Dame Elizabeth Taylor

1.  –  Cammie King, Gone With The Wind, 1938.

2. – Claude Jarman Jr, The Sun Comes Up, 1948.   The title hides it, but this is a Lassie movie… although the dog was Jock in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Saturday Evening Post story. Come to that, the orphan was a boy called Jerry. But MGM suggested it for the UK girl who was such a hit at age ten in the first shaggy dog tale, Lassie Come Home, 1942.   Except, well, she was now 16 and blooming and, anyway, there was a new kid in town – making a huge success of The Yearling in 1948.  But he’s a boy!  So’s The Pope! 

3.  –  Deborah Kerr, Quo Vadis, 1950.        Director John Huston was prepping the re-make in Rome, summer of  ’49, for  Taylor, Gregory Peck, Walter Huston. As sets went up,  Peck suffered an eye infection and shooting was postponed.  There was talk of re-matching Liz with Peck’s replacement, MGM workhorse Robert Taylor, until California’s education board balked at yet another prolonged overseas trip for her. While  making Conspirator with him in London, 1949, Liz said: “How can I concentrate on my  education when he  keeps sticking his tongue down my throat.” She got her trip – as an Euro-honeymoon with Nicky Hilton. Once  they hit Rome, MGM took Taylor to the set and dressed her up as a slave girl among the extras – they also included Sophia Loren and her mama.

4. – Jane Powell, Two Weeks With Love, 1950.   And it became Powell’s favourite movie – rather than, say,  Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.  Many scenes were shot twice, to satisfy US and UK ears. Not sure what that did to Debbie Reynolds’ ‘Aba Daba Honeymoon’! 

5. –  Anne Baxter, All About Eve, 1950.

6. –  Janet Leigh, Scaramouche, 1951.        Around the time tycoon Howard Hughes was in  touch with  Taylor’s mother – offering $1m to marry Liz!  He  then set his cap (and wallet) at Leigh. Among 150 others.   Taylor always hated being called  Liz – “it can sound like such a hiss.”

7. – Jean Simmons, Young Bess, 1953.      MGM boss LB Mayer’s idea when she was “Mona Lizzy,” moving from horses to  dogs, National Velvet to Courage of Lassie, at  $750 a week.  Obviously,  the 15-36 age range was beyond her and her 35 inch breasts.  Mickey Rooney was heard to cry: “Why, she is a woman!”

8. – Ann Blyth, All The Brothers Were Valiant, 1952.   Working again too soon after having her first child, Michael Howard Wilding. Taylor was dropped, with orders to carry on slimming before her next Metro gig.  Once fit, she took over  Paramount’s Elephant Walk from Vivien Leigh’s breakdown, earning MGM $150,000, ten times her contract salary.

9. – Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday, 1952. Frank Capra (and George Stevens) wanted Liz Taylor, William Wyler liked Suzanne Cloutier (the future Mrs Peter Ustinov) for the runaway Princess Ann. A further 28 actresses were seen, the good, bad and risible – like the current sex-bombs Yvonne De Carlo Diana Dors, Gina Lollobrigida, Sylvana Mangano, Shelley Winters.  Apart from, perhaps, Vanessa Brown, Mona Freeman and Wanda Hendrix (even though  her real name as Dixie), the Hollywood hopefuls  – singer Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt), Jeanne Crain, Nina Foch, Janet Leigh, Joan Leslie, June Lockhart, Dorothy Malone,Patricia Neal, Barbara Rush – were soon discarded, lacking the stature of Euro-royalty. Idem for the Euros – Swedish Bibi Andersson, and the French Capucine, Leslie Caron, Jeanne Moreau. Which left several perfect Brits Claire Bloom, Joan Collins, Glynis Johns, Kay Kendall, Deborah Kerr, Angela Lansbury, Moira Shearer, and, of course, Audrey, … soon gracing the Time cover, hailed by the New York Times as a “slender, elfin and wistful beauty, alternately regal and childlike” with, added Variety, a “delightful affectation in voice and delivery, controlled just enough to have charm and serve as a trademark,” (And, Indeed, it did for evermore).

10 –  Ava Gardner, The Barefoot  Contessa, 1954.   Or what one US critic called: A Star is Stillborn… Auteur Joseph L Mankiewicz checked over several Euro-newcomers for the story based on Rita Hayworth.  Ava loved the film, hated the hype: “That  damn  advertising line  “The World’s Most Beautiful  Animal” will probably follow me around until the end of time.” Joan Collins was far more suited to being Evelyn Nesbit Thaw. The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing. Also in the mix:  Rossana Podesta… and Elizabeth Taylor, who was not the first actress to be paid $1million for a film (Cleopatra, 1960), Ava was. Except she never got it.  She was under contract to MGM, which charged $200,000 for her services (twice her co-star Humphrey Bogart’s pay-cheque) plus 10% of the profits, which added up to $1m… while Metro was only paying  her the contracted weekly salary of $60,000.


11 – Jane Powell, Athena, 1954.     Two years earlier, Arthur Fred was due to produce the planned Esther Williams swim-fest into a musical.  With a titular Taylor being raised by eccentric grandfolks – into nutrition, stargazing and body builidng (enter Steve Reeves!). 

12 –    Kay Kendall, Quentin Durward, 1955.     MGM wanted a second Ivanhoe for the Taylors: Liz and Robert. This wasn’t it. “I’ve never had acting lessons, though many people think I need them… I never tried to act until A Place in the Sun.”

13 –    Audrey Hepburn, War and Peace, 1956.     Her showman husband, Mike Todd, planned it – and Don Quixote – after Liz  had  their  daughter, Liza. “It might be a good idea to show off Liz to the Russians. She’s the best secret weapon we’ve got. It may undermine their whole structure.”

14  –    Rossana Podesta, Helen of Troy, 1956.     When Liz  agreed to an  epic,  it would be of the million-dollar and love scandal front page variety….not this tepid affair. After also  considering Ava Gardner, Lana Turner,  even Rhonda Fleming and Yvonne De Carlo, director Robert Wise went, stupidly, Italian. When he had the perfect Helen  playing Andraste… Brigitte Bardot.

15 –    Grace Kelly, High Society, 1956.    Liz was about to rival-free at MGM as Kelly quit Hollywood after this fun stuff with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra to become Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco! She even wore her actual engagement ring as Tracy’s. 

16 –    Jean Seberg, Saint Joan, 1957.     Although a trifle old at 25 for the 19-year-old Maid of Orleans, the tyrannical producer-director Otto Preminger knew the importance of Liz on a movie marquee. (Edward Dmytryk won her for his Raintree County marquee, instead). He also considered such unlikely Joans as Ursula Andress, Julie Andrews, Anne Bancroft, Claire Bloom, Carol Burnett, Joan Collins, Angie Dickinson, Shirley MacLaine, Mary Tyler Moore, Kim Novak (from Otto’s Man With The Golden Arm, 1955), Debbie Reynolds, Maggie Smith and… Mamie Van Doren!

17 – Natalie Wood, Marjorie Morningstar, 1957.  A Star is Bored…Novelist Herman Wouk’s heroine is the proverbial Jewish-American princess. She wants to be a Broadway star – and falls for the no-hoper Borsht Belt entertainer. Warner Bros bought the book Marlon Brando-Elizabeth Taylor in ’56. They became Natalie Wood-Gene Kelly.  Jennifer Jones and singer-actress Erin O’Brien were also seen for little Miss Morgenstern. The New York Times thought Kelly “a mite uncomfortablein his assignment.”  Obviously. He was not 14 years her senior as per the book, but  26 years  older! 

18 –    Mitzi Gaynor, South Pacific, 1958.    For Nellie Forebush. Stage-screen director  Joshua Logan chose Mitzi after also considering Doris Day, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Patti Page, Ginger Rogers, Elizabeth Taylor – because Mary Martin, the original Nellie Forbush, was thought too old at 45 to repeat her Broadway role in the Pulitzer Prize-winner.

19 – Janette Scott, The Devil’s Disciple, 1958.       Plan A was Taylor as the wife of Gary Cooper’s Reverend Anthony Anderson, based on Peter Muhlenberg, “The Fighting Parson of the American Revolution.” Coop was not a well man and Burt, co-boss of Hecht-Lancaster Productions, took over. And Taylor departed. Replaced by another former UK kid star.

20 –     Marilyn Monroe, Some Like It Hot, 1958.    The friendship of two jazzmen hiding from The Mob in a girls’ band was the story.“Which made Billy [Wilder] think,” said one of his stars, Tony Curtis. “If Sugar was the weakest part, he needed to give it the strongest casting.” Taylor had just been widowed Audrey Hepburn was nojazz chanteuse. What aboutMarilyn – now ya talking!! “She looked on the screen,” said Wilder, “as if you could reach out and touch her.”


21 – Audrey Hepburn, Green Mansions, 1958.        First, Mexican Dolores Del Rio was to be the jungle sprite at RKO in 1933. MGM then bought the rights for Taylor in 1949; she rapidly grew out of the role. Next, in 1953, Rima was aimed at the French Leslie Caron in a version by the more musical team of producer Arthur Freed, writer Alan Jay Lerner and director Vincente Minnelli in 1953. Then, it was for Italian Pier Angeli… or Yma Sumac, the Peruvian soprano with the incredible vocal range of five octaves. Finally, she was Hepburn. She actually gave up The Diary of Anne Frank to be directed (badly) by her husband, actor Mel Ferrer. Ain’t love grand ? No, blind.

22 – Eva Marie Saint, North By Northwest, 1958.     Alfred Hitchcock  wanted Grace Kelly.  Of course. But by now he had lost her to the principality of Monaco…  which  as Metro boss Dore Schary pointed out to His Serene Highness  Prince Rainier, was a country smaller than the MGM back lot. Metro wanted Cyd Charisse, Hitch preferred Elizabeth Taylor, but stuck with another signature blonde. The svelte EMS rather than Virginia McKenna, Psycho’s dull Vera Miles or Kim Novak from his Vertigo.

23 –    Kim Novak, Middle of the Night, 1959.  Broadway and TV writer Paddy Chayefsky adapted his play for his second movie (after The Bachelor Party, 1956). He wrote it Marilyn.  She passed.  (Because she – and husband Arthur Miller – loathed  his 1957 Goddess film, based on her rise and fall – which he foolishly tried to deny). How about Elizabeth Taylor?  She passed.  OK, Jean Simmons?  No, she was (like Liz) part of MGM.  As this was a Columbia production, that meant Novak. Whose real name was… Marilyn.

24 – Jean Simmons, Elmer Gantry, 1959.     In early days, director Richard Brooks considered Liz or Susan Hayward as Sister Sharon Falconer opposite Burt Lancaster’s firey preacher man. 

25 –    Natalie Wood, West Side Story, 1961.  Too busy. Too expensive. Too much…Natalie Wood despised her leading man, Richard Beymer. “She had a Shit List on her dressingroom wall,” said co-star Russ Tamblyn. “And Richard’s name was top. I asked her why. ‘I just don’t like him.’”

26 – Jennifer Jones, Tender Is The Night, 1961.    Producer David Selznick first tried to film F Scott Fitzgerald’s last completed novel  at RKO in 1951,  with his wife, Jennifer Jones and Cary Grant –  he disapproved of  Dr Dick Diver, the shrink falling for his patient.  George Cukor decided on Elizabeth Taylor and Glenn Ford (!).  Veteran toughie Henry King helming Jones with a miscast Robards was a fiasco.  Other potential Dicks over the years had been Warren Beatty Montgomery Clift, Paul Newman, Christopher Plummer plus true Brits Dirk Bogarde and Richard Burton.   Hmm, Burton and Taylor – now that would have worked.

27 –     Anne Bancroft, The Miracle Worker, 1962.      United Artists bought Arthur Penn’s Broadway hit production for Liz. Penn refused to play. “UA was very upset,” Penn told me. “They weren’t used to that. They kept  saying:  We’ll give you more  money if you  let us use Elizabeth Taylor.” (With Liz, or Audrey Hepburn, a $2m budget; without, $500,000). He kept refusing “until they gave me my cast and the final cut.”  Result: an Oscar for Anne!

28 –     Shirley MacLaine, Two For The See-Saw, 1962.     Still stuck with Cleopatra when offered $500,000 and 10% of the gross to see-saw with Paul Newman – instead of Broadway’s pair: Anne Bancroft-Henry Fonda. Newman well used his liberty – he made The Hustler, 1961. 

29 –     Shirley MacLaine, Irma La Douce, 1963.      Director and co-scenarist Billy Wilder defended his second choice after Marilyn Monroe’s death.  “You may think Liz can’t do comedy. You’d have said the same  thing about Garbo  before I put her in Ninotchka – one of the best things she ever did.” 

30 – Carroll Baker, The Carpetbaggers, 1963.  When new (fourth) husband, Eddie Fisher had the rights to Harold Robbins’ best-seller, the top roles  – based loosely (?) on Jean Harlow and Howard Hughes  – were  booked for his Mrs Fisher , and her 1955 Giant co-star, Rock. Hudson.  However, two powerful forces blocked his ambition 1. Cleopatra. 2. Marc Antony aka Richard Burton. Eddie cut his lossws and sold out to producer Joseph E Levine, and it sadly became  the  firstof his  three snitty/snotty movies about Hollywood – followed by Harlow, 1964, also with Baker (Levine reckoned she was a sex symbol), and  The Oscar, 1965. Each one was worse than the precedent.

31 – Shirley MacLaine,  What A Way To  Go,  1964.   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, the I Love Louisa was given to Elizabeth Taylor and, finally, Shirley MacLaine. Marilyn’s guys were to include Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Gene Kelly (who had first bought the rights to  direct)  Burt Lancaster, Marcello Mastroianni, David Niven.   Shirley wed Gene Kelly (who first bought the rights to direct, himself).  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! “The mildest thing that can be said about this film,” said New Leader  critic John Simon, “is  that it is an abomination.”

32 –    Kim Novak, Of Human Bondage, 1964.    Not often she was anyone’s second choice but that is where Henry Hathaway had her. With Natalie Wood was third. First was Marilyn Monroe.  Of course.

33 –  Audrey Hepburn, My Fair Lady, 1964.  Jack Warner’s biggest error – guarding his record $5.5m purchase by choosing non-singing Hepburn (at $1m) over Broadway’s Julie Andrews  (at $75,000), thereby allowing Walt Disney to give her a triumphant, Oscar-winning consolation of Mary Poppins.  Head Brother Jack won Hepburn by saying even if she refused the role, it would not automatically go to Andrews…  but Taylor!    

34  – Anjanette Comer, The Loved One, 1964.   “The motion picture,” yelled the posters,” with something to offend everyone.”  Comer, 25, won the young embalmer, Aimee Thanatogenous (“death by bleeding” in Greek) from such unlikely candidates (and ages) as Carroll  Baker and  Claire Bloom, 33; Diane Cilento, 32;  Joy Harmon (Cool Hand Luke’s car-washer!), 24; Julie Harris, 39; Shirley MacLaine, 30; Nina Shipman, 26; and Elizabeth Taylor, 32, when Richard Burton was up for the British  poet hero. The tax-conscious Burtons ruled themselves out of the project by insisting that Evelyn Waugh’s 1948 satire of the American funeral home business  had to be made in Spain!

35  –    Ingrid Bergman, The Visit, 1964.    Eddie Fisher did not last to the end of Cleopatra, and once she was half of the over-headlined Burtons, their Welsh playwright  friend, Emlyn Williams, suggested filming the Friedrich Dürrenmatt play. The idea had “an element of prophecy as well as psychology,”  suggested Liz’s biographer Alexander Walker.  “Almost all the roles that the Burtons were to play…  involved the destructive pressures that a  strong woman brought to bear on a weak-willed man.”

36 – Natalie Wood, This Property is Condemned, 1965.   In the days when the Burtons started being offered anything – no matter how much older they were than the characters.   Columbia’s bizarre idea became Warner’s wiser Redford and Natalie Wood, a few months after completing Inside Daisy Clover. They were 29 and 27 compared to 40 and 33. Not an authentic Tennessee Williams piece, reported Redford, but a 20-minute one-acter. None of the 14 drafts, from such writers as John Huston and Francis Ford Coppola (finally escaping Roger Corman B-movies) could disguise that fact. “The only appeal,” he added, “was Natalie.” And she attempted suicide on November 27.

37 –   Carol Lynley, Bunny Lake Is  Missing, 1965.   Named for an earlier version, before Otto Preminger decided to produce and direct it. 

38 – Susannah York, Sands of the Kalahari, 1965.     “They both wanted to do it,” said Burton’s Welsh actor-producer pal, Stanley Baker. “But she wanted $1m and he asked for half. And 20% of the gross. Paramount was persuaded to go as far as 12.5% but no more. Impasse.” That’s what friends are for!

39 –   Julie Christie, Darling, 1965.    The idea – of course – of the bankers!

40 – Julie Christie, Fahrenheit 451, 1966.      As if he didn’t have enough pressures – first film in colour, first in English, a language he was far from happy with – French nouvelle vague icon François Truffaut also suffered four years of casting hurdles…. starting with Paul Newman as the fieman hero, Montag. When feeling Ray Bradbury’s story was too important to be shot in English(!), the réalisateur tried his past and future stars, Charles Aznavour, Jean-Paul Belmondo – and Oskar Werner as Montag’s boss. His producer wanted Sterling Hayden in either role. Producer Sam Spiegel tried muscling in by promising Richard Burton bossing a Robert Redford and loving Taylor!

41 – Claire Bloom, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, 1965.  The titular Richard Burton got various pals into the film, but could not fix it  for his wife. Far too glam for The Spy’s naive Communist librarian,“who believes in free love, the only kind Leamas could afford at the time.”Director Martin Ritt chose Bloom – Burton’s former leading lady, in stage plays, films and bed in the 50s. With Taylor forever visiting the set, author John le Carrénoted that Bloom “preserved a dignified distance in her caravan.” He could never understand why she was not allowed to be Jewish, as written. She was Liz Gold in the book, Nan Perry on-film… to avoid the media jabbering on about Burton’s Other Liz… Honest!


42 –  Vanessa Redgrave, Camelot, 1967.  
For his last hurrah after 45 years running Warner Bros, head bro Jack L Warner – having learned his lesson the hard way by ruining My Fair Lady – wanted the original Broadway stars to reprise their 1960 roles of King Arthur and Guenevere. Richard Burton was not keen (or not for the money on offer).  Nor was Julie Andrews, certainly not after the way Jack Warner dumped her from My Fair Lady (even though that led to her Mary Poppins Oscar).  “OK, we’ll take Liz, as well,” said Warner.  And why not their mate, Peter O’Toole, as Lancelot.  However, Elizabeth Taylor was not going where Burton was not going…   Julie refused  to work with Burton’s replacement, Richard Harris. They had not got on during Hawaii  which is where he first heard about the film and started pushing to be the king.  Top candidates to succeed Julie were  Julie Christie, Petula Clark, Marianne Faithfull, Audrey Hepburn(part of her My Fair Lady deal), Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor Jan Waters. Jack Warner separately considered the way cheaper Ann-Margret, Polly Bergen, Cher, Mitzi Gaynor and  Shirley Jones.  Vanessa and  Franco Nero (as Lancelot) were lovers on and off the screen. They finally wed in  2006. 

43 – Ursula Andress, Casino Royale, 1967.

44 –    Shani Wallis, Oliver!  1968.       Can they sing?  Does it matter! The Burtons were offered everything – suitable or just plain daft. Liz might have been tempted if the Dickensian musical had switched to the title of the first Oliver Twist movie in 1897: The Death of Nancy Sykes.


45 – Barbra Streisand, Hello Dolly! 1968.  
Another musical… Dolly Levi was a match-maker. Therefore, not supposed to be young enough for  a blushing bride. And yet Fox avoided the show’s award-winning Broadway star, Carol Channing, and offered Dolly to Julie Andrews, Carol Burnett, Doris Day, Shirley MacLaine, Debbie Reynolds and (gulp!) Elizabeth Taylor – all she knew about singing was having wed (Debbie’s) Eddie Fisher… (When nominated for a Broadway Tony for her Funny Girl, Streisand was beaten by… well, hello Carol!) It was not long before Fox wished it had sealed deals with any one of them. “I should never have accepted the film. I was totally miscast. I tried to get out of it. I think it’s so silly… so old-time musical.” Well, of course… because director Gene Kelly was stuck in the 40s/50s aspic. The shoot was a nightmare, with La Barb and co-star Walter Matthau at each other’s throats – and egoes. She kept reminding him: “I’m the star of the film.”  And he her: ”It’s only your second and the first isn’t out yet. I’m the actor and I’ve 30 films and an Oscar to prove it. So don’t think you can direct me!” On one of his better days he added: “You have no more talent than a butterfly’s fart.” 


46 –  Petula Clark, Goodbye Mr. Chips, 1968.  And yet another… For the musical version of  the 1938 classic which won British Robert Donat an Oscar for his portrayal of the gentle schoolmaster, Mr Charles Edward Chipping, almost every  possible Brit was contacted. From Albert Finney  to Peter  Sellers, by way of Richard Harris, Christopher Plummer,and Paul Scofield. Mrs Chips was important, too, and the couple went from Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn or  the Doctor Dolittle‘s Rex Harrison-Samantha Eggar to Camelot’s Richard Burton-Julie Andrews or  Burton-Lee Remick…or surprise, surprise, Elizabeth Taylor. Plus Burton-Petula Clark, except he turned down “a singer!” (What was Julie Andrews?).  Finally, gloriously, the Chips became Pete ‘n’ Pet.

47 –    Sandy Dennis,  That Cold  Day in  the Park,  Canada, 1969.    Difficult to see Liz at 37 as a virgin in her 30s… virgin, at all). After losing Petulia to  hot director Richard  Lester, the not yet so hot Robert Altman wanted to set Richard Miles’ erotic  novel in London for Liz. Would she have agreed to be seen being fitted for a diaphragm in a family planning clinic?  That was cut when the X-rating was diluted to R by cutting or masking dialogue about penis size, a totally nude Susanne Benton, Luana Anders and  a guy on TV… but keeping the lesbians and a  nearly  incestuous romp.

48 –    Anouk Aimée, Justine, 1969.     Auteur Joseph Mankiewicz was adapting Lawrence Durrell’s labyrinthine Alexandria Quartet for Liz-when his producer, Walter Wanger, asked him to rescue Cleopatra. Durrell thought the French star was “a perfect blendofsurface sweetness and haunting beauty over an inner structure of tensile steel. One feels that she could switch from angel to demon at any point.”

49 –  Genevieve Bujold, Anne of a Thousand Days, 1969.   Richard Burton was Henry VIII and Liz craved to be his queen, Anne Bolyen – and was in with a chance having wisely persuaded him to switch roles with Peter O’Toole in Becket for the same producer, Hal Wallis. Except she was in no condition, age or health wise – clad in surgical corset to combat her usual back problems. Legend insists she was paid $46 for a (masked) walk-on. Also up for the chop: Geraldine Chaplin, Juilie Christie, Faye Dunaway and, way too youngat 18, Olivia Hussey.

50 –    Rosanna Schiaffino, Simón Bolívar, 1969.    Italian director Alessandro Blasetti wanted Richard Burton as Venezuela’s. El Libertador.   WithLiz on board as…er….oh anyone else… (What about Consuelo Hernandez? Fine!) Burton fled. Liz followed. He was, as he told his diary on July 22, “fundamentally so bored with my job that only drinking [1½ bottles of vodka per day] is capable of killing the pain.”  

51 – Lee Remick, A Severed Head, 1969.  Novelist Iris Murdoch’s game of musical beds among London’s bourgeoisie had a weak script killing an impressive cast.  (Brando had been invited to join). Ian Holm’s wine expert has a wife, Lee Remick, cheating with his best friend, Richard Attenborough’s shrink (already involved with Claire Bloom), plus a mistress (Jennie Linden)  being  stolen  by his brother Clive Revill. It just might have worked better with producer Elliot Kastner’s dream team (in above order): Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor (of  course), Marlon Brando (the psychologist was originally American),  Anouk Aimée, Julie Christie, Robert Shaw. (He also considered  Laurence Harvey and Leslie Caron as the shrink and his friend’s wife). .The film proved as dull as the Burtons had become. 


52 –  Raquel Welch, Myra Breckinridge, 1969.
Distinguished stage-screen producer (Sweet Charity, The Boston Strangler) Robert Fryer was behind Fox snapping up his friend Gore Vidal’s scandalous satire for unprecedented $900,000. Fryer was far from happy at being saddled with a UK pop singer as his director – Vidal immediately quit as co-producer.  For the transgender Myron, Fryer wanted Liz, Anne Bancroft, Audrey Hepburn, Angela Lansbury or Vanessa Redgrave.  The dangled $1.5m offer was not enough! “It’s a marvellous book,” director Joseph Losey told Liz. “Done properly, neither of us would have to work again.” The exact fate of  director Mike Sarne. Not quite for the same reason. Fox said contract player Welch was  cheaper at $125,000. She was ready for the challenge of playing both roles. But film critic Rex Reed was Myron in the enormous flop.   Hearing that Sarne was reduced to being a pizzeria waiter, Vidal said it  proved “hat God exists and there is such a thing as Divine Symmetry.


53 – Shirley MacLaine, Two Mules For Sister Sara,1969.   When Budd Boetticher quit the project, Liz Taylor pounced and wanted, from the start, Clint as her co-star… after meeting him when he was making Where Eagles Dare with some Welsh actor.. “Longtitude and latitude killed the deal,” said director Don Siegel. Refusing Mexico, Liz insisted on Spain where Burton would be filming. Universal refused,displeased with her falling allure in Boom and Secret Ceremony.”Too much of a hassle with Liz,” moaned producer Marty Rackin. “Shirley will pack a bag and go anyplace you tell her.”Not that she enjoyed this trek.

54 – Barbra Streisand, The Owl and The Pussycat, 1970.     The Burtons were just too famous to be accepted as a shy bookworm writer and a shrill hooker who live in the same New York building. Or, the same room in this claustrophobic version of Bill Manhoff’s play. La Barb had the best bit cut – her raunchy love scene with George Segal.

55 –  Janet Suzman, Nicholas and Alexandra, 1970.  Having lost $10m for Columbia on a four consecutive flops, small films all, it was time for producer Sam Spiegel to go BIG again in the River River Kwai/Lawrence of Arabia tradition. BIG, but CHEAP.  A mere $8m budget was not able  to afford his Suddenly, Last Summer star (nor Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, or Vanessa Redgrave).  Anyway, no one gave a damn about “two silly people,” wrote Stanley Kaufman in The New Republic, “getting what, as justice goes in this world, they deserved.”         

56  –   Faye Dunaway, Hogans Goat, TV, 1971.     A casting too far… The Burtons, O’Toole and Spencer Tracy were far too expensive for filming the 1965 Broadway play “that led to everything” for Faye Dunaway (Bonnie and Clyde, for instance). “Emotionally, I’m very close to Kathleen Stanton – this sensual and spiritual struggle of a woman of good birth, convent-bred, yet dominated by her senses.” The big movie became a PBS special.

57 – Mia Farrow, Follow Me! (US: The Public Eye), 1972.     Landed in the Burtons’ den for five minutes. Who would believe (a) Liz being wed to Dirk Bogarde and (b) that her extra-marital fun (spied upon by detective Richard Burton) was merely going to horror movies and London’s tourist haunts? As Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert reported: “Dumb, dumb, dumb. Worse than that… boring.”

58 – Francesca Annis, Macbeth, 1971.   Richard Burton’s idea. “I’ve always had a funny feeling about the play. I can’t deny its greatness but I’d rather produce it than be in it.” Annis, Taylor’s handmaiden in Cleopatra, became a younger than usual Lady Macbeth in Polansk’s film. Nude, of course. ‘Twas a Playboy production, forsooth. 

59 –   Gayle Hunnicutt, The Legend of Hell House, 1972.      Fantasy writer Richard Matheson set about bettering Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting and then toned down his novel’s sex and hyper-violenceto win over his dream team – the Burtons. He got Gayle and Clive Revill. Not the same thing at all.

60 –    Liv Ullmann, 40 Carats,1973. Before quitting the project, veteran US director William Wyler had also considered for the fortysomething woman falling for a 22-year-old guy during a Greek vacation… Doris Day (!), Audrey Hepburn, Glenda Jackson, Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, Joanne Woodward.


61 –    Florinda Bolkan, Una breva vacanza (US: A Brief Vacation), Italy-Spain, 1973.      Not like Vittorio De Sica to reject La Loren but… According to his producer Arthur Cohn, Liz, Jane Fonda and Sophia were all fighting to be Clara Mataro

62 –    Anne Bancroft, Jesus of Nazareth, 1977.  Queen Liz was greatly interested in enacting Mary Magdalene. Italian director Franco Zeffirelli was not.  Despite working so well with her ten years earlier in The Taming of the Shrew. That was the problem right there. She was ten years older. And, she said, ill.  She foolishly attempted to make up to Zeffirelli eleven years later as the dubbed opera diva in his Young Toscanini flop.

63 –    Stephane Audran, Des Terufels Advokat (UK: The Devil’s Advocate), Germany, 1977.    This time, Burton would have had the stronger role – as a priest with a fatal cancer testing his faith.

64 – Nanette Newman, International Velvet, 1978.     Obvious ploy: get the 1944   National   Velvet kid – to play the aunt of a new kid star (Tatum O’Neal) in the international re-hash of her childhood National Velvet, 1944. Director Bryan Forbes did not search very far. Nanette is his wife.

65 –    Lauren Bacall, The Fan, 1980.     At one time, Liz was going to star for director Jeff Lieberman.  Never happened.  Good because La Bacall was superb.  The film (about  with Michael Biehn staking a Broadway star) was not.  Director Ed Bianchi never got another gig for ten years.

66 –    Joan Collins Dynasty, TV, 1981-1989.      Legendary producer Aaron Spelling aimed high. Too high. Liz Taylor refused. So did Sophia Loren and Raquel. Allowing Joanie to turn Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan into, at her suggestion, a female version of JR Ewing, the Dallas villain the world lto hate. That’s how one of US TV’s most memorable bitches was birthed. Around the same time, Taylor’s husband, Richard Burton, was offered $2.5m for a five-minute cameo as one of Lana Turner ‘s ex-husbands in Falcon Crest. He didn’t bite, either.

67 –    Robert Mitchum, The Ambassador, 1984.     Elmore Leonard’s Detroit thriller somehow became a Middle East thriller with Mitchum (in his third Cannon production!) in the title role once announced for Liz. Cannon being Cannon, it made a second (and better) film from the same source keeping Leonard’s title: 52 Pick-Up, 1988.



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* “Principal Photography starts in November 1976” it say here.  That didn’t happen until 1984 by which time the US ambassador brokering Middle East peace had bizarrely become… Robert Mitchum.                        Cannon Films, 1984




68 – Barbara Stanwyck, The Colbys, TV, 1985-1987.   Taylor and Katharine Hepburn were not into soaps, Doris Day was rumoured but the powerful Constance Colby (related to Dynasty’s Carringtons, yawn, yawn!) became Stanwyck’s 106thand final role – “the biggest pile of garbage I ever did.” She went out in true Barb style.  Refusing the list of bewigged old Hollywoodians for her lover (she was 80!) and insisting on the younger Joseph Campanella (63). They had worked together during her four years in The Big Valley, 1965-1969.

69 – Dolly Parton, Steel Magnolias, 1988.   Bette Davis caught the off-Broadway play – all gossipy one-liners at a Louisiana beauty parlour – and immediately tried setting up a movie.  She would be Ouiser Boudreaux, of course, with Katharine Hepburn and  Taylor as Claire and Truyy. Producer Ray Stark had other plans. Younger! 

70 –    Angie Dickinson, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, 1993.    Boring director Gus Van Sant’s idea even while trying to counter the book’s exaggeration with down-to-earth imagery. Oh really, is that what he was doing…?!

71 –   Cher, Faithful, 1996.      Paul Newman-Liz became Liz-Ryan O’Neal, then O’Neal giving his wife, Cher, a hitman for her birthday – and she is his target!

72 –    Lauren Bacall, The Mirror Has Two Faces, 1996.    As Barbra Streisand’s mother! Bacall got an Oscar nomination and everyone knew she would win – including the winner, Juliette Binoche. Taylor always hated being called Liz – “it can sound like such a hiss.”



 Birth year: 1932Death year: 2011Other name: Casting Calls:  72