Jean Arthur (1900-1991)
- Jean Harlow, Saratoga, 1937. The Harlow vehicle suddenly churned into Clark Gable-Joan Crawford… after Paramount refused to loan his future wife, Carole Lombard. Harlow returned and, with 90% of the film shot, collapsed on-set and died within a week from uremic poisoning. Metro completed the movie with her double, Mary Dees (voiced by Paula Winslowe), after bad taste thoughts of a re-shoot with Arthur or Virginia Bruce… in the way Crawford took on They All Kissed The Bride, in 1942, after Lombard’s air crash death.
- Vivien Leigh, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
- Joan Blondell, Good Girls Go To Paris, 1938. Arthur escaped the bad comedy script that became Blondell’s debut at Columbia - 42nd for the studio!
- Barbara Stanwyck, Golden Boy, 1938. Frank Capra had his eyes on the Clifford Odets play as a movie vehicle for Arthur - as Loran Moon. He then switched to a little something called Mr Smith Goes to Washington. And took Arthur with him.
- Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday, 1939. Columbia tyrantHarry Cohn’s “half-angel, half-horse” wasnot alone in refusing it for lack of good dialogue.Claudette Colbert, Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn, Carole Lombard, Ginger Rogers, etc,fled.Russell beefed up Hildy’s lines. Cary Grant was first booked for Hildy, not his editor Walter Burns. Arthur told the NYTimes in 1972 she became an actress “because I didn’t want to be myself.”
- Rita Hayworth, Angels Over Broadway, 1939. Ben Hecht’s scenario was not sure what it was: crime caper or light romance. Arthur knew - and bolted.
- Martha Scott, They Dare Not Love, 1940. Working title: We Dare Not Love… Columbia won James Edward Grant’s story for a snip - $10,000 - as an Arthurian vehicle. She didn’t want to drive. Scott was loaned from (future Tarzan producer) Sol Lesser - in exchange for Melvyn Douglas making That Uncertain Feeling.
- Ruth Hussey, Our Wife, 1940. Columbia bought the play in 1937 for a 1938 production starring Arthur (or Rita Hayworth, Loretta Young) and Cary Grant. Two years on, they became Hussey (loaned from MGM) and Melvyn Douglas. Not the same lightness, at all.
- Barbara Stanwyck, Ball of Fire, 1941. Spurned by Ginger Rogers, Sam Goldwyn ran into another implacable wall when the often foul-mouthed Columbia boss, Harry (or King) Cohn, refused to release Arthur to be... Sugarpuss O'Shea! Also falling by the wayside: Lucille Ball and Carole Lombard.
- Bette Davis, The Man Who Came To Dinner, 1941. Director William Keighley first tested Arthur and Myrna Loy for Maggie Cutler (allegedly based on Dorothy Parker).But it was marked: FDO. For Davis, only. She had asked head brother Jack Warner to buy the Moss Hart-George Kaufman play for her and John Barrymore. Good thinking! However, tragically, The Profile was unable to remember his lines anymore… The suits ran for safety to the Broadway play’s star, Monty Woolley, which did not delight Davis. “For me it was not a happy film to make… I guess I never got over my disappointment in not working with the great John Barrymore.”
- Jane Wyman, The Lost Weekend, 1944. Director Billy Wilder managed to loan Wyman from Warner Bros for his Paramount drama. What Head Brother, Jack Warner, put down as “that drunk film” won four Oscars - actor, script, director and film - on March 7, 1946.
- Irene Dunne, Anna and the King of Siam, 1945. After The Impatient Years flopped in 1944, Arthur wanted to return to Broadway. Garson Kanin was in the middle of writing a play for her, when he did the right thing and shot off to WWII. Keeping herself free for his return, she gave up Anna during a two year wait for Born Yesterday. Then, when she finally read it, she was extremely disappointed!
- Donna Reed, It's A Wonderful Life, 1946.
- Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday, 1950.
Billie Dawn was writer Garson Kanin’s gift to Arthur . Yet, she got cold feet and quit Broadsay, leaving Judy Holliday a scant three days to learn the role. “I don’t know why [Garson] Kanin ever thought I was right for it,” she told Guy Flatley in the New York Times, May 1972. “He said something about the junkman being Harry Cohn, my boss at Columbia, who put me on suspension for two and a half years… I almost found the perfect way of killing him without getting caught.” After the long wait, she passed on the play and, later, the film. “I suppose I’m a snob, but I wanted something more ladylike. I could’ve played the part, but I could not have given the performance that Judy Holliday gave.” And Cohn’s “fat Jewish broad” won the Best Actress Oscar. King Cohn had preferred Alice Faye, Paulette Goddard, Gloria Grahame, Celeste Holm, Evelyn Keyes, Marie McDonald, Marilyn Monroe, Jan Sterling, Lana Turner - anyone other than “the fat Jewish broad,” the understudy who had made the play a hit. Katharine Hepburn waged a campaign to change Cohn’s mind, by virtually turning Judy’s support role in Spencer Tracy and Hepburn’s Adam's Rib into a most elaborate screen test . An act of generosity unsurpassed in Hollywood history. Cohn gave in, gracefully. "Well, I've worked with fat assess before!" He paid a meagre $4,500 to the actress who did the impossible - and wrested Oscar from Bette Davis in All About Eve and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd on March 29, 1951 Judy also won Kate for a lover - Hepburn’s final lesbian affair at a mere 43.
- Dorothy McGuire, Friendly Persuasion, 1956. On quitting Columbia, the studio he'd made, Frank Capra suggested this script for Arthur and the "very interested" Bing Crosby. His ex-Liberty Films partner William bought it for Gary Cooper and McGuire.
- Ida Lupino, Junior Bonner, 1971. She had not made a film since Shane, some 20 years ago… Then, she had been young Brandon De Wilde’s Ma, now Sam Peckinpah wanted her to be the mother of his hero, Steve McQueen. She found it easy to pass on the “beaten-down old woman.” Some 21 years earlier, Arthur and Lupino had both been in the mix for Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday.
- Liv Ullmann, Lost Horizon, 1972. “Oh, if I really wanted to go back, I could. I’ve been approached by Ross Hunter to take the part of a lady missionary” - in his musical re-make of the 1936 classic. But no, she saw it as a deadly part. The disaster was rapidly known as Lost Investment. Said Arthur: “I don’t want to do anything unless it’s a lot of fun.” So no comeback? "If this were in England and there were Margaret Rutherford roles to be had, that would be great.”