What Was ‘NCIS’ Star Mark Harmon’s Mom Famous for?

Though Mark Harmon may be one of the most well-known Harmons, he is not the only famous one to come from the Harmon household. The NCIS star is the son of two well-known individuals — Elyse Knox and Tom Harmon. 

Elyse Knox
Elyse Knox | Archive Photos/Getty Images

Tom Harmon was an NFL player turned sports broadcaster, while Elyse Knox was an American actor, model, and fashion designer. Elyse Knox’s professional life can give a glimpse into the life of one of the artists who raised the man we all know as Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. 

Inside Elyse Knox’s early years: fashion design and modeling

Elyse Knox was born in Hartford, Connecticut on December 14 in 1917. She was the daughter of Austrian immigrants and went on to study at the Traphagen School of Fashion in Manhattan, New York, before venturing into a career in fashion design. 

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Knox went on to model some of her own designs for Vogue Magazine, which created a highway to Hollywood; those in Tinseltown quickly realized Knox’s on-screen potential, and she was offered a contract with 20th Century Fox in 1937. She was only 20 years old. 

All about Elyse Knox’s film career 

While Elyse Knox did not rise to the same level of international stardom that her son has gained because of NCIS, she did appear in a handful of memorable productions, initially in secondary or supporting roles. She experienced her most fame in the 1940s and 1950s after appearing in a leading role in the 1942 film The Mummy’s Tomb. 

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Knox appeared in several movies throughout Hollywood’s Golden Age, including There’s a Girl in My Heart, Joe Palooka in the Counterpunch, Forgotten Women, I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes, and more. Elyse Knox made quite the name for herself in Tinseltown, before going on to meet Tom Harmon – a well-known athlete at the time. 

Tom Harmon and Elyse Knox’s relationship and family

Elyse Knox met Tom Harmon when she appeared on The Bing Crosby Radio Show. The two were soon engaged to be married, but they called it off when Harmon entered the U.S Army Forces in 1942. Knox soon married Paul Hesse — who shot many of her photos for Vogue magazine — but the marriage was not built to last, and the two soon called it quits. When Harmon returned from the War, the two were reunited and they married in 1944. 

Tom Harmon and Elyse Knox went on to have three children together — Kelly Harmon, Mark Harmon, and Kristen Nelson (who was married to musician Ricky Nelson for many years). Today, Mark Harmon remains the only one still active in Hollywood, yet both of his sisters were also actors, and Kristen Nelson was even an accomplished painter before her death in 2018.