Donald O’Connor

  1. Van Johnson, Brigadoon, 1953.     Once the Broadway hit became another Gene Kelly MGMusical, the search began for his pal, Jeff. Losing their way in the Scottish Highlands, they find a town that comes back to life for a day once a century. (Yes, that silly!). Candidates included Wayne, O’Connor, Steve Allen (just before changing TV forever with the Tonight show) and Bill Hayes.Also missing: two “risqué” songs banned by the Breen censorship office: “The Love of My Life” and “My Mother’s Wedding Day.”  They hadn’t caused rape and pillage on Broadway but… 
  2. Danny Kaye, White Christmas, 1953.    “Paramount proudly presents the first picture in VistaVision…”   When Bing Crosby needed a partner as Fred Astaire did not like the script and Donald O’Connor’s  back was out.,  Cary Grant almost turned down To Catch A Thief  because of his interest in joining Vera-Ellen in this musical.
  3. Mickey Rooney,  Francis in  the Haunted House,  1956.    Due for The Mick  in  1950,  Donald had a surprise hit with the first Francis film.  Six years later,  Rooney did the seventh and last. Too late, the gloss had gone off the talking mule
  4. Alan Young, tom thumb, 1958.      Moving from his Puppetoon shorts  to features,  George  Pal talked to O’Connor about the romantic lead.  But he wanted to  play tom – planned as a puppet until MGM insisted on Tamblyn, the studio’s young find from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, 1954. Nearly cancelled for costing $2m, Pal made it for $900,000 by shooting at  MGM’s British studios at Elstree.
  5. Buddy Hackett, It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, 1962.    Producer-director Stanley Kramer’s movie was stuffed full with stars – mainly comics. Not all agreed to join  the party, being terrified at the prospect of working with the great Spencer Tracy.  O’Connor was in  the frame for Benjy Benjamin. 
  6. Stephen Boyd, Billy Rose’s Jumbo, 1962. If at first you don’t succeed…  MGM’s  first cast in 1943:  Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland.  In 1947 : Frank Sinatra-Judy Garland  – or Gene Kelly-Kathryn Grayson.  1949:  Frank Sinatra-Esther Williams. 1952:  Donald O’Connor-Debbie Reynolds. 1962: Dean Martin-Doris Day. Finally: Stephen Boyd was Day’s (weak) partner in her last musical.  A flop.


 Birth year: 1925Death year: 2003Other name: Casting Calls:  6