Burgess Meredith


  1. Charles Bickford, This Day and Age, 1932.      Although he billed it  as “The FIRST Great Spectacle of Modern Times,”  this is the  forgotten  Cecil B DeMille film –  his only gangster talkie. (Close  to his 1929 demi-talkie, The Godless Girl). CB had a tough job finding his LA crimelord. Meredith, Lionel Atwill, Walter Huston, Chester Morris, Paul Muni fled.  After reading  the script?  The gangster was taken down by LA High School students, no less.
  2. Grady Sutton, Stage Door, 1936.     Change  of Butch in RKO’s version of  the Broadway hit
  3. John Garfield, Four Daughters, 1937.   With this budget slashed after Errol Flynn quit with health problems, director Michael Curtiz could not afford  Meredith (nor Van Heflin) and gave Garfield his movie debut, his first Oscar nomination and the lead in the follow-up,  Daughters Courageous, 1928.  The role was called Mickey… Meredith’s name in Rocky, three decades later. 
  4. Alan Curtis, New Wine, 1940. Both Buzz and Leslie Howard were sought  for composing Franz Schubert (1797-1828)  in the biopic.
  5. Marc Lawrence, The Shepherd of the Hills, 1940.    Change of Peter Matthews in John Wayne’s first colour Western. “A lachrymose bore,” said the New York Times.
  6. Ronald Harris, Jane Eyre, 1942.   Gene Kelly luckily lost the cameo that  became a cough ’n’ spit bit.   Poor Harris was not even credited. 
  7. Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944.   Peck’s breakthrough… Producer David O Selznick gave up and sold the AJ Cronin novel to Fox when he could not find the perfect Father Francis Chisholm. Prospective directors included Nunnally Johnson and Alfred Hitchcock before Joseph L Mankiewicz took over. Between them, DOS and JLM searched for their unorthodox Chinese missionary through Meredith, Joseph Cotten, Maurice Evans, Henry Fonda, Van Heflin, Dean Jagger, Gene Kelly, Alan Ladd, Edward G Robinson, Franchot Tone, Spencer Tracy and Orson Welles.  
  8. Douglass Montgomery, The Way To The Stars(UAS: Johnny in the Clouds), 1944.    Life on and around an RAF bomber base as the 8thUAS Yanks fly into WWII. Montgomery became Holis after Merfedfith passed. Film is best remembered for John  Pudney’s moving poem delivered by John Mills. “Do not despair/For Johnny-head-in-air/He sleeps as sound/As Johnny underground/Fetch out no shroud/For Johnny-in-the-cloud/And keep your tears/For him in after years/Better by far/For Johnny-the-bright-star/To keep your head/And see his children fed.” 
  9. Sheppard Strudwick, The Red Pony, 1948. Eight years earlier, director Lewis Milestone was planning a reunion of Meredith and Junior Lon – the brothers from Of Mice and Men, also written by John Steinbeck.
  10. Errol Flynn, The Sun Also Rises, 1957.     After the Hays Office censors stopped Fox filming the hedonistic Hemingway book in 1933, Ann Harding and Paulette Goddard chased the rights – as did Meredith and Franchot Tone. By the 50s, Howard Hawks planned Montgomery Clift as the impotent (sssh!) Jake Barnes opposite Margaret Sheridan as Brett, then Brando and Gene Tierney… It took Fox a quarter-century to finally make the film and even then, producer Darryl F Zanuck had to promise not touse the word impotent.He did, anyway!
  11. Peter O’Toole,  Lawrence of Arabia, 1961.
  12. Anthony Quinn, Regina, 1982.      He was in talks when the film was due for real locations in Louisiana (and not sets in Rome) with Michael York, Shelley Winters.
  13. Paul Reubens, Batman Returns, 1991.


    Brat Packer Molly Ringwald worked with the veteran Buzz – as father and  daughter – on the infamous Jean-Luc Godard assassination of King Lear, 1986.   Godard never ate with his cast and so, said Molly, he missed all of Meredith’s stories. “Honestly, he made the Brat Pack seem like a bunch of Mennonites…  My favorite anecdote was when, as a young man, he was ‘summoned’ by Tallulah Bankhead to her suite at the Gotham Hotel, in Manhattan.  ‘That’s when you really knew you’d arrived!’ he told us with a roguish grin. He wore his nicest suit, thinking that he was going to have a tête-à-tête with Bankhead. She greeted him at the door completely naked, a champagne glass in hand and a bacchanal raging behind her. ‘Burgess, dahling!’ she cried. He said that one thing led to another, until eventually he found himself with her in flagrante in one of the bedrooms. And then, just before the petite mort, she whispers in my ear, ‘Don’t come inside me, Burgess dahling – I’m engaged to Jock Whitney!’ ” he said. “And the champagne she was drinking was..’”


 Birth year: 1908Death year: 1997Other name: Casting Calls:  13