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Hollywood Enigma

Dana Andrews

Carl Rollyson

Publication Year: 2012

Dana Andrews (1909-1992) worked with distinguished directors such as John Ford, Lewis Milestone, Otto Preminger, Fritz Lang, William Wyler, William A. Wellman, Mervyn Le Roy, Jean Renoir, and Elia Kazan. He played romantic leads alongside the great beauties of the modern screen, including Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Greer Garson, Merle Oberon, Linda Darnell, Susan Hayward, Maureen O'Hara, and most important of all, Gene Tierney, with whom he did five films. Retrospectives of his work often elicit high praise for an underrated actor, a master of the minimalist style. His image personified the "male mask" of the 1940s in classic films such as Laura, Fallen Angel, and Where the Sidewalk Ends, in which he played the "masculine ideal of steely impassivity." No comprehensive discussion of film noir can neglect his performances. He was an "actor's actor."

Here at last is the complete story of a great actor, his difficult struggle to overcome alcoholism while enjoying the accolades of his contemporaries, a successful term as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and the love of family and friends that never deserted him. Based on diaries, letters, home movies, and other documents, this biography explores the mystery of a poor boy from Texas who made his Hollywood dream come true even as he sought a life apart from the limelight and the backbiting of contemporaries jockeying for prizes and prestige. Called "one of nature's noblemen" by his fellow actor Norman Lloyd, Dana Andrews emerges from Hollywood Enigma as an admirable American success story, fighting his inner demons and ultimately winning.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Series: Hollywood Legend Series

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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p. v-v

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pp. vii-xi

I decided to write this biography after I had a long telephone conversation with Susan Andrews about her father. At the time I knew relatively little about Dana Andrews, although I had watched Laura three or four times, entranced with the actor playing Mark McPherson. He reminded ...

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pp. 3-5

He worked with distinguished directors such as John Ford, Lewis Milestone, Otto Preminger, Fritz Lang, William Wyler, William A. Wellman, Mervyn Le Roy, Jean Renoir, and Elia Kazan. He played romantic leads alongside the great beauties of the modern screen, including Joan Crawford ...

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CHAPTER 1. Don’t Miss

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pp. 6-16

So says Dana Andrews, movie star, in Lillian Ross’s collection of interviews, The Player: A Profile of an Art, published in 1962. Dana gives us the bare bones of his beginnings. Now that I’ve made it my business to tell the story of his life, I wonder what he was thinking when he said these ...

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CHAPTER 2. The Patriarch (1881–1924)

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pp. 17-35

Charles Forrest Andrews liked to regale his family and congregation about his boyhood on the farm in western Florida. His forebears settled in Holmes County sometime in the 1840s and stuck to the soil. These first years working the land, CF’s fourth son, Charles, speculated, “must ...

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CHAPTER 3. “Go Hollywood, Young Man!” (1924–29)

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pp. 36-42

In March 1924, CF was offered the pastorate of the First Baptist Church in Huntsville, the home of Sam Houston State Teacher’s College. He wanted his sons to be well educated, and settling in Huntsville, where he had friends, seemed the most congenial and affordable way to achieve ...

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CHAPTER 4. To Be an Actor (1929–32)

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pp. 43-57

Carver wrote Norma sometime after he arrived and received this response on December 30, 1929: I don’t know why I’m writing to you immediately after getting your letter. I should wait a month or so and torture you as you have ...

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CHAPTER 5. “Mediocrity Is Not My Lot” (1932–35)

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pp. 58-72

Carver had become involved in the Van Nuys High School evening theater program and had a part in a play. Norma wanted to know all about it, but he provided few details, and she was beginning to feel resentful. Realizing how unappealing this mood made her, she switched ...

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CHAPTER 6. Holding On (1935–36)

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pp. 73-76

As Dana told Lillian Ross, he dealt with Janet’s death by training his voice and working like a “maniac.” He ran two miles a day to build up his diaphragm and learned operatic roles in French, German, and Italian. He found no consolation in religion, and when his father wrote a pious ...

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CHAPTER 7. Pasadena (1936–38)

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pp. 77-98

In June 1936, Dana went to a Sunday night open reading at the Pasadena Playhouse. Maudie Prickett, a character actress at the Playhouse, described this great democratic proving ground for actors. Callbacks came on Tuesdays and Thursdays for actors who were up for roles, and by the ...

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CHAPTER 8. Goldwyn (1938–41)

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pp. 99-116

Dana’s earliest memory of Samuel Goldwyn seems to be a scene in which the producer screened footage of Gary Cooper playing Abraham Lincoln. Goldwyn wanted Dana’s opinion. “I later learned from many years of experience with Mr. Goldwyn that this is one of his practices,” ...

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CHAPTER 9. Fox (1941–44)

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pp. 117-149

It would be several months before Dana would appear in another film. Tired of waiting for screen roles, he joined Eighteen Actors, a group of Pasadena Playhouse regulars that included Victor Jory, Byron Foulger, and his wife Dorothy Adams, as well as Mary Todd, who performed in ...

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CHAPTER 10. Laura (1944) [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 150-164

Like Casablanca, which seemed a mess while it was being made, Laura is an accidental masterpiece. Make a list of what can go wrong with a picture, and Laura fits the bill: miscasting, poor direction, interference from producers, script problems, wrong musical score—even the portrait ...

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CHAPTER 11. Stardom (1944–45)

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pp. 165-190

Even before Laura completed production, the change in Dana’s status was signaled in the September 1944 issue of Modern Screen with a profile titled “The Guy Next Door: The Star Nobody Knows.” The piece opens with an anecdote about a “swank Hollywood premiere” where ...

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CHAPTER 12. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

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pp. 191-198

On April 15, 1946, Dana began fifteen weeks of work on the most important picture of his career, The Best Years of Our Lives. William Wyler directed this celebrated postwar film about returning serviceman trying to adjust to home life. Dana’s performance as Fred Derry, a bombardier, ...

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CHAPTER 13. The Name above the Title (1947)

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pp. 199-202

With superb performances in Boomerang (released April 27, 1947) and Daisy Kenyon (released December 25), and the hoopla over The Best Years of Our Lives (the most successful picture since Gone with the Wind), Dana Andrews reached his apotheosis—signified by the appearance of ...

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CHAPTER 14. “What Is This Thing I Do to Women?” (1947–50)

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pp. 203-214

In late February 1947, Otto Preminger called Dana “unofficially” to discuss Daisy Kenyon and the role of Dan O’Mara, a manipulative but ultimately decent and even noble attorney vying with Peter Lapham (Henry Fonda) for Joan Crawford’s affections. The director then sent ...

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CHAPTER 15. Hollywood Fights Back (1947–57)

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pp. 215-225

On November 2, 1947, right after returning home from shooting Deep Waters, Dana appeared on the second of two live radio broadcasts, both titled “Hollywood Fights Back.” The project had been organized by the Committee for the First Amendment, headed by Humphrey Bogart, ...

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CHAPTER 16. Period of Adjustment (1950–53)

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pp. 226-237

Dana’s roles in the early 1950s provided him with little opportunity to utilize the nuances he had perfected in his best work, although two pictures from this period trade on the ennobling courage that made him one of the silver screen’s most decent and desirable leading men. In ...

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CHAPTER 17. Home and Abroad Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953–57)

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pp. 238-255

Kathy remembered her father’s return as a nice period, when he would come home for lunch while shooting Three Hours to Kill: “He liked to have us at the table with him when we weren’t at school in the summer.” They ate in the little breakfast room with sunlight streaming in ...

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CHAPTER 18. Sobriety (1958–64)

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pp. 256-269

Susan, the youngest of Dana’s four children, grew up when her father was on a downward slide. “Sometimes my friends would come over when my father was drunk, even passed out. I would cope by just walking them around the situation. What else could I do? Since my father ...

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CHAPTER 19. Ruin and Recovery (1964–72)

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pp. 270-278

On February 15, 1964, Dana’s thirty-year-old son David died during brain surgery. He had been semi-conscious for a month after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. Susan recalled, “David died when we were teens and our father was devastated. He had been sober for a good while, but ...

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CHAPTER 20. Curtain Call (1972–92)

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pp. 279-286

On October 30, 1972, after a performance of Marriage-Go-Round at the Friar’s Dinner Theater in Minneapolis, Dana got the This Is Your Life treatment. This popular show, hosted by Ralph Edwards, specialized in surprising celebrity subjects with appearances by friends and family who ...


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pp. 287-294


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pp. 295-296


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pp. 297-301


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pp. 302-314

E-ISBN-13: 9781617036484
E-ISBN-10: 1604735678
Print-ISBN-13: 9781604735673

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 61 b&w
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Hollywood Legend Series