France Nuyen

  1. Shirley MacLaine, Around The World In 80 Days, 1956.    The bravura showman Mike Todd tested her for Princess Aouda.  But the French-speaklng 14-year-old had not enough English to hold her own with David Niven as  globetrotter Phileas Fogg.  Todd  realised  a star was necessary.  He got one. And married another: Liz Taylor.
  2. Georgia Moll, The Quiet American, 1957.    One of writer-director Joseph Mankiewicz’s few casting slips, due to what his publicist called a screentest of amazing visual ineptitude: “She looked  like  Minnie  Mouse.” Instead, she  became  the happy-talking Liat in South Pacific and by the time the film opened,   “Minnie”   was Suzie Wong on Broadway. She lost that movie to…

  3. Nancy Kwan, The World of Suzie Wong, 1960.  

    The Broadway star suddenly quit, after Hong Kong locations with William Holden, due to chronic laryngitis.  Hah!  Like how long does laryngitis last?  No, poor Fan-Fan and director Jean Negulesco were dumped when she was so lovesick over Marlon Brando that  she  began compulsive over-eating and could not fit in her costumes – fuelling pregnancy rumours. (In trying to chart the muddy waters of Brando’s women and progeny, some of his retinue believes that Movita Brando’s son, Miko, was in fact born to Nuyen – and Brando once asked Anna Kashfi to adopt him!)   And so,  a “second global search for another Suzie” began in December 1959, covering: Grace Chang, Choo Oh (Miss Korea 1959), Lisa Liu, Nobu McCarthy, Charita Soliz, Luz Valdez. A total pr job!  Coming  from London’s Royal Ballet School, and having  succeeded Nuyen on-stage,  Kwan had long been producer Ray Stark’s choice.  Shamefully… Because she was looked  less Eurasian.   Why else had he also been looking at French star Pascale Petit (from Les tricheurs and Julie la rousse) and West Side Story’s Rita Moreno and  Natalie Wood…?   The exquisite Fan-Fan won Holden for her 1961 movie, Satan Never Sleeps. She won me, too, during our on-set  interview.  Since 1986, Nuyen, a child abuse victim, herself, has been a psychological counselor in LA for abused children and women. Bravo!

  4. Lisa Lu,  One-Eyed Jacks, 1961.     Discussing The Authentic Death of Henry Jones with director Stanley Kubrick, Marlon Brando said he wanted his girlfriend for the Chinatown sequence.  “She can’t act,” said Kubrick. (What had she been doing on Broadway?)  Brando left the meeting and told his producer: “Get rid of  Kubrick.”  Brando took over. “Shooting a movie, not a schedule,”  he  stretched the $1.8m six week shoot to $6m for six months and a record million feet of film  – for a final cut of 4 hrs 42 mns. Paramount cut that in half, losing the entire Chinatown sequence. Brando had his inevitable affair with the Hawaiian Lisa; and, briefly, with  his Mexican leading lady Pina Pellicer.  She committed suicide (like three other Brando lovers) but over another (allegedly, lesbian)  affair.
  5. Lee Sue Moon, La fabuleuse aventure de Marco Polo (US: Marco The Magnificent), ItalyFranceYugoslaviaAfghanistanEgypt, 1965.    Chosen for  Princess Gogatine, France  was part of Paris producer Raoul Lévy’s lofty  plans for the Polo story – to be played by Curd Jürgens, Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, or, finally, Horst Buchholz.  Shooting started (with Delon) in ’62, quickly ran out of funds, began again in ’63 and finally opened in ’65 to a wholly disinterested public.


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  4