Dana Andrews (1909-1992)

Dana Andrews
Dana Andrews
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Dana Andrews was an American film actor. He was one of Hollywood's top leading men of the 1940's and 1950's, in films such as 'Best Years of Our Lives' in 1946, and continued acting, though generally in less prestigious roles, into the 1980's. After a long battle to overcome his drink problem, in later life he became a vociferous member of the National Council on Alcoholism. He was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1963.


He was born Carver Dana Andrews on January 1, 1909 in Covington County, Mississippi, the third of nine children of a Baptist minister. One of his younger brothers also became an actor, as Steve Forrest. Whilst Dana was still a young child, his family moved first to Louisville, Kentucky and then to Huntsville, Texas, where he went to high school and then college to study for a degree in business. He worked briefly as an accountant before his desire to succeed on the stage took him in 1931, against the wishes of his father, to Los Angeles, to try to break into movies.

Along with many other young hopefuls, Dana had to wait a long time before he got a chance to act in films, and to make ends meet, he took any work he could get, including bus driver, ditch digger, and gas pump attendant. During this time he studied opera singing (he had a fine voice), and he joined the Pasadena Community Playhouse and drama school where he began to develop his acting skills, gaining valuable experience and good acting tips in scores of plays of all kinds. His was a long apprenticeship and it was not until 1938 that he was spotted by a Sam Goldwyn scout and offered a contract. He had to wait a further two years before he got his first movie role in William Wyler's 'The Westerner', starring Gary Cooper. Bigger roles in good quality movies followed, including the 1941 comedy 'Ball of Fire', and 'The Ox-Bow Incident' in 1943. He had a starring role opposite Gene Tierney in the hit 'Laura' in 1944 and his most famous and moving role was as a soldier returning home after WWII in 'The Best Years of Our Lives' in 1946.

He continued to work steadily for the next ten years as a leading man in a variety of roles in dramas, films noir, and Westerns but his performances in later movies never quite fulfilled the promise he showed in his early career. He developed a serious alcohol problem and this had a bad effect on his career as his reputation for reliability dipped and he lost the confidence of some producers.

By the mid 1950's, Andrews had become almost exclusively a 'B' movies actor. Some of these were noteworthy for their quality, in particular, 'While the City Sleeps' and 'Beyond a Reasonable Doubt', both directed by Fritz Lang in 1956 and 'Night of the Demon' in 1957 and 'The Fearmakers' in 1958 but it was a disappointing, drifting end to an acting career which was stunted by his alcoholism and not allowed to develop.

Andrews eventually brought the disease under control and in 1972 he appeared in a television public service advertisement on the subject. He later became an active member of the National Council on Alcoholism.

In his later acting career Andrews branched into radio and television, starring in the radio series 'I Was a Communist for the FBI' for two years from 1952 and from the 1960's on, appearing regularly on TV shows such as 'The Dick Powell Show', 'The Love Boat' and 'Falconcrest'.

Andrews married twice. His first wife, Janet Murray, whom he married in 1933, died of pneumonia in 1935 after they had been married only three years. They had a son, David and a baby who died during her final illness. Shortly after her death Andrews met his second wife, Mary Todd, when they were both acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. They married in 1939 and had three children, Katharine (born in 1942), Stephen (born in 1944), and Susan (born in 1948). They stayed together until his death.

After retiring from acting Andrews established a successful real estate business, which, he claimed, was more lucrative than his movie career.

Dana Andrews died of pneumonia on December 17, 1992 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease during his final years.

Dana Andrews Academy Awards

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Dana Andrews Filmography

The Westerner
Lucky Cisco Kid
Sailor's Lady
Kit Carson
Tobacco Road
Belle Starr
The Man Who Came Back
Ball of Fire
Berlin Correspondent
December 7th
Crash Dive
The Ox-Bow Incident
The North Star
Up in Arms
The Purple Heart
Wing and a Prayer
State Fair
Fallen Angel
A Walk in the Sun
Canyon Passage
The Best Years of Our Lives
Night Song
Daisy Kenyon
The Iron Curtain
Deep Waters
No Minor Vices
Britannia Mews
Sword in the Desert
My Foolish Heart
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Stronger Than Fear
Sealed Cargo
The Frogmen
I Want You
Assignment: Paris
Elephant Walk
Duel in the Jungle
Three Hours to Kill
Smoke Signal
Strange Lady in Town
While the City Sleeps
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Spring Reunion
Zero Hour!
Night of the Demon
The Fearmakers
Madison Avenue