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Keith Andes, 85; Actor Was Marilyn Monroe's Co-Star in 1952 Film

November 27, 2005|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Keith Andes, an actor with classic movie-star looks who considered playing Marilyn Monroe's leading man in the 1952 film "Clash by Night" a highlight of his 30-year career, has died. He was 85.

Andes, who had been fighting bladder cancer and several other ailments, was found dead Nov. 11 in his Santa Clarita home, said Marshall LaPlante, a longtime friend.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office has ruled the death suicide by asphyxiation.

Though Andes was reticent about his career, the walls of his apartment were lined with memorabilia, including an album cover from "Wildcat," the 1960 Broadway musical he starred in opposite Lucille Ball. A framed handwritten note from Ball alludes to their sharing close quarters on stage: "I ate onions, ha-ha, love, Lucy."

Everyone "always, always, always" asked about Andes' friendship with Monroe, said Ryan Andes, his grandson.

"There was always a murmur about them having a relationship, but he said that wasn't the case," he said.

A friend who was the UCLA valedictorian in the mid-1950s asked Andes if he could get Monroe to attend the graduation reception. She agreed -- only if Andes would go as her date, his grandson recalled.

Andes came to Hollywood after studio head Darryl F. Zanuck saw the understudy perform in the Broadway production of "Winged Victory" and offered him a minor part in the 1944 film version.

The actor with the soothing baritone went on to appear in about 20 other movies, including playing one of the brothers in "The Farmer's Daughter" (1947) and Gen. George C. Marshall in "Tora! Tora! Tora!" (1970).

On television he starred as an amateur sleuth in "Glynis," a 1963 CBS sitcom in which Glynis Johns played his wife, and in the syndicated police drama "This Man Dawson" from 1959 to 1960. He also made guest appearances on more than 40 shows, many of them westerns.

He was born John Charles Andes on July 12, 1920, in Ocean City, N.J., to William, a lawyer, and Elsie. By 12, he was appearing on the radio.

After attending Oxford University, Andes graduated with a bachelor's degree in education from Temple University in 1943 and studied voice at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music.

During his three years in the Army Air Forces, he sang and acted in USO shows, including performing in South Korea.

After World War II, he appeared on Broadway in "The Chocolate Soldier" -- earning the Theatre World Award for the outstanding breakout performance of 1947 -- and later starred in "Kiss Me Kate."

In 1967 he played Don Quixote in a touring production of "Man of La Mancha" and kept in his living room a trunk he used while traveling with the show.

He bought a house in the 1950s and kept Arabian horses on a 3-acre ranch in Chatsworth, which then was considered far from Hollywood.

"Making trade talk on movie parties" wasn't for him, he told The Times in 1957. "My family and I are satisfied to be on 'the Western kick.' "

After retiring in the late 1970s, Andes did voice-over work but spent many of his days riding his motorcycle throughout the West.

In addition to his grandson, Ryan, the twice-divorced Andes is survived by his son, Mark, an original member of the rock bands Canned Heat and Spirit; another son, Matt; and two other grandchildren.

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