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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Buddy DeFranco
people
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
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: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015