Keith Andes

Actor and musical star with brooding good looks

John Charles Andes (Keith Andes), actor: born Ocean City, New Jersey 12 July 1920; twice married (two sons); died Canyon Country, California 11 November 2005.

A blond actor with an impressive physique and brooding good looks, Keith Andes made a strong impression in several films of the early Fifties - he played Marilyn Monroe's possessive boyfriend in Clash by Night (1952). He also possessed a fine baritone that was heard to advantage on the stage - he was Lucille Ball's leading man in her only Broadway musical Wildcat (1960) - and he could have been a natural successor to Howard Keel had not Hollywood cut back on musicals in the late Fifties.

Born John Charles Andes in New Jersey in 1920, he graduated from Temple University and worked in radio as an actor and singer prior to joining the Army Air Force. He had wanted to be a pilot but failed cadet training, and when Moss Hart's morale-boosting play Winged Victory was being produced with an all-servicemen cast, Andes won the role of a flyer in both the play (1943) and the film version that followed in 1944.

Andes had his first starring role on Broadway, by then using the name Keith Andes, in a revival of the operetta The Chocolate Soldier (1947), with choreography by George Balanchine, a new libretto by Guy Bolton and some scene-stealing comedy from Billy Gilbert. Opinions of Andes were varied - the critic George Jean Nathan found him "embarrassing to both song and story" - but he was given the Theatre World Award for the year's best performance in a musical. The same year, he was seen on screen in The Farmer's Daughter, which won Loretta Young an Oscar.

He returned to Broadway in 1950 to take over from Alfred Drake as Fred Graham in Kiss, Me, Kate, starring in the show for over a year. He then signed with RKO, and was cast in Fritz Lang's Clash By Night (1952) - Monroe documentaries often include the scene in which he playfully tightens a towel around her throat to signify his jealousy.

Other RKO movies included a spirited swashbuckler, Blackbeard the Pirate (1952), the thriller Split Second (1953), Back from Eternity (1956), as a co-pilot stranded with crash survivors in the jungle, and The Girl Most Likely (1957), a musical remake of the comedy Tom, Dick or Harry, with Jane Powell the bemused heroine trying to choose between three suitors. Andes was the handsome millionaire she almost marries before settling for true love, but though the film was a musical he was given no songs. (His only singing on screen was in the 1955 Universal musical, The Second Greatest Sex, an uninspired attempt to put Lysistrata into a western setting.)

A short spell as a contract player at Universal included roles in Away All Boats (1956), and Interlude (1957, as the doctor boyfriend of June Allyson, patiently waiting for her to end an affair with a married man). His role in Damn Citizen (1958), that of a police chief charged with ridding his department of corruption, was the inspiration for a short-lived television series in which he starred, This Man Dawson (1959). Television had given his singing a showcase when he played Johann Strauss Jnr in The Great Waltz (1955), co-starring Patrice Munsel and Jarmila Novotna. Andes sang duets with both ladies, and in a tour de force conducted the orchestra while singing a vocal version of the Overture to Die Fledermaus.

His most memorable singing role came when Lucille Ball cast him as her leading man in the musical Wildcat (1960). The Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh songs given to Andes included a humorous duet with Ball, "Give a Little Whistle", and the paean to oil drilling "Corduroy Road". Happily, these numbers are preserved on the original cast album, although the show closed after six months due to Ball's health. "Lucy was a hard-working woman," said Andes:

What she didn't have, though, was the stage discipline as opposed to television discipline. She was the lead and she needed to pace herself, and she never learned how to do that. The show could have run for three years at least.

While appearing in Wildcat, Andes divorced his first wife and married the actress Shelah Hackett, although that marriage also ended in divorce. He toured in the national production of Man of La Mancha (1968) and although he played guest roles in television series, he had virtually retired by the Seventies.

I was divorced, my kids were grown, and that is when I bought a boat and lived on it and ran charters on it over to Catalina and down to Mexico and back. I just had a ball.

A dedicated weight-lifter who went to the gym five days a week, he was also a chain-smoker, and had been stricken with a series of health problems that led to his apparently committing suicide by asphyxiation.

Tom Vallance

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
Nemanja Matic holds the Capital One Cup with Branislav Ivanovic on Sunday
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th-century cartographer created the atlas
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accountant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A specialist two partner firm o...

Recruitment Genius: HGV Drivers - Class 1 and 2 - Excellent Pay and Benefits

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Class 1 and 2 HGV Drivers are r...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Technician is req...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Account Managers - Radio

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Cheshire's number 1 commercial ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot