blue jeans and boots, his eyes open in a blank stare, dead. He was 36 years old.
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, with the notation "Accident; Suicide; Undetermined," noting that the American Medical Association warns never to take these two types of drugs together. In the 1960's, such drug interaction warnings were not as prominent as they are today. His remains were buried in Berwick, Pennsylvania.
Adams' death has been cited in articles and books on Hollywood's unsolved mysteries along with allegations that Adams was murdered, including claims that no trace of the liquid sedative paraldehyde (one of two drugs Adams died from) was ever found in his home. But a story in The Los Angeles Times reported that stoppered bottles with prescription labels were found in the medicine cabinet near the upstairs bedroom where Adams' body was discovered. However, the actor's daughter Allyson Adams still believes her father may have been killed. She says Adams had just returned from making a film in Mexico and was working out (he was an avid weightlifter) for another Hollywood comeback, and that the coroner's office changed the official cause of death from "natural causes" to "homicide" before finally ruling it suicide. On the other hand, Actor Robert Conrad (his best friend) has consistently maintained Adams' death was accidental, and his gravestone reads "Nick 'The Rebel' Adams, actor of Hollywood films"
Condensed from Nick Adams' entry in the Wikepedia, the free encyclopedia.