Molly Wheeler

Andrea King as Molly Wheeler in "The Very Thought of You," Warner Bros., 1944.

Andrea King as Molly Wheeler in “The Very Thought of You,” Warner Bros., 1944.

The role of Molly Wheeler in “The Very Thought of You” (Warner Bros., 1944) gave Andrea King the big break she’d been dreaming of. Originally she was brought in to test for the part because she bore a strong resemblance to the film’s original star Ida Lupino, who would play her older sister Janet. Andrea’s impression was so good she stayed on to play Molly even after Ida was taken off the film to star in another picture and was replaced by Eleanor Parker. It was a good thing they kept Andrea in the part, too.

Critics and moviegoers took notice immediately of the new striking brunette with the cool edge. But Molly was a difficult character for Andrea to play. Molly’s husband of only a few weeks had been rushed off to war somewhere in the South Pacific, and her way of coping with it was to all-but-deny the marriage and her love for this man had ever occurred. Instead, she was stepping out with the boys in flashy new dresses and making fun of Janet’s budding relationship with a soldier on leave (Dennis Morgan). In reality, Andrea’s own beloved husband Nat Willis was fighting the war overseas in Guadalcanal, and it became a real challenge for the young actress to relate to such an opposite feeling from her own.

It was a great part, however, and Andrea knew it. She delivered a knockout performance in the film. The renowned Hedda Hopper even remarked in one of her newspaper columns to the effect of, “Look out, Bette Davis, here comes Andrea King!” — a playful little comment that unfortunately made professional adversaries out of the powerful Miss Davis and the newcomer Andrea King. Still, Andrea’s performance was the beginning of a string of good parts at the studio, including the role of Catherine Scott in “God Is My Co-Pilot” (Warner Bros., 1945). In that picture, however, Andrea got to play the sympathetic wife who deeply loves and grieves over her missing husband (Dennis Morgan), a heroic pilot who is shot down during World War II.