Dana Andrews (1909-1992)

Dana Andrews
Dana Andrews


Dana Andrews was one of Hollywood's top leading men of the 1940's in films such as 'Laura' in 1944 , and 'Best Years of Our Lives' in 1946, and his career continued, although generally less successfully, into the 1980's.

After a long battle to overcome an alcohol 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 Sam Houston State Teachers College to study for a degree in business.

In 1929 he worked briefly as an accountant for Gulf Oil before his desire to succeed on the stage made him give up a conventional career. Against the wishes of his father, in 1931 he hitchhiked to Los Angeles, to try to break into movies.

The Young Actor

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 in scores of plays in a variety of genres.

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, on loan to 20th Century-Fox, 'The Ox-Bow Incident' in 1943. He had a starring role opposite Gene Tierney in 'Laura' in 1944 which, although receiving mixed reviews at the time, is now regarded as a film noir masterpiece.

'The Best Years of Our Lives' 1946

Dana's most famous and moving role was as a soldier returning home after WWII in William Wyler's 'The Best Years of Our Lives' in 1946. Regarded as one of the finest Hollywood movies of the Forties, the film deals with the problems facing servicemen returning home after WWII. Andrews performs brilliantly amidst a strong cast and during the film he is seen trying to find a role in a new society. He came to represent the bridge between prewar and postwar America and the movie marked the peak of Andrews's screen career.

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 including two more with Gene Tierney, 'The Iron Curtain' in 1948 and 'Where the Sidewalk Ends' in 1950, and with other well known leading ladies such as Susan Hayward in 'My Foolish Heart' in 1949, Elizabeth Taylor in 'Elephant Walk' in 1954 and Greer Garson in 'Strange Lady in Town' in 1955. However, his performances in later movies never quite fulfilled the promise he showed earlier in his career. He began to develop 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 producers and directors.

By the mid 1950's, Andrews had become almost exclusively a 'B' movies actor. Some of these were noteworthy for their quality, in particular, '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 fully 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

No Nominations:

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