Thursday, January 28, 2010

Keeping My Stevens Even

Having recently profiled Miss Stella Stevens, it seemed only natural to throw a bone, so to speak, to her charming and handsome son Andrew, a hunk of cuteness who was a bit of a sensation from the mid-70s to the mid-80s (and who then turned into a straight-to-video action and softcore sex icon and has since become a low-budget film producer and part-time actor.)

To hop back to the beginning, Andrew was born to mama in Memphis, TN in 1955 before she was famous. (She was only 16 years of age when she had him, having been married the year before and then divorced the year after!) He appeared as a little boy at camp in her film The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, but really didn’t attempt an acting career proper until 1973 when he began winning roles on TV series such as Adam-12 and Apple’s Way and bits in movies such as Shampoo and his mother’s Las Vegas Lady.

In 1976, he was cast as Rod Taylor’s son in the pioneer saga The Oregon Trail, a TV-pilot that was picked up as a series. Sadly, the series only lasted for a few episodes before being cancelled, but it gave him a degree of primetime exposure. (This is not Rod Taylor with him, by the way, but costar Charles Napier.) He also appeared in several less than blockbuster movies such as Massacre at Central High (which has a cult following), the white trash masterpiece Vigilante Force and Day of the Animals, but these roles gave him experience and gained him contacts in the industry.

Possessing pretty blue eyes, a winning smile that showed off stunning dimples, thick hair that feathered perfectly in the almost-required style of the day and a smooth, well-toned body, Stevens had little trouble finding work whenever a charming young man was required.

A decent role in the Vietnam War film The Boys in Company C showed him off to good advantage. In fact, 1978 was a tremendous year for him all around. He had a major showcase in Brian De Palma’s The Fury, all about telekinetic kids being experimented on and exploited by a shady government agency. He played Kirk Douglas’ son (and the two of them appeared to be having a fun time filming the beachside scenes which open the film!), though the bulk of the movie was handed over to Amy Irving for some reason. It’s a film that many people find disjointed and indulgent, not to mention silly, but it was a major release at that time.
Then, also in 1978, he headlined a major miniseries based on a Revolutionary War-era John Jakes novel, The Bastard. He had the title role and his face was plastered on the covers of TV schedules all over the nation. The epic program had him surrounded by many familiar names (William Shatner, Buddy Ebson, Donald Pleasance, Patricia Neal, Eleanor Parker, Olivia Hussy, Lorne Greene and Kim Cattrall to name a few) and a sequel that also starred Stevens, The Rebel, was broadcast a year later.

This same year (!), he married Charlie’s Angels’ Kate Jackson and the two of them set about turning the old story Topper (about a couple of married ghosts who come around to lightheartedly torment a stuffy man they’d known previously) which had long ago been a movie starring Cary Grant and Constance Bennett into a workable TV series. (A successful TV show had also already been done years prior with Robert Sterling and Anne Jeffreys.) They filmed a TV-movie version of it, but it wasn’t particularly well received and a series never materialized from it. Jack Warden costarred as Topper. The couple had poured every bit of time and energy they could into the project and when it was over, they found they had no real life together as husband and wife, divorcing in 1980. He later married and had three children with his present wife Robyn.
Over the next couple of years, Stevens appeared in the Rich Man, Poor Man follow-up miniseries Beggarman, Thief, the telefilm Miracle on Ice, all about the 1980 US Olympic hockey team, and then was cast in Death Hunt, a Lee Marvin-Charles Bronson adventure film in which he portrayed a clean cut, red-clad Canadian Mountie amidst a bunch of grungy mountaineers.

In 1981, he did the TV movie pilot and the resultant (and short-lived) series Code Red, in which he played a fireman alongside Bonanza’s Lorne Greene. Andrew has always looked good in any type of uniform (see also, his 1979 TV movie Women at West Point.)

1982 brought one of his most infamous parts, that of celebrity stalker to newswoman Morgan Fairchild in The Seduction! The relentlessly tacky flick was a big cable and video rental success thanks to some nudity from Miss Fairchild and several tawdry (and often unintentionally funny) situations between the performers. His success in this movie would eventually lead him to exploit the genre further when his mainstream career began to peter out.

He played the young boyfriend of 13-years older Yvette Mimieux in the TV film Forbidden Love and then played sidekick to Charles Bronson in the feature film 10 to Midnight. This movie had Bronson and him as detectives on the trail of a vicious serial killer in a scenario that drew inspiration from three different real life cases. Bronson’s character starts to do things his way rather than by the rulebook, which, thanks to Death Wish, audiences had come to expect from him by then. I recall enjoying the movie because, for some reason, the killer always got naked before dicing up his victims (!) and his apprehension only occurred after a nude jog down a city street!

Stevens made yet another attempt at a series with the primetime soap Emerald Point N.A.S., but once again, the show was off the air after less than two-dozen episodes. This was in spite of a cast that included Dennis Weaver, Richard Dean Anderson (later of MacGyver fame), Susan Dey, Sela Ward, Robert Loggia, Jill St. John, Robert Vaughn and the lickable Charles Frank.

Anyone who was alive in 1985 should remember the splendiferously tacky miniseries Hollywood Wives, based on Jackie Collins’ sleazy book (for which she has since penned various sequels, stopping just shy of Hollywood Window Washers.) Just the mention of it brings back aural memories of Laura Brannigan's synthy title song. It was one of the most heavily watched miniseries of the decade and boasted an unbelievable assortment of stars including Anthony Hopkins (!), Rod Steiger, Candice Bergen, Angie Dickinson, Suzanne Somers, Stefanie Powers and Robert Stack. I can never forget Mary Crosby on the phone telling a lover (I think it was Steve Forrest) who had just gotten out of the shower not to bother drying off because she was just going to get him all wet again! Stevens played an ex-prostitute trying to attempt a legitimate career in show business. However, he also played a deranged, murderous, heavily wigged and bearded nutjob whose every onscreen moment was a sidesplitting screamfest of riotous camp and preposterousness! It’s not outside the realm of possibility to suggest that this outing sealed the deal on poor Andrew’s career in feature films. He scarcely appeared in any type of major movie again, turning instead to the video market.

First, though, probably sick to death of trying to launch his own successful show, he joined the cast of Dallas for a couple of seasons, playing Casey Denault. He filmed 33 episodes over the course of about two years and added some welcome hunkiness to the program.

His mother Stella directed him in a small, cheesy, but endearing, comedy called The Ranch, in which he played a businessman who loses everything he owns and winds up operating a mud bath spa on a dilapidated plot of farmland.

In 1990, he co-wrote the film Night Eyes for himself and it proved to be a massive success in the video rental arena. This opened up a new chapter for him as he alternately wrote, directed, produced and/or starred in a large assortment of action or sex-oriented movies that were designed to make money for a small budgetary output. Occasionally, he’d find a small role for mom. He canoodled with such sexy starlets as Tanya Roberts, Heather Thomas, most often Shannon Tweed and even old pal Morgan Fairchild (in Point of Seduction: Body Chemistry III, the title paying tribute to their long ago masterpiece.)

Needless to say, these gems aren’t high on my list of viewing preferences. I might have seen one or two back in the early 90s. Nevertheless, Stevens has carved out a career as a very busy producer, occasionally taking a bit part in the projects if the mood (or need?) strikes him. Most of the films he’s put forth have starred folks like post-success Wesley Snipes, Steven Seagal and Kevin Sorbo, so maybe he shouldn’t leave space on the mantle for an Oscar, but amongst all the relative junk, he occasionally has had his hand in more mainstream fare such as The In-Laws and The Whole Ten Yards (not that these are destined to be classics, either, I’m afraid!)

I’m mostly content to watch him doing his thing during the decade or so of work he did when he was considered a prize pinup and a handsome, appealing sidekick.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is our next movie night sampler - YUM!