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Joan Fontaine (1917-2013)


  1. Kay Sutton, The Saint in New York, 1937.     La Fontaine missed the best of the screen Simon Templars when passing her bad girl to Sutton in the first of RKO’s eight movies based on the Leslie Charteris books.
  2. Olivia De Havilland, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
  3. Martha Scott, The Howards of Virginia, 1939.   Fontaine being rushed into abdominal surgery meant a second feature for Scott. She was rhapsodic about co-star Cary Grant’s professionalism and assistance. (He even arranaged her lighting). He got the worst reviews of his career, and refused all other period pieces until The Pride and the Passion, 1956.
  4. Margaret Sullavan, Back Street, 1940. Or as the credits (but not the poster) put it: Fannie Hurst’s Back Street. Or, again, as French web critic Nicholas Rhodes, called it: The queen of tearjerkers. Well, Fontaine didn’t fancy it - or producer David O Selznick. He had rejected her as Scarlett O'Hara. She felt this weepie was a come-down after Rebecca - and suggested Margaret for the part.
  5. Laraine Day, Foreign Correspondent, 1940.       For his second Hollywood outing, Alfred Hitchcock craved  the star of  his first - Rebecca. However,  the very  producer who had brought him to Hollywood, David O. Selznick,  refused to loan Joan to Walter Wanger Productions. Joan won an Oscar for  Hitchcock’s fourth, Suspicion, 1941.
  6. Olivia De Havilland, They Died With Their Boots On, 1942.     How to avoid Errol Flynn - twice.   Joan disliked the role of General Custer's wife.   Her   sister made it as her eighth and last Errol Flynn movie,   while Fontaine made The Constant Nymph...   as soon as Charles Boyer replaced Flynn.
  7. Teresa Wright, Shadow of a Doubt, 1942.      Hitchcock’s first choice was not free - his second called it thefavourite of her 82 screen roles. It was Hitch’s favourite, as well.
  8. Dorothy McGuire, Claudia, 1943.      Win some, lose some. In David Selznick's habitual testing   games,   Fontaine won Rebecca from McGuire, but lost Claudia to her. Then, the producer lost interest, selling script and star to Fox.
  9. Ginger Rogers, I'll Be Seeing You, 1944.       Joan was the first to   succeed Ginger as Fred's partner as A Damsel In   Distress, 1937. Now, Fontaine preferred suspension for a year while feuding with David Selznick for loaning her out for fees higher than her $17,000 Suspicion salary.   
  10. Joan Crawford, Mildred  Pierce, 1944.    Smelling another comeback, Crawford campaigned hard for the killer role touted for Barbara Stanwyck after Bette Davis spurned it. Also considered: Joan and sister  Olivia De Havilland. Plus: Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell, Ann Sheridan., Barbara Stranwyck. Crawford simply complied with Mildred’s line: “I don’t know whether it’s right or whether it’s wrong, but that’s the way it’s gotta be.”  Oscar voters agreed on March 7 1946.

  11. Laraine Day, Those Endearing Young Charms, 1944.      Producer Sam Goldwyn bought the Jerome Chodorov play for Dana Andrews and Teresa Wright… or Joan Fontaine. He then sold it RKO, where director Lewis Allen chose Day and Robert Young.
  12. Alice Faye, Fallen Angel, 1945.     In September 1944, Hollywood Reporter said Fontaine won  the lead.  By February ’45, it was Ida Lupino or Anne Baxter. They did not stand a chance when Faye, the Fox queen, searched through 30 scripts for her first movie in two years, decided this was the one. A new Laura! Not what she said on seeing the rough-cut and how the (Laura) director Otto Preminger cut her impact (and single song), throwing the picture to Linda Darnell - on studio chief Darryl Zanuck’s orders. Faye sped off the “Penitentiary Fox” lot, chucking her dressingrom key at the gate guard, and never worked for Fox again until she was begged to head State Fairin… 1962!
  13. Gene Tierney, The Razor’s Edge, 1946.      Sisters Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland were in the frame for Tyrone Power’s co-star on his return to Fox after three years in the US Marine Corps. 
  14. Laraine Day, The Locket, 1947.     Producer William Dozier bought Sheridan Gibney’s scenario for his wife - and then would not wait for her to be   free of another commitment and substituted Laraine opposite Robert Mitchum.
  15. Angela Lansbury, If Winter Comes, 1947.      Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick bought the morality tale in 1939 for Fontaine and Leslie Howerd - or Vivien Leigh opposite her husband, Laurence Olivier. They all passed. So did DOS, selling his rights in 1940 to UK producer Alexander Korda… who did the same to MGM, which wanted Donat and Greer Garson as the feuding Sabre couple, ultimately Lansbury and Walter Pidgeon on, for the historic first time, non-flammable film.
  16. Alida Valli, The Miracle of the Bells, 1947.      Fontaine, Barbara Bel Geddes, Greer Garson, Jennifer Jones and ballerina Ricky Soma were in the mix for the Polish actress dying upon completion of her Joan of Ark film in Hollywood. Plus the unknown Jane Garth, who played the role on-stage.Naturally, the real screen’s next Maid, Ingrid Bergman was also considered by producer Jesse L Lasky for his surprisingly limp version of Russell Janney’s novel.
  17. Rosalind Russell, A Woman of Distinction, 1949.     Russell, Fontaine, Jean Arthur and Loretta Young were up for the slapsticky romcom with Cary Grant - well, no, it was Ray Milland in the end. Fine, but he was no Grant and this was no Bringing Up Baby.
  18. Deborah Kerr, From Here To Eternity, 1952.
  19. Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1955.
  20. Kim Novak, The Eddy Duchin Story, 1955.     Both Fontaine and Eva Marie Saint were seen for the 30s/40s’pianist-bandleader’s first wife, Marjorie Oelrichs. (She died in childbirth). Director George Sidney said he preferred Novak.  Younger, he said. And not a word about her being under contract to the film’s backer, Columbia.  Tyrone Power was an effective Duchin.   

  21. Dorothy Malone, Written on the Wind,  1956.      Due in a 1949 version with sister Olivia De Havilland and Henry Fonda. Malone won a support Oscar which did her career no good at all. Fontaine, complained Orson Welles, had “two expressions, and that’s it.” Joan  left Hollywood because she was asked to play Elvis Presley's mother. “Not that I had anything against Elvis Presley. But that just wasn’t my cup of tea.”  
  22. Jane Wyman, Holiday for Lovers, 1958.      The female roles seemed jinxed.  Or was it just the lousy script?  Tierney was set for Mary, wed to her waspish Laura co-star Clfiton Webb! - and taking their teenage daughters on a South American holiday. Then, Tierney had an emotional breakdown. Joan Fontaine replaced her -  and had her own breakdown. Head Fox Darryl Zanuck was having similar trouble with one of the daughters when he went for a real, trouble-free pro and Wyman made her first films for three years.  It led to many more.
  23. Maureen O’Sullivan, Never Too Late, 1965.     Spencer Tracy was the only thought for Harry. arry in Opposite one of a dozen choices for his wife - pregnant at 50, ho ho! From Rosalind Russell to Katherine Hepburn (“but I’m too old for Edith?”). Plus Fontaine, June Allyson, Lucille Ball, Anne Baxter, Susan Hayward, Deborah Kerr, Eleanor Parker, Ginger Rogers, Ann Sheridan. Ultimately, Warner Bros went with the Broadway hit’s duo: Paul Ford and O’Sullivan. 



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