Cliff Robertson

  1. Rod Steiger,  Run of the Arrow, 1956.        Would have made a better Western hero than the chubby Steiger.
  2. Geoffrey Horne, The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1956.     When Montgomery Clift proved impossible for William Holden’s ally Lieutenant Joyce (Clift kept answering questions with non-sequiturs like “the sky is blue”), producer Sam Spiegel called up the star of his previous film, The Strange One, 1956.  But Ben Gazarra  was unavailable  and Betty suggested “little Geoffrey.” Also from The Stranger.  “So,” said Horne, “I got the part that Cliff Robertson was dying to do.  I know this because we were both represented by the same agent.”  Good choice!, Horne saved Lean’s life when he was nearly swept way by a fast river on location in Sri Lanka.
  3. Robert Stack, The Untouchables, TV, 1959-1963.     Sure was wooden enough…   Just like Van Heflin, Van Johnson,  Jack Lord and Fred MacMurray  who also passed on Special Agent Eliot Ness in 1930s Chicago..
  4. John Gavin, Psycho, 1959.      Alfred Hitchcock took his time finding Sam Loomis, lover of the shock murder-in-the-shower victim, Janet Leigh.  He saw Robertson, Brian Keith, Robert Loggia, Leslie Nielsen, Rod Taylor (chosen for Hitchcock’s next one, The Birds) and Tom Tryon.  Hitch’s favourite was Stuart Whitman but loaning Universal contract actor John Gavin suited the cheaper budget – but not the role. Hitch called him…  The Stiff. Hardly news as Gavin had made two Alfred Hitchcock Hourepisodes:: Run For Doom, 1963, and Off Season, 1965.
  5. Glenn Corbett, Man on a String, 1959.    Or Ten Years a Counterspy  when Robertson  was up for the FBI agent Frank Sanford in André De Toth’s thriller about, as another working title put it, Spy and Counterspy – in post WWII Berlin.  Fourteen years later, Robertson starred in a Connecticut murder mystery called…  Man on a Swing.
  6. Paul Newman, The Hustler, 1961.        Lost out when Newman’s next film was postponed: Two For The See-Saw with Elizabeth Taylor.
  7. Vince Edwards, Ben Casey, TV, 1961-1966.      Forget Westerns, suddenly, medics were in. Led by Richard Chamberlain’s pretty-boy Dr Kildare and Edwards as the grittier Casey. Future Oscar-winner Cliff Robertson, Russell Johnson (later The Professor on Gilligan’s Island) and Jack Lord (Hawaii Five-0) all passed.
  8. Tom Tryon, The Cardinal, 1963.   Te sudden blip in producer-director-ogre Otto Preminger’s track record was caused by lamentable casting. Tyron, happier later as a novelist, was never the actor Otto tried to force him to be… during the rise and rise of the titular Vatican favourite, reportedly based on New York’s powerful (and Senator Joe McCarthy loving) Cardinal Spellman. Preminger tested three bores Robertson, Tyron, Bradford Dillman; considered total opposites Hugh O’Brian, Stuart Whitman; and, according to Tyron, refused the better Albert Finney, Peter O’Toole, even the (way too old) Gregory Peck.
  9. Dirk Bogarde, Darling, 1964.        A simple (and stupid) no.
  10. Clint Eastwood, Per un pugno di dollari/For A Fistful of Dollars, Italy-Spain-West Germany, 1964.  
  11. Steve McQueen, The Sand Pebbles, 1966.     “This isn’t exactly a stable business. It’s like trying to stand up in a canoe with your pants down.”Ah!
  12. Charlton Heston, Planet of the Apes, 1967.
  13. George Hamilton, The Power, 1967.   MGM wanted a star for the hero,  Professor Jim Tanner. “That would ruin the basis for the story,” protested science-fiction producer George Pal, “because no one is supposed to know who ‘the power’ is.”[ Oskar Werner was offered the lead in 1965, Cliff Robertson in 1966 and, ultimately, Metro pactee George Hamilton. Maklng his final film, Byron  Hsaid MGM was “so anxious to be rid of Pal” that it  deliberately sabotaged his film, by casting the wrong actors and skimping on the   budget,  particularly for the vital special effects.  In the UK, the film was slashed by 15 minutes to fit into a double-bill with Glenn Ford’s Western, Day of the Evil Gun.
  14. Dustin Hoffman, Straw Dogs, 1971.     “It would have drained me emotionally.I didn’t want to be connected with a picture that uses excessive violence just to sell tickets – and profit from a sick vein in the public of America. I don’t blame Dustin. He must disagree with me completely or else he wouldn’t have done it.”
  15. Charles Bronson, The Mechanic, 1972.       Lost the worst experience of scenarist Lewis John Carlino (“a serious investigation of a licence to kill, turned into a sheer action melodrama”) when his 1969 Charly Oscar put his price into orbit.Not for long.
  16. Richard Widmark, To The Devil A Daughter, 1975.     “Warning! This Motion Picture Contains The Most Shocking Scenes This Side Of Hell!” Two UK A List players were replaced by cheaper actors to pay for Widmark, when he took over Verneyfrom Robertson. Ken Russell had been asked to direct. A pity he didn’t.




 Birth year: 1923Death year: 2011Other name: Casting Calls:  16