Ann Harding

  1. Constance Bennett, This Thing Called Love, 1928.     Just like the 1940 re-make (Rosalind Russell replacing Loretta Young), Bennett succeeded Harding – in a rather different script to 1940’s. Just how much can’t  be stated as all ’28 prints have… dissolved? Unless you know different. If so, tell the British Film Institute.
  2. Carole Lombard,  I Take This Woman, 1930.    Or another one!   After three attempts, Paramount saw scant future in trying to match Fox’s top pair, Charles Farrell-Janet Gaynor, with Gary Cooper-Wray… or Harding. Now Cooper-Lombard…. smells of victory!
  3. Jean Harlow,  Hell’s Angels,  1930.     Howard Hughes saw a bevy of beauties when sound meant dropping the Norwegian (over)tones of silent star Greta Nissen. And he preferred Harlow’s “bombs.” However, it was  Ann among the Oscar  nominations that year  – for  Holiday.
  4. Katharine Hepburn, Christopher Strong, 1933.    All began well between bisexual Hepburn (in her second film) and  her lesbian director Dorothy Arzner until Kate discovered that  Harding had been Dorothy’s original choice for the aviatrix based on Amy Johnson. The atmosphere was not helped by Kate’s screen mother, lesbian Billie Burke, making overtures to her in front of  her lover, Arzner. RKO tried to save the reputation  of what was being called  “that lez movie” by finding another title for…  A Strange Desire.  Hepburn’s next outing (and first top-billing) was a second successive script by Zoë Akins, much closer to Kate’s own experience: Morning Glory.  Time magazine said her face “shone “like a face on a coin.” Even more so when she heard (when sailing to Europe) that she’d won the Best Actress Oscar. The first of four.
  5. Miriam Hopkins, The Richest Girl in the World, 1933.    RKO beat MGM to buying Norman Krasna’s original script – for $4,000. With Harding in mind for the wealthiest heiress., Dorothy Hunter. RKO then changed key and borrowed Paramount’s Hopkins. And, for good measure, Fox’s Fay Wray as her secretary
  6. Katharine Hepburn, A Woman Rebels, 1936.     “Several of my parts in those days,” said Kate, “I fought for… just to take them from someone who needed them.” Kate should have left it alone, it was her third consecutive flop and had exhibitors dubbing her “box office poison”.
  7. Annabella, Under The Red Robe, 1936.     The robe was Cardinal  Richlieu’s. Nothing to do with Annabella’s Lady Marguerite of Fiox (which resembles  one of my infamous typos.  But isn’t). 
  8. Claudette Colbert, Since You Went Away, 1943. “This is a story of the Unconquerable Fortress: the American Home…” Producer-writer and one of four directors, David O Selznick, refused both First Ladies of the Theatre, Katharine Cornell and her friend, Helen Hayes. And searched on through Harding, Irene Dunne and Rosalind Russell until finding his indomitable all-American mother in… the French Colbert!Steered by four directors, DOS included.
  9. Greer Garson, Madame Curie, 1943.   It was the biopic season… and as usual, MGM was thinking big. Greta Garbo and Spencer Tracy discovering radium as Marie and Pierre Curie. That was in 1938. Next, Katharine Hepburn or Harding opposite Alan Baxter. Finally, increduously, the Curies became the Minivers! Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon in the third of their eight teamings.
  10. Jane Wyman, The Yearling, 1945.     All was peaceful when head lion LB Mayer had Harding test Ma Baxter in the early 40s.  Thereafter, from 1941-1945, the filming of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel ran into every possible kind of vicissitude – from swarming insects to a hurricane and never findibng thew right kid for Jody. And when Claude Jarman Jr was selected from 19,000 other lads, he  boys – he got the measels. Said the star, Gregory Peck: “It was much too lushly done… The boy cried too much.” Not as much as LB Mayer.
  11. Mercedes McCambridge, Giant, 1955.

  12. Ava Gardner, The Sun Also Rises, 1955.    
    There are two main characters in Ernest Hemingway’s first novel. He wrote it in 1925.  They took forever to reach the screen. They are part of the post-WWI “lost generation.”  Jake Barnes is impotent. Lady Ashley  is  a nymphomaniac. Words, said Hollywood censors, “not proper for screen presentation.”  Ann Harding first won the rights in 1934  to co-star Leslie Howard. She sold out in 1944 to Constance Bennett, who  quit before finding her Jake.  By 1949, the couple were Montgomery Clift- Margaret Sheridan. Dewey Martin was a ‘52 Jake. There followed Gregory Peck-Jennifer Jones, Robert Stack-Dana Wynter – ultimately Tyrone Power-Jennifer Jones – she split for another Papa Hemingway heroine, Catherine  Barkley, A Farewell to Arms. Ava Gardner took over only to be replaced by  Susan Hayward (rivals in Papa’s Snows of Kilimanjaro, 1952) Hemingway insisted Ava was Brett  and no one  else.  And the offensive words? Producer Darry F Zanuck promised they would be un-uttered. He (half) lied.  Impotent was spoken, as a doctor explained his war wounds to Jake.  And Brett, well, she was no longer a nympho, just a lush.  Papa’s review? “It’s pretty disappointing and that’s being gracious.”

  13. Fay Wray, Tammy and the Bachelor, 1957.   Tammy, 17, was Debbie Reynolds, 24 and pregnant with Carrie Fisher..! Leslie Nielsen was the bachelor and Harding very nearly his nearly his mother… The next screen Tammies were Sandra Dee, 20, and Debbie Watson, 17. But never Carrie!


 Birth year: 1901Death year: 1981Other name: Casting Calls:  13