He was born Carver Dana Andrews on a farmstead outside Collins, Covington County, Mississippi, the third of thirteen children of Charles Forrest Andrews, a Baptist minister, and his wife Annis (née Speed). The family subsequently moved to Huntsville, Texas, where his younger siblings (including the late actor Steve Forrest) were born. He attended college at Sam Houston State University and also studied business administration in Houston, Texas. In 1931, he traveled to Los Angeles, California, seeking opportunities as a singer. He worked at various jobs, including pumping gas in 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.” Andrews signed a contract with Samuel Goldwyn and nine years after arriving in Los Angeles was offered his first movie role in William Wyler’s The Westerner (1940), starring Gary Cooper. He was also memorable as the gangster in the 1941 comedy Ball of Fire, again teaming with Gary Cooper. In the 1943 movie adaptation of The Ox-Bow Incident with Henry Fonda, often cited as one of his best films, he played a lynching victim. His signature roles came as an obsessed detective in Laura (1944) opposite Gene Tierney, and as a U.S. Army Air Force officer returning home from the war in the Oscar-winning 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives. Both films became classics. In 1945 he co-starred with Jeanne Crain in the musical State Fair. In 1947 he was voted the 23rd most popular star in the U.S.
He played a brutal cop in Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950), also with Gene Tierney. Around this time, alcoholism began to derail Andrews’ career, and on a couple of occasions it nearly cost him his life on the highway. By the middle 1950s, Andrews was acting almost exclusively in B-movies. A handful of films he starred in during the late 1950s, however, contain memorable work. Two movies for Fritz Lang in 1956, While the City Sleeps and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, and two for Jacques Tourneur, Night of the Demon (1957) and The Fearmakers (1958), are well regarded. From 1952 to 1954, Andrews starred in the radio series I Was a Communist for the FBI about the experiences of Matt Cvetic, an FBI informer who infiltrated the Communist Party. In 1963, he was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild. Andrews later appeared in a leading role as college president Tom Boswell on the NBC daytime soap opera Bright Promise from its premiere on September 29, 1969 until March 1971. In 1960 he and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. starred in The Crowded Sky. Fifteen years later, Andrews and Zimbalist appeared in Airport 1975, Andrews playing a businessman pilot who has a heart attack and crashes his plane into a 747 that Zimbalist is flying.
In the 1970s, Andrews was active in real estate, telling a newspaper reporter, “I have one hotel that brings me in $200,000 a year.” Andrews married Janet Murray on New Year’s Eve, 1932. Their son David (1933–1964) was a musician and composer who died from a cerebral hemorrhage. Janet Andrews died in 1935 of pneumonia. On November 17, 1939, he married actress Mary Todd, by whom he had three children, Katharine, Stephen and Susan. For two decades the family lived in Toluca Lake. He spent his final years living at the John Douglas French Center for Alzheimer’s Disease in Los Alamitos, California. Andrews eventually brought his alcoholism under control and worked actively with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. In 1972, he appeared in a television public service advertisement on the subject. In the last years of his life, Andrews suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. In 1992, at the age of 83, he died of congestive heart failure and pneumonia.
- January, 01, 1909
- Covington County, MIssissippi
- December, 17, 1992
- Los Alamitos, California
Cause of Death
- congestive heart failure and pneumonia