Vintage Hunk: Keith Andes

By: Mike McCrann

Keith Andes was Marilyn Monroe's sexiest co-star.

What? Who?

Keith Andes was a sexy, well-built actor/singer who co-starred with Marilyn Monroe in 1952's Clash by Night. Marilyn Monroe was probably THE sex symbol of the 1950s, but if you check her male co-stars in most of her films you won't find anyone remotely sexy. Most of her romantic partners were old enough to be her father, like George Sanders, Louis Calhern, Clark Gable, Yves Montand, and Laurence Olivier, or her Vintage Hunk co-stars Robert Mitchum and Tony Curtis. But the only handsome young hunks were Don Murray in Bus Stop and Keith Andes in Clash by Night.

John Charles Andes— soon to be Keith— was born in New Jersey in 1920. As a child and college student he was a precocious singer and actor. In 1947 Andes won the Theater World Award for Outstanding Breakout Performance of 1947 with his musical debut in The Chocolate Soldier. Andes then hit the big time when he replaced Alfred Drake in the smash hit musical Kiss Me, Kate. In between these two Broadway hits, Andes made his film debut in the Loretta Young comedy The Farmer's Daughter, playing one of Young's three Swedish brothers. But it was in 1952 that Andes got his two best film roles in Clash by Night and Blackbeard, the Pirate.

Clash by Night is the melodramatic story of world-weary Mae Doyle (Barbara Stanwyck) who returns to her hometown of Monterey, California and causes havoc by marrying a poor slob (Paul Douglas) and cheating on him with Robert Ryan. Andes played Stanwyck's younger brother and Monroe, in one of her first major roles, was his girlfriend. The sexual tension between both actors was palpable. Andes and Monroe were seen in bathing suits and it was hard to tell who had the sexier chest! Plus, the nude Monroe calendar scandal broke during the making of this film, so even though she was not a star in 1952, she and Keith Andes were about the hottest movie couple of the year.

Andes followed this film with the swashbuckler Blackbeard, the Pirate, with a scene-chewing Robert Newton in the title role. This hit action film was in glorious color and we got to see a hot, shirtless Andes in all his glory. Linda Darnell was the gorgeous female lead and the film was a crowd pleaser, especially with kids.

It looked like Andes was going to become a major leading man. His next film was the taut Split Second directed by Dick Powell, and this remake of The Petrified Forest was a wonderful film with a great cast. However, Andes then returned to Broadway in the flop musical Maggie, then returned to films and a contract with Universal, but none of his subsequent films were hits.

Once more Andes took to Broadway, this time co-starring with comic legend Lucille Ball in the musical Wildcat. Playing oil rigger Joe Dynamite, Andes was handsome, sexy and in good voice. Wildcat received so-so reviews and only had one good song, "Hey Look Me Over," but due to Ball's fantastic popularity it was a smash hit. Unfortunately, the show only ran six months as Ball had to drop out due to ill health.

Andes spent the rest of his career mostly on television. In 2005, after suffering from bladder cancer, Andes committed suicide by asphyxiation. He was 85 years old. Married twice with two sons, Andes was basically a footnote to Monroe's career by the time he died. Maybe if he had stayed on Broadway and concentrated on musicals he would have found greater fame. Who can say?

What is known, is that Keith Andes was sexy and talented and had the body of an Adonis. Seeing him and Monroe in Clash by Night makes you feel like you're watching two teenagers in heat. A bright career for both looked like a certainty. Sadly, both stars would have sad third acts.

But forget all that and just enjoy two gorgeous young stars at the peak of their beauty.