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THREE DECADES OF DANA ANDREWS & JEANNE CRAIN

Dana tries wooing Jeanne Crain in the rain from DUEL IN THE JUNGLE
Depending on your taste, STATE FAIR is a timeless musical — as corny as it gets and yet, there's something kinda... well...

In STATE FAIR
Just so damn fun about the seemingly limitless area of the title location where a young, tall, gorgeous farm girl, played by a young, tall, gorgeous Jeanne Crain, meets a dashing, handsome, glib newspaper reporter: And like next year's Best Picture Winning THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, wherein another young virginal lass falls for the slightly older Andrews in Teresa Wright, you'll be rooting that Crain and Andrews become a pair — one that, in real life on the big screen in fictional settings, lasted three decades, ending with a campy drive-in road flick we previous covered as an Andrews & Crain double feature along with STATE FAIR (inspired by their hilariously contrasting plot-lines), juxtaposing the young duo with their older, more weathered and yet still attractive selves — from falling in love surrounded by cotton candy to being literally driven crazy, and almost to death...

Crain and Andrews face off on MADISON AVENUE
In-between those eclectic bookends is Dana and Jeanne's middle-age films — the last two of four overall collaborations including a 1950's adventure yarn but we'll start with a talky, lightweight business flick about a man who's able to — through manipulation after paying close attention to detail — successfully turns nobodies into somebodies...

Year Released: 1961
MADISON AVENUE: Perhaps second only to TOUCH OF EVIL or THE STUNT MAN (given the particular mood while viewing either), what we consider to be one of the best directed movies is FALLEN ANGEL, Otto Preminger's Film Noir followup to LAURA. And for fans of Dana Andrews, watch MADISON AVENUE right after to learn how there's not much difference between a charlatan and an ad man, especially with Andrews in each role, talking his way into and out of complicated situations.

Based on a book titled The Build-Up Boys, Dana's just like his FALLEN character — only with a place to sleep and worth more than a crumpled dollar. His smooth-talking Clint Lorimer is out of a job after being duped by his boss — a honest backstabber who's wary that his own employee's skills could tempt away any and all clients. He seeks revenge by going under his now rival firm i.e. thinking outside the box and joining with a nowhere advertising agency — to turn dented bronze into smooth, shiny gold...

Jeanne Crain watches Dana Andrews talking, and talking
That's where much of the story plays out, as does a business relationship between Dana's Clint and Eleanor Parker as Anne Tremaine. Their chemistry is smart and interesting while Jeanne Crain, as a smitten reporter who Clint uses, again and again, so she eventually has a personal grudge and score to settle, takes a backseat... That's right, our spotlighted couple aren't extremely important together despite sharing plenty of screen time. Clint's time is spent to not only make his new boss, Anne, go from a plain-Jane into a beautiful woman on the move, but being challenged by the film's plot — to turn Eddie Albert's underachieving, super rich yet hands-on milk company owner into a terrific speech maker...

AVENUEScore: ***1/2
A pivotal scene — with Dana's usual coolness on full display — has Albert, always a pleasure to watch, reading from cue cards written by Clint and then having to wing the rest of an important, game-changing speech on his own: Eddie's character is perhaps the most intriguing and likable, which makes it extremely awkward when the tables turn, and the inevitable conflict of ideals arises in which Clint has to knock the ever-smiling Albert's suddenly overconfident Harvey Ames off his pedestal...

Far from that FAIR, Dana Andrews lights Jeanne a smoke
Leading to some good news, and bad: There's never enough time or energy spent to make Eddie Albert's earthy Mogul, who eventually turns into a sort of lofty villain with more power than genuine experience, into a person that Andrews should despise, and yet — for the good news — eventually we're left with far more meaningful interplay between Dana and Jeanne, left in the ruins of so many twists and turns that aren't explained enough to be completely involving, but it's an entertaining enough little film despite the fact it feels incomplete — even from the very beginning, when Andrew's boss had double-crossed him. That scene was skipped altogether and explained in a conversation inside a taxi cab and, in that particular scene and throughout the movie, there is far more weight on snappy dialogue than fleshing-out the characters.

Crain & Andrews
At this point of his career, Dana Andrews would often rely too much on his line-delivery that, while each word sounds like its own relaxing poem, he seemed to be taking a shortcut — not necessarily hindering the performance, but becoming a bit too reliant on style over substance... Which leads to our own theory that MADISON AVENUE might be the first film that Andrews starred in after he sobered up after a reported (and admitted) decade long binge that hindered his career...

Despite the flaws, he's like a brand new man, back on board with his old, or rather, youthful energy. In the best scene, as he convinces Eleanor Parker to give him a job to make her company better, Andrews does what he used to do best: Working hard without seeming to work at all while making the other people around him shine, in some cases, even brighter than himself (Frederic March won the Oscar for BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES and Dana wasn't even nominated... And March's best scenes are with Andrews, and often driven by him). That might not be a smart move for anyone wanting to be a superstar, but it is the epitome of the thing called acting and one of many reasons he's our all-time favorite.

Terrific antique artwork for DUEL IN THE JUNGLE Year: 1954
DUEL IN THE JUNGLE: "Destiny seems to insist on throwing us together," Dana Andrews tells his STATE FAIR starlet a decade later in a dapper adventure-programmer — from England to Africa — where Dana seems more like an accidental, reluctant gentlemen action hero the likes of a Cary Grant or, as would occur years later, the Roger Moore James Bond type (a proverbial kite in a breeze instead of a salmon pushing upstream)...

Part of what makes the cinema of Dana Andrews interesting is how he took chances with different types of roles, always trying to stretch beyond the limited leading man persona even when he played the leading man. But the part of an American insurance investigator in England, about to catch a plane stateside but being called back at the last minute, fits him like brand new gloves on a workingman's hands. His voice sounds a tad higher-pitched as if sped-up a few notches while delivering witty one-liners — really seeming more like a Brit than a Yank, or else a proper, sophisticated statesman: imagine if his LAURA co-star Clifton Webb was his dialect coach.

Jeanne Crain nicely captured
A British production, DUEL IN THE JUNGLE has three acts in three different locations, starting out in England including a ship in a formidable storm...

Dana Andrews, Jeanne Crain, and a Rainbow Waterfall
The best scenes occur in transit from either location as Dana sticks to the newly married wife of a missing eccentric, extremely rich fella: His job to find the truth of whether the man is dead, in which, strangely enough, his mother would collect the insurance. So Dana's prime target (to whom he's instantly attracted to) is Jeanne Crain as the not so stressed-out wife, Marian. Despite wearing far too much makeup, she's pretty as a picture — sophisticated-classy yet down-to-earth and, ducking away from Dana's strategic advances, the complete opposite of her smitten STATE FAIR lass...

Dana plays a smooth and fast talker this time
But in this hat-tipping, jolly-ho adventure/comedy, as our Two Attractive "Ugly Americans" converse like polite tea-toddlers on land, there's a pulpy touch of intrigue on the ship to Africa, along with shades of creative Hitchcock style suspense and even a dash of Hemingway machismo...

DUEL: ***
If DUEL stuck mostly at sea, it'd lose the title but improve overall: The film loses its grip after reaching the inevitable JUNGLE locale, where, marching along with tribesman, shots of grainy stock footage of nature awkwardly serves as perspective while the actors seem all too studio-safe: Here where our hero and heroine bond, just enough to where her husband, once he turns up sneaky and nefarious, is no longer the man of her dreams...

The middle of the Jungle-traipsing Third Act, introducing the villain who will obviously lead to that title-bearing DUEL with Andrews... and deleting all that'd been built-up previously... feels like the introduction of another movie altogether, in which, not even a roaring lion, or the antagonist finally turning lethal, can save. But, flaws aside, for a time-filling programmer, it's time fairly well spent.

Dana & Jeanne weather HOT RODS TO HELL
STATE FAIR & HOT RODS TO HELL: After having already covered both STATE FAIR on another post (linked at the bottom of the page), which was Dana Andrews and Jeanne Crain's first collaboration, and then, over twenty years later, HOT RODS TO HELL — going from heavenly Americana in the 1940's to 1960's road raging bedlam during the psychedelic era: We'll provide two fairly brief summaries (though it's often difficult not to ramble)...

Some STATE FAIR Bliss
Upon the second viewing of the drive-in cult classic HOT RODS TO HELL... not only the last partnership of four movies with Andrews/Crain but the final of four low-budget HOT ROD flicks that began in the 1950's... it's surprising, with so much action, how much dialogue the two stars are given, including their plans for the future while being stalked by a trio of young punks... two boys and a girl... in a fire-red convertible...

HOT Insert Poster
Or during one long scene as the family seeks crowded shelter at a rest stop: Dana's extremely sore and broken-down from being stalked during "Round One" of the highway battle, and is still recovering a horrible car accident that occurred during the quick prologue as he's heading home from a sales trip for 'Christmas with the Family' and, scared to go behind the wheel but desperate enough to have to, takes his conservative clan into the middle of desert-nowhere to run a motel — if they get there alive...

DVD Menu Screen Artwork sans the interactive buttons
Dana's character is said to be a former high school jock, which fits the young Andrews early in his career. He never played an athlete but (like younger brother, SWAT actor Steve Forrest) with broad shoulders and a masculine frame he looked like one and, while having aged pretty good despite years of drinking, suffering through his character's tortured nightmare whilst bullied by young skinny punks, well... let's just say, fans of Dana's toughest flick, WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS, might be frustrated at his overall frailty... Which could be intentional in order for the inevitable turnaround to be something worth cheering about... Meanwhile, as an actor, he (and the other family members) take the situation as seriously as possible, and then some, adding to the camp value — nothing beats a movie that doesn't try being bad, and, what he suffers on the road... For those who saw the young, handsome Dana falling in love with a portrait, you just may sink even further into a manic depression from his often terrible line delivery... But, when in Rome... And HOT RODS is the Colosseum...

A rolling Mimsy Farmer
Meanwhile, Crain, while no Gene Tierney acting-wise — even in her gorgeous prime — has the faithful patience towards her husband's constant knee-jerk annoyance like a docile and understanding 1950's housewife — making it seem like they really, truly have been together forever and, burdened by extremely corny and contrived one-liners, both act as if they're trying to get it over with: that is, except sporadic moments as they scream with terror inside their caged vehicle, so obviously filmed in a separate indoors studio, far from the road-roaring action, the two screen vets, for better but mostly worse, are in a motion pictures practically all their own...

The first of what HELL was the end of
Like each of the prior HOT ROD flicks, the message centers on the dangers of teens driving fast. Yet this final installment has the youngsters not as victims, but wily, intrepid, formidable antagonists — driving that awesome supped-up Vette that would make more sense as a motorcycle, cinematically speaking, as HOT RODS TO HELL follows the Biker Flick template: simply replace big bearded brawlers with a blonde bimbo flanked by two rowdy rich kids... As for Dana Andrews, a man who, on screen, battled the Japanese, Germans, successfully crash-landed airplanes (he was the original Ted Striker!) to safety and was pitted against a conjured-up demon, you'd think this would be no trouble — but what he and Jeanne go through is truly a nightmare, and it's not very good acting on their, or anyone's, part along the way: although the kids, one who went on to produce ROCKY, do a good-enough job: for what they're hired to do.

Fairly Well
Alas, poor Jeanne and Dana, far from the great old days in their first movie that, filmed during World War II — watching STATE FAIR you'd never think such havoc was occurring anywhere — or the fact there was anyplace on earth but where an experienced newspaper man meets a gorgeous farm girl...

Their budding relationship actually evokes suspense on whether the perfect couple will connect: After all, like already mentioned at the beginning of this epic writeup, it's very similar to Dana and the other young "sweet, nice family girl" Teresa Wright in the post-war classic, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES: Sure, the couples adorn the poster art so it's a predictable turnout, and yet, you'll still hope it happens.

And on the other side of the tracks, MADISON AVENUE used their mature, adult, semi-sophisticated chemistry — despite the fact both were fifteen-years older than their day at the FAIR — in a far more unpredictable fashion which, at the end of their collaborative road, both wind up happily married: only with HELL as a brand new starting point, which can be ignited by clicking this link for the first Andrews/Crain writeup nicely titled HOT RODS IN STATE FAIR HELL.
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