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Howard Keel (1919-2004)

 

  1. Ray Milland, A Life of Her Own, 1950.      Lana Turner  nearly stalked from her first movie in two years when MGM failed to land a co-star from the highly mixed bag of Keel, James Craig, Cary Grant, James Mason, George Murphy and Robert Ryan. The rich mine owner as given to Wendell Corey. As lucklustre as usual, he begged off after a few weeks. “I’m not right for the rôle.”   And Milland was, said MGM, borrowing him from Paramount.
  2. Gene Kelly, Singin’ in the Rain, 1951.     Before it landed in the firm grasp of the crackerjack team: Kelly and Stanley Donen.
  3. Robert Taylor,  I Love Melvin, 1952.      According to the  the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library (OK?), the signer was signed as the guest star - in Debbie Reynolds’ dream!  The suits preferred ole Bob,  the only MGM star to last out his 25 year contract and collect his MGM pension!
  4.  Fernando Lamas, The Girl Who Had Everything, 1952.    Ava Gardner was announced,  but Elizabeth Taylor became… The Girl Who Had Everything. Except Howard Keel!  He turned into Lamas. Didn’t help the lame romcom about a lawyer’s  daughter and  one of his clients. A gangster
  5. Gene Kelly, Brigadoon, 1953.     MGM’s first plan for the downright silly  musical about a Scottish Highlands town waking up  for a day once a century had been: Keel and Kathryn Grayson.  Then,  Grayson and Kelly, finally: Cyd Charisse and Kelly… who threw in the choregraphy, as well. Didn’t help. Great first half, lousy second. Major flop.
  6. Gordon MacRae, Oklahoma, 1954.    He saw both but director Fred Zinnemann wanted actors rather than singers... Clift, James Dean, Paul Newman, Dale Robertson, Robert Stack, plus singers Vic Damone and   Howard Keel, as Curly… Ann Blyth, Ailene Roberts, Eva Marie Saint, Joanne Woodward (and OK, just two singers: Kathryn Grayson, Jane Powell… or even Piper Laurie for Laurey…  Ernest Borgnine, Marlon Brando,Lee Marvin, Rod Steiger or Eli Wallach for poor Jud Fry. However, the musical’s parents had casting approval - Rodgers and Hammerstein, agreed only about Steiger. And Oklahoma was played by... Arizona.
  7. Leslie Nielsen, The Opposite Sex, 1955.   As ideas, plans, scripts and directors changed, the chief male changed from singer Keel to non-singer  Neilsen. It was not a musical. 
  8. Bing Crosby, High Society, 1956.     Hot from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the tough guy singer pushed hard to be  CK Dexter Haven. No way when Metro managed to have  Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, What  A Swell Party and Now You Has Jazz.
  9. Rossano Brazzi, South Pacific, 1958.     MGM would not loan him for some enchanted evenings. 
  10. David Janssen, The Green Berets, 1967.      You have been warned…  “I’ll do anything you like but don’t push me. I’ve a bad temper. I’m not as good at brawling as you are. I only have one good arm… I’ll not brawl with you, I’ll try to kill you!” That was Keel’s first 1966 meeting with John Wayne when the singer and future Dallas star was playing a comic Indian, Levi Walking Bear, in The War Wagon. They ended as friends. but when Duke asked him to join his ’Nam movie, Keel was on singing tour. Chicago critic Roger Ebert (like so many others) buried the movie as “cruel and dishonest and unworthy of the thousands who have died there.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 





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