There appears to be some interest in my father's career as an actor. I've noticed the site has comments from my son (Rick) and my brother Jim. Hopefully this small amount of additional information will serve an informational.
Actor Tom D'Andrea dies
From a job in the Chicago Public Library, to performances on radio, in movies and on television, Tom J. D'Andrea was part of the Hollywood scene since 1934. During that time, he performed and wrote scripts for some of the top stars, was second banana on a TV show and played club dates.
D'Andrea died Thursday, May 14, 1998, at South Port Square where he lived since moving from Thousand Oaks, Calif. IN 1998 to be near his sons, Tom M. D'Andrea, a retired Marine Corps Colonel who lived in Punta Gorda Florida and Jimmy D'Andrea who at the time lived in Fort Myers.
"Jimmy moved to Fort Myers for business purposes and I have lived in Punta Gorda since I retired in 1980. Dad decided to sell the house in Thousand Oaks California and move to Florida to be near Jim and I." said Tom.
Born May 15, 1909 in Chicago, D'Andrea started his working career with a job at the public library in Chicago.
In 1934 he moved to Hollywood to work as a publicist for Betty Grable, Gene Autry, Mae Clarke and Jackie Coogan. He got his start in radio in 1937, writing scripts for Ben Bernie, Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor and the comedy team of Olsen and Johnson.
Drafted into the Army Air Corps when World War II broke out, D'Andrea was assigned to write a Gracie Fields program after being stationed at Camp Robert, Calif. Reading the lines at a rehearsal, Fields decided to have him read the lines in the show. This was the start of a galaxy of army radio shows that included the "Army Hour" and "The Man Behind the Gun.".
Ciro's Restaurant on Sunset Strip used citizen soldiers, and D'Andrea's comic monologue led to a Warner Brothers offer of a role in "This is the Army," with Ronald Reagan. Of the 450 servicemen in the cast, D'Andrea was the only one who won a contract with Warners.
He went on to roles in "Pride of the Marines" with John Garfield, "Night and Day" with Cary Grant (where he met his wife Helen), "Never Say Goodbye" and "Silver River" with Errol Flynn and "Dark Passage" with Humphrey Bogart. His last movie was "A House is Not a Home" with Shelley Winters in 1964.
After working in a movie, "Kill the Umpire," with William Bendix in 1950, D'Andrea was chosen to play the part of Gillis, Riley's talkative neighbor in the long running television series, "The Life of Riley" starring Bendix. Other TV shows he appeared in were "Death Valley Days" with Ronald Reagan, "Playhouse 90" and the "Hallmark Hall of Fame."
"He retired in his '60s. But, he didn't really retire. Like all actors and writers he never stopped performing. They would meet at places like the Friars Club and amuse themselves," said his son Tom. "That was when he started doing club dates at The Sands with Frank Sinatra. He also did a summer replacement TV show called 'The Soldiers' with Hal March. After they left, the show was kept on with Phil Silvers and renamed 'Sgt. Bilko'.
"He was on stage most of the time. He had a million stories and if you waited long enough, they would all come up again."
Up until the day he died D'Andrea would get dressed, get a cab and go out for a meal. Just in the last week or so he started slowing down. "He had a very bad heart and he had been having support from Hospice for the last three or four months. I can't say enough about Hospice, they couldn't have been nicer," Tom said.
D'Andrea is survived by his wife Helen, who lives in a Fort Myers nursing home; two sons, Tom D'Andrea of Punta Gorda and James D'Andrea of Washington D.C.; two sisters, Lois D'Andrea Atherton, Chicago and Maddy D'Andrea Olson of Hendersonville, N.C. and four grandchildren, Justin and Allison D'Andrea of Washington, Elizabeth Anne Smith of Port Charlotte and Rick D'Andrea of Birmingham, Ala. A son Michael, died a few years ago in California.
He was a Roman Catholic, a member of the Friars Club and the Screen Actors Guild. In lieu of flowers, donations were made to Hospice of Southwest Florida, 3028 Caring Way, Suite 2, Port Charlotte.
Funeral arrangements were handled by James McKee Funeral Home, North Port, Florida.
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