Dana Andrews — The Ultimate Film Noir Actor
Thursday, October 01, 2020
Memories haunt me of the many times I have watched the film Laura and detective Mark McPherson (played by the dashing-in-a-trench coat Dana Andrews) and how he falls in love with the woman in the portrait of advertising executive Laura Hunt (played by Gene Tierney) while investigating her murder. One evening he falls asleep to find the murdered woman in the living room.
My Rosemary and I have been married 52 years and our memories are pretty good. In my case I remember most of my boyhood in Buenos Aires (born in 1942, left in 1954). It would seem that my parents were innovators in their idea of educating their only son. They took me to a theater in the round performance of Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo Galilei when I was 8.
And until I left for Mexico in 1954 I saw scads of films that contained my mother’s favourite actors, Dana Andrews, Jean Tierney, Rex Harrison, Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Spencer Tracy, Dolores del Río, Henry Fonda, Leslie Howard, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Frederick March, Orson Welles, Gregory Peck, and Richard Widmark.
How was I to know then that many of the films I saw on movie row in Buenos Aires’s Calle Lavalle were film noirs? Only now would I tell Eddie Muller that one of the finest film noirs has to be John Ford’s 1947 film The Fugitive based on a Graham Green Novel (The Power and the Glory) with Henry Fonda, Dolores del Ría AND that Mexican actor (noir personified) Pedro Armendáriz and with camera work by the fabulous Gabriel Figueroa as cinematographer.
But there were two films that were dear to my mother’s heart, Laura and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney). It was in the latter film that as a boy I first discovered that dastardly villain George Sanders.
I have seen The Best Years of Our Lives so many times and every time I see it there is something new that I notice (Teresa Wright is an a late example) that I have come to the conclusion that no matter what anybody can say about Dana Andrews’s drinking problem he is film noir, and principally because nobody can wear that trench coat and a fedora like he does and there is that almost Gregory Peck-taciturn-look on his face. His voice fits the man.
Once I can remember listening in my car a Beethoven bagatelle so lovely that I parked my car and called the pianist of the Vancouver Symphony to tell her about it. Linda Lee Thomas then said this,”Ah, to hear something for the first time.”
I have not seen this Saturday’s (Vancouver at 9PM on TCM) film with the Laura pair, Where the Sidewalk Ends.
Ah to see something for the first time!
In Spring of 1986 I had the luck to be assigned by a Vancouver publication to photograph Vincent Price. I had my camera and lights in a corner during the press conference. He saw me and my lights. He came over and sat down. I told him that one of my favourite films of all time was Laura (he is in it) and another is the Fall of the House of Usher (blood seeped through the walls!). He was gracious and gave me ample time to snap his picture with my big camera.