December 17, 2021

Sam Elliott’s Dad Died at 54 in His Mom’s Arms on their Living Room Floor: ‘That Was a Bummer'

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Sam Elliot learned to be a man from a father he loved so much, but it was pretty heartbreaking when Sam watched his father die in his mom's arms while still in his teenage years. 

Sam Elliott has earned quite an impressive reputation for himself in Hollywood, and many revere his legacy. Hollywood director Brett Haley once described him as the definition of man.

However, Sam was in an interview a few years ago where he brushed the sentiments aside and owed his manliness to his father, Nelson Elliott, whom he adored so much.

Headshot photo of actor, Sam Elliot. [Left] | Actor Sam Elliot wiping tears off his eyes while speaking at an event. [Right] | Photo: Getty Images


Sadly Nelson died when Sam was coming into his own as a teenager, and it was quite "the bummer." Check out the story of the man who Sam Elliott looked up to. 


Sam Elliott's Hollywood career has spanned over 50 years, within which he gained recognition for being a screen and voice actor. The actor has seen many seasons, starting with a wholesome boyhood, thanks to his father.

During his interview with "The Off Camera Show," Sam shared that his definition of what a man is or should be could be traced back to the men in his life when he was a young lad. The actor noted that those were his father and father's pals.


Sam Elliott attends the "Tennis and Crumpet Tournament" on May 21, 1977 at Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California. | Photo: Getty Images

He stated that those were the men he grew up going fishing with while adding that they were "all pretty hardcore." Sam described his dad and his friends as hardworking gentlemen.


The Sacramento-born actor recalled the heart-melting father-son relationship with the senior Elliott, noting how they would go everywhere together, and Sam learned a lot from that experience.

Sam Elliott attends a 50th anniversary screening of 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' during the 2019 Plaza Classic Film Festival at The Plaza Theatre on August 02, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. | Photo: Getty Images



Sam's dad lived a life that his son deemed worthy, but their days together did not last long. The patriarch who worked for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service passed when Sam was 17.

The "Tombstone" actor described his dad's death as a "bummer," as he recalled that Nelson had a heart attack and died right at home in his wife's arms. The senior Elliott passed on at 54. 

Nelson died earlier than his son could have ever envisioned, but he did live an unforgettable memory, enough to last a lifetime. However, one regret Sam has about his dad's early death was that he did not get to see him succeed in Hollywood.


He mentioned how Nelson had been skeptical about his dreams of being a Hollywood star. The late Nelson thought his son had "a snowball's chance in [expletive] in that town!"

Despite this sentiment, Sam never for once faulted his father. Instead, he strived in the movie industry to prove that his dreams were valid, and his one regret was that Nelson did not get to see him succeed. Through it all, Sam was sure that he made his father proud.  


When Sam and Cleo aren't looking for rocks by the beach, they stay supportive of each other.



These days, the "The Big Lebowski" actor himself is a father. Sam is married to fellow actor Katherine Ross, who he got to know on 1978's "The Legacy."

Before "The Legacy," the two already met on the set of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," but it took Ross and Sam some time before they became an item. 

He once said that Ross was a leading lady in Hollywood, and he felt like a "shadow on the wall." They eventually got together and became parents to a daughter, Cleo Elliott, who joined the family in 1988. This happened one year after her parents tied the knot. 


Sam Elliott and wife Katharine Ross attend the premiere of "The China Syndrome" at Cinerama Dome Theater in Universal, California on March 6, 1979. | Photo: Getty Images

The 77-year-old keeps his family life private, but this doesn't stop the whole family from stepping out to red carpet events together. At the 91st Academy Award in 2019, Sam, Ross, and their now-grown gorgeous daughter graced the occasion.


While Ross was Sam's plus one, Cleo went to the event with her fiancé. The young lady stepped out in an ethereal vision as she rocked a floor-length gold dress with a high slit. 

Katharine Ross and Sam Elliott attend the 16th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on April 30, 1981. | Photo: Getty Images


Cleo gleaned the spotlight career choice from her parents, but unlike them, she chose the fashion and music industry. The 37-year-old doubles as a musician and model, and she released her first studio album, "No More Lies," in 2008. 

The professional singer is a member of The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). She has also been modeling since 2003 and has appeared in a hairstyling show called "SEXY HAIR."

Katharine Ross and actor Sam Elliott attend the Second Annual Benefit Concert for the Malibu Emergency Room on March 18, 1984 at the Firestone Fieldhouse, Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. | Photo: Getty Images



Cleo is the apple of her dad's eye, and the actor has proved it a couple of times. He heartily shared the sweet father-daughter relationship between him and Cleo with Parade in a 2017 interview.

Sam revealed that being a dad was a wholesome part of his life, and while he found his acting career fulfilling, fatherhood made it even more worthy. He said about his life as a father:

"It completes me. I've been married one time and I have a daughter, who I love more than anyone in the world. And that's where my world is."


The PrimeTime Emmy winner shared that he loved being around his daughter, adding that he would not end an activity as long as they were together. The star dad further stated that his favorite moments of them together were their walks along the beach.

Sam noted that he and Cleo often searched for rocks while enjoying leisure by the beach. He also chipped in a beachside activity he used to indulge in with his father, which he and Cleo now have inculcated. The proud dad shared:

"We're rockhounds. My dad was a rock hound, I'm a rock hound, my daughter is now a rock hound. We pick up all these beautiful stones."

Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross arrive at the premiere of "The Good Dinosaur" on November 17, 2015. | Photo: Getty Images

When Sam and Cleo aren't looking for rocks by the beach, they stay supportive of each other. The singer once gushed about how supportive her parents were pursuing her passion.

She shared that they never worried that she did not choose a Hollywood career and were just as happy about her choice.