Carver Dana Andrews (January 1, 1909 – December 17, 1992) was an American film actor and a major Hollywood star during the 1940s. He continued acting in less prestigious roles into the 1980s. He is remembered for his roles as a police detective-lieutenant in the film noir Laura (1944) and as war veteran Fred Derry in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), the latter being the role for which he received the most critical praise.
Andrews was born on a farmstead near Collins in southern Mississippi in Covington County, the third of 13 children of Charles Forrest Andrews, a Baptist minister, and his wife, the former Annis Speed. The family subsequently relocated to Huntsville in Walker County, Texas, the birthplace of his younger siblings, including fellow Hollywood actor Steve Forrest.
Andrews attended college at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville and studied business administration in Houston. During 1931, he traveled to Los Angeles, California, to pursue opportunities as a singer. He worked various jobs, such as at a gas station in the nearby community of Van Nuys. To help Andrews study music at night, “The station owners stepped in … with a deal: $50 a week for full-time study, in exchange for a five-year share of possible later earnings.”
Sam Goldwyn and 20th Century Fox
In 1938, Andrews was spotted in the play Oh Evening Star and Samuel Goldwyn signed the promising actor to a contract, but felt he needed time to develop experience. Andrews continued at the Pasadena Playhouse, working in over 20 productions and proposed to second wife Mary Todd. After twelve months, Goldwyn sold part of Andrews contract to 20th Century Fox where he was put to work on the first of two B pictures; his first role was in Lucky Cisco Kid (1940). He was then in Sailor’s Lady (1940), developed by Goldwyn but released by Fox.
Andrews was loaned to Edward Small to appear in Kit Carson (1940), before Goldwyn used him for the first time in a Goldwyn production: William Wyler’s The Westerner (1940), featuring Gary Cooper.
Andrews had support parts in Fox films Tobacco Road (1941), directed by John Ford; Belle Starr (1941), with Randolph Scott and Gene Tierney, billed third; and Swamp Water (1941), starring Walter Brennan and Walter Huston and directed by Jean Renoir.
His next film for Goldwyn was the Howard Hawks comedy Ball of Fire (1941), again teaming with Cooper, where Andrews played a gangster.
Back at Fox, Andrews was given his first lead, in the B-movie Berlin Correspondent (1942). He was second lead to Tyrone Power in Crash Dive (1943) and then appeared in the 1943 film adaptation of The Ox-Bow Incident with Henry Fonda, in a role often cited as one of his best in which he played a lynching victim.
Andrews then went back to Goldwyn for The North Star (1943), directed by Lewis Milestone. He worked on a government propaganda film December 7th: The Movie (1943), then was used by Goldwyn again in Up in Arms (1944), supporting Danny Kaye.
Andrews was reunited with Milestone at Fox for The Purple Heart (1944), then was in Wing and a Prayer (1944) for Henry Hathaway.
Critical success and Noir
One of his most famous roles was as an obsessed detective in Laura (1944) with Gene Tierney at Fox, directed by Otto Preminger.
He co-featured with Jeanne Crain in the movie musical State Fair (1945), a huge hit, and was reunited with Preminger for Fallen Angel (1945).
Andrews did another war movie with Milestone, A Walk in the Sun (1945), then was loaned to Walter Wanger for a western, Canyon Passage (1946), directed by Jacques Tourneur and co-featuring Susan Hayward.
Andrews’s second film with William Wyler, also for Goldwyn, was his most successful: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), both a popular and a critical success and became the role for which Andrews is best known. Upon release, the topical film about society’s problems integrating the homecoming soldiers after World War II outgrossed the longstanding box office success of Gone with the Wind (1939), in the US and Britain. In 2007, the film ranked No. 37 on AFI’s Top 100 Years…100 Movies.
Andrews appeared in Boomerang! (1947), directed by Elia Kazan; Night Song (1947), at RKO; and Daisy Kenyon (1947) for Preminger. In 1947, he was voted the 23rd most popular actor in the U.S.
Andrews starred in the anti-communist The Iron Curtain (1948), reuniting him with Gene Tierney, then Deep Waters (1948). He made a comedy for Lewis Milestone at Enterprise Pictures, No Minor Vices (1948), then traveled to England for Britannia Mews (1949).
Andrews filmed at Universal for Sword in the Desert (1949), then Goldwyn cast him in My Foolish Heart (1949) with Susan Hayward.
He played a brutal police officer in Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950), also with Tierney and Preminger. Around this time, alcoholism began to damage Andrews’s career, and on two occasions it nearly cost him his life as he drove a car.
Edge of Doom (1950), another film for Goldwyn, was a flop. Andrews was then loaned to RKO to make Sealed Cargo (1951), in which his brother Steve Forrest has an uncredited role. (In an interview on Turner Classic Movies, Forrest stated “I’d have given my eye teeth to have worked with him.”) Back at Fox, Andrews was in The Frogmen (1951), then Goldwyn cast him in I Want You (1951), an overwrought attempt to repeat the success of The Best Years of Our Lives, during the cold war era Korean War.
From 1952 to 1954, Andrews was featured in the radio series I Was a Communist for the FBI, about the experiences of Matt Cvetic, an FBI informant who infiltrated the Communist Party of the United States of America.
Andrews’s film career struggled in the 1950s. Assignment: Paris (1952) was not widely seen. He did Elephant Walk (1954) in Ceylon, a film better known for Vivien Leigh’s nervous breakdown and replacement by Elizabeth Taylor. Duel in the Jungle (1954) was an adventure tale; Three Hours to Kill (1954) and Smoke Signal (1955) were Westerns; Strange Lady in Town (1955) was a Greer Garson vehicle; Comanche (1956), another Western.
By the middle 1950s, Andrews was acting almost exclusively in B-movies. However, his acting in two movies for Fritz Lang during 1956, While The City Sleeps and Beyond A Reasonable Doubt, and two for Jacques Tourneur, Curse of the Demon (1957) and The Fearmakers (1958), are well regarded. Around this time he also appeared in Spring Reunion (1957), Zero Hour! (1957), and Enchanted Island (1958).
In 1952, Andrews toured with his wife, Mary Todd, in The Glass Menagerie, and in 1958, he replaced Henry Fonda (his former co-star in The Oxbow Incident and Daisy Kenyon) on Broadway in Two for the Seesaw.
Andrews began appearing on television on such shows as Playhouse 90 (“Right Hand Man”, “Alas, Babylon”), General Electric Theatre, The Barbara Stanwyck Show, Checkmate, The DuPont Show of the Week, The Twilight Zone (“No Time Like the Past”), The Dick Powell Theatre, Alcoa Premiere, Ben Casey, and Theatre of Stars.
Andrews continued to make films like The Crowded Sky (1960) and Madison Avenue (1961). He then went to Broadway for The Captains and the Kings, which had a short run in 1962.
In 1963, he was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild.
In 1965, Andrews resumed his film work with support roles in The Satan Bug and In Harm’s Way. Although he had the lead in films such as Crack in the World (1965), Brainstorm (1965), and Town Tamer (1965), he was increasingly cast in supporting roles: Berlin, Appointment for the Spies (1965), The Loved One (1965), Battle of the Bulge (1965), and Johnny Reno (1966). He occasionally played leads in low-budget films like The Frozen Dead (1966), The Cobra (1967) and Hot Rods to Hell (1967), however, by the late 1960s he had evolved into a character actor, as in The Ten Million Dollar Grab (1967), No Diamonds for Ursula (1967), and The Devil’s Brigade (1968).
By the end of the decade, Andrews returned to television to play the leading role of college president Tom Boswell on the NBC daytime soap opera Bright Promise from its premiere on September 29, 1969, until March 1971.
Andrews spent the 1970s in supporting roles of Hollywood films such as The Failing of Raymond (1971), Innocent Bystanders (1972), Airport 1975 (1974), A Shadow in the Streets (1975), The First 36 Hours of Dr. Durant (1975), Take a Hard Ride (1975), The Last Tycoon (1976), The Last Hurrah (1977), and Good Guys Wear Black (1978)
He also appeared regularly on TV in such shows as Ironside, Get Christie Love!, Ellery Queen, The American Girls, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, and The Love Boat.
It was at this time, the 1970s, that Andrews became involved in the real estate business, telling one newspaper reporter, for example, that he owned “a hotel that brings in $200,000 a year.”
Andrews’s final roles included Born Again (1978), Ike: The War Years (1979), The Pilot (1980), Falcon Crest (1982–83) and Prince Jack (1985).
Andrews married Janet Murray on December 31, 1932. Murray died in 1935 as result of pneumonia. Their son, David (1933–1964), was a musician and composer who died from a cerebral hemorrhage. On November 17, 1939, Andrews married actress Mary Todd, with whom he had three children: Katharine, Stephen, and Susan. For two decades, the family lived in Toluca Lake, California.
Andrews eventually controlled his alcoholism and worked actively with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. During 1972, he appeared in a television public service advertisement concerning the subject.
During the last years of his life, Andrews suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. He spent his final years living at the John Douglas French Center for Alzheimer’s Disease in Los Alamitos, California.
On December 17, 1992, 15 days before his 84th birthday, Andrews died of congestive heart failure and pneumonia. His wife died in 2003, at the age of 86.
Partial television credits
|1963||The Twilight Zone||“No Time Like the Past”||Paul Driscoll|
|1969||Family Affair||“Wings Of An Angel”||Harv Mullen|
|1971||Night Gallery||“The Different Ones”||Paul Koch|
|1978||The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries||“Assault on the Tower”||Townley|
|1982||The Love Boat||“Command Performance/Hyde and Seek/Sketchy Love”||Mr. Paul Gerber|
|1982||Falcon Crest||“The Candidate” and “Deliberate Disclosure”||Elliot McKay|
|1948||Lux Radio Theatre||“The Luck of the Irish”|
|1952–1954||I Was a Communist for the FBI||Various episodes|
|1952||Hallmark Playhouse||“The Secret Road”|
|1953||Theater of Stars||“The Token”|