Here’s a fact I somehow managed to live a lifetime without knowing: ’40’s noir star Dana Andrews (1909-1992), best known for Laura (1944), was the much older brother of Steve Forrest (William Forrest Andrews, 1925-2013), who I principally knew as a TV actor in the 1970s.
Andrews and Forrest were full biological brothers, from a family of 13 siblings — Andrews was third oldest, Forrest was 12th. Their father was a Southern preacher. Andrews had been born in rural Mississippi, and raised in Huntsville, Texas, where Forrest was born. Though separated by 16 years, they had similar career paths. Both attended college, then went on to gain experience as actors at important regional theatres. Andrews studied business administration at Sam Houston State University before moving west and appearing in nearly two dozen plays at Pasadena Playhouse. Forrest served in the army first (Battle of the Bulge), then went on to major in theatre at UCLA, and appear in plays at La Jolla Playhouse.
Obviously with a Southern preacher for a father, Dana has the rockier road, blazing a path that his younger brother could follow. In his early years he studied to be a singer and performed on the radio, though those skills seldom made it onto the screen. Ultimately he was to be associated primarily with noir and crime dramas, with an understated appeal not unlike Alan Ladd’s, though initially he was cast in many westerns, drawing upon his easy Texas charm. Andrews appeared in a long list of classic Hollywood films, including The Westerner (1940), Tobacco Road (1940), Belle Starr (1941), Ball of Fire (1941), The Ox-Bow Incident (1942), Laura (1944), State Fair (1945), A Walk in the Sun (1944), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Boomerang (1947), Daisy Kenyon (1947), The Iron Curtain (1948), While the City Sleeps (1956), and Zero Hour (1957), the film on which the comedy Airplane! is based. This is significant because, two decades later, Andrews would also appear in Airport 1975.
By that time, Forrest was achieving his own greatest claim to fame, starring in the TV series S.W.A.T. (1975-76) as the squad commander, named “Hondo”. This was a favorite show of my tween years, which I wrote about here. Forrest looked like more of a tough guy than his brother, with a broader nose and face that made him looks slightly thuggish, kind of like Jack Palance. Because of his name, and some of the roles he played, I was much more apt to confuse him with Robert Forster than to link him with his brother. Forest had been appearing in films almost as long as Andrews, although inititally as a bit player. He began to get named parts in the ’50s. He was in such things as So Big (1953), Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954), Flaming Star (1960, with Elvis), Heller in Pink Tights (1962), The Longest Day (1962), The Wild Country (1970), North Dallas Forty (1979), Mommy Dearest (1981), Spies Like Us (1985), and Amazon Women on the Moon (1987). He played Hawkeye in a 1977 tv version of The Last of the Mohicans which we mentioned here.
Both brothers were frequent guest stars on television for decades. Some of Andrews’ last credits were in things like the TV movie Ike: The War Years (1979-80) and The Love Boat. Forrest’s last high profile work was on things like Dallas and Murder She Wrote. His last part was a cameo in the 2003 movie version of S.W.A.T.