Steve Forrest: US actor who made his mark in The Baron and as Lt 'Hondo' Harrelson in S.W.A.T.

 

A prominent actor in film and television for 60 years, handsome and square-jawed Steve Forrest only occasionally played leading roles, notably starring opposite Anne Baxter in the baroque thriller Bedevilled. But he was a popular player who made an impression in such supporting parts as Jane Wyman's son in So Big (1953), for which he won a Golden Globe as best newcomer of the year, and Elvis Presley's brother in Flaming Star (1960). He never attained the stature of his brother, Dana Andrews, who was 16 years older and starred in several film classics.

Forrest achieved his biggest popularity on television, first when he starred in the British crime series The Baron (1966) and later when he played Lt Hondo Harrelson in the series S.W.A.T. Although it ran for only two seasons (1975-76), the show made a strong impression and is fondly remembered. Featuring the adventures of the Special Weapons and Tactics unit of the police force, it gave Forrest his own catchphrase, "Let's roll", as he drove his team of five sharp-shooters to their latest assignment.

The 12th of 13 children of a Baptist minister, he was born William Forrest Andrews in Huntsville, Texas, in 1925, and he made his screen debut (as William Andrews) playing a young sailor in a film featuring his brother, Crash Dive (1943). After military service during the Second World War – during which he fought in the Battle of the Bulge – he attended UCLA, gaining a bachelor's degree in theatre arts. He then acquired experience working as a stage hand at the La Jolla Playhouse outside San Diego, where he was spotted by actor Gregory Peck, who cast him in a production he was directing and recommended him for a screen test at MGM.

In 1952, he was billed as Steve Forrest for the first time when he played the part of a movie actor supporting an aspiring actress (Lana Turner) in a screen test, in Vincente Minnelli's brilliant movie about Hollywood, The Bad and the Beautiful. The following year, he had small roles in Battle Circus and Dream Wife – and played his award-winning role in a film version of Edna Ferber's novel So Big, as the son who disappoints his self-sacrificing mother to pursue money instead of ideals.

After playing the murdered brother of a corrupt cop in Rogue Cop (1954), and a professor suspected of murders actually committed by an ape in Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954), Forrest was given his first top-billed role as a would-be priest who is on his way to take his vows when he meets and falls in love with a murderess (Anne Baxter), in Mitchell Leisen's heady thriller Bedevilled (1955). The film's failure and that of his next starring vehicle, The Living Idol (1957), the story of a jaguar possibly harbouring a sacrificed Aztec soul, did not help his career.

A trained singer, he tried Broadway, playing a prizefighter in The Body Beautiful (1958), the first musical with songs by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, but its run was short. He returned to Hollywood to play a reporter helping small-town girl Doris Day defeat big business in the Capra-esque comedy It Happened to Jane (1959). He had a good role as a gunslinger in love with a travelling player (Sophia Loren) in George Cukor's aimless tale of a troupe touring the Wild West, Heller in Pink Tights (1960), though Cukor confessed, "There was never a story, but the subject attracted me." In Don Siegel's Flaming Star (1960), one of Elvis Presley's finest films and an uncompromising view of racial prejudice, Forrest persuasively played the brother of Presley, whose mother was a native American.

He was a rancher wooing widow Debbie Reynolds in the mild romance The Second Time Around (1961), and then played a Captain taking part in the D-Day Normandy landings in what was to be his final major movie, The Longest Day (1962).

Forrest began playing prominent guest roles in such TV series as The Twilight Zone, The Virginian, Rawhide and The Fugitive. He relocated with his family to the UK for the two-season run of the ITV series The Baron, in which he starred as an antiques dealer who is secretly an espionage agent. It was one of the first colour series on British television, and made him a well-known figure.

He returned to the US in 1967 to feature in such shows as Gunsmoke – in which he played one of the few men who could outdraw hero Matt Dillon – The High Chaparral, Mission Impossible, Bonanza, Alias Smith and Jones, The Streets of San Francisco and Cannon. In 1975 he starred in the series S.W.A.T.

He stated at the time that both he and his brother owed their acting zeal to their father. "The awe and respect and excitement he generated putting across his Biblical exhortations exhilarated me," he remembered. When a feature-length version of the show was made in 2003, starring Samuel L Jackson as Hondo, Forrest was given a cameo role as a driver.

He had earlier returned to the cinema screen to play the lawyer and lover of Joan Crawford in the notorious biography Mommie Dearest (1981). In 1986 he joined the cast of Dallas when he was cast as Wes Parmalee, an impostor claiming to be Jock Ewing. Though the character had been devised in order to become a permanent replacement, viewers did not care for the storyline, and the character was dropped.

An adept golfer who played in major tournaments, he was also a keen beekeeper. He married his wife, Christine, a college sweetheart at UCLA, in 1948, and they had three sons.

Steve Forrest, actor: born Huntsville, Texas 29 September 1925; married Christine 1948 (three sons); died Thousand Oaks, California 18 May 2013.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

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
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn