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The Always Underrated Dana Andrews


TomJH
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I watched Zero Hour! for the first time in a few years recently. It’s difficult to watch this “plane thriller” now without being impacted by Airplane, the hilarious satire that took the same situations and even, at times, exact dialogue from  this film for,  at times,  brilliant comedy results. Zero Hour is actually a fairly decent film of its type, but it suffers when viewing it today because of that well known spoof by the Zucker Brothers. Even without the later sendup of it, the over-the-top melodramatics of Sterling (“Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up cigarettes”) Hayden in the film would probably have had me laughing anyway.

 

One performance in the film that is most credible, however, is that of its star, Dana Andrews. His performance, requiring him to be, contradictory as it may sound, stoically stressed, if such a thing is possible, provides Zero Hour with a central foundation. This is not a film with any real surprises in it story-wise (unless it’s how closely Airplane copied it and developed the same situations for successful laughs) but Andrews brings an understated credibility to the proceedings.

 

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This, in turn, made me think of how often I have appreciated Dana Andrews’ contributions to films over the years. He was one of those actors that was elevated to second rank star status during WW2 at Fox when many of the big male stars were on the war front, giving him the opportunity to shine in his own stoic quiet way that I always found satisfactory, but which never received much response, it seems to me, from the critics. In other words, Andrews was always underrated as a performer.

 

He appeared in more than his fair share of routine films throughout his career, of course, but also had the luck to appear in a couple of ‘40s classics, including the two films that probably have my favourite Andrews performances. One, of course, is Laura, as the hard nosed detective who softens and falls in love with a murder victim whose portrait hangs on a wall.

 

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This film has Andrews playing a fairly stock character, the stoic square jawed detective trying to solve the mystery of the death of a beautiful woman. Still, the actor’s subtle performance was also able to convey, along with director Otto Preminger's assistance, the growing feelings of affection that he would feel towards that woman as he investigated the case. While it’s Gene Tierney’s elegant beauty and Clifton Webb’s acid tongued portrayal that standout among an excellent cast, Dana Andrews’ telling contribution to the film should not be overlooked.

 

However, my favourite Andrews performance has to be that of Fred Derry in The Best Years of Our Lives. In fact, in spite of his receiving third billing in the film, I wouldn’t be surprised if Andrews doesn’t have more screen time than anyone else in this much celebrated postwar classic of the readjustment to civilian life by WW2 vets.

 

Perhaps Andrews never again had the opportunity to shine quite so brightly as an actor, bringing a genuine vulnerability to his war “hero” returned home. The scene in which he suffers a nightmare reliving his war experiences, only to wake up in a sweat and crying, is one of the film’s acting highlights, in my opinion.

 

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While it was Fredric March and Harold Russell who received much of the critical attention at the time of the film’s 1946 release (along with a pair of Academy Awards), I feel that Dana Andrews, largely overlooked, gives a performance that can stand beside that of anyone else in the much cherished William Wyler film.

 

Of course, I’ve barely skimmed the surface of Andrews’ film career, but I’ll let it stand there.

 

Any other fans of Dana Andrews here?

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I think Dana Andrews is arguably the very best thing about The Ox-Bow Incident (1943).  That's my favourite Andrews performance followed by BYOOL.

He was actually a studio guest of Elwy Yost's and did the wrap arounds with him like the guest programmers do on TCM.

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I think Dana Andrews is arguably the very best thing about The Ox-Bow Incident (1943).  That's my favourite Andrews performance followed by BYOOL.

He was actually a studio guest of Elwy Yost's and did the wrap arounds with him like the guest programmers do on TCM.

I agree with you about Andrews' performance in that film, Bogie. Unlike the square jawed characters that he later played, his lynch mob victim character in Ox Bow allowed him to very credibly portray genune fear, on the verge of tears in a number of scenes. His sensitive performance is a real contrast to the more traditionally macho Mexican character played by Anthony Quinn as a fellow victim.

 

Andrews also conveys the essential decency of his character in  contrast to that of many in the mob so anxious to see him swing without the formalities of a trial first. I think this performance, too, ranks as one of Dana Andrews' best.

 

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I wish I could recall Andrews' interview with our Elwy.

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For the most part I've found him adequate at best. As previously stated, he took advantage of WWII to get major roles, and was able to maintain at least some of that stardom after the war -- unlike, say, John Hodiak.

 

My choice for an Andrews sleeper (presuming everyone here is familiar with Night Of The Demon) is the soaper Daisy Kenyon, where despite third billing behind Crawford and a wasted Fonda he has the film's best role as the husband/father forced to choose.

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For the most part I've found him adequate at best. As previously stated, he took advantage of WWII to get major roles, and was able to maintain at least some of that stardom after the war -- unlike, say, John Hodiak.

 

My choice for an Andrews sleeper (presuming everyone here is familiar with Night Of The Demon) is the soaper Daisy Kenyon, where despite third billing behind Crawford and a wasted Fonda he has the film's best role as the husband/father forced to choose.

Daisy Kenyon is a good pick, Richard. Of that film's three stars (and the other two were heavyweights Joan Crawford and Henry Fonda, the latter, admittedly, playing a character I couldn't even understand), Dana Andrews is far and away the most credible performer.

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Tom, I agree that Best Year Of Our Lives is Dana at his peak. My favorite two scenes are the lunch between Dana and Teresa Wright. They leave the restaurant and go to Peggy`s car. Dana kisses Peggy, and he tells her that it shoudln`t have happened, but it had to. The last scene when Homer and Wilma are getting married, Dana keeps looking back at Peggy and she at him. When the service is done, Dana goes to Peggy and tells her how hard things will be if they marry. The look and smile on Peggy`s face says everything. Dana was very versatile. He acted in comedies Ball Of Fire, Military adventure Crash Dive, musicals State Fair, westerns Canyon Passage, romantic dramas, Daisy Kenyon and My Foolish Heart, and my favorite film noir, Laura, Fallen angel, Boomerang, Where The Sidewalk Ends, While The City Sleeps, and Beyond A Reasonable Doubt.

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Tom, I agree that Best Year Of Our Lives is Dana at his peak. My favorite two scenes are the lunch between Dana and Teresa Wright. They leave the restaurant and go to Peggy`s car. Dana kisses Peggy, and he tells her that it shoudln`t have happened, but it had to. The last scene when Homer and Wilma are getting married, Dana keeps looking back at Peggy and she at him. When the service is done, Dana goes to Peggy and tells her how hard things will be if they marry. The look and smile on Peggy`s face says everything. Dana was very versatile. He acted in comedies Ball Of Fire, Military adventure Crash Dive, musicals State Fair, westerns Canyon Passage, romantic dramas, Daisy Kenyon and My Foolish Heart, and my favorite film noir, Laura, Fallen angel, Boomerang, Where The Sidewalk Ends, While The City Sleeps, and Beyond A Reasonable Doubt.

Thanks for the list of some other Andrews films, sapphiere.

 

Apparently he also had quite a good singing voice. It's been too many years since I last saw State Fair to recall if he did his own singing in that musical. Ball of Fire was the one film he made in which he got to share some scenes with Dan Duryea, another favourite of mine who tends to be overlooked by many.

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Tom, State Fair is available on you tube and Amazon Prime. I am planning on rewatching the musical myself. The biography Dana Andrews Hollwood Enigma was very interesting and enlightening. Also on Eddie Muller`s film noir site SF Noir City their is an interview with Dana`s youngest child his daughter Susan.

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Tom, State Fair is available on you tube and Amazon Prime. I am planning on rewatching the musical myself. The biography Dana Andrews Hollwood Enigma was very interesting and enlightening. Also on Eddie Muller`s film noir site SF Noir City their is an interview with Dana`s youngest child his daughter Susan.

Thanks very much, sapphiere. That interview with Dana Andrews' daughter can be found in 3 parts on You Tube by listing the name "Susan Andrews."

 

She reveals that Andrews' father, a hell and brimstone type preacher, once ironically warned his son that the two things to avoid in life were alcohol and the movies. She said that even though her father's alcoholism impacted the quality of his film assignments, he was always a working actor and his children never went without. Andrews' marriage with his wife, hard drinker or not, lasted 55 years. And his brother, actor Steve Forrest, was always one of Dana's best friends.

 

Susan Andrews also said that her father had no idea how good The Best Years of Our Lives was until he saw the movie at the show.

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The dvd  of FALLEN ANGEL has some nice audio commentary from Andrew's daughter, Susan.  That is a good noir film directed by Otto Preminger.  And Eddie Muller provides some insight about Preminger's filming.

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The dvd  of FALLEN ANGEL has some nice audio commentary from Andrew's daughter, Susan.  That is a good noir film directed by Otto Preminger.  And Eddie Muller provides some insight about Preminger's filming.

Yes, mrroberts, Fallen Angel is most certainly a good little noir, most noteworthy, I feel, for the performance of Linda Darnell. Dana Andrews is rock solid in it, however.

 

Andrews was certainly an excellent participant in more than a few others of that genre, including his tough cop portrayal in the fine Where the Sidewalk Ends, reuniting him, once again, with Gene Tierney.

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I actually first became aware of Andrews in the early to mid '60's when he was white haired and in some American International flick about a family, moving to California, being terrorized by a carload of Teenaged thugs.  His character was supposed to have a bad back, thus the move to California.  I can't recall the name of the flick, and I'm not sur I saw it ina list of his filmography.

 

But, over the years, I started noticing him in old movies on TV and always liked him in movies.

 

 

Sepiatone

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Dana Andrews with , Gene, Jean, and Jeanne.  ;)  (lucky bastard)

Yes, Dana did have the opportunity to play oppostie a lot of brunette beauties . . .

 

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. . . including this one in Fallen Angel. No, not Percy Kilbride, but the drop dead gorgeous Linda Darnell.

 

Ane even a few drop dead gorgeous non-brunettes.

 

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Virginia Mayo in Best Years of Our Lives (even though her character wasn't really good for him, to put it mildly).

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Dana Andrews had a solid career.   I first got into him from noir films and didn't discover that he was fairly versatile and could do more than play a hardnosed serious noir character until latter. 

 

I guess one could say I underrated him since I wasn't aware that he was in so many films.   I do wonder why he made so many cheap horror \ sci-fi type films starting in the late 50s.   I don't find most of those films very impressive. 

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I actually first became aware of Andrews in the early to mid '60's when he was white haired and in some American International flick about a family, moving to California, being terrorized by a carload of Teenaged thugs.  His character was supposed to have a bad back, thus the move to California.  I can't recall the name of the flick, and I'm not sur I saw it ina list of his filmography.

 

But, over the years, I started noticing him in old movies on TV and always liked him in movies.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

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I do wonder why he made so many cheap horror \ sci-fi type films starting in the late 50s.   I don't find most of those films very impressive. 

 

I know that Andrews struggled with alcoholism at one point - I wonder if this affected his ability to get better roles...?

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I know that Andrews struggled with alcoholism at one point - I wonder if this affected his ability to get better roles...?

I agree that alcoholism probably played a role.

 

He was apparently free of the bottle in his final years - then alzheimer's struck.

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My favorite Dana Andrews scene in BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES is, near the end, he is sitting in the cockpit of a fighter jet about to be dismantled and his face breaks out in sweat.  Agree that he is excellent in OX BOW INCIDENT,  which I think is a terrific movie, and his performance really stands out for me, alongside Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell (who is such a [...] and so different from her GRAPES OF WRATH character).  I enjoyed him in BALL OF FIRE.    I' m not familiar with FALLEN ANGEL and now I want to see it.   I imagine roles dried up later on due to his age and drinking so he took what was available.  I'm glad he was able to quit drinking later in life.  The mid-1940s was really his time to shine.

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Darg, I tried to thank you for posting this in a PM, and was notified you couldn't recieve any new messages!

 

W T F?

 

 

Sepiatone

 

Thanks for the heads-up here, Sepia. Looks as if my PM inbox needs to be cleaned out.  

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