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Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis

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Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis

Postby moira finnie » November 15th, 2012, 3:25 pm

Here's more reason to be of good cheer in the next few weeks.
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Think of the high points of America film in the 1940s for a moment. Titles such as The Ox-Bow Incident, Laura, Fallen Angel, The Best Years of Our Lives, Where the Sidewalk Ends and more are likely to come to mind. One of the crucial elements that made these films classics was the expressive, often wordless eloquence of actor Dana Andrews. His screen presence gave these movies a depth and naturalism that was all the more remarkable for the seamlessness of his gifted acting. Andrews made memorable contributions to cinematic storytelling in film noir, classic westerns, and definitive examinations of the impact of war on the breakable human spirit. Yet few of us may know much more about this very private individual whose talent and longevity should have made him a much bigger star.

Fortunately for us, journalism professor and biographer Carl Rollyson, the author of the recently published Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews (University Press of Mississippi, 2012) will be visiting The Silver Screen Oasis on the weekend of December 8th and 9th. Carl will share his unique perspective on this actor, drawing on background gleaned from the actor's family, his friends, and Dana Andrews' own deeply personal journals and letters. This book, which was chosen as TCM's September Book of the Month, was reviewed favorably by film historian Jeanine Basinger in a recent piece in The Wall Street Journal. She described the actor this way: "At his best, Andrews embodied an era, the contemporary audience's concept of a 1940s man." Ms. Basinger added that this long-overdue biography "teaches us to appreciate an actor whose standing in the Hollywood pantheon should clearly be reassessed. As Mr. Rollyson clearly understands, Dana Andrews has nowhere to go but up."

After reading the book, which analyzes the actor's seemingly artless technique in his on-screen roles as well as his restive struggles in private, I found the story of this man quite moving. The portrait of Dana Andrews that Mr. Rollyson paints reveals the actor as a complex, quite remarkable person, with little or nothing to do with Hollywood glamour, but much to do with a talent and a drive for excellence that came out of a bare bones boyhood in Texas. As his friend and fellow actor Norman Lloyd described him, Andrews comes alive on the pages of this book as an individual who was also "one of nature's noblemen." I would only add that thanks to the writing ability of Mr. Rollyson, the central figure in this Hollywood story can still inspire compassion and respect even in those of us who only know him from his work.

Please plan on joining us at the Oasis on Dec. 8th & 9th to explore the life and career of Dana Andrews during the Q & A with Carl Rollyson.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7xyz9sL3HA[/youtube]

Links to Explore in Anticipation of this Visit:

The Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews Facebook Page

Reviews of Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews

Carl Rollyson's Website
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Re: Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis in

Postby Rita Hayworth » November 15th, 2012, 3:39 pm

A big thank you for getting Carl Rollyson ... on the 8th and 9th of December to have him to share his perspective on the life of DANA ANDREWS ... I have many questions that I want to ask him because I like DANA ANDREWS as an ACTOR.

Man, this been a great year for lining up GUEST AUTHORS here in Silver Screen Oasis.

Thanks Moira!
:)

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Re: Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » November 15th, 2012, 8:34 pm

Thanks so much for all your diligence in arranging this wonderful author for The Silver Screen Oasis, Moira!
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Re: Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis

Postby MissGoddess » November 15th, 2012, 9:02 pm

I can hardly wait. I really like Dana Andrews, his "Mark MacPherson" of Laura is one of my top ten favorite male characters in cinema. Thanks so much for making this possible!
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Re: Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis

Postby mongoII » November 15th, 2012, 9:25 pm

Moira, you can be sure that I will be checking in on the Oasis with a few questions for the author.
I for one have always admired Dana Andrews, an actor to be reckoned with.
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Re: Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis

Postby kingrat » November 16th, 2012, 1:59 pm

In one word: Wow! In two words: thank you.

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Re: Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis

Postby charliechaplinfan » November 16th, 2012, 2:50 pm

He's an actor I've been really impressed with as the world of film has opened up to me, Dana Andrews has been one of my best discoveries.
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Re: Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis

Postby Vienna » November 16th, 2012, 3:10 pm

I look forward to getting this book and it is indeed great news that Dana's biographer will be joining Silver Screen.i hope I can figure out timings to take part from the UK

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Re: Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis

Postby moira finnie » November 17th, 2012, 3:57 pm

It's great to see that people are enthused about this visit. I thought that we had several members who appreciated Dana Andrews' work. To keep our interest piqued, I'll be posting a series of clips and links to online movies with the actor between now and Carl Rollyson's visit here. Here's a memorable, nearly wordless sequence from The Best Years of Our Lives (1946-William Wyler) below to start us off.

Ironically, one of Andrews first appearances on film was in a small part in director William Wyler's The Westerner (1940). On BYOL, In Hollywood Enigma, the author quotes a story that the actor told, claiming that he appeared in the picture only at the
"insistence of [producer] Sam Goldwyn. 'William Wyler didn't want me, [Dana] told an interviewer. But on the first day of shooting, after an early scene with Harold Russell, the director called Dana over to him and said:

'What happened to you! You're a very good actor!' I laughed and said, 'Willie, thank you very much but I've made 20 pictures since I first saw you. Why, if I hadn't improved somewhat, I'd be a pretty stupid actor." In [Wyler's] mind, it was practically yesterday--he'd been in England during the war with the Eighth Air Force.'
Working together on this scene when Fred Derry (Andrews) was alone inside a dissembled bomber, Wyler described what he thought that Andrews' character was thinking about, and the actor got the faraway look in his eye that later required little editing in terms of performance:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tU0d3DVcKoY[/youtube]

If anyone would like to see this entire movie, it can be viewed online beginning below:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHXJW2fwjbk&list=PLD76E877DE92644B8&feature=plpp_play_all[/youtube]
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Re: Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis

Postby charliechaplinfan » November 18th, 2012, 7:38 am

I only saw this movie for the first time last year and it's already reached favourite status with me due in no small part to Dana Andrew's performance, I don't think anyone else could have been more effective in that role. It's a fine film. I'm looking forward to the clips Moira, thank you in advance.
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Re: Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis

Postby JackFavell » November 18th, 2012, 10:38 am

Dana can give these huge, all consuming, complex performances. I find him fascinating, and wonder what his acting techniques were.

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Re: Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis

Postby moira finnie » November 18th, 2012, 12:12 pm

JackFavell wrote:Dana can give these huge, all consuming, complex performances. I find him fascinating, and wonder what his acting techniques were.

Well, Dana Andrews had years of stage training under his belt before the movies and was a fixture at the Pasadena Playhouse for some time where he learned the mechanics and subtleties of performance. The biography does a great job of making the reader see the extent of work that went into this period of the actor's life, describing what was learned during his work in various plays such as Paths of Glory and Valley Forge, among others. With quotations from Andrews' journals liberally filling in the effort that went into his dramatic education, the actor's spot-on critiques of his achievements and failures as well as his anxiety comes to life on the page. As you know, Dana Andrews also studied voice for some years as well, though he eventually realized that he did not want to be a performer who was relegated to musicals alone (which was one reason why he did not let anyone know of his musical background on the 1945 film of State Fair). Interestingly, all this training and experience stood him in good stead, even when working with people who rigorously adhered to The Method. During the film shoot of Boomerang (1947) director Elia Kazan tried to crack his professionalism on one occasion, as described in this passage from the Rollyson book:

"Students of Kazan's career like to retail an anecdote that Karl Malden, who played a cop in Boomerang, told about the director's concern over Dana's drinking. The director, trained in the New York school of method acting, believed that the best performances came from actors caught at their most vulnerable moments--when they could not rely on proven techniques and mannerisms, but would have to respond to some new stimulus. Dealing with Dana, an actor who did [not] like to reveal much about himself or his methods on a movie set, the frustrated Kazan decided to play a trick that would shake up his star. So he rewrote a courtroom speech and delivered it to Dana the morning after one of his star's all-night drinking binges. Malden said that Kazan wanted to teach Dana a lesson. Malden also notes that Dana was a "lovely man"--which I take as code for an actor who did not exhibit the kind of sturm und drang Kazan believed was required for a first-rate performance. The director probably expected some kind of uproar over this last-minute substitution of a new 'hefty block of dialogue that Dana would have to master with a hangover. Certainly stars have walked off productions and indulged in tantrums after much less provocation than Kazan proffered. But Dana just said, 'Give me twenty minutes.' Malden admitted he relished watching the flummoxed director, as Dana delivered a letter-perfect speech for the picture's climactic scene. 'Dana was one of the few actors I have ever seen who was able to pull off that kind of memorization, sober or otherwise,' Malden concludes. The scene lasts far longer than most single takes in Hollywood films and is testament to Dana's domination of the screen even when there is no action, close-ups, music, or any of the other sorts of accompaniments used to bolster a performance."


Image

BTW, among the myriad ways that Andrews worked to pay for his training involved some help from some unusual sources and his part and full time work as everything from a bus driver and day laborer, to fruit picker, gas jockey, motel clerk and landscaper. No wonder Dana was so believable and compelling as a regular working stiff.
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Re: Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis

Postby JackFavell » November 18th, 2012, 12:47 pm

Oh my gosh, thanks, Moira! I had no knowledge of Dana before his Hollywood career. I didn't know how much training he had, nor even how interested in acting he was. I guess I should have known he took it seriously, judging from the great acting in films like BYOOL, The Ox Bow Incident, Boomerang, Night Song, Daisy Kenyon, A Walk in the Sun, Brainstorm, Fallen Angel, Laura, Belle Starr, Ball of Fire and so many more. I ALWAYS like him, sometimes more than the person I'm supposed to like better. And he's downright brilliant in BYOOL, Oxbow and Laura. I'd make a case for his brilliance in Daisy Kenyon and Night Song as well.

I guess I don't think about how much I like him until one of his movies comes on, then I'm always drawn to him, to his psyche opened for us to see. And I never miss those big three films of his. I suspect, had he been a tad less good looking and rugged, we'd think of him as we do Henry Fonda now, he had a real ability to think onscreen in the same way Fonda does.

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Re: Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis

Postby charliechaplinfan » November 18th, 2012, 3:08 pm

I've never watched one of his musical roles, I wouldn't associate him with musicals, that proves how successful he was in cultivating a different image. He's a handsome actor, I wonder if this caused him any problems getting some of the more complex roles that he would have liked to have chance with, perhaps the ones that Henry Fonda was considered for, I think that parellel suits him perfectly, wendy.
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Re: Dana Andrews' Biographer to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis

Postby moira finnie » November 18th, 2012, 4:32 pm

Alison, you have never watched him in any musicals because he only appeared in one, and though State Fair is quite a good film, he only "sang" one song, "It's a Grand Night For Singing," which was dubbed by Ben Gage. He only really sang once on-screen that I can remember, in the clip which you can see below. He never told Sam Goldwyn or 20th Century Fox (who split his contract) about his vocal training since that would have pigeon-holed him forever. This Aaron Copland song in the clip features a pastiche of a Russian folk song that was included in an early scene of Lewis Milestone's propaganda film, The North Star (1943). Some recognizable other faces in this clip are Anne Baxter and Eric Roberts (not Julia's brother, but the adolescent actor who played the young know-it-all character Bodo in Watch On the Rhine in the same year as this movie):
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1wpb3LrNTA[/youtube]

Dana Andrews did sing on stage occasionally, notably in a production of Cymbeline at the Pasedena Playhouse's Shakespearean Festival, which earned him some critical praise for his warbling. Carl Rollyson describes the period when he made the transition from singer to actor in the biography, quoting a letter written by Andrews at the time when he was making a conscious decision to pursue acting over a light-opera career:

Another veteran of the Playhouse, Oliver Prickett, recalled that 'a chap like Dana Andrews would come in just to be a singer. He wanted to amplifiy his light-opera career....A beautiful voice.' But he wanted to do more than that, submitting to the theater's demanding regimen. As Dana wrote his parents, 'From early morn til late a night I run from one appointment to another--dramatics, voice, orthodontist, dance (for free body movement) speech, fencing, and beside all this I have to study for parts and go to rehearsals every day.' This was the Pasadena Playhouse program that also included classes in makeup, costume design, manners and customs, various kinds of vocal training, and the history of literature.
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