Dean Jagger

  1. Charles Bickford, Dynamite, 1929. Assistant director Mitchell Leisen made screen tests for Cecil B DeMille’s first all sound movie – on December 18, 1928.  For the leading man he filmed Dean Jagger, Jason Robards Sr and future B-Western stars Bob Custer, Buck Jones, Randolph Scott, Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams. To no avail.  CB played safe with theatre actors:  Charles Bickford opposite Kay Johnson’s debut. Bickford called the script a mess of corn with terrible dialogue. True enough – it flopped.

  2. Phillips Holmes, Her Man, 1929.   Jagger, Walter Abel, George Brent, Russell Gleason (whose father, James, played Steve) Russell Hardie, Dean Jagger and James Murray tested for Dan in in Tay Garnett’s melo stemming from the Frankie and Johnnie song. The result is preserved at the US Library of Congress.

  3. Henry Fonda, Jezebel, 1937.     In May 2015, Twilight star Anna Kendrick complained about Hollywood sexism: she could not be confirmed for a film, she said, until after all the male roles were selected.  Vice-versa in ’37… when Bette Davis had the  titular role (that’s why she lost Scarlett O’Hara)  and director William Wyler tested four guys to play both rivals for her heart (already won off-set by Wyler!).  Jagger, John King, Gordon Oliver and Robert Whitney tested for  Rhett, er, Preston Dillard…
  4. George Brent, Jezebel, 1937.     …and also for Dillard’s ill-fated opponent, Ashley er…  Buck Cantrel.  Warner’s $1.25m response to MGM’s Gone With The Wind opened on March 26, 1938 – the day I was born.
  5. William Farnum, Last of the Duanes, 1940.      Jagger, Randolph Scott and Eve Arden passed their saddles to William Farnum (from the 1919 version!), George Montgomery and Eve Arden. In all, Fox made the Zane Grey story four times starring Franum, 1919; Tom Mix, 1924; George O’Brien, 1930, and a Spanish-lamguage version also in 1939 with George Lewis.
  6. Paul Muni, Hudson’s Bay, 1940. The birth of Canada, Hollywood style… A story about the Hudson Bay Company had been on head Fox Darryl Zanuck’s mind since 1936. He cancelled it in 1939 because “the feature would have a weak box-office pull at the present time.” His hero changed from Jagger, Don Ameche, Henry Fonda, Fred MacMurray, Tyrone Power to Muni – his first gig since quitting Warner Bros.
  7. Paul  Henreid, Casablanca, 1941.
  8. Walter Huston, Swamp Water, 1941.      Head Fox Darryl F Zanuck tested Jagger for the hunter, Thursday Ragan, in Jean Renoir’s first US film since fleeing his Nazi-occupied France. As usual, Hollywood had scant respect for anyne who was better than Hollywood. Head Fox Darryl F Zanuck dared to complain that the master réalisateur of La Grande Illusion, La bête humaine La règle du jeu, revered as the greatest film-maker by Chaplin and Welles, was too slow!! Renoir was fired, then asked to stay. Soon as the film was finished, Renoir quit Fox. “He’s not one of us,” said DFZ. Dissolve. On the Oscar night of April 8, 1975, he received an honorary Academy Award for his career. One of his stars, Ingrid Bergman, picked it up for him. I know because I was there.
  9. Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944.     Musing over Jagger, a good character  man  (132 roles in 56 years) never A Star, showed the  desperation of  Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick when  he couldn’t find the perfect (all too perfect) hero, Father Francis Chisholm. DOS threw in the towel after two wasted  years and sold out to Fox.  Other contenders included Dana Andrews, Joseph Cotten,  Maurice Evans, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Gene Kelly, Franchot Tone, Spencer Tracy, Orson Welles… plus the most unlikely Catholic missionaries of all: Alan Ladd and Edward G Robinson!  Auteur Joseph L Mankiewicz secured Peck in July 1943 for  his second film  – and first Oscar nomination. 
  10. Frank Albertson, It’s A Wonderful Life,  1946.
  11. Cedric Hardwicke, The Ten Commandments, 1954.  
  12. Paul Fix, Giant, 1955.


 Birth year: 1903Death year: 1991Other name: Casting Calls:  12