Stewart Granger (1913-1993)
- James Mason, The Wicked Lady, 1945. Interchangeable opposites. Jimmy Granger (he was born: James Stewart) won UK stardom by inheriting Mason's original role in The Man in Grey, 1943, and his Apollodorus in Caesar and Cleopatra, 1945. Here, Mason replaced him. And in his next film, Jimmy replaced James again.
- David Niven, A Matter of Life and Death (US: Stairway To Heaven), 1946. “He was the best-looking leading man that I’d seen since James Mason,” noted UK director Michael Powell. (“Too bloody good-looking,” underlined Laurence Olivier who asked Granger to play Stanley Kowalski opposite Vivien Leigh in the London West End's Streetcar Named Desire). Powell talked about the main role. “And then David Niven strolled on the set and strolled off with the part. I don't think Jimmy Granger ever quite forgave me... But he bore me no malice.”
- Dirk Bogarde, Esther Waters, 1948. “He didn't like the part,” Dirk recalled, “and they pushed me into the lead... I was Godawful! I remember going to the director and saying: ‘What do I do?’ And he said: ‘Well, I don’t know, my dear. You’re the actor. I’m the director’ - which I thought was super. That was my introduction to cinema.”
- Robert Taylor, Quo Vadis, 1950. Director John Huston tested Granger and a squeaky-voiced, teenage Elizabeth Taylor for the Roman epic while Jimmy was preparing his Hollywood debut, King Solomon's Mines, 1950. Sam Zimbalist, producer of both, was helpless asLB Mayer dumped Jimmy for refusing an MGM contract. “They showed me your test, ” Taylor told Granger, “and told me to play the part just like you.”
- Trevor Howard, Outcast of the Islands, 1951. A three month delay due to the South Pacific climate meant he lost "the chance of working with one of the finest directors in the business." Carol Reed.
- Robert Taylor, Ivanhoe, 1951. Or, Ivanscott, as Granger's agent called it. Although somewhat tardy about signing a seven-year contract, MGM’s new dashing costumed hero was far more suitable as Sir Walter’s Scott’s hero - particulary as Taylor had been first been set for the role when MGM planned it 14 years earlier! In truth, both men (twice co-stars) were too old for the 20-something hero. Taylor was likewise too old for Knights of the Round Table, 1952, and Quentin Durward, 1954 - “my iron jockstrap movies.”
- Mel Ferrer, Scaramouche, 1951. One plan was to have Jimmy playing both roles. - André Moreau and the Marquis de Maynes - a duel role to match his dual role that year in The Prisoner of Zenda. Yes but Rudolf Rassendyll and King Rudolf V did not have to tackle each other in Hollywood’s greatest sword fight. (For a few years).
- Charlton Heston, The Greatest Show On Earth, 1952. After seeing director Cecil B DeMille in action, Granger knew he would never be able to offer “the kind of slavish adoration shown by all around him and which he obviously demanded.” Jean Kent expressed it best : “Oh, he loved himself, he really loved himself.”
- Clark Gable, Mogambo, 1953. Granger had suggested the Scaramouche re-make, now he was talking about revamping Red Dust. MGM agreed it for him, Deborah Kerr and Ava Gardner. Then, MGM's production chief Dore Schary said: “Your career is going great guns but Gable - he needs a good picture and we've got to keep The King happy.” That's how Gable re-made his own 1932 movie, with Ava and Grace Kelly, while Granger was given “a crappy melodrama.” All The Brothers Were Valiant.
- Marlon Brando, Julius Caesar, 1953. Dore Schary's choice of the MGM pactees was so objectionable to director Joseph L Mankiewicz that he almost fled the Shakespearean project. Brando found the idea “fucking scary” until Mank helped him “stop copying the goddamm Limeys - you sound like June Allyson.” For Mankiewicz, Brando was “the single greatest acting talent in the English language of this [20th] century, better than Clift, Orson and Burton” or Olivier's “giant computer of programmed reactions.”
- Burt Lancaster, From Here To Eternity, 1953.
- James Mason, A Star Is Born, 1953.
- Cornel Wilde, The Scarlet Coat, 1955. After the highs of Scaramouche, 1952, this was far too tepid for what London’s Daily Mirror called “the most unpopular Englishman in Hollywood” He had made “all sorts of rubbish to pay the bills so that Jean (Simmons, his second wife) could wait for better parts... I've never done a film I'm proud of.” Gtranger’s usual co-star, Robert Taylor, was next up for the US secret agent versus Michael Wilding in his final (and best) MGMovie. Within two years, Liz Taylor would also dump Wilding.
- David Oxley, Ill Met By Moonlight, 1957. Director Michael Powell wanted big names to support (save!) Dirk Bogarde’s hero. The Rank Organisation did not agree and without them, Bogarde delivered “a picture-postcard hero in fancy dress.” Powell was amazed that the real hero, Major Patrick Leigh-Fermor, did not sue them both.
- Gary Cooper, Man of the West, 1957. First up for Link, the purely existential hero in Jean-Luc Godard’s favourite Western. He called it the best film of ’58 - above Touch of Evil and Vertigo! Anthony Mann obviously also mused over his usual cowboy star James Stewart - the real name of Granger. (Cooper matched the film. Boring).
- Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur, 1958. Not Granger's best year: problems about his marriage, his ranch, deaths within a fortnight, of his oldest LA chums: producer Sam Zimbalist, agent Bert Allenberg. Not signing a second MGM pact cost him the title role…
- Stephen Boyd, Ben-Hur, 1959. … However, MGM did offer Messala - opposite Brando (allegedly, once a Granger lover), then Robert Taylor, then... well, Granger's agent refused to allow him “to play second fiddle” to Heston. By the time, Granger agreed, it had been cast elsewhere. “I was a good costume actor but I shortened my career because I made wrong choices.” Mrs G, was also considered and, said Granger, the Rome shoot might have saved their rocky marriage.
- Roger Moore, The Miracle, 1959. Director Irving Rapper wanted Jean Simmons.. She was keen - if husband Stewart Granger was her co-star. Rapper, however, wanted Dirk Bogarde... who refused and suggested Moore although they had never met. And never did. Apparently, Bogarde’s longtime lover, Anthony Forward, made sure of that.
- Steve McQueen, The Magnificent Seven, 1960. Hard to believe that the Western making new genration stars out of Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, etc, was originally aimed in 1959 at old hats Granger, Clark Gable, Glenn Ford, in 1959. And just two newer guys: Anthony Franciosa, Dean Jones. All to be directed by Yul Brynner, already in a bitter dispute with Anthony Quinn and producer Lou Morheim over the rights to the source material: Japanese maestro Akira Kurosawa’s Shichinin no samurai/Seven Samurai, 1953. Brynner’s title was The Magnificent Six. Like re-making Ben-Hur as Ben Herbie.
- Dirk Bogarde, Victim, 1961. Oh c’mon, that would have made white sideburns questionable forever more... Jimmy was suggested as the barrister threatened by his homosexual affair after refusals by Jack Hawkins and James Mason. The breakthrough film helped rescue Bogarde’s career from comic doctors and campy Spanish bandidos.
- Michael Lonsdale, Moonraker, 1979.