Hollywood Enigma

Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Hollywood Enigma
    Book Description:

    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 asLaura, Fallen Angel, andWhere 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 fromHollywood Enigmaas an admirable American success story, fighting his inner demons and ultimately winning.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-648-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-2)
    (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, Elizabeth Taylor, Greer Garson, Merle Oberon, Linda Darnell, Susan Hayward, Maureen O’Hara, and most of important of all, Gene Tierney, with whom he did five films. Retrospectives of his films 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...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Don’t Miss
    (pp. 6-16)

    I WAS BORN on January 1, 1909, in the village of Don’t, which is now part of the town of Collins, Mississippi. I was the third of thirteen children, five of whom are dead. My father was a Baptist minister, and I was named after Dr. Dana, who taught at the seminary my father went to, in Louisville, Kentucky. My first name is Carver, after another of the teachers, but I dropped it in college.

    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...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Patriarch (1881–1924)
    (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 have had something to do with the steely courage he was later to stand in great need of . . . .” At just over six feet tall, this lean and lithe man—with his brisk walk, penetrating grey eyes, and angular face softened slightly by wavy brown hair—seemed ready for any contest....

  7. CHAPTER 3 “Go Hollywood, Young Man!” (1924–29)
    (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 this goal—especially after the birth of his eighth son, William (Billy), on September 29, 1925.

    Unlike CF’s troubled departure from Rockdale, his farewell to Uvalde seems to have been a pleasant, sociable occasion. On May 2, 1924, the local newspaper described a reception for the pastor and his wife, as well...

  8. CHAPTER 4 To Be an Actor (1929–32)
    (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 tortured me the past few weeks. But I don’t believe I could hurt you—not like you have crushed me. You promised to write me a letter before you left Texas—and then you promised to wire me as soon as you arrived in California. I don’t hear from you for over four weeks. What was I to think?—...

  9. CHAPTER 5 “Mediocrity Is Not My Lot” (1932–35)
    (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 to reminding him of all the pleasures they shared. She wanted him to tell her what he liked to listen to on the radio. He was finding his voice lessons rather tiresome—all that singing of scales—but such drills were absolutely necessary, she insisted. She always seemed to feel better when...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Holding On (1935–36)
    (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 letter asking his son to trust in God, Carver (as CF still called him) replied that God “had nothing whatever to do with it.”

    CF’s unsparing theology now showed itself in stark relief, explaining much about his son’s journey away from home:

    All your life you have wanted...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Pasadena (1936–38)
    (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 next weekend the play would be cast, then it was rehearsed for a month. Dana was cast as “a French gentleman” inCymbelineand as Menecrates inAntony and Cleopatra—roles that gave him seven and two lines respectively. He carried a spear inJulius Caesar.

    On July 19, theVan Nuys News...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Goldwyn (1938–41)
    (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,” Dana told an interviewer:

    He asks everybody, from the hairdresser on the set to the head of the business department, what they think about little things like hairdos, or whether a man’s clothes fit properly, or questions about his personality. A lot of people say, “Goldwyn asks everybody what they think and then does what...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Fox (1941–44)
    (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 small cast plays sometimes at the Playhouse and sometimes on tour. Playhouse actor Oliver Prickett recalled that they were “just great . . . These were old friends, and they just got together and formulated this thing. . . . They would do it on, say, Friday, Saturday and Sunday; over a weekend...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Laura (1944)
    (pp. 150-164)

    LIKECASABLANCA, which seemed a mess while it was being made,Laurais an accidental masterpiece. Make a list of what can go wrong with a picture, andLaurafits the bill: miscasting, poor direction, interference from producers, script problems, wrong musical score—even the portrait of Laura, painted by director Rouben Mamoulian’s wife, was scrapped after producer Otto Preminger took over as director and had a photograph of Gene Tierney touched up to look like a painted portrait. All this and more stood in the way of what became a cinema classic and an indelible image in Hollywood film:...

  15. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  16. CHAPTER 11 Stardom (1944–45)
    (pp. 165-190)

    EVEN BEFORELAURACOMPLETED PRODUCTION, the change in Dana’s status was signaled in the September 1944 issue ofModern Screenwith a profile titled “The Guy Next Door: The Star Nobody Knows.” The piece opens with an anecdote about a “swank Hollywood premiere” where Dana was told to get his own car because the attendant did not recognize him. The unassuming Dana did not complain or reveal who he was because this sort of thing happened to him all the time.

    Accurate or not, such stories established a truth about an actor who did not present himself as “grand and...

  17. CHAPTER 12 The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
    (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, has been much admired, especially the scene in which he crawls into a junked bomber and relives, through the intensity of his facial expressions alone, the ravages of war. It was apparently Sam Goldwyn, who wanted to use as many of his contract stars as possible, who insisted that Dana appear in the...

  18. CHAPTER 13 The Name above the Title (1947)
    (pp. 199-202)

    WITH SUPERB PERFORMANCES inBoomerang(released April 27, 1947) andDaisy Kenyon(released December 25), and the hoopla overThe Best Years of Our Lives(the most successful picture sinceGone with the Wind), Dana Andrews reached his apotheosis—signified by the appearance of his name above Henry’s Fonda’s in the credits forDaisy Kenyon. Dana would land other good roles before the decade ended, but in terms of sheer star power, he had reached the acme—although he did not see it this way. Indeed, like other stars he often felt thwarted by the very system that had built...

  19. CHAPTER 14 “What Is This Thing I Do to Women?” (1947–50)
    (pp. 203-214)

    IN LATE FEBRUARY 1947, Otto Preminger called Dana “unofficially” to discussDaisy Kenyonand 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 the script to Dana, who called Preminger a few days later. Dana was not enthusiastic about the story or the role but would do it if nothing better turned up. He later told interviewer Allen Eyles that he thought the story “soap-opera-ish.” Dana cancelled two appointments with his agent and Preminger to discuss the role and then called...

  20. CHAPTER 15 Hollywood Fights Back (1947–57)
    (pp. 215-225)

    ON NOVEMBER 2, 1947, right after returning home from shootingDeep 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, Gene Kelly, and other stars, who assembled a delegation of actors to fly from Hollywood to Washington, D.C., to protest the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). HUAC was investigating the dissemination of communist propaganda in the movies, claiming a communist cabal had infiltrated the ranks not only of writers, but also of directors and actors. At...

  21. CHAPTER 16 Period of Adjustment (1950–53)
    (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. InSword in the Desert(released October 3, 1949), he appears as a cynical ship’s captain who comes to adopt the cause of Jewish refugees on the way to Palestine. Appearing as another ship’s captain inSealed Cargo(released May 19, 1951), Dana played opposite Claude Rains, playing a villainous Nazi agent whose...

  22. CHAPTER 17 Home and Abroad (1953–57)
    (pp. 238-255)
    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

    KATHY REMEMBERED HER FATHER’S return as a nice period, when he would come home for lunch while shootingThree 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 through the branches of a big walnut tree. Dana bought the home at 4310 Arcola Avenue in Toluca Lake in 1946, shortly after he signed his new contract with Goldwyn. Built in 1937, the five thousand square foot home with six bedrooms and five baths is “an important character...

  23. CHAPTER 18 Sobriety (1958–64)
    (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 was an actor it would be in the paper in a fan magazine with a picture of him drunk. I couldn’t hide it.” He would rifle through the refrigerator and leave everything on the floor. Stephen, who loved to watch his charismatic father light up a room, was devastated to see...

  24. CHAPTER 19 Ruin and Recovery (1964–72)
    (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 that changed after the funeral.”

    Dana was again drinking so heavily that Ken Annakin, who directedBattle of the Bulge, said that Dana’s co-stars, Henry Fonda and Robert Ryan, had to prop him up physically. As a result, Dana went for one of his periodic stays at the Compton sanatorium to dry out from...

  25. CHAPTER 20 Curtain Call (1972–92)
    (pp. 279-286)

    ON OCTOBER 30, 1972, after a performance ofMarriage-Go-Roundat the Friar’s Dinner Theater in Minneapolis, Dana got theThis Is Your Lifetreatment. This popular show, hosted by Ralph Edwards, specialized in surprising celebrity subjects with appearances by friends and family who would recount a life story in a hectic half hour. The program opened with the yearning theme fromLaura. Outside the dinner theater, Edwards introduced the program and spoke of Dana’s victory over “one of the most common and disabling diseases, alcoholism.” Then Edwards walked on the stage just as Dana was addressing the audience after the...

    (pp. 287-294)
    (pp. 295-296)
    (pp. 297-301)
  29. INDEX
    (pp. 302-314)