Nancy Root was a pretty co-ed with some riding skills that landed in Hollywood due to her combination of looks and sass, but sadly was cast in a string of “pretty girl” uncredited roles. Sadly, it was just a few years into her career that she was embroiled in a scandal, and decided to leave Hollywood behind. She later became a successful jewelry designer. Let’s learn more about her.
Nancy Jane Root was born on September 4, 1939, in Los Angeles, California, the only child of Herbert Root and Blanche Root. The Roots were a prestigious family, very active in the local scene, and Nancy was the grandniece of prominent republican politician and Nobel prize winner Elihu Root. Both Nancy’s parents were physicians in the Los Angeles area.
Nancy grew up in a stable and happy family in Los Angeles. Interested in performing since she was a little girl, she still claimed she was MORE interested in a Republican political career, which was expect of a Root dynasty member. But, a tingling wish to one day become a movie queen persisted, and she liked to perform and was often featured in amateur theatrics. After graduating from high school in Los Angeles, Nancy decided to enroll into University of Arizona and moved to Tucson to study there.
While in Arizona, Nancy blossomed into a stunning green-eyed redhead with 35-23-33 measurements She took her first two years of college there. An accomplished horsewoman, she did some stunt riding for movie companies working in this area. She rode so convincingly and so prettily that she was encouraged to take a screen test, and eventually was accepted into 20th Century Fox’s new talent school.
And thus her career started!
Nancy first appeared in movies was in But Not for Me, a Clark Gable movie! What a way to go, I must say! Anyway, the movie is far from Clark’s best, but it’s a solid 60s comedy, with Clark playing a seasoned producer who wants to retire but then his pretty secretary declares his love for her, and he decided maybe he won’t retire after all? But what will his wife say? The cast is first class (Clark, Carroll Baker, Lili Palmer), and while it’s nothing groundbreaking, it’s well directed and witty at times. Her second was is a camp classic, a so bad it’s good movie, Girls Town. Girls in a catholic reform school, what more to say, with Mamie Van Doren playing the lead. Tons of scantly clad pretty girls, and it’s not even a Busby Berkeley musical? What to say!
Nancy continued appearing in quirky 60 movies, so specific to that decade and rarely made ever since. The first one was The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, another unintentionally hilarious so bad it’s good movie. the story is simple enough, n. Several travelers are en route to Reno, when thunderstorm causes them to take refuge in an abandoned church. Falling asleep, the two leads dream they are Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, but its’ just excuse to parade pretty girls around and see Mickey Rooney dressed in a snake suit. But wait until the next movie – College Confidential. What a bizarre one! In a nutshell, a professor conducts a survey about the sex life of college students. And then all bets are of! The vast is truly a weird mish-mash: Steve Allen and his wife (Jayne Meadows), Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren – both blonde and voluptuous, old school debonair Herbert Marshall, Rocky Marciano (the boxer), Conway Twitty(!), Cathy Crosby (Bing’s niece) and lots of kids of famous stars–Robert Montgomery Jr., William Wellman Jr. and Elisha Cook Jr., and even gossip columnists Sheila Graham AND Walter Winchell!
Now to some less campy movies! The Great Impostor is a Tony Curtis vehicle all the way – we see his playing a real life guy who faked being a doctor, warden, monk and teacher, and has a real talent for swindling! Tony is good in his role, and shows he was more than a pretty face with immense charisma and star power. And the supporting cast is excellent – Karl Malden, Gary Merrill, Edmond O’Brien and lovely Joan Blackman as a leading lady. It’s a okay drama made int he best old Hollywood style, so what’s not to like about it?
Nancy’s last movie was a Jerry Lewis comedy – The Ladies Man. I don’t like Lewis to much and am not interested in watching any of his movies, but it seems he is an acquired taste and that he has moments of sheer brilliance. Alas, his movies are mostly uninspired showcases for his skits, and this one if no exception. Lewis plays an unlucky in love recent college graduate who answers an advertisement for a handyman and finds it’s in a private house that has been converted to a residential hotel for women. Lots and lots and lots of pretty women! Girls like Dee Arlen, Francesca Bellini, Vicki Benet, Patricia Blair, Lillian Briggs, Hope Holiday, Gloria Jean, Sylvia Lewis, and Pat Stanley. Nancy was one of the girls naturally! The flimsy story just serves as a basic frame for Lewis’ many crazy shenenigans. To each his own! Who likes Lewis will probably love this!
That was it from Nancy!
When Nancy returned to Los Angeles as an actress, she transferred her academic work to USC so she could continue it along with movie work. She became a student of psychology at USC and hopes to get her doctorate in that field.
Being from a prominent Republican family, Nancy was very active in the political arena, campaigning and attending conventions. Here is a short newspaper bit about it:
Last summer was an exciting one for Nancy, no matter how you look at it. She has long been active in Young Republican clubs –was Miss Pima County Young Republican and Miss Arizona Young Republican before becoming Miss California Young Republican. In the latter capacity, she attended the Republican National Convention. However, as a sideline, Nancy also does news reporting for the Mutual network in California, and had these chores to keep her additionally busy. She also attended the Democratic convention to report woman’s news. So the two conventions, plus a tour of the east .for “College Confidential” kept her more than a little busy.
Nancy also gave some handy advice for young girls who wanted to become actresses:
Has Nancy any advice for other young women who want to get into the movies? “Yes, indeed” she said emphatically. “Get your education first. Or at least don’t stop your academic studies. Also, have enough money that you don’t need outside jobs while you’re in the starlet stage. And don’t consider acting unless you have the consent and full support of your parents.”
Nancy was popular with the boys all around, and dated Jack Hogan, a wealthy sportsman. Then in 1962, when she was barely 23 years old, something happened that changed her life. Namely, in 1959 Nancy was involved with a mobster who took part in a murder of another mobster, Jack Whalen. They were sentenced only in 1962, and Nancy was a key witness.
The fate of Mickey Cohen and four co-defendants, on trial for the conspiracy-murder of Jack Whalen, was expected to be placed in the hands of a 10-women, one-man Los Angeles Superior Court jury today. Defense attorneys have branded the prosecutions case as “fantasy, and attacked prosecution testimony given by model Nancy Root. MISS ROOT had said she was warned by Joe DeCarlo, one of the defendants, to stay away from Rondellis Restaurant, where the shooting occurred, because there might be trouble. Atty. Harvey Byron, rep resenting DeCarlo, charged the girl sought sensationalism.
Here is a bit more about the whole sordid situation:
NANCY ANN ROOT, 24, testified that DiCarlo told her all the d”frndant:i were armed fit the time of the shooting and that DiCarlo broke a date with her that night because “there rnight be trouble.” After the shooting, she said. she picked up DiCarlo and LoCigno and DiCarlo told her he and the other defendants had met at the restaurant and everybody had a gun. She said DiCarlo told her ‘Whalen was shot by LoCigno and LoCigno s gun was hidden “where it wouldn’t be found.” He hoped they had “gotten rid of all the guns, she said. ‘ LATER IN THE DAY, Miss Root testi’ied, DiCarlo said it was “stupid of them to put the guns in the ashcan behind Rondelli’s.” Police said they found three guns there, with Leonard’s and LoCigno’s fingerprints on) two of them. Harvey Byron, representing’ DiCarlo, asked Miss Root:; “You say you have not been; acting for a year. Docs that! ( include today?” “YES, SIR. MISS Root snapped, while the prosecution objected. Superior Judge Drucker sustained the objections. Miss Root’s testimony was admitted against DiCarlo and Leonard only, for the time becouse She said it was based on’ conversations with them. – LoCigno was earlier convicted of the murder but was granted a new trial.
Nancy career effectively ended then and there, and she opted to marry and leave it all behind. Her choice of groom was Billy Ray Dyer. Dyer was possibly born on March 7, 1928, and served as a marine in Korea.
Nancy and Billy Ray had three children: William, born on March 22, 1963, Robert, born on August 10, 1964, and John, born on October 4, 1969. The family lived in California, with Nancy retired from showbiz.
At some point, Nancy divorced Dyer, moved to Arizona (where she went to college), and took up jewelry making. How come? She felt a great kinship towards the local Arizona Indians, and spent many hours exploring their rich cultural heritage. She was nicknamed The redheaded Indian, and started to design a modern version of their jewelry, and gained quite a bit of local fame because of her handy work.
Nancy also married to a Mr. Hursche, but I could not find any information about who exactly is this mystery man.
IMDB lists Nancy Root’s death date as May 14, 2020, in Topock, Arizona. As always, I hope had a good life!