Greer Garson (1904-1996)
- Luise Rainer, Dramatic School, 1938. Garson’s screen debut opposite Paulette Goddard was stymied by a back injury.After four TV roles in 1937, Greer finally debuted in Goodbye Mr Chips, 1939.
- Rosalind Russell, The Citadel, 1938. When Eelizabethj Allan left MGM after three years, the studio agreed to have her “on call” for two films a year. This was the first. The Hollywood Reporter reported her joining Robert Donat on February 10, 1938. (She beat Garson, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Vivien Leigh). By March 31, Allen was out, replaced by Russell - replaced in her gig, The Shopworn Angel, by Margaret Sullavan! Allan sued MGM for breach of contract.
- Ruth Hussey, Northwest Passage, 1940. After Larraine Day, Greer was up for Elizabeth Browne when Victor Fleming was due to direct the Kenneth Roberts novel. Production took so long to roll, four of the five stars disappeared into other projects. Even then, they never filmed the entire book.
- Joan Crawford, Susan and God, 1939. Garson was next to pass after, Norma Shearer, refused to play the mother of the 14-year-old Blossom (Ruth Quigley). MGM’s First Lady was 37 and a widow at the time. Crawford snapped it up - at 34.
- Joan Crawford, Susan and God, 1939. No stopping her once she made up her mind about it. And so Crawford simply beat off Garson to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes playwright Anita Loos’ latest creation. The very rich Susan Trexell spreading her newly found religious message.
- Joan Bennett, Man Hunt, 1940. Bennett’s “English” accent was about as rank as Dick Van Dyke’s lousy Cockney in Mary Poppins in a (thankfully) short role - opposite Walter Pidgeon, on the run from Nazis in London after trying to kill Hitler in Bavaria, no less. Also seen for Jerry were Anne Baxter, Virginia Gilmore, Gene Tierney.And the only real Londoner on the short list:Ida Lupino.
- Joan Bennett, Man Hunt, 1941. Director Fritz Lang had the last word on casting. Naturally.
- Katharine Hepburn, Dragon Seed, 1943. Insulting! Pearl Buck’s book had a point - exposing Japanese atrocities in China. MGM made it a farce, with the unlikeliest-looking Chinese family ever spawned by Hollywood. Taped eyelids for Hepburn, Walter Huston, Aline MacMahon, Akim Tamiroff… Garson and Hedy Lamarr failed their Eurasian tests for Hepburn’s Jade Tan.
- Judy Garland, Ziegfeld Follies, 1945. For one sketch,Roger Edens and Kay Thompson wrote a high-camp satire of Garson's great ladies - Madame Curie as "Madame Crematon," inventor of the safety pin - in the form of an interview between a grand dame movie queen and dancing journalists.They sung it for her at Arthur Freed's house. Exit: Greer, without a word.Enter: Judy, channelingKay Thompson.
- 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 Garson and Robert Donat. Finally, the feuding Sabre couplebecame Lansbury and Walter Pidgeon.… on, for the historic first time, non-flammable film.
- Alida Valli, The Miracle of the Bells, 1947. Garson, Barbara Bel Geddes, 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 this surprisingly limp version of Russell Janney’s novel.
- Katharine Hepburn, State of the Union,1948. With Claudette Colbert suddenly pulling out (she was battered into hospital by her husband ondiscoveringher affairs with both Hepburn and Spencer Tracy), director Frank Capra rushed around for a replacement. Garson proved unavailable. That’s when Tracy suggested a "a bag of bones" called Kate.
- Jennifer Jones, Madame Bovary, 1949. What, after all those years of being the ultra faithful Mrs Miniver!Her lover would have been James Mason, not Louis Jourdan. Instead, Mason played Flaubert, himself.
- Barbara Stanwyck, East Side West Side, 1949. MGM spent $200,000 on Marcia Davenport's novel in September 1947. A year later, Garson was up for the lead.
- Jean Simmons, Young Bess, 1952. MGM first bought Margaret Irwin's book in 1945 - with Garson or Deborah Kerr in mind for the young Queen Elizabeth I. Simmons nearly lost the throne (opposite her husband, Stewart Granger, as Thomas Seymour) for being… too pretty.
- Eleanor Parker, Interrupted Melody, 1955. Having fully researched the role, Greer was set for the story of Aussie opera star, Marjorie Lawrence,and her polio battle.Then, she was not. Then again, she was. Finally, fed up with a year of MGM prevarication, she won release from her contract in March 1954.And Parker started shooting one month later!
- Leslie Caron, The Doctor's Dilemma, 1958. Gabriel Pascal was appointed "sole director" by George Bernard Shaw after their 1938 Pygmalion triumph.Pascal wanted to star "my red-haired Circe" but GBS would not allow his surrogate son (another of Alexander Korda’s clever Hungarians) to move toHollywood.
- Jane Wyman, Bon Voyage! 1962. “But we’ve seen Paris...!” said Garson and James Cagney when Walt Disney invited them tohead the Willard family heading from Terre Haute, Indiana to a once-in-a-lifetime holiday in France.
- Bette Davis, The Nanny, 1965. Hammer’s Nanny was always intended for Garson. She agreed, then changed her mind...to protect her career which, in truth, was all but over. Nine more screen roles and it was.