Dana Andrews’ greatest role is probably as the haunted detective in Laura
(1944) or the returning soldier who nabs the lovely Teresa Wright in The Best Years Of Our Lives
(1946), but I first noticed him as the falsely accused cattle thief in The Ox-Bow Incident
, hanged for a crime he didn’t commit. Surrounded by the likes of Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn, Jane Darwell, and Harry Morgan, it’s Andrews who haunts as the realization he’s going to die sinks slowly into the good man’s eyes. Without a word, you know it’s not himself he’s thinking of, but his beloved wife. It is a performance that overpowers through stillness and quiet. Unforgettably sad.
No matter the role, no one carried melancholy as comfortably as Dana Andrews. And it was always there, this thing only a Gene Tierney or Teresa Wright could even begin to penetrate. This sadness that seemed so settled within him created a compelling emotional distance with the other characters, but drew us in wanting to crack the code and know why.
Great actors, and movie stars for that matter, have an indescribable thing. They offer dimension solely by being. Andrews brought the weight of world. Though he was plagued by drinking problems in real life, I would hate to think weariness was his burden off screen.
He rose to the best material and elevated the rest.
A great actor and movie star deserving of a serious revival.