Steve Forrest

Steve Forrest
Steve Forrest

Steve Forrest obituary in “The Guardian” in 2013

Steve Forrest’s “Guardian” obituary in 2013:

Steve Forrest, who has died aged 87, was a product of the Hollywood studio system, then at its tail end in the 1950s. Although MGM had the handsome, rugged 6ft 3in actor under contract for five years, from 1952 to 1957, they gave him few chances to shine. It was only when he left the studio that Forrest got bigger and better parts in feature films – one of his best performances was as the white brother of Elvis Presley, who plays the son of a Native American mother and a Texas rancher father, in Don Siegel’s excellent western Flaming Star (1960) – and he was able to start a long and busy career on television.

In fact, it was on the small screen that Forrest would build his fame, notably in S.W.A.T. (1975-76), a cop series set in Los Angeles, the acronym referring to the police department’s special weapons and tactics team. It ran for 37 episodes, with Forrest as a stern, level-headed Lieutenant Dan “Hondo” Harrelson, who would cry out “Let’s roll” as he climbed into a van to go on another mission to catch villains.

Forrest was born in Huntsville, Texas, one of 13 children of a Baptist minister. An older brother, 15 years his senior, was the more famous Dana Andrews, who was to become a leading man in films during the 1940s and 50s. It was through this older brother that Forrest got his first taste of the movie business when, aged 18, he had a bit part as a young sailor in Crash Dive (1943), which starred Andrews and Tyrone Power.

After serving as a sergeant in the army during the second world war, Forrest moved to Los Angeles to study at UCLA. He graduated in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts and became a stagehand at La Jolla Playhouse, gradually getting roles. He resumed his postwar movie career with a small role in another of Andrews’s pictures, Sealed Cargo (1951).

But the following year, Forrest was able to distance himself from Andrews when he landed the MGM contract. At first he only had small parts, such as playing the actor in Lana Turner’s screen test in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952). He was glimpsed as a soldier in Battle Circus (1953), starring Humphrey Bogart and June Allyson, and played an army recruit under tough training sergeant Richard Widmark in Take the High Ground! (1953).

His first real parts came when he was loaned out to Warner Bros for two pictures. In So Big (1953), based on a sprawling novel by Edna Ferber, Forrest plays long-suffering Jane Wyman’s selfish son, for which he won a Golden Globe for most promising male newcomer. He was hardly able to fulfil his promise in the role of a scientist suspected of being a serial killer in Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954), a feeble adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe.

Back at MGM, Forrest was given more substantial roles than previously. In Prisoner of War (1954), a simplistic “Red Scare” movie, Forrest was one of a group of brave American PoWs, including Ronald Reagan, being subjected to torture and brainwashing in a North Korean camp. When a brutal Soviet officer asks Forrest where his family lives, he replies: “In Hollywood with my brothers Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy and my sisters Esther Williams and Janey Powell.”

Much better was Rogue Cop (1954), in which a poker-faced Forrest plays a policeman who is honest, unlike his detective brother played by Robert Taylor in the title role. Forrest was finally given rare top billing as a young man studying for the priesthood in Bedevilled (1955), a quasi-religious thriller, and as the writer hero in Mexico in The Living Idol (1957), a risible synthesis of exotic romance and mysticism. According to the New York Times, “a pretty young man named Steve Forrest plays the reporter chap. He is purely ornamental until he goes into a bare-handed battle with a jaguar.”

Freed from his MGM contract, Forrest portrayed a New York reporter falling for a rural Doris Day in It Happened to Jane (1959), and in Heller in Pink Tights (1960) he played a gunfighter who wins blonde dancer Sophia Loren in a poker game, but loses her to Anthony Quinn. The latter role gave the often stolid Forrest an opportunity to show more ebullience.

In the meantime, he had established a parallel career on television, appearing notably in westerns such as Bonanza, Death Valley Days, The Virginian and Rawhide. In 1965, he and his family moved to London, where he starred in 30 episodes of the ATV series The Baron. Forrest was rugged and charming in the title role, the nickname given to John Mannering, a Texas-born, London-based antique dealer who is really a secret agent.

On the big screen, Forrest would have a key role as the lawyer boyfriend of Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) in Mommie Dearest (1981), a rather trashy melodrama in which he looked plainly uncomfortable, nor was he in his element as a heavy in the unfunny spoof Spies Like Us (1985).

He then returned to television, notably with 15 episodes of Dallas in 1986, playing Wes Parmalee, an impostor pretending to be Jock Ewing, and in several episodes of Murder She Wrote.

He is survived by his wife, Christine, and sons, Michael, Forrest and Stephen.

• Steve Forrest (William Forrest Andrews), actor, born 29 September 1925; died 18 May 2013

The above “Guardian” obituary can also be accessed online here.

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