Sir Rex Harrison (1908-1990)
- Barry K Barnes, Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel, 1937. Producer Alexander Korda's contract player, Margaretta Scott, recalled testing with various would-be Pimpernels.
- Ray Milland, Reap The Wild Wind, 1941. All hands on deck - and fathoms below - for a boisterous CB DeMille adventure classic… with a change of the foppish lawyer rival for John Wayne’s lady, Paulette Goddard.
- Don Ameche, Heaven Can Wait, 1942. The great Ernst Lubitsch was rightly miffed when head Fox Darryl Zanuck chose his contract player - because he was cheaper than Lubitsch’s choices of Harrison or Frederic March. Ameche always said this movie was his favorite film
- James Cagney, 13 Rue Madeleine, 1946. Ya cain’t always get wot ya wanna… Not even if you were Darryl F Zanuck. For his US Amy Intelligence thriller, the head Fox tried persuade Harrison to play spymeister Bob Sharkey. finding one of his team (Richard Conte is a Nazi agent. “He could have been an RAF Wing Commander, wounded and grounded, sent to Washington as a member of the RAF mission.” Harrison didn’t bite and DFZ also failed to land William Eythe, Glenn Langan or John Payne for O’Connell and Mark Stevens as Lassiter. Not even Jimmy (or director Henry Hathaway) could make it interesting.
- Dana Andrews, The Forbidden Street (UK: Britannia Mews), 1948. The previous year’s Ghost and Mrs Muir couple, Harrison and Gene Tierney churned into Maureen O’Hara and a peculiarly (and so obviously) dubbed Dana Andrews (for the UK and Brtiish Commonwealth version). His dual role of both husbands, was the sore thumb of the thriller.
- David Niven, The Elusive Pimpernel, 1950. Certainly elusive where Sexy Rexy was concerned. Scarlet was removed from the title presumably because of Senator Joe McCarthy. Or Maureen O'Hara.
- Maurice Evans, Androcles and Lion, 1951. During three years of bizarre casting of the George Bernard Shaw playlet - everyone from the sublime Chaplin (and Harpo Marx) to the ridiculous Eddie Bracken was imagined for the lead. And Emperor Antoninus Caesar went from Harrison to George Sanders to Cedric Hardwicke to José Ferrer to Evans… Harrison, of course, played the role opposite Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra in 1962.
- Alec Guinness, The Captain's Paradise, 1953. “Rex Harrison told me the part had been offered to him,” reported Guinness, “and I'm sure he would've been more suitable.”
- Alec Guinness, The Swan, 1955. First sexy Rexy, then boring Joseph Cotten were up for Prince Albert - Guinness’ Hollywood debut. And Grace Kelly’s tepid finale before playing the story for real - the film opend in the US on April 18, 1956, the day of her marriage to Monaco’s Prince Rainier. Their son is… Prince Albert! (Also the name of a penile device sex toy).
- Kenneth More, The Admirable Chrichton, 1957. Producer Alexander Korda bought JM Barrie's play for Harrison - or Laurence Olivier. Neither wanted to buttle. And the new #l UK star signed up four days before Korda's death.
- James Stewart, Bell Book and Candle, 1958. Five years earlier, producer David O Selznick bought John Van Druten's play for Mrs DOS: Jennifer Jones. They tired of it and sold out to Columbia czar Harry Cohn which meant Susan Hayward (opposite Rex Harrison). Ultimately, Cohn made a deal with Paramount - it could have Novak opposite Stewart in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, as long as Jim rang the Bell with Novak at Columbia. And all the time, Cary Grant had been been pushing for it - it really required his unique sparkle.
- Cary Grant, The Grass Is Greener, 1959. Grant invited the Harrisons to be the titled English couple and he would be the US millionaire. Following his wife Kay Kendall’s death from leukaemia, Harrison withdrew. Grant became the Earl, Robert Mitchum the millionaire.
- Peter Sellers, The World of Henry Orient, 1964. “Sexy Rexy” or bot, Harrison was just too old to be the classical pianist chased by teenagers. At the time of his death, Sellers had been due to re-make Rex's orchestral conductor from Unfaithfully Yours, 1948.
- Jack Hawkins, Masquerade, 1965. In an earlier life, Harrison had been booked for an earlier versiopn ofespionage writer Victor Canning’s 1955 novel, about trying to grab Arab oil. Nothing has changed.
- Marlon Brando, A Countess From Hong Kong, 1966. His first 60s idea proved just how much Chaplin was out touch with modern life - the French President Charles De Gaulle was exactlysame the following year... 1968! This wasChaplin’s 75th and final film, his first in colour and the first backed by a major studio, Universal,with his highestbudget: $6m.
- Dirk Bogarde, Sebastian, 1967. Director Michel Powell felt the essential insanity of his profession when trying to persuade “this charming shit” - in frock coat, stovepipe hat, carrying a blue-yellow macaw called Polynesia - to play acryptographer whose brain worked about 200 times faster than normal. “He was trying to postpone my film another six months... so that he can play Doctor Dolittle.”
- David Niven, Casino Royale, 1967.
- Trevor Howard, The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1968. Rex was Michael Powell’s Lord Cardigan when placing the Cecil Woodham-Smith book, The Reason Why, in a list of projects, dated March 1952.
- Peter O'Toole, Goodbye Mr. Chips, 1969. “All set,” said producer ArthurP Jacobs, after making Doctor Dolittle together. Jacob and director Gower Champion visited Rex in Paris. “Marvellous day, he says - you know the way he talks… He gets us Bloody Marys and then he says: ‘Now let me tell you why I’m not going to do Mr Chips.’That's the first we heard about it.It was all set..." Created for him or not, Harrison - obviously and quite correctly - saw it as a warmed-over My Fair Lady.
- Zero Mostel, The Great Bank Robbery, l969. Rex + Melina Mercouri became Kim Novak + Mostel. And they = zero!
- Trevor Howard, The Battle of Britain, 1969. Last minute change forAir Vice Marshal Keith Park. Howard was doubled when seen jumping out of the Hurricane because, as director Guy Hamilton said, “You don’t have elderly actors jumping out of elderly planes.”
- Albert Finney, Scrooge, 1970. “I was asked to do a play and the film, but for purely medical reasons they said you can’t [do both].It was the first time in my life that I had to turn down a film.” Firstrejected by Richard Harris, ex-husband of thesoon-to-be fifth Mrs Harrison.
- Laurence Olivier, Nicholas and Alexandra, 1970.
First rumoured for Tsar Nicholas, Harrison was not interested in being the lesser Count Witte. Really not interested. He told producer Sam Spiegel: “I don’t play bit parts.” Spiegel called Olivier - who accepted... and suggested Tom Baker for Rasputin. Didn’t help. The film was Spiegel’s fourth of six consecutive flops. He needed David Lean more than vice-versa.
- Jack Gwillim, Clash of the Titans, 1980. Too tiny! That was Harrison’s reply to an invite to play Poseidon. Pardon - what didja say? Oh right… No such thing as tiny roles… Yes, but the suits wanted him around in case Laurence Olivier’s ill-health made him give up Zeus.