Mar 20, 2013

Keith Andes without Marilyn

Keith Andes may be best known for drawing attention away from Marilyn Monroe by taking off his shirt in Clash by Night (1952), but the former model, singer, and Broadway star spent the next decade displaying a chiseled chest that would shame 1950s Tarzan Gordon Scott, and give the first generation of gay Boomer boys their first crush.

To ensure that he didn't scare audiences, he was often cast as meek, mild-mannered, gay-vague types whose muscles appear as a surprise revelation.  And directors mandated ample buddy bonding before he found his way into the arms of the girl.

In The Farmer's Daughter (1947), as one of the three Holstrom boys (the other two are Tarzan Lex Barker and James Arness) who watch their sister (Loretta Young) get involved in politics.

In Blackbeard the Pirate (1952), as a mild-mannered physician (with a spectacular physique) who goes undercover to spy on Blackbeard (Robert Newton).

In Away All Boats (1956), as a mild-mannered physician (aboard a World War II navy boat) who is embroiled in the personal problems of nearly every 1950s hunk in the business, including Lex Barker, Western star Jeff Chandler, Richard Boone, and George Nader.

In The Girl Most Likely (1958), as a mild-mannered boat mechanic, one of three men who all get engaged to the same girl (the other two are Tommy Noonan and Cliff Robertson).  

As pianist Franz Liszt, whose beloved piano is kidnapped on Have Gun -- Will Travel (1961).

During the 1960s and 1970s, Andes made the usual round of tv series: Western, spy, swinging detective, sitcom. He voiced the superhero Birdman on Saturday morning tv.   But the muscles occasionally popped out, as in the Star Trek episode "The Apple" (1967): Keith played a member of an alien species that Kirk and company interfere with (1970s teen idol David Soul played another).

He retired from acting in 1980, and died in 2005. No evidence that he was gay in real life, but no evidence of the homophobia of many men of his generation, either.

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