Henry Wilcoxon

  1. Franchot Tone, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, 1935.   Gary Cooper was Lieutenant  Alan McGregor.  No question about that! But who should have second  billing as Lieutenant John Forsythe?   There were (at least) seven candidates…  Colman, Douglas  Fairbanks Jr (high-jacked by The Rise of Catherine the Great), Cary Grant (he headlined Gunga Din, a far better three Brit soldiers in India actioner in 1938; better writer, too – Rudyard Kipling!),  Philip Holmes,  Fredric March, Ray Milland and Henry Wilcoxon – involved, as always, with Cecil B DeMille’s latest endeavour, The Crusades.Henry was the English King Richard – his nickname for evermore.  (The two movies shared some of the same sets). 
  2. John Emery, Eyes in the Night, 1941.       Change of Paul Gerente in the Fred Zinnemann polar starring Edward Arnold as Mac, a blind detective, uncovering a Nazi ring. With the aid of his scene stealing dog, Friday. The other Emery event of that year was the divorce from his second wife. Tallulah Bankhead, no less, dahling.
  3. Lester Matthews, The Story of Dr Wassell, 1943.     The CB De Mille regular was chosen for Dr. Ralph Wayne in the war drama. Then, like others in the cast – Alan Ladd, Robert Preston, Bruce Lester, even CB’s son, Richard – Wilcoxon signed on for he real WWII. The role was finally cut so short that Matthews wasn’t even credited.   New York Times critic Bosley Crowther called it “hoopla warfare in a Technicolor blaze… True, such a thing did happen. But not this way, we’ll bet a hat!”

  4. Victor Mature, Samson and Delilah, 1948.   
    Cinemperor Cecil B DeMIlle first planned the epic in 1935 for Henry Wilcoxon and Miriam Hopkins.   Next in line, producer David O Selznick envisaged Kirk Douglas and Marlene Dietrich… By ’48, CB got serious. So did James Mason – suggesting $250,000. (DeMille showed him  the door). He toyed with Roberts Mitchum, Ryan  and Taylor; ruled out  Lex Barker (he became a five-time Tarzan) and Burt Lancaster –  too inexperienced, a bad back and  “bad” politics. Other also-rans went from longtime CB acolyte John Bromfield, Rory Calhoun, Jim Davis (future father of JR in Dallas),  Errol Flynn, William Hopper (Hedda’s son!), John Ireland, Glen Langan, Willard Parker… to the youngest new evangelist in town, Dr Billy Graham!. Then, CB was telling 22-year-old Steve Reeves, to tone down his muscularity – while packing Mature  off to the gym to beef his up!  Here’s a review by Groucho Marx: “No picture can hold my interest where the leading man’s bust is larger than the leading lady’s!” Starting in UK films in 1931, Wilcoxon had a long association with CB as actor and producer… and was still working in the days of Sylvester Stallone and TV’s Cagney and Lacey.


 Birth year: 1905Death year: 1984Other name: Casting Calls:  4