George Brent

  1. Phillips Holmes, Her Man, 1929.   Brent, Walter Abel, 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 by the US Library of Congress. Oh yes it is!
  2. Spencer Tracy, 20,000 Years In Sing Sing, 1931.   Brent came and went after James Cagney quit the role from Warden Lewis E Lawes’ best-seller over a contract row. Then, Lawes fully endorsed Tracy… for his one and only film with Bette Davis.
  3. Louis Calhern, Frisco Jenny, 1931.   Brent preferred 42nd Street to being a politico knocked off by Ruth Chatterton to stop him teling her son, the DA, that his Ma runs one of the  “bawdy houses” he aims to close!   And if you must know, it was shot  in 20 days for $286,000.
  4. Warren William, Gold Diggers of 1933, 1932.    “It’s the Depression, dearie.” And Broadway’s chorus curvies are fishing for rich hubbies. William William, inherited Brent’s blue-nosed millionaire in a sassy (pre-Code) musical that had everthing. Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Ginger Rogers, songs (one in pig-Latin) dances (from Busby Berkeley), female nudity… and during the ‘Shadow Waltz’ number at 5.55pm on March 10, 1933 the Long Beach earthquake, 6.4 on the Richter scale. Next ? Well, Gold Diggers of 1935, Gold Diggers of 1937 and Gold Diggers in Paris.
  5. Clark Gable, Forsaking All Others, 1933.     Well, he had the Gable tash… Brent and Joel McCrea were to be best pals, one of them leaving Loretta Young at the altar. The fine trio was Gable, Joan Crawford, Robert Montgomery turning the Hays Office censors purple by using such injurious words as tramp, sex appeal and – oh no, cover your ears! – nudist wedding.
  6. Ralph Bellamy, Spitfire, 1934.    The titular role was not the WWII fighter plane but a hill-billv ”witch” going  from Dorothy Jordan to Katharine Hepburn.  The  engineers keen on  her  changed from Brent and Joel McCrea to  Robert Young and Ralph Bellamy.  Kate’s Trigger said she was “going on 18” when Kate was going past 26.  When stretching on the hefty branch of a tree on the RKO poster, she resembled a redheaded Tarzan.
  7. Errol Flynn, Captain Blood, 1935.  When Robert Donat refused to sail, head brio Jack L Warner had Brent tested (badly) for the titular pirate.  Brent  was better in tearjerker soaps.  He made eleven of those with those with Bette Davis – his lover for two years . Legend has it that Brent came home one night only to find Flynn in bed with his then wife Ann Sheridan – and Flynn beat up Brent before jumping from a window.  Oh, Hollywood!
  8. Charles Boyer, The Garden of Allah, 1936.   Producer David Selznick ran through as many as 14 guys for the role of the runaway Trappist monk falling for Marlene Dietrich.
  9. Errol Flynn, The Sisters, 1937.  For once, Brent didn’t have to go to the barber’s shop…  He always maintained that  all he had to do when  up for  a Bette Davis film  was get a hair-cut…  as only the back of his head would be seen!  But that can’t be why Flynn  cut off his moustache… Fredric March, and Franchot Tone were also  in the mix for Bette’s lover – until head bro Jack Warnerr selected Flynn.  (And even said the billing should be:  Errol Flynn in The Sjsters…!!!)  Flynn tried his best to add Bette’s scalp to his bedpost. She resisted all overtures.  Besides, she (a) didn’t fancy bi-sexuals and (b) was in one affair with director William Wyler and another about to start with an often impotent Howard Hughes. She also had a “tumultuous” two year liaison with Brent.  And, indeed, Franchot Tone during Dangerous, 1935, when he was engaged to Joan Crawford, starting the infamous Davis-Crawford enmity still boiling in the 60s.
  10. Robert Montgomery, Mr and Mrs Smith, 1941. In the running as Carole Lombard’s leading man when Hitchcock failed to snare Cary Grant. Lombard actually directed the Hitch walk-on – and demanded several takes!

  11. Dennis Morgan, Bad Men of Missouri, 1941.   “Are you kidding me?” rasped Humphrey Bogart when told he’d be playing Cole Younger, leader of the Confederate bushwhacker-turned-outlaw brothers In Ray McEnright’s Western. (He was promptly suspended… until The Maltese Falcon needed a Sam Spade).   The sheriff, of course, was Wade Boteler, as another of his lawmen in a staggering 448 movies – 23 in ’41, alone.   PS Cole Younger, (1884-1916) ended his days as a tombstone salesman. Sounds about right.

  12. Alan Hale, Captains of the Clouds, 1941. Director Michael Curtiz dream-wished for Brent, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable and Raymond Massey… and got James Cagney, Dennis Morgan, Alan Hale and Reginald Gardiner. For a Royal Canadian Air Force tribute since labeled the 1941 Top Gun.

  13. Ralph Bellamy, Dive Bomber, 1941.  Hollywood goes to WWII and via Dr Errol Flynn, deals with not so much dive bombing as the on-board surgeons who treat the often bizarre ailments that6 can attack pilots.  Bellamy succeeded Brent, as Flynn’s mentor.
  14. Gig Young, Old Acquaintance, 1942.   Brent escaped a hair cut for the Bette Davis vehicle by enlisting in the US Coast Guard. He was replaced by Franchot Tone, who then also left. Due to a salary dispute while Vincent Sherman directed.  All three had had affairs with their star. Bette Davis.  She was renowned for making a bee-for-bed-line on any film with her co-star or director – which ever one controlled her close-ups.
  15. Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca, 1942.
  16. Bruce Bennett, Mildred PIerce, 1944.   Ralph Bellamy, George Coulouris anf Donald  Woods, were all in the  mix for Bert, first  husband of Mildred, “the has-been” Joan Crawford in her Oscar-winning comeback as Mildred. As Herman Brix, Bennet was Tarzan in a 1934 serial. A broken shoulder had ruled him out of the 1932 version which, of course, eventually starred the unknown Johnny Weissmuller.

  17. Sydney Greenstreet, The Three Strangers, 1945.    Warner Bros wanted a Maltese Falconsequel – and fast! The classic’s auteurJohn Huston reminded the suits of the script they bought from him and Howard Koch in 1937 – announced for Bette Davis and Brent in 1939. “Perfect,” declared Huston, ”we just change the names of the Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor characters.” Great, yelled the suits. They yelled louder when hitting the glitch: Warner only had rights to the names (Sam Spade, Kasper Gutman, Brigid O’Shaughnessy) in the Falcolntale. A re-make was OK, not a sequel.  Falconites Greenstreet and Petert Lorre led the final cast with Geraldine Fitzgerald. When Huston joined WWII, Alfred Hitchcock was keen on the script. Jean Negulesco was cheaper.
  18. Robert Ryan, The Woman on the Beach, 1946.    Change of Coast Guard Lieutenant Scott in French réalisateur Jean Renoir’s final Hollywood work. He called it “the sort of avant-garde film which would have found its niche a quarter of a century earlier, between Nosferatu the Vampire and Caligari.”   Or nearly.
  19. George Sanders, Death of a Scoundrel, 1956.     Usually, when an actor falls ill and has to be replaced, it’s almost traditional that he/she can still still be noticed in their original long shots of the otherwise re-shot sequence. Not this time… Brent was sick soon after a major party sequence with tons of extras. Far too pricey to reshoot. So all the old footage remained with Sanders turning into Brent and vice versa… This is the second of two films featuring Sanders and his older brother Tom Conway… playing brothers.


 Birth year: 1899Death year: 1979Other name: Casting Calls:  19