Burt Lancaster

  1. Montgomery Clift. Red River, 1946. Hollywood agent and future producer Charles K Feldman offered Burt the role of John Wayne’s adopted son in the Howard Hawks Western.   Too late… The new guy in town had signed with another agent, Howard Hecht – his future partner in his famous Hecht-Hill-Lancaster productions. Hecht arranged his debut in the Richard Brooks-John Huston script of  Ernest Hemingway’s  The Killers, 1946.   Burt was as in awe of Clift. They would make From Here To Eternity in 1952. “The only time I was ever really afraid as an actor,” Lancaster recalled, “was that first scene with Clift. It was my scene, understand: I was the sergeant, I gave the orders, he was just a private under me. Well, when we started, I couldn’t stop my knees from shaking. I thought they might have to stop because my trembling would show. I was afraid he was going to blow me right off the screen.” 
  2. Dane Clark, Moonrise, 1947.      As the Theodore Strauss book changed directorial hands, Lancaster was momentarily in the frame for Danny… after John Garfield and Alan Ladd.   Lancaster acted, to borrow a line from the exemplary Larry McMurtry, like he’d just discovered teeth.
  3. Jim Davis, Winter Meeting, 1947.  Bretaigne Windust, an unknown French director (better on stage) had been foisted on poor Bette Davis for this interminable weepie. He turned down four potentials for her wannabe lover, a wannabe priest (!).  Two tough guys: Burt Lancaster and Richard Widmark. And two musical stars: singer Gordon MacCrae and dancer Gene Nelson.  And so, war hero Lieutenant Slick Novack became Jim Davis, the future Jock Ewing in Dallas, 1978-1981.  He was far better in his test thsn the  movi. ”He was lost,” said Bette, “and openly admitted it.”  Result: Bette’s biggest flop. Worse, she was stuck with Windust on her next outing, June Bride. A rare comedy for her. Her third turkey in a row as the post-war public changed its needs.  By now she was 40 – looking 50 – and going downhill. Fast.

  4. Victor Mature, Samson and Deliah, 1948.  
    Cinemperor Cecil B DeMIlle first planned the epic in 1935 for Henry Wilcoxon and Miriam Hopkins.   Next in line, producer David O Selznick envisaged Kirk Douglas and Marlene Dietrich… By ’48, CB got serious. So did James Mason – suggesting $250,000. (DeMille showed him  the door). He toyed with Roberts Mitchum, Ryan  and Taylor; ruled out  Lex Barker (he became a five-time Tarzan) and Burt Lancaster –  too inexperienced, a bad back and  “bad” politics. Other also-rans went from longtime CB acolyte John Bromfield, Rory Calhoun, Jim Davis (future father of JR in Dallas),  Errol Flynn, William Hopper (Hedda’s son!), John Ireland, Glen Langan, Willard Parker… to the youngest new evangelist in town, Dr Billy Graham!. Then, CB was telling 22-year-old Steve Reeves, to tone down his muscularity – while packing Mature  off to the gym to beef his up!  Here’s a review by Groucho Marx: “No picture can hold my interest where the leading man’s bust is larger than the leading lady’s!”

  5. Joseph Cotten, Under Capricorn, 1948.  “If I’d been thinking clearly,” Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut, “I’d never have tackled a costume picture.”  His first UK film  in a decade was a disaster.… Having lost Cotten for two previous films – and won him for his favourite, Shadow Of A Doubt –  Hitch regretted using him here as Sam Flusky, instead of his first (and too pricey) choice, far more suitable as Ingrid Bergman’s Mellors. Capricorn, however, proved extremely… flusky.   
  6. Gregory Peck, 12 O’Clock High,  1948.  The  greatest Hollywood fiction of USAF WWII pilots, often unfairly compared to the  weaker  Command Decision – which js why Peck nearly passed.  “Duke told me he’d turned it down,” recalledPeck.  “And I seized it!”   Just not that fast… Clark Gable was extremely keen on General Savage (he made Command Decision, instead). Peck read it again and  was also won over by director Henry King’s empathy for the subject. King was a pilot, himself, and he  would helm five more Peck  films). “A fine film,” said Peck, “much honoured  and  respected,  about the psychological stress of total involvement of these men.” Too honest for such a gung-ho movie-hero as John Wayne. This was Peck’s finest hour; forget To Kill A Mockingbird.   Seeing him glued to his chair in a catonic state of battle-fatigue made one helluva impression on me when I saw it in, hell, I was 11 years old!  It marked me for life.  It also affected Rian Johnson, who called it an influence on his Star Wars:  Episode VII – The Last Jedi, 2016. Others in the Savage loop were Dana Andrews, Ralph Bellamy, James Cagney, Van Heflin, Burt Lancaster, Edmond O’Brien – and three-bobs-worth of  Roberts: Montgomery, Preston and Young.
  7. James Stewart, Broken Arrow, 1949.     Lancaster first bought the Elliott Arnold book, Blood Brother, for himself and his Norma Productions. Then, changed his mind and the true story Thomas Jeffords, and Cochise, became Stewart’s first real. The love story with the Indian maid, Sonseeahray, is pure fiction and not easy to watch as Stewart was 26 years older than the 15-year-old Debra Paget.
  8. Charlton Heston, Dark City,1950.  And so, Heston found his movie debut. The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther applauded. Not the movie. ”He has a quiet but assertive magnetism, a youthful dignity and a plainly potential sense of timing… He even behaves with some politeness towards a frighteningly grotesque Lizabeth Scott, who is supposed to represent a cabaret singer.” Owch!
  9. Steve Cochran, Tomorrow Is Another Day,  1950. Or, Spring Kill, when Lancaster  was first announced  as a  lead… with too many  echoes of his 1945 debut, The Killers.   Final title by… Scarlett O’Hara.
  10. Cornel Wilde, The Greatest Show on Earth, 1951.    Three years after  the Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick threw in the towel, CB DeMille began his old  dream of a circus thriller (inspiring a six-year-old Phoenix kid named Spielberg to make movies). Warners refused to loan Lancaster, a former circus trapeze star –  which gave  the idea for his own big top  number, Trapeze, 1955. From the safety of  his crane, CB  taunted Wilde,  unmercifully,  about  his fear of heights.

  11. Gary Cooper, High Noon, 1951.  Sidney Lumet called it ”a romantic version of real life.”  Scenarist Carl Forman created Marshal Will Kane for Henry Fonda – passed over by the suits on being grey-listed for his politics. “Not for me,” said Lancaster, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Charlton Heston, John Wayne. Gregory Peck found it too similar to his previous Gunfighter(!). And Kirk Douglas came thisclose to being Marshal Will Kane with Lola Albright as the missus. Cooper was keener.  He even cut his fee to wear the tin star – and win the Oscar on March 19, 1953.  And a life-long friendship with the blacklisted Forman, who fled to London and…  The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Key, The Guns of Navarone, The Victors, Mackenna’s Gold, Young Winston.  The closest Burt ever got to Kane was as Michael Winner’s 1970 Lawman.
  12. Victor Mature, The Las Vegas Story, 1951.      Laura scenarist Jay Dratler’s original script (not many of them to the pound) went from Lancaster at Warner in 1948 to Mitchum (or Robert Ryan) at RKO in January 1950, before Mature arrived from Fox in November for his one RKO movie a year deal.
  13. Victor Mature, The Robe, 1952.  Originally, Marcellus Gallio – the man ordered  to crucify Jesus Christ – was all set for Lancaster.  But the atheist had second thoughts about the script’s Christian  therme. (Er, what else could a Calvary epic be about?)  Lancaster’s atheism was seen by many as a simple ruse to escape various Biblical yarns.  Burton, on the other  hand, was a true Athiest but  he just took the money and nearly ran home when critics called him wooden.. He was staggered to be  nominated for an Oscar. (So was everyone else).  Mature was recast as Demetrius and won the sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiaors, rushed into into production  before The Robewas folded.  
  14. Charlton Heston, Bad For Each Other, 1952.     At Paramount, producer Hal Wallis wanted Lancaster and Patricia Neal. At Columbia, producer Jerry Wald was delighted with Heston and Lizabeth Scott. Not so, the public.
  15. Victor Mature, The Egyptian, 1953.   Lancaster didn’t do supporting…!  Mature was a surprisingly good substitute as Horemheb, Master of the Guard in the court of Egypt’s pharaoh Akhenaton… and buddy of Edmund Purdom (replacing a runaway Brando) as the court physician Sinuhe. Boring!
  16. Richard Todd,  The Virgin Queen, 1954.    Or Raleigh and the Virgin Queen when Lancaster was among the contenders for  Queen Elizabeth I’s supposed lover, Sir Walter Raleigh. Other potential Walts were Richard Burton and Cornel Wide.  Fox boss Darryl F Zanuck was more busy securing Bette Davis to reprise her Queen from 1939’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. “Mother was thrilled:” said her daughter BD Hyman. “She felt a great affinity for Queen Elizabeth, envied her her power and believed that she and the queen were very much of a kind.” .” As evidenced by her deftly removing Raleigh from the title.
  17. Charlton Heston, The Ten Commandments, 1954.
  18. Rock Hudson, Giant, 1955.

  19. Jack Palance, The Big Knife, 1955.    
    Surprising he would let such a gem go… . Then againto paraphrase Hamlet: The best is Palance…  This is one of the films of my youth!  Clifford Odets exposed Hollywood’s star system in his play filmed by Robert Aldrich with Palance in John Garfield’s stage role (both men have a history with Broadway’s A Streetcar Named Desire). Aldrich unkindly blamed Jack for the flop – he wasn’t handsome or sympathetic enough as the movie star hero, wanting a life more uxorious than luxurious   Well, hell, Aldrich knew what when selecting him after Lancaster passed.  Didn’t stop them making two movies in Europe where Palance’s 1963 film with Brigitte Bardot had the perfect alternate title for this one: Le mepris (Contempt).  Rod Steiger chewed the set in his damning hybrid of terrible tycoons Harry Cohn and Louis B Mayer. The exposé barely touched ’em. In fact, when Cohn discovered that the fella helming The Garment Jungle  at his Columbia was the same guy who’d trashed him in The Big Knife – he sacked him! 

  20. Leif Erickson, Tea and Sympathy, 1955.      Not often Hollywood decided to film a play with more than just one of the original Broadway stars. This time, MGM chose all three: Deborah Kerr comforting “sensitive” student John Kerr (no kin) from his fellow college students and her hubby, Leif Erickson. There had, however, been much talk about Lancaster, Kerr’s From Here To Eternity lover… Burt as a college headmaster!!!
  21. John Wayne, Blood Alley, 1955.   Robert Mitchum was fired by William Wellman, director of his first big hit, The Story of GI Joe, 1945. “He’s my favourite actor,” said Wild Bill. “He was on dope, always walking about six inches off the ground. He punched… one of the drivers, knocked him into the bay, goddam nearly killed him.” Humphrey Bogart, William Holden and Gregory Peck were unavailable, Kirk Douglas was working. Lancaster was “no dice” and Fred MacMurray “not big enough.” And so producer John Wayne sang the old song. “Aw, shucks, suppose I’ll have to do it.” Mitchum said only Louella Parsons told the true story. “And they killed her column. The transportation boss weighed 300 lbs. I was supposed to have picked him up and thrown him in the bay. No way.” The truth? “I think Duke Wayne was renegotiating his Warners contract… They agreed, provided he did one more film on his old contract. ‘Wal, we got that picture up at San Raphael.’ Duke [on his honeymoon] said: ‘No, Mitchum’s doing that.’ ‘Was!’ That was the end of that.”
  22. Marlon Brando, Guys and Dolls, 1956.    Denied Gene Kelly by MGM, producer Sam Goldwyn determined on landing  “a great actor.” He talked about Lancaster who had never made a musical – although there was something about the way he pranced that suggested he was about to break into a showstopper… just watch his prancing as Elmer Gantry, 1960. However, auteur supreme Joe Mankiewicz had ears only  for… well, as the posters pontificated: Brando Sings!
  23. Paul Newman, Until They Sail, 1956.  After buying the rights from director Robert Wise’s company in 1953, the Hecht-Hill-Lancaster company planned for Burt to direct himself opposite Kim Stanley. However, HHL sold it to MGM at the end of 1955 – with Glenn Ford in mind for one of the many USoldiers fraternising with lonely New Zealand women, with husbands away at WWII. In ’56, MGM switched to Newman directed by… Wise!
  24. Aldo Ray, The Naked and the Dead, 1957.      In 1949 Lancaster and producer Harold Hecht’s Norma combine bought Norman Mailer’s first book – “one of the finest, most authentic novels about war” – based on his WWII experiences as a sergeant in the South Pacific. Mailer, 25, when the novel was published in 1948, was a friend of Burt’s, had script approval although  doubting any film could match his work’s  upfront honesty about language, sex and battles. He was right and Burt decided it was too early for such anti-war rhetoric.  Robert Mitchum was also sought for Sergeant Sam Croft by his Night of the Hunter director, Charles Laughton. Marlon Brando was also in the mix. Indeed, he was, it seemed,  in every  movie’s mix.
  25. Tony Curtis, The Defiant Ones, 1957.    Two convicts on the run… chained together.  “Just isn’t true,” complained Mitchum.  “I was on a chain gang in Georgia.  I know what it’s like – black and white are never chained together.”  Brando liked the integration message, he never liked how Stanley Kramer had produced their film, The Wild One.  Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn and Frank Sinatra all refused to co-star with Poitier.  So much for liberal Hollywood.   Billy Wilder explained them this way: Brando wanted to play the black convict, Mitchum would refuse to film “with a nigger” and Kirk Douglas wanted both roles…

  26. John Wayne,  Rio Bravo, 1958.
  27. Dean Martin,  Rio Bravo, 1958.
  28. Charlton Heston, BenHur, 1958 
    Sword and sandal epics were in.  And producer Sam Zimbalist, who’d made one of the biggest – Quo Vadis, 1950 – was back in Rome in charge of the better (well, William Wyler was directing) re-make of the 1923 silent Ben-Hur, racing chariots and all.  Sam even considered retaining his Vadis trio: Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Stewart Granger. Friendly rivals Marlon Brando and Paul Newman were up for the titular Judah. Still smarting  rom his 1954 debut,  The Silver  Chalice, Newman hated  ancient Rome costumes, or cocktail dresses as he termed them. Sam also short-listed Richard Burton (from The Robe, 1953), , Montgomery Clift, Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson (furious with Universal refusing to loan him out), Van Johnson (no, really!),  Burt Lancaster (an atheist with no interest in Christianitycommercials, although he had earlier tried to mount his  own version),  true Brit Edmond Purdom, who had picked up another epic dropped by Brando, The Egyptian, 1953.… plus Italians, known and unknown: Vittorio Gassman and Cesare Danova. MGM voted Heston, CB De Mille’s Moses in The Ten Commandments, 1954. According to “contributing writer” Gore Vidal, Willie Wyler called Heston wooden. Brando, for one, would not disagree.  

  29. Kirk Douglas,  Last Train From Gun Hill, 1958.    Producer Hal Wallis bought TV writer Les Crutchfield’s tale for Lancaster (or Charlton Heston) and it was patterned after the 1956 Douglas-Lancaster-Wallis Western, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.   Douglas was paid $325,000 against 10% of the gross.
  30. Kirk Douglas, Last Train from Gun Hill, 1959.    Producer Hal Wallis wanted Lancaster or Charlton Heston in yet another High Noon riff. For arresyt  the lone and distraught US Marshall needing  to the son of his friend (eventually Anthony Quinn) for raping the lawman’s Indian wife.  Previous titles included Last Train from Harper’s Junction…. from Laredofrom Marly-le-Roi – no, I jest.  I think.
  31. Marcello Mastroianni, La Dolce Vita, Italy, 1960.     Not so obvious. The Italian maestro Federico Fellini, as usual,  was ahead of  the  pack  –  considered importing Lancaster three years before Luchino Visconti did so for  The Leopard.
  32. Stuart Whitman, The Comancheros,   1960.  Paul Wellman wrote his 1952  Western novel for Cary Grant to eventually play gambling; man Paul Regret. – the star role until Gary Cooper, then John Wayne clambered aboard nine years later. He was The Boss, beefing up Big Jake Cutter (leading to   Big Jake McCandles ten years later) and finding roles for his kids, Aissa and Patrick.   By which time Grant was too old (Wayne was too old!!) and certainly would never serve under Duke.  And, yes, I have to say it (better than me singing it)…  Regrets, I have a few, too few not to mention…  Steve Forrest, James Garner, John Gavin, Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, Tom Tyron, Robert Wagner, Cornel Wilde and ultimately, Stuart Whitman.  Marlon Brando had been keen on the support role ofan Indian chief called Graile.
  33. Ernest Borgnine Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (UK: Summer of the 17th Doll; US: Season of Passion), Australia-UK-US, 1961.   According to Tony Harrison’s Australian Film & TV Companion,Lancaster, Rita Hayworth andJames Cagney were supposed to head the screen version of Australian Ray Lawler’s play. Instead, it was Ernest Borgnine and John Mills as the sugarcane-cutters spending their annual five month Sydney vacation with their mistresses: Anne Baxter and Angela Lansbury.Rita and Burt didn’t work in Seperate Tables that year, either. She was wed to his business partner, James Hill, at the time.
  34. Richard Widmark, Judgment at Nuremberg, 1961. Big Burt was offered  the role of Colonel Tad Lawson, prosecuting German judges for knowingly sending innocents to certain death in the Nazi concentration camps. He was, however, more taken with the shorter pivotal role of the judge called Dr Ernst Janning… also offered to Laurence Olivier, no less.  But Lancaster was no longer  The Crimson Pirate anymore but a far more accomplished actor.  “Those millions of people… I never knew it would come to that. You must believe it. You must believe it!,” he implored the  judge. And Spencer Tracy retorted: “It came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.”
  35. Yul Brynner, Tarus Bulba, 1961.   Curtis was Bulba Junior, a rôle intended for Lancaster some (many?) years earlier. Failing to snare Anthony Quinn, helmer Robert Aldrich found Burt was tied up for a year. “I told him:  I can’t wait that long. You get hit by a taxi and what have I done with a year?” He let the project go after failing to snare Anthony Quinn,  Papa Bulba was Yul Brynner…  five years older than Curtis!  And paid handsomely  to let Curtis have top, or at least , first billing.  Rather like saying… Clyde and  Bonnie. The film introduced Curtis to his second wife (during 1963-1968) German actress Christine Kaufman.
  36. James Garner, The Great Escape, 1962.  Director John Sturges wanted his two Gunfight at the OK Corral stars – too expensive, said   producer Walter Mirisch. When he had chosen McQueen for The Magnificent Seven and Garner for The Children’s Hour, Mirisch struck a deal with their  agents – for future films at “reasonable salaries.” The difference, he said, between Kirk Douglas-Burt Lancaster and McQueen-Garner was more than  $1m.
  37. Richard Burton, Cleopatra, 1963.

  38. Richard Burton,The Night of the Iguana, 1963.  
    Nipping in quick, producer Ray Stark paid $500,000  for the new Tennessee Williams play – before it opened as his last  Broadway hut in 1961.  The main character is the Reverend T Lawrence Shannon, reduced to  being a Mexico tour guide after bejng defrocked for calling God a juvenile delinquent. So who should be Shannon: Stanley Kowalski or Brick Pollit? Aka Marlon Brando from A Streetcar Named Desire or Paul Newman from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  (He’d also been another Williams sad-sack in Sweet Bird of Youth).  Also up for the Rev were, Richard Harris, William Holden, Burt Lancaster (too close to his Oscar-winning Elmer Gantry, 1959), Christopher Plummer and, surprisingly, James Garner  – “Just too Tennessee Williams for me!” there was more tenson off-screen as among those putting Puerto Vallarta on the tourist map, were…  Elizabeth Taylor living with Burton, whose agent was her first ex-husband, Michael Wilding. Plus Ava Gardner’s old, “platonic bedmate,” Peter Viertel, was also around as he was now wed to co-star Deborah Kerr! To help avoid friction, John Huston gifted each star with a gold-plated pistol, complete with bullets engraved with the names of the other stars, so the right bullet could be used (or, aimed, at least!) on the right target!  It worked well. Nary a discouraging word.  Except from the critics.  

  39. Robert Mitchum, What A Way To Go! 1963.  A certain Louisa May Foster takes her shrink through her five late husbands – every one a laugh. (If only). Prepared for Marilyn Monroe before her tragic death, I Love Louisa was given to Elizabeth Taylor with Marilyn’s Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Marcello Mastroianni, David Niven. Finally, Shirley MacLaine wed to Robert Mitchum, Paul Newman, Dick Van Dyke… but not Frank Sinatra who wanted   $500,000 or no show.  Oh and Dean Martin as a department store mogul called  Lennie Crawley, no less. This is where I usually say: And you can never go wrong with a Crawley. Not this (terrible) time!  Yes, the movie was that bad.  “An abomination,” said The New Leader  critic John Simon.
  40. Richard Burton, The Sandpiper,  1964.   We’re at the start of the  “Burtons, gotta be the Burtons”decade… So any notion of re-uniting From Here To Eternity’s Deborah Kerr-Burt Lancaster, much less the  fresher union of Kim Novak-Rock Hudson  were shoved aside. Hey, this was a story of illicit love, so… “Burtons, gotta be the Burtons.”  In the third of eleven films together. Despite  their mystifying lack of on-screen chemistry. Liz looked hot in the long-shot Big Sur beach scenes  because of her body-double…  the unknown Raquel Welch. 

  41. Omar Sharif, Doctor Zhivago, 1964. Kirk Douglas chased after the Russian novel winning  the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature. However, Rome producer Carlo Ponti secured the rights to Boris Pasternak’s book, based not only on Russia’s revolution and Stalin’s Great Purge of freedom,  but the married writer’s long affair with the poet Olga Ivinskaya.  Ponti signed David Lean to direct Mrs P, Sophia Loren as Olga. Or Lara by now. “Too tall,” snapped Lean. They then started hunting their Yuri Zhivago through…  top Brits Dirk Bogarde, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Albert Finney, Peter O’Toole(Lean’s  Lawrence of Arabia, 1961);  two Americans, Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman; and a single Swede, Max von Sydow.  Caine said he suggested  Lean should use his  Lawrence find, Egyptian Omar Sharif. 
  42. Lee Marvin, Cat Ballou,  1964.    “Lee was the seventh guy after six turned it down: Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, a whole list,” reported Dan Gurler from the office of Marvin’s agent Meyer Mishkin.  “He worked it for $30,000, something like that.”   Hecht wasn’t pleased with Marvin in rehearsals and told director Elliot Silverstein to fire him.  No! “We’re going to Colorado in 48 hours. We’re going with Lee Marvin. Or you’re going with a different director.”  When Hecht later tried to fire Silverstein, Marvin said much the same…  And won the support Oscar on April 18, 1966.
  43. Tony Curtis, The Great Race, 1964.  In June, 1963, Lancaster  was set to become Leslie Galant III,  aka The Great Leslie, battling an evil Jack Lemmon in a (comic) car race from New York to Paris via Russia, across 22,000 miles of three continents. Then, he wasn’t. Charlton Heston also had to pass.   Curtis  quickly agreed to joined his Some Like It Hot partner.  Daphne and Josephine were dressed as guys this time.
  44. Charlton Heston, The Agony and the Ecstasy, 1964.  Three years earlier, Lancaster said he’d produce a film about Michelangelo – and play him, “possibly,” as a homosexual.   However, another gay got in the  way – Italian  maestro Luchino Visconti, taking a full five months shooting  The Leopard.  Fox fhen hired Heston to film the Irving Stone book…. And, it’s all right people. Chuck  denied Michelangelo was gay.  Of course, he did.   He’d dpne all the research. Of course, he had
  45. Richard Burton, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, 1965.  “What the hell do you think spies are? They’re just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me: little men, drunkards, queers, henpecked husbands, civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives.”Author John Le Carréhad wanted Finch or Trevor Howard as his spy, Alec Leamas, but was delighted with Richard Burton. Hollywood’s first idea had been Paul Newman.  Next? Teeth-flashing Lancaster!  He would have been better. Except Leamas was, you know… British.
  46. Anthony Quinn, Zorba The Greek, 1965.
  47. James Mason,  Lord Jim, 1965.     Both the arch rivals – Lancaster and Kirk Douglas –  wrote to auteur Richard Brooks  about playing Gentleman Brown. Neither one fitted Brooks’ vision.
  48. Richard Widmark, The Bedford Incident, 1965.    For the (over?) zealous US Navy destroyer skipper engaged in a hunt-to-exhaustion chase of a Russian sub in mid Cold War.

  49. John Wayne, The Sons of Katie Elder, 1965.  
    This one dated back to 1955 when producer Hal Wallis wanted John Sturgis directing Lancaster or Alan Ladd…  now everyone from Heston to James Stewart were up for John Elder until Duke galloped in for $600,000, a third of the profits and and  one-third ownership of the negative. With a month to go  to the starting date, Duke told his producer son, Mike, and director Henry Hathway  about the  egg-sized tumour and in his  left lung. “I’m gonna have the lung removed… tomorrow morning.  Of course you’ll wanna recast –  I suggest Kirk Douglas.” Hathaway had survived colon cancer and gave invaluable advice. “You’re gonna be as sore as hell  – surgery is no piece of cake, expect to be tired and expect the recovery to take longer than you think.”  Wayne was operated on September 17, 1964 on for six hours – twice, after edema set in.  Producer Hal Wallis refused to recast. They would wait.  Duke showed up for work on January  6, 1965. Her was  patently too old: at  57, he was 36 years older than his youngest screen broher – Michael Anderson, Jr.

  50. Horst Buchholz, La fabulous adventure de Marco Polo (US: Marco The Magnificent), Italy-France-Yuoslavia-Afghanistan-Egypt,  1965.     Acting like a Hollywood 30s nabob, the French producer who launched Brigitte Bardot on the world, gathered money from all over (Afghanistan!)  but Raoul Lévy could never decide what age Polo should be. He went from Curd Jürgens, 47, to Burt Lancaster, 49, to Alain Delon, who started the film at 27, and the German Delon, who finished it at 32… just before it finished Lévy.
  51. James Garner, Hour of the Gun, 1966.     The Western began where director John Sturges had left it a decade earlier in Gunfight At The OK Corral. So obviously it was a good plan to try and get Burt and Kirk back together again. No way!
  52. Charlton Heston, Khartoum, 1966.    Suddenly, his highly successful Hecht-Hill-Lancaster production company  began to collapse and UA  ended its distribution contract with a hefty  pay-off. Plus the lead role in Khartoum…    Chuck Heston was also an odd  choice for a British hero:  General  Charles ‘Chinese’ Gordon, William Gladstone’s military governor of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, circa 1855.
  53. Kirk Douglas, The Way West, 1966.   Ten year earlier, Hecht-Hill-Lancaster Productions was ready to roll with the boss, James Stewart on the 1843  wagon trail  to  Oregon, saved by Gary Cooper.  Coop was ill, dead and gone by 1961. When HHL broke up, Harold Hecht formed a new combine to make the Pulitzer Prize-winning book starring Lancaster’s old rival. The Shane novelist, AB Guthrie Jr, started his trilogy with The Big Sky, filmed in 1951, and ended with Three Thousand Hills, shot in 1958.  
  54. Marlon Brando, Reflections In A Golden Eye, 1967.       Producers Harold Hecht and Lancaster had the Carson McCullers book scripted by Tennessee Williams in 1956 for UK director Michael Anderson but… no one wanted to know about a gay USArmy colonel.  Ironically,  Brando and Burt were  alleged lovers in 1947 during the casting of Broadway’s A Streetcar Named Desire.  (Burt wanted the film, not the play). 
  55. Kirk Douglas,  The Way West, 1967.     In the late 50s, producer Harold Hecht first envisaged Lancaster and Jimmy Stewart  on the 1843  wagon trail  to  Oregon, saved by Gary Cooper.  Coop was ill, dead and gone by 1961.
  56. Charlton Heston, Planet of the Apes, 1967.
  57. Franco Nero, A Professional Gun, Italy-Spain, 1968.     Despite all his Italian films,  Lancaster was never invited to partake of dish of spaghetti Western until producer Alberto Grimaldi first announced Il mercenario for Lancaster, Peter O’Toole, Antonella Lualdi and director Gillo Pontecorvo in  1967. All changed within a year to Sergio Corbucci helming Tony Musanate, Franco Nero and Giovanna Ralli.
  58. William Holden, The Wild Bunch, 1968.
  59. Rod Steiger, The Ilustrated Man, 1968.    OK, Ray Bradbury, the heavyweight champion of science fiction writers, told Jack Smight, a featherweight US director: “You can film my book… as long as the lead is Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman or Steiger!”
  60. Kirk Douglas, Last Train From Gun Hill, 1968.    Producer Hal B Wallis set up the Western for Lancaster (Wallis’ Wyatt Earp in Gunfight at the OK Corral, 1956)  – or, at a pinch, Charlton Heston.  Both had excuses not to go West.  As soon as he heard that Burt (his old rival) had passed, Kirk pounced… He was not  so pleased  about an upstart beating him to the draw in a shoot-out.  “Don’t worry about it Kirk,” said co-star Anthony Quinn, “we’ll get him in the editing room.”  The upstart actor was Brian G Hutton, future director of nine movies. Two with Clint Eastwood. Two more with Elizabeth Taylor. None with Kirk!

  61. George C Scott, Patton, 1969.
  62. Dirk Bogarde, Morte a Venezia/Death in Venice, Italy, 1971.    Burt would hardly  be Hollywood’s first choice for novelist Thomas Manns “paradigmatic master-text of homosexual eroticism.” But after Il gattopardo (The Leopard), 1962,  maestro Luch8ino Visconti, who first thought Burt was just a cowboy, now knew him better. Lancaster still backed off. (Quite right, said French director Claude Chabrol, who loathed the film). Visconti  secured the bisexual Burt for Gruppo di famiglia in un interno (Conversation Piece), 1974, in which his role was also coming to terms with his homosexuality.  “Each time I was  playing Visconti,” said the cowboy.
  63. Marlon Brando, The Godfather, 1971.
  64. Anthony Quinn, Across 110th Street, 1971. His famous friends were all doing it, so why not him? So, Quinn was going to sit this one out. And simply produce the blacks v Mafia thriller, bloody enough for Scorsese or Tarantino. Harlem, however, disliked his ideas – Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr, Sidney Poitier, even Lancaster, Kirk Douglas or John Wayne as the top cop. Too Hollywood! Not street enough! Quinn switched invites to Paul Benjamin, Antonio Fargas, Yaphet Kotto and took over Captain Mattelli, himself. So much for relaxing.
  65. George C Scott, The Hospital, 1971. For the first time in his (eventual) 30 screen- writing gigs, Paddy Chayefsky has total control of his work.  He was the writer and producer of a blistering take on not merely the US medical services but the divided nation of the 60s.  And he relished refusing Lancaster for his medical Howard Beale, Dr Herbert Block. (Lancaster’s company produced his Marty movie but he complained Burt never really got behind it). He didn’t want Walter Matthau, either – Lancaster protégé. Scott was the chosen one – and almost lost it by demanding $300,000. Paddy ran to Rod Steiger, his tele-Marty of 1953 but he wanted more – payback time by losing the award-winning film version in ‘54.
  66. Clint Eastwood, Dirty Harry,  1971.
  67. Gene Hackman, The Poseidon Adventuere, 1972.     For the SS Poseidonpassenger list, producer Irwin Allen wanted Oscar-winners. He persuaded five to set sail: Jack Albertson, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Shelley Winters and the most recent, Hackman, as the hero –  replacing Lancaster and George C Scott.   Hackman and Lancaster had co-starred in John Frankenheimer’s The Gypsy Moths, 1968.
  68. Charles Bronson, The Mechanic, 1972.     Old v young hit-men. Burt had worked with UK director Michael Winner before and would do so again, just not this time.
  69. Charles Bronson, Death Wish, 1972.     As I was saying… 

  70. John Wayne, Rooster Cogburn, 1974.    
    The idea was fair – a sequel  to True Grit.  But if Wayne proved too ill, what would be the point of someone else in his titular Oscar-winning rôle? Marlon Brando topped producer Hal Wallis’ eye-patch  list of Eastwood, Richard Burton, Gene Hackman, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, George C Scott and some of Duke’s old co-stars: Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck.. Pus three of co-star Katharine Hepburn’s previous partners  – Charles Bronson, Burt Lancaster, Anthony Quinn – and as she continued trying to pick guys she’d never  worked with before… Warren Beatty, Henry Fonda, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O’Neal, Peter O’Toole, Paul Scofield, Henry Winkler (!)… This was the fifth and last time  that Burt and Duke were approached for the same movie.  Back in the 50s, Duke suggested they make Western together. Burt laughed it off. “Why not Kirk, as well?” Lancaster never agreed to share a movie with Wayne, their politics were diametrically opposed. And yet, when Duke died on June 11, 1979, Burt called a minute’s silence from cast and crew of  the Western he was shooting, Cattle Annie and Little Britches.

  71. Sean Connery, The Man Who Would Be King, 1975.
  72. Richard Harris, The Cassandra Crossing, 1977.    Wise decision!
  73. Richard Harris, The Wild Geese, 1978.    He left this UK war movie (opposite Richard  Burton, Roger Moore) to make something more modern:  the first (under-rated) Vietnam movie, Tell It To The Spartans. “He did not pull out,” insisted producer Euan Lloyd. “I resisted all the script changes he wanted and Richard Harris gladly accepted – without changes.” Harris (like Burton) stayed on the wagon for the entire shoot.  Well, half his pay was in escrow…
  74. Michael Caine, Ashanti, 1978.   Like The Wild Geese the year before, Burt felt the slave-trading thriller was an  inferior product. Or he did when his terms were not accepted. Caine admitted he did it for the money (like Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, Blame it on Rio, The Hand, The Island, Jaws: The Revenge, Swarm  – but this one was the pits. “The worst, most wretched film I ever made.”
  75. Melvyn Douglas, Being There, 1979,     Laurence Olivier refused due to a masturbation scene by his screen spouse Shirley MacLaine (in a scene without him).  Lancaster had no qualms, but Douglas won the day.  Melvyn for once, not Kirk…
  76. Kirk  Douglas, The Man From Snowy River,  1981.    The rivalry enters a fourth decade and another continent…  Kirk beat Burt to the roles of the twins Harrison and Spur  – rich rancher and wizened old miner –  in the down-under Western based on an epic poem by Australia’s famous bush balladeer, Banjo Patterson.
  77. Brian Dennehy, First Blood (Rambo),1981.
  78. James Mason, The Verdict, 1982.  An alcoholic  Paul Newman is  up against veteran  hot-shot lawyer Ed Concannon in a Boston malpractice court case.  Stars chased both roles. Of course, they did. Sidney Lumet was directing a David Mamet scenario!   William Holden and Burt Lancster were keen on Concannon.  Paul Newman was actually set to play him opposite Robert Redford, until he sundanced away, not happy with playing an alky and Newman won an Oscar nod in the top role. As for Mason, keen to work with Lumet again. grabbed the role after deciding against  Newman’s pal, Mickey Morrissey, taken over by Jack Warden.  PS: How’s this for a coincidence. In 1924, William Collier Jr made a movie called The Verdict.  His role was…Jimmy Mason.
  79. Lee Marvin, Gorky Park, 1983.  The USSR banned locations for Hollywood’s version of  the first of Martin Cruz Smith’s nine books about the Soviet  Sherlock, militsiya officer Arkady Renko…  because of   negative stereotypes of Russians and Communism. Ah yes but an American villain… turned d down by Cary Grant and an ill Burt Lancaster. Enter a surprisingly suave Marvin. “:People think I’ve gone bonkers,” said UK director Michel Apted. “But everyone who knew him said what an intelligent sophisticated man Lee really is. He didn’t have to play the cursing, swearing, stubble-chinned ex-Marine everyone knows. It’s good to go against type-casting sometimes.” Moscow still had to be played by Helsinki.
  80. Martin Sheen, Firestarter, 1983.      Sheen, the star of Stephen King’s Dead Zone, came to the rapid rescue of the 12th of the author’s staggering 313 screen credits when Lancaster was laid low by heart surgery. John Carpenter had been due to direct until The Thing tanked; he had signed Burt’s son, Bill, to write the script. Two years later, Sheen’s eldest son, Emilio Estevez, starred inKing #19: Maximum, Overdrive.

  81. Robert Mitchum, Maria’s Lovers, 1984.   Mitchum agreed to sub for Burt – in dock for a heart bypass… and promptly fell ill, himself,  with pneumonia.  But he soldiered on and “the poet with an axe” loved the result, said Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky, making his Hollywood debut with what had been his story about a Yugoslav soldier suffering WWII shell shock and unable to make love with his wife. Israeli producer Menahem Golan said: “Go, get a coffee, sit down, write. The soldier is American. The war is Vietnam. And you gotta deal.”  Within 15 minutes they signed contracts.
  82. Robert Mitchum, Maria’s Lovers, 1984.    Mitchum agreed to sub for Burt – in dock for a heart bypass… and promptly fell ill, himself,  with pneumonia.  But he soldiered on and  “the poet with an axe” loved the result, said Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky, making his Hollywood debut with what had been his story about a Yugoslav soldier suffering WWII shell shock and unable to make love with his wife. Israeli producer Menahem Golan said: “Go, get a coffee, sit down, write. The soldier is American. The war is Vietnam. And you gotta deal.”  Within 15 minutes they signed contracts.
  83. Klaus Maria Brandauer, Oberst Redl (Colonel Redl), Austria-Hungary-West Germany-Yugoslavia, 1984.   Lancaster  tried to produce a version in the 50s – as his career moved on from the likes of The Crimson  Pirate,  all teeth and biceps, to the more adult From Here To Eternity and Sweet Smell of Success…  as if he knew he’d be working with Visconti in 1962. Alfred Redl is the secret police chief during the fading Austro-Hungarian empire. John Osborne’s play, A Patriot for Me, inspired the  Hungarian auteur István Szabó – working again with the star of his 1980 Mephisto star.
  84. Charlton Heston, The Colbys, TV, 1985-1987.   Lancaster, Gregory Peck and even James Coburn  were top choices to head up the Dynasty spin-off as billionaire patriarch Jason Colby. Fortunately, they passed because before Ben-Hur turned soap star, Heston had been contemplating running for senator!
  85. William Hurt, Kiss of the Spider Woman, 1985.   Burt tried to raise a budget ever since Hector Babenco gave him the Manuel Puig novel in 1981.  “It was intimidating, following in his footsteps,”  said Hurt taking  over at  minimum union salary ($20,000), after swopping with second choice Raul Julia as the gay haidresser Molina, “because Burt is one of my idols. The age difference  didn’t  matter  –  these  are  universal  characters, universal truths.”  Hurt won  best actor at Cannes and at the  Oscars.
  86. Gregory Peck, Old Gringo,  1988.     Burt sued Columbia for his agreed  $l.5m  salary and settled out of court.  He alleged that,  although in  good  physical shape, the studio knew he was not insurable at customary rates due to his heart condition,  stabilised after open-heart surgery. He was not notified  of  a problem until he  was dumped when he arrived for the shooting in Mexico City in December 1988. Producer Jane Fonda called up Peck on Christmas Eve.  “Burt was wonderful about it, saying:  It’s a  great role, you’ll do it a little differently that I would but…” While  Old Gringo (which needed him, or  better still Mitchum) was shooting, Lancaster replaced an ill James Stewart in Field of Dreams. For… Columbia!
  87. Clint Eastwood, White Hunter, Black Heart, 1990.      Named for the Ray Bradbury script years before.  Clint made a surprisingly good John Huston… while making The African Queen., circa 1951.
  88. Sam Shepard, Defenseless, 1991.  Burt’s ill health led to a reunion of The Right Stuff co-stars, Shepard and Barbara Hershey. She being the lawyer, KT Katwuller, defending a woman friend on a murder charge and he a cop still suspicious about the killing.
  89. François Cluzet, L’Enfer, France, 1994.     Thirty years earlier, Burt had been among realisateur Henri-George Clouzot’s first choices for Romy Schneider’s jealous husband. The role finished at the opposite end of virility with French singer Serge Reggiani – about to be replaced by Jean-Louis Trintignant when  Clouzot’s heart attack cancelled any more shooting.  (He had already shot 15 hours  of the film – and various tests, including footage of himself in the role). Claude Chabrol made the 90s’ version.

  90. Clint Eastwood, Cry Macho, 2020.  
    Clint (“a national icon,” says Spielberg) delivered his usual producer-director-star magic.  And wrote one of the musical themes –  Time Lapse. Perfect title for the on-off history of N Richard Nash’s 70s’ script and novel (in that order) about Mike Milo, a damaged rodeo champ rescuing
    his former boss’estranged young son from Mexico. Yes, similar to A Night in Old Mexico, 2012, with Robert Duvall; and indeed to a more  gentle Japanese film I always felt Clint should have re-tooled, Takeshi Kitano’s   Kikujirô no natsu – with the worst  theme music in movie history.  (Nothing new.  A Fistful   of Dollars derived  from the1960  Japanese Yojimbo).  Milo was a role made for Clint…. even if it was once aimed at Burt Lancaster, even Pierce Brosnan.  


    to the films the stars did not make. The movies that never were. The most definitive collation of casting stories. Check up on all the films - of yesterday, today and tomorrow - that your favourite stars never made... A cast of thousands - 8,063 actors - to click on... More than 40 years in the making! And 2,777,633 words of spirited text.

    The ultimate in movie trivia ... Better! Exactly the kind of history that Hollywood deserves. Back to front. Upside-down. Inside out. Full of flashbacks, close-ups, tracking shots (and, alas some badly edited sequences - sorry about that!) forming a fascinating, new and often bizarre flip-side perspective on your treasured movies and stars


    Generic selectors
    Exact matches only
    Search in title
    Search in content
    Post Type Selectors

    A Work in Progress

    Tony Crawley 2024

    Maintenance by: The Story Works

    TC by GM - back in the day when this fetish started. 


    “They’re doing stuff, but not with me. I’m not doing any more.” – Adam Driver on no more Kylo Ren/Ben Solo ... Or is it that there will be no more Star Wars?

    “I’ve been acting for 42 years and  then you make one cocktail…”  – Stanley Tucci on his new fame as  a TV food and cookery expert.

    "The point is it's very hard work and you have to really want to do it. It has to be something that you're burning to say." – Martin Scorsese on directing at 80 and thinking  “possibly only one more”.

    “Whether you are a competent actor, or an artist, is incidental. The main business is: you’re product. I had a hard time steadying myself against that stuff.” – Robert Redford.

    “I’ve never done the same thing twice and how many people can say that?” – Tom Hanks… forgetting his two successive Oscars.

    “I was so excited when I got the script for Silent Night. There’s no dialogue in the entire movie! I thought this would be very good for me because it lets me use my gifts for telling a story visually. – John Woo on his Hollywood comeback at 77.

    “I’ve gotta be nice about Marvel movies, because I named myself after a Stan Lee character named Luke Cage. What am I going to do, put Marvel movies down? Stan Lee is my surrealistic father.” – Nic Cage.

    “The man who invented mornings was no Christian.” – Peter O’Toole.

    “The moustache did the acting.” –  Anthony Hopkins on Howards End.

    “It’s very difficult to get 100 million people to watch anything,” – writer-director Joe Russo.

    “I gave him a little part in Looper, where he got to be shot in the face by Bruce Willis. He was just so overjoyed… like a little kid.” – director Rian Johnson on his father.

    “I'm not an actor - and I've got 64 films to prove it!” – Victor Mature.

    “If you cast it right, you don’t have to tell the actors what to do.” – John Huston.


    >> Name Game. James Spader really started something with his Blacklist series. He played – remember? – Reddington. And now we have Austin Butler and, Emma Stone are in making Eddington… and newbie Glenn Powell is Huntingdon, his tenth gig since Top Gun: Maverick. Perhaps it’s time to re-issue Carrington… with, among others, Steven Waddington!

    >> Christopher Nolan says “No, sadly no – no truth to those rumours.” About making the next Bond. So, no Cillian Murphy as Jimbo, then?

    >> Rolling Stone. Those Poor Things, Emma Stone and Willem Dafoe, are – naturally – in the next release of their Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. It’s Emma’s third Yorgos collaboration. Most likely she’ll be in his next one, too, a re-make of the South Korean hit, Save the Green Planet. That was a comedy. But one can never categorise a Lanthimos experience. After all this one was first titled… And.

    >> Taylor Swift’s guy, US football superstar Travis Kelce, is making moves on movies. To be as famous as Dwayne Johnson. Although people are now beginning to ask: Dwyane Whosis?

    >>Brandon Routh was Superman back in the day. Today he’s in…Ick.

    >> A star sure was born! Lady Gaga now getting $10million for Joker 2

    >> Sean Ono Lennon says Emma Stone should play his dad. Now there’s a thought. After all, Cate Blanchett played  Bob Dylan…

    >> Sly Stallone has come this far without bothering with serial killers but that’s what he’s chasing  in The Epiphany. He plays a retiring cop - what else at 78?

    >> Thirty years after the first, Neve Campbell returns in Scream 7. She refused  #6 over a money row…

    >> Beatles director Sam Mendes made Skyfall and Spectre and another actor who has played John Lennon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, might yet be the next 007…

    >> Ryan Gosling tipped to be join the Marvelverse. (They need him more than he them). Henry Cavill may follow – so definitely no Bond then. Not after Argylle. If anyone witnessed that accident, could they call the  appropriate authorities.

    >> Will Smith comes back (or so he hopes) in an almost suicide squad blasting drug dealers in Sugar Bandits… while Colin Farrell settles for just Sugar – back to his usual smoothie looks after The Penguin…

    >> White Lotus 3 resurrects Parker Posey, Walton Goggins, Jason Isaacs, Charlotte Le Bon, Scott Glenn and introduces Patrick Schwarzenegger.  But which one is going to flash…something?