Rock Hudson (1925-1985)
- Edmund Purdom, The Egyptian, 1953. Once Brando split for his New York shrink’s couch, head Fox Darryl Zanuck scurried around searching for a new Sinuhe, the court physician – Hudson, Dirk Bogarde, John Cassevetes Montgomery Clift, Richard Conte, John Derek, Rock Hudson, John Lund, Guy Madison, Hugh O’Brian, Michael Pate. Fox borrowed MGM’s wooden Purdom and sued Brando for $2m, settled when he agreed to make (the much worse) Désirée. Or Daisy-Rae as he called the one that got away from Napoleon.
- Alan Young, Gentleman Marry Brunettes, 1955. Mary Anita Loos, niece of writer Anita Loos, got to know Hudson at Newport. With her co-writer and director husband Richard Sale, she offered him the film - opposite Jane Russell, Jeanne Crain. Except he was firmly tied to Universal.
- Don Murray, Bus Stop, 1956. Instead of Marilyn, he was more into sob schlock opposite Jane Wyman. Universal would not release him. (Yet). “More important to have him for our own pictures.” said production chief Ed Muhl.
- Marlon Brando, Sayonara, 1957. When stage-screen director Joshua Logan was hoping Brando would support Hudson in the role that netted Red Buttons his Oscar. Then, Hudson quit for A Farewell To Arms, 1957. (Brando and Hudson allegedly had a short affair; most Marlon’s affairs were short).
- William Holden, The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957. Hudson refused Kwai, Sayonara and Ben-Hur, while his own choice, A Farewell to Arms, became one of movie history’s greatest turds - “biggest mistake of my career.” Worse for its iconic producer David O Selznick; he never made another picture.
- John Gavin, A Time To Love and A Time To Die, 1958. Douglas Sirk wanted Mr Newman. The Universal studio gave him Mr Cardboard.
- Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur, 1958. This would have lent an entirely different bent to scenarist Gore Vidal’s view that the truth of the unmotivated emnity in the “infantile story” was that Ben-Hur and Messala had been boyhood lovers. “Ben turned straight as a die while Messala remained in love with Ben.” Universal rejected MGM’s $750,000 loan offer for Hudson - the Magnificent Obsession of ’54. “Rock, or anyone else, was never loaned for the sole purpose of making money,” declared the U production chief Ed Muhl. And certainly not for a any script with a dodgy homosexual subtext. Director William Wyler (of the original’s 1924 crew) then studied Italians Cesare Danova and Vittorio Gassman. Plus Montgomery Clift, Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Van Johnson (no, really!), Burt Lancaster - and Edmund Purdom, who had picked up another epic dropped by Brando, The Egyptian. Judah Ben-Heston won his Oscar on April 4 1960.
- Anthony Perkins, Green Mansions,1958. A stop-go project since 1933 at RKO, with every beauty from Mexican Dolores Del Rio to the Peruvian five-octave singer Yma Sumac, by way of Pier Angel and, finally, Audrey Hepburn, for Rima, the jungle sprite. When the pot was stirred anew by actor-director Mel Ferrer and his wife, Audrey Hepburn, MGM wanted Hudson as the Abel in her thrall. Perkins almost looked more of a sprite than Audrey did. Indeed some wags suggested it would have been better if Hudson and Perkins had played the leads!
- Montgomery Clift, Suddenly, Last Summer, 1959. Producer Sam Spiegel never really wanted to see Clift again. “I don’t want to be near him.” Not after the Denny’s Hideaway steak house incident during the River Kwai casting, when Monty actor mixed pills and creme de menthe, spoke in non-sequiturs (“the sky is blue”) and fell, not into his cups, but into Betty Spiegel’s lap. “He could not move. It was as if he was numb - Sam preferred his River Kwai star, but couldn’t ”Spiegel” (ie cajole, manipulate or con) Holden into agreeing. Nor Hudson.
- Yves Montand, Let's Make Love, 1960. Among the legions rejecting Marilyn Monroe because she was past it - and she was trouble. Montand got extremely close to her (how could he resist her?) but admitted his part just didn’t hold up. She said the opposite about his.
- Gregory Peck, The Guns of Navarone, 1960. During the casting waltz, Captain Keith Mallory was shuffled around Hudson, Peck and even Cary Grant. The script was re-spun so often that Peck finally threw in his own version: “David Niven really loves Anthony Quayle and Peck loves Anthony Quinn, Quayle is hospitalised with a broken leg, Quinn falls in love with Irene Papas and Niven and Peck with each other and live happily ever after…” “He was an odd case,” said Hudson’s often co-star Tony Randall. “He learned to act after he was a star.”
- Dirk Bogarde, The Angel Wore Red, 1961. Bogarde jumped at Monty Clift’s cast-off. Paying no heed to refusals by (count em!) Rock, Kirk Douglas, Glenn Ford, Dean Martin, Paul Newman!
- Gregory Peck, To Kill A Mockingbird, 1962. Hudson was ahead of Peck (and James Stewart) in the queue to be Atticus Finch... now revered as Peck’s greatest hour - earning Peck’s Oscar and his funeral eugoly from co-star Brock Peters.
- Cary Grant, That Touch of Mink, 1962. Instead of a third comedy together, Doris Day preferred the King of Hollywood to the Young Pretender. (At 55, Cary had knocked Hudson off top spot, to fourth, in Box Office magazine’s stars of 1958). of the year). Result: Mink became Grant’s second most successful movie after Operation Petticoat , with North By North West third. His cut: $4m. By now, he was the only movie star in history to have his films earning more than $11m in one theatre, New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
- Sean Connery, Marnie, 1963. After Marlon Brando and Paul Newman passed, Hudson had a meet with Alfred Hitchcock about playing Mark Rutland. Then, Cubby Broccoli called Hitch about his new 007 find… and, although, he didn’t match the “American aristocrat hero” at all, the role was Sean’s.
- Marlon Brando, Bedtime Story, 1964. Original casting idea: Cary Grant-Rock Hudson (!) became David Niven-Brando. Just as the 1988 remake, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, all tuned up for David Bowie-Mick Jagger, became Michael Caine-Steve Martin.
- Richard Harris, Hawaii, 1966. Gentleman director Fred Zinnemann started the project with Rock opposite Audrey Hepburn. Harris Harris - who producer Walter Mirisch had been trying to obtain for a film since The Great Escape, 1963 - won Julie Andrews, helmer George Roy Hill and 228 loops - “you can change your whole performance in looping.” Just not improve it.
- Lex Barker, Woman Times Seven, 1967. Seven face(t)s of Shirley MacLaine. Each one with a different guy: Alan Arkin, Michael Caine, Vittorio Gassman, Peter Sellers, Philippe Noiret...even a Brando cameo, sans credit.
- Charlton Heston, Planet of the Apes, 1967.
- Charles Bronson, C'era una volta il West (UK/US: Once Upon A Time in the West), Italy-USA, 1968. The Paramount suits reported: “Rock wants to be Harmonica.” No, thundered maestro Segio Leopne. “It’s Bronson or no one. A force of marble!”
- Steve McQueen, The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968. Canadian director Norman Jewison’s first reserve if Sean Connery proved unavailable was sideswiped by McQueen agreeing to wear a suit for once. A far more triumphant change of McQueen image than his foolish ego trip, An Enemy of the People, 1978.
- Tony Curtis, The Persuaders, TV, 1971-1972. With the Bond producers showing interest, Roger Moore wasn’t keen on another TV series after The Saint, until the size of producer Lew Grade’s cheque grew bigger than his cigas. Grade offered a choice of three US co-stars. Moore said Glenn Ford was a selfish actor, Hudson was almost a Moore clone, “both six-foot-something, even-featured leading men” - but Tony Curtis “would be brilliiant.”
- John Wayne, Rooster Cogburn, 1974. The idea was fair - a sequel to True Grit. But if Wayne proved too ill, what would be the point of someone else in his titular Oscar-winning rôle? Marlon Brando topped producer Hal Wallis’ eye-patch list of Charles Bronson, Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Burt Lancaster, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, George C Scott and some of l Duke’s co-stars: Hudson, Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn. This was director Stuart Miller’s second feature. The “6ft 6ins somafabitch no-talent, ” as Duke termed him, never made a third.
- Leonard Harris, Taxi Driver, 1976.
- John Wheeler, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1977. If Doris Day had accepted Mrs Fields, Mr would have been Hudson, just like the old days at Universal. With The Bee Gees substituting The Beatles, the musical was over before it began. The mindless morass of most Pepper and Abbey Road songs formed, said Newsweek’s David Ansen, “a dangerous resemblance to wallpaper.”