Van Heflin (1910-1971)
- John Garfield, Four Daughters, 1937. Micky Borden was written with Heflin in mind. But with his budget slashed after Errol Flyn quit with health problems, director Michael Curtiz could not afford him (not Burgess Meredith) - and gave Garfield his movie debut, his first Oscar nomination and the lead in the follow-up, Daughters Courageous, 1928.
- Robert Young, Joe Smith, American, 1941. “This picture,” said the credits, “is a tribute to all Joe Smiths.” Heflin was first in the frame for the hero tortured by enemy agents, “a man who defended his country.”
- Robert Cummings, Between Us Girls, 1942. Heflin fell for and proposed to Diana Barrymore and introduced her to director Henry Koster. Diana got the role, Heflin didn't. Two days later he wed Frances Neal, his third and final wife.
- Hurd Hatfield, 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 ever spawned by Hollywood. With taped eyelids for Katharine Hepburn, Walter Huston, Aline MacMahon, Akim, Tamiroff… Many other failed to pass their Eurasian tests: Heflin (a previous lover of the bisexual Hepburn), Edward Arnold, Faye Bainter, Donald Crisp, Greer Garson, Hedy Lamarr, Frank Morgan, Walter Pidgeon Donna Reed, Edward G. Robinson. And so, Hatfield made his movie debut as Lao San Tan. “Of the 33 actors with speaking roles,” admitted co-director Jack Conway, “only three were Oriental.”
- Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944. Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick gave up after two years and sold out to Fox when he couldn’t find the perfect (all too perfect) hero, Father Francis Chisholm. Contenders included Heflin, Dana Andrews, Joseph Cotten, Maurice Evans, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Dean Jagger, Gene Kelly, Franchot Tone, Spencer Tracy, Orson Welles… plus the most unlikely Catholic missionaries of all: Alan Ladd and Edward G Robinson! Auteur Joseph L Mankiewicz signed Peck in July 1943 for his second film - and first Oscar nomination.
- Frank Albertson, It's A Wonderful Life, 1946.
- Richard Basehart, Tension, 1948. MGM first aimed the terrible film noir at Basehart as the wimpy chemist planning to kill his wife’s lover - and Robert Taylor as the sardonic homicide cop, Bonnabel.
- Joel McCrea, Stars In My Crown, 1949 Decisions, decisions! In February 1948, Robert Taylor was set for the soldier-turned-clergyman battling the Ku Klux Klan in a small Western township. In March, it was Heflin!
- Thomas E Breen, The River/Le fleuve, France-India-USA, 1951. Among the Hollywood names juggled by the legendary French realisateur Jean Renoir for his final film in English. He also tried for Brando, John Dall, Glenn Ford, Van Heflin, James Mason, Robert Walker, Sam Wannamaker before settling onthe totally useless Breen.
- Peter Ustinov, We’re No Angels, 1954. New Jules among the three cons escaping Devil’s Island: Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray and Ustinov. Most critics appeared astonished by Bogie’s comedic talent. Hadn’t they seen his other work?
- James Dean, Giant, 1955.
- Kirk Douglas, Lust For Life, 1956. With eight US films under his belt, French directing icon Jean Renoir spent most of ’53-54 with trying to makehis dream movie - the life of painter Vincent Van Gogh by the son of another master painter, Auguste Renoir. Deals could never be struck.Hardly surprising as he selected, of all acting bores, Heflin,for troubled artist. (Apart from Charles Laughton, Renoir’s choice of Hollywoodians was of the ennui variety: Dana Andrews, Burgess Meredith, Robert Ryan, etc). Renoir went home to direct French Cancan and a stage play (with Leslie Caron).His place on location at Auvers-sur-Oise was suddenly taken by MGM, Vincente Minnelli and, an evenstranger choice,Kirk Von Douglas.
- Nigel Patrick, Raintree County, 1957. When MGM figured this was the nextGone With The Wind in 1949, Heflin was due to be run out of town for being a liberal professor.
- Richard Basehart, The Brothers Karamazov, 1957. Ten years earlier, Heflin had been considered for two plums: (a) Stanley Kowalski in Broadway's Streetcar Named Desire and (b) Ivan with Robert Taylor as his brother Dmitri Karamazov. Finally, the plums fell far from the tree.
- Gilbert Roland, Guns of the Timberland, 1959. During the casting days, Alan Ladd - the star and the producer - mused over Heflin, Tony Martin, Edmond O’Brien and his daughter Alana Ladd. Alana, only, appeared in the film; the second of her four films with Daddy.
- Robert Stack, The Untouchables, TV. 1959-1963. Another plum he let fall off the tree. Van Johnson, Jack Lord, Fred MacMurray, Cliff Robertson or Heflin, NBC Radio’s Phillip Marlowe would have made a livelier Elliott Ness than Robot Stack!
- Andrew Keir, Quatermass and the Pit, 1967. After two lacklustre Americans (waxworks calledBrian Donlevy and Dean Jagger), Hammer Films finallysaw sense and chose a Brit forthe BBC’s most famous sf professor in a second movie sequel. Keir was perfect and played Professor Bernard Quatermass again in BBC Radio 3’s five-parter,The Quatermass Memoirs, in 1996.
- Salvo Randone, Fellini Satyricon, Italy, 1969. Fellini’s opening ideas included such names as Pierre Clementi, Gert Frobe, Boris Karloff, Terence Stamp - and Heflin forEumolpe.
- Ernest Borgnine,TheRevengers,1971. A Mexican Western memorable only for a jinxed cast: Heflin had a fatal heart attack during shooting, William Holden arrived with Kenyan jungle fever, Mary Ure quit for Broadway.