|Thomas J. "Tom" D'Andrea|
|Born|| May 15, 1909 |
Chicago, Illinois, USA
|Died|| May 14, 1998 |
Charlotte County, Florida
Thomas J. D'Andrea, known as Tom D'Andrea (May 15, 1909 – May 14, 1998), was a American actor of radio, film and television best known for his supporting roles on two NBC television series. He specialized in comedy.
From 1953 to 1958, he played the California aircraft company worker Jim Gillis in sixty-seven episodes of the situation comedy, The Life of Riley, starring William Bendix as factory worker Chester T. Riley who is living the "American dream." D'Andrea obtained the part of Gillis after he was cast as a myopic ballplayer in Bendix's 1950 comedy film, Kill the Umpire. Gloria Blondell played Gillis' wife, Honeybee, in the series. He left The Life of Riley to co-star with Hal March in the 1956 summer series, The Soldiers, but returned when that program ended. From 1960 to 1961, he was cast as Biff the bartender in Dante, starring Howard Duff as Willie Dante, a former gambler supposedly trying to run a legitimate nightclub in San Francisco but tempted by the lawless element.
D'Andrea first worked in the Chicago Public Library in his native Chicago, Illinois. He was then employed at the Sherman Hotel in the Chicago Loop, where many of the lodgers were members of the big bands passing through Chicago. In 1934, he moved to Hollywood to work as a publicist for Gene Autry, Mae Clark, Jackie Coogan, and Betty Grable. He debuted in a comedy stage act with his friend, Wilkie Mahoney, for whom he had previously substituted on a radio program. In 1937, D'Andrea began writing radio scripts for comedians Jack Benny and Eddie Cantor.
During World War II, D'Andrea was drafted into the United States Army Air Corps. At Camp Roberts, California, he wrote a radio program for a British performer. Similar work followed while he was affiliated with the military. A Warner Brothers executive spotted D'Andrea at the former Ciro's nightclub on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood and cast him with Ronald W. Reagan in the 1943 film, This Is the Army. Andrea wrote dialogue for this film too. . Altogether, D'Andrea appeared in thirty-five films, including Pride of the Marines, a 1945 picture starring John Garfield and Eleanor Parker; Silver River with Errol Flynn, and Night and Day, with Cary Grant, a 1946 picture based on the life of composer Cole Porter. In 1947, he was cast in his favorite role in Dark Passage as Sam the Cabbie, a taxi driver assigned to drive the Humphrey Bogart character, Vincent Parry, an escaped convict to obtain plastic surgery so as to change his identity. D'Andrea's last theater film was in the role of Gabe in the author Polly Adler's A House Is Not a Home (1964) with Shelley Winters. His last television film was as the father of the lead Ted Bessell character in Bobby Parker and Company, a comedy. Joan Blondell, the older sister of Gloria Blondell from The Life of Riley, was cast as D'Andrea's wife in this production.
His television guest-starring roles varied from The Danny Thomas Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Andy Griffith Show, Green Acres (three appearances) to, finally, That Girl, as the character Frankie in the 1971 episode, "Chef's Night Out".
After his acting career, D'Andrea resided for more than three decades in Thousand Oaks in Ventura County, California. He relocated to Charlotte County, Florida not long before his death on the day before his 89th birthday. A heart patient, he died in his sleep at his home in South Port Square. A few days earlier, he had sustained a fall in restaurant. He was survived by his wife, Helen, then a resident of a nursing home in Fort Myers, Florida. He had two sons, Tom M. D'Andrea, a former military officer, and Bobby Andrea, both of Fort Myers. A third son, Michael, predeceased his father. D'Andrea also had a brother named Bobby, who resided in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and two sisters, Lois Atherton of Chicago and Maddy Olson of Hendersonville, North Carolina, and four grandchildren. He was buried in a ceremony at sea.