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Five Stars With a New Luster

July 31, 1994|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Movie stars had faces then. And glamour. And magical auras.

Over the decades, several have become legend: Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Katharine Hepburn. Their images grace posters and T-shirts. Festivals present retrospectives of their films.

But there were numerous other talented actors and actresses who worked in Hollywood in the 1930s, '40s and '50s who never developed a cult following, but were acclaimed stars in their own right. Thanks to home video and cable, today's film viewers have been reintroduced to these movie stars. The scoop on five of our favorites:

Dana Andrews (1909-1992)

CHARACTERISTICS: Handsome, sensitive, brooding, dependable, romantic, forceful; played good guys and villains and was equally at home in sophisticated, contemporary roles as well as Westerns.

BEGINNINGS: Andrews, the older brother of Steve Forrest, worked as a gas station attendant while a student at the Pasadena Playhouse theater group. He eventually was signed by producer Samuel Goldwyn and in 1940 began to appear in supporting roles in Goldwyn and Fox films, including William Wyler's 1940 sagebrush tale "The Westerner" and Howard Hawks' 1941 comedy "Ball of Fire." Singled out by critics in 1943 for his memorable turn as a victim of a lynch mob in William Wellman's "'The Ox-Bow Incident."

BREAKTHROUGH FILM: "Laura" (1944): Otto Preminger's classic romantic-mystery stars Andrews as a sexy, hard-boiled and vulnerable Los Angeles police detective. His character tries to solve the suspected murder of a beautiful young woman named Laura (Gene Tierney) and finds himself falling in love with her as he digs deeper into the case.

SET YOUR VCRs FOR: "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946): Andrews gives his best performance in the multiple Oscar-winning film as a disillusioned World War II veteran who has a difficult time coping with civilian life.

"Boomerang!" (1947): Andrews plays a determined prosecuting attorney trying to find a pastor's murderer in an excellent semi-documentary mystery directed by Elia Kazan.

"Where the Sidewalk Ends" (1950): Andrews teamed up again with Preminger and Tierney for an inspired film noir . Andrews plays a violent New York police detective who accidentally commits a murder while investigating a murder. He then desperately tries to cover up his own crime while continuing on the case.

"My Foolish Heart" (1950): Andrews is at his romantic best as a soldier whose romance with a young woman (Susan Hayward) ends in tragedy.

John Garfield (1913-1952)

CHARACTERISTICS: Brooding, sexy, violent, rebellious, carried a huge chip on shoulder but had a vulnerable and sensitive side. Paved the way for Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and James Dean.

QUOTABLE: "Whaddya going to do, kill me? Everybody dies!"--Garfield in 1947's "Body and Soul."

BEGINNINGS: Just like many of his characters, Garfield grew up tough and poor on New York's Lower Eastside. As a teen-ager, he won a debating contest sponsored by the New York Times and received a scholarship to attend the Oupsenskaya Drama School. In the '30s, he joined Broadway's famed Group Theatre where he caught the eye of Warner Bros., which brought him to Hollywood in 1938.

BREAKTHROUGH FILM: "Four Daughters" '(1938): Garfield made his film debut and received a best supporting Oscar nomination for his mesmerizing turn as Mickey Borden, an embittered down-on-his-luck composer who marries the fresh-faced daughter (Priscilla Lane) of a widower musician (Claude Rains).

SET YOUR VCRs FOR: "Pride of the Marines" (1945): Garfield gives a rugged, multilayered performance as World War II hero Al Schmid, who was blinded by a grenade during a Japanese attack. He returns home angry and bitter, fearing rejection by his wife (Eleanor Parker).

"The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1946): Garfield and Lana Turner sizzle as the murderous illicit lovers in this red-hot version of James M. Cain's tale of love, lust, and revenge.

"Humoresque" (1946): Garfield plays as a tough guy from the slums who becomes a famed violinist and fiddles around with a wealthy, suicidal society matron (Joan Crawford).

"Body and Soul" (1947): Garfield received a best actor Oscar nomination for his greatest performance as Charlie Davis, a slum kid with--what else?--a chip on his shoulder who becomes a championship boxer.

"Force of Evil" (1948): Engrossing cult film finds Garfield in fine form as a hard-as-nails, self-centered attorney, working for Wall Street and a racketeer.

"The Breaking Point" (1950): Garfield gives a finely etched performance as a skipper so desperate for money that he agrees to take on illegal cargo and nearly loses his family and life in the process. Based on Ernest Hemingway's "To Have and Have Not."

Robert Ryan (1909-1973)

CHARACTERISTICS: Dependable, versatile leading man and character actor; played everything from heroes to villains to psychopaths.

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