Fredric March (1897-1975)
- Gary Cooper, Morocco, 1930. When the Hollywood debut of Marlene Dietrich and her director-mentor Josef von Sternberg was thwarted by John Gilbert's MGM shackles, they turned to March - but Paramount had him shackled to The Royal Family of Broadway. Enter: Coop.
- Chester Morris, The Miracle Man, 1932. They were low-grade miracles after Gary Cooper was replaced by March, who handed it (further) down to Morris.
- Cary Grant, Hot Saturday, 1932. It was March who first warned his pal about Paramount's “new Cooper.” He also warned Coop off this lead role, having refused it, himself, saying Faden was a better role. That had been ear-marked for Grant, now it went to Randolph Scott... Cary's future and longtime lover.
- Gary Cooper, A Farewell To Arms, 1932. Paramount was preparing the Hemingway book for March and Helen Hayes. But March quit in fury when Frank Borzage replaced John Cromwell as director.
- Brian Aherne The Song of Songs, 1933. “Why have you come to do this silly picture?” Marlene Dietrich asked Aherne. “I have to do it because of my contract and because Mr von Sternberg has walked out... but you are the great actor from New York and can do what you like. Are you crazy?” Over her, for sure. And he promptly made her, as well as the film.
- John Gilbert, Queen Christina, 1933. Among the many men discarded by Greta Garbo as she successfully battled for her old lover to play Don Antonio de la Prada.
- Robert Donat, The Count of Monte Cristo, 1934. March enjoyed fame as the first of the new talkie stars, hated being hyped as a second John Gilbert - and positively refused to be typed in costume dramas.
- Henry Wilcoxon, Cleopatra, 1934. Unable to free March from another commitment, director Cecil B DeMille called on Wilcoxon (his usual standby) and explained how Ceasar "thought in terms of nations, not individuals. He did and thought things on a grand scale. The world was his canvas." Said Henry: "Why don't you play it?"
- Clark Gable, It Happened One Night, 1934. Because the great director Frank Capra could not interest March, or get Robert Montgomery, he was given a Gable being punished by MGM. And the Oscar goes to...
- Clark Gable, The Call of the Wild, 1934. Feeling March was better suited to Valjean in Les Miserables, Fox production chief Darryl Zanuck changed his Jack London hero to Clark Gable - and then, his lady from Madeleine Carroll to Loretta Young. (Not to mention King, rather than Cappy, as the dog Buck!).
- Gary Cooper, Peter Ibbetson, 1934. Paramount had a “verbal option” on Robert Donat for Ibbetson. He did not feel bound by it. Fredric March was next up. Then, Coop - he always said he was miscast as the architect hero. Didn’t stop him playing much the same again in The Fountainhead, 1948.
- Errol Flynn, Captain Blood, 1935. Warners' third choice, after Robert Donat and Leslie Howard, was still anti-costume.
- Gary Cooper, Peter Ibbetson, 1935. Also seen: Robert Donat, Brian Aherne.
- Warner Baxter, The Prisoner of Shark Island, 1935. Taking over the Fox gig from Henry King, John Ford immediately changed actors for Samuel Alexander Mudd - the doctor incarcerated for treating Abe Lincoln’s killer in 1865. (Mrs Mudd was played by Gloria Stuart, still aliveand well - and Oscar-nominated at 87! - for Titanic in 1997. She died two months after her 100th birthday in 2010).
- Leslie Howard, Romeo and Juliet, 1936. Because his wife, Norma Shearer, was Juliet at age 36, MGM production meister. Irving Thalberg, looked only at old Romeos. March was 39 to Howard's 43.
- Charles Boyer, The Garden of Allah, 1936. March had passed on sculpting a naked Dietrich in Songs of Songs, 1933, and lost her again - when producer David Selznick voted for France.
- Ronald Colman, The Prisoner of Zenda, 1937. Envious actor Hume Cronyn called March a total actor. “He could play anything.” As long as it was not in costume!
- Cary Grant, Bringing Up Baby, 1937. They all turned it down... Ronald Colman, Ray Milland, Robert Montgomery - and Katharine Hepburn turned down Leslie Howard. (Well, he had sacked her for stealing their Broadway play, The Animal Kingdom, in 1931.
- Errol Flynn, The Sisters, 1937. March, George Brent and Franchot Tone were also in the frame to wed Bette Davis. Until the notorious Flynn won the questionable solo billing of: Errol Flynn in The Sisters.
- Clark Gable, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
- Robert Montgomery, Mr and Mrs Smith, 1941. One of many suggestions when Alfred Hitchcock could not land Cary Grant opposite Carole Lombard.
- Monty Woolley, The Man Who Came To Dinner, 1941. Howard Hawks wanted Cary Grant. Orson Welles wanted to direct - and play the title role. Bette Davs wanted John Barrymore as her co-star, but he could no longer remember his lines. Tests of Robert Benchley and Laird Cregar were respectively deemed “too mild-mannered” and “overblown and extravagant,” by producer Hal Wallis. (Probably why Charles Coburn refused to test at all). Director William Keighley also saw March and Charles Laughton before asking the Broadway star to reprise the titular Sheridan Whiteside..
- Don Ameche, Heaven Can Wait, 1942. For his first film away from Paramount in 20 years, and his first and last in colour, witty director Ernst Lubitsch was rightly miffed when head Fox Darryl Zanuck chose his contract player - because he was cheaper than Lubitsch’s choices of March or Rex Harrison. Lubitsch later recanted his opposition to Ameche, won over by his dedication and professionalism. Ameche always said this was his favourite film.
- Fred McMurray, Double Indemnity, 1943. Director Billy Wilder's first thoughts for the murdering adulterer Walter Neff: March, James Cagney, Brian Donlevy, Alan Ladd, Gregory Peck, George Raft. Spencer Tracy. They all fled.
- Leo G Carroll, Spellbound, 1944. Whoops, there goes another Alfred Hitchcock thriller… Greatly aided by Hitch and Salvador Dali visuals, the script derived from various writers including Mrs Alma Hitchcock, Ben Hecht and producer’s David O Selznick’s shrink. DOS was still not satisfied. He wanted a love triangle between Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck and whoever played Dr Murchison… When March passed and Ralph Bellamy, Paul Lukas and Alan Napier made unimpressive tests, the idea was dropped in favour of what Hitch always labelled “just another manhunt wrapped up in pseudo-psychoanalysis.”22 - Alan Ladd, Two Years Before The Mast, 1946. March refused the Republic project in the mid-30s. By the time, it was made, he was more suited for Brian Donlevy’s villain than the hero.
- Alan Ladd, Two Years Before The Mast, 1946. March refused the Republic project in the mid-30s. By the time, it was made, he was more suited for Brian Donlevy’s villain than the hero.
- William Powell, Life With Father, 1946. Warner Bros rejected Mary Pickford. No one knows her, she’s been retired for 13 years. Yet, after musing on March and Ronald Colman, it was OK that Powell had been off-screen for the nine years since the tragically early death of his lover, Jean Harlow.
- Cesar Romero, Captain From Castille, 1947. Change of the all-conquering Conquistador, Hernando Cortez, in a typical Tyrone Power swashbuckler.
- Vincent Price, The Baron of Arizona, 1949.Auteur Samuel Fuller’s original choice for James Addison Reavis, the con-man trying to steal Arizona from the USA.And March was extremely keen. Sam’s producerRobert L Lippert was not.“Price,” growled Sam in his usual capitals, “was a GREAT actor. WHAT A VOICE!”
- Leo Genn, Quo Vadis, 1950. Both March and Claude Rains were on the list to play Petronius in the postponed epic.John Huston quit as director after oneof his famous divisions of opinion.
- Spencer Tracy, Father of the Bride, 1950. After Jack Benny’s “terrible” test, March, Charles Laughton, Walter Pidgeon entered the frame as Tracy went through his usual ponderous routine of swift refusal, making suggestions, hating the first draft, demanding more final alterations... The book’s author, New York banker Edward Streeter, said he’d heard reports “ranging from Harpo Marx to Paul Robeson... Tracy is the one I wanted. March is obviously out. As for Benny, I’d nominate Abbott and Costello. Better, I’d nominate myself.”
- Chill Wills, Giant, 1955.
- Curt Jürgens, The Blue Angel, 1958. Early “Monroe trouble” had Spencer Tracy walking away from Marilyn, top billing in the re-make, “fabulous part” and $200,000. March didn’t even stay until April...
- Anthony Perkins, Green Mansions, 1958. A stop-go project since 1933 at RKO. Ten years later, press agent turned producer James B Cassidy won the rights. He planned an unknown for Rima, the jungle sprite (up for Pier Angeli, Leslie Caron, Dolores Del Rio, Yma Sumac, Elizabeth Taylor and finally Audrey Hepburn across the years) and March or Ronald Colman as the Abel in her thrall.
- Maurice Chevalier, Fanny, 1960. Safe choices by US stage-screen director Joshua Logan.Marcel Pagnol convinced Chevalier to accept the wealthy widower, Panisse, taking on Fanny and her son in French playwright and film-maker Marcel Pagnol’s Marseille trilogy - 7 hours 18 minutes compressed by Hollywood into2 hours13 minutes.
- Rex Harrison, Cleopatra, 1963.
- Thomas Mitchell, Pocketful Of Miracles, 1960. March, Burl Ives, Charles Laughton, , Edward G Robinson - for what proved his last (and unhappiest) gig, director Frank Capra went through many possibilities for the perfect Judge Henry Blake. And when he got him, Jackie Oakie fell ill and his scenes were re-shot with Mitchell.
- Melvyn Douglas, I Never Sang ForMy Father, 1970. Electric directorJohn Frankenheimer loved it - for March and his wife, Florence Eldridge. “What gives?” asked writer Robert Anderson months later. “I’ve got too many major pictures on my schedule -can’t do it.” So Anderson turned it into a play. Which, of course, became the film.
- Walter Matthau, Kotch, 1971. Jack Lemmon’s directing bow was about an old man of 76.March, 74, accepted the lead, but the majors wanted a bigger draw.Lemmon's pal, Matthau, 51, offered himself without bothering to read the script.