Actor Steve Forrest, whose leading role as Lt. Hondo Harrelson of ABC-TV's "S.W.A.T." made him a household name in the 1970's, died peacefully surrounded by family on Saturday, May 18th, 2013 in Thousand Oaks, California. He was 87.
Born William Forrest Andrews on September 25th, 1925 in Huntsville, Texas to Annis and Charles Andrews (a Baptist minister), Forrest was the youngest of 13 children.
At age 18 he enlisted in the military and served with the U.S. Army attaining the rank of Sergeant during World War II, where he fought in the historic Battle of the Bulge. At the end of the war, Forrest continued in the Army Reserve and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his college career. In 1946, while attending UCLA, he would meet his life-long love, Christine Carilas. The two were married in 1948 and remained together for 65 years until his death.
Forrest graduated with honors from UCLA in 1950 with a Bachelor's degree in theater arts and went on to work as a stagehand at the renowned La Jolla Playhouse in southern California. It was there, during the summer stock production of "Goodbye Again", that he was discovered by Hollywood legend, Gregory Peck. Peck cast him in the production and later arranged for his first screen test with MGM, where he was placed under contract.
In 1953, Forrest garnered the New Star of the Year, Golden Globe Award for his performance in the Warner Bros. film "So Big" playing opposite Jane Wyman and Sterling Hayden. Throughout the 1950's, Forrest landed roles on both the large and small screens, frequently cast on classic early television series including "Playhouse 90," "Climax! Theater," "Lux Video Theater" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."
His early films included roles as a P.O.W. opposite Ronald Reagan in MGM's "Prisoner of War" (1954), Robert Taylor's younger brother in "Rogue Cop" (1954), Doris Day's would-be suitor in "It Happened to Jane" (1959), Elvis Presley's half brother in the 20th Century Fox western "Flaming Star" (1960), Sophia Loren's gun slinging love interest in Paramount's "Heller in Pink Tights" (1960), and with John Wayne and an all star cast in "The Longest Day" (1962). Later, film and television appearances included "North Dallas Forty" (1979), "Mommie Dearest" (1981) with Faye Dunaway, "Spies Like Us" (1985) with Chevy Chase and Dan Akroyd, the TV miniseries "Hollywood Wives" (1985), a season on CBS-TV's "Dallas" (1985), "Storyville" (1992) with James Spader and "Killer: A Journal of Murder" (1995) with James Woods.
A trained vocalist, Forrest made his Broadway debut as budding prizefighter, Bob Stanton in the 1958 production of "The Body Beautiful" playing opposite Mindy Carson, Jack Warden and Brock Peters.
In 1965, under contract to BBC, Forrest relocated to London with his family to star as John Mannering, the international antique-dealer-cum-secret-agent in the British crime drama, "The Baron." The program marked the first color series on British television.
In a career spanning more the 60 years, Forrest was frequently cast as a leading man or protagonist "heavy". An aficionado of the American western, Forrest delighted in roles that glorified the genre including guest starring appearances in such television classics as "The Virginian", "Bonanza" and "Gunsmoke" among many others.
But it was his role as the hard-hitting yet warm-hearted Lt. Hondo Harrelson that most endeared Forrest to the American audience. As the leader of the police department's five-man special weapons and tactics team, he was often seen with his bullhorn in hand, jumping into the large dark gray van shouting the signature line, "Let's roll!" As a salute to the show, Forrest appeared in a cameo role as the van driver in the film version of "S.W.A.T." (2003) with Samuel L. Jackson.
An avid and accomplished golfer, Forrest frequently played in charity tournaments around the world. In 1976, he competed on the American team at the Bing Crosby Great Britain vs. U.S.A. Tournament at the iconic Glen Eagles Course in Scotland. His performance on the greens so impressed Crosby he was heard to say "… Steve, you may have to give up your 'amateur' standing!"
Although devoted to his career, Forrest's greatest passion in life remained his family. He is survived by his wife, Christine; sons, Michael Andrews, Forrest Andrews (Lori) of Los Angeles, Stephen Andrews (Sally) of Napa Valley; and his grandchildren, Samantha, Emily, Aubrey and Alex Andrews.
A service for family and friends will be held on Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 10:00 am at Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks-Griffin Memorial Park at 5600 Lindero Canyon Road, Westlake Village, CA 91362.