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Anne Baxter (1923-1985)

 

  1. Ann Gillis, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1937.         Baxter was a mere 14 when invited to Hollywood to test with, of all people, Montgomery Clift as Tom. The test for their screen debuts never happened. Due to Monty’s acne!   CUT to 1950 - and they’re making I, Confess for Alfred Hitchcock in Quebec.
  2. Joan Fontaine, Rebecca, 1939.
  3. Linda Darnell, Chad Hanna, l940.       Consolation prize for losing out to Selznick's favourite was Jean Renoir's first US film, Swamp Water.
  4. Joan Bennett, Man Hunt, 1940.      Bennett’s “English” accent was about as rank as Dick Van Dyke’s lousy Cockney in Mary Poppins in a (thankfully) short role opposite Walter Pidgeon - on the run from Nazis in London after trying to kill Hitler in Bavaria, no less.  Also seen for Jerry were  Greer Garson, Virginia Gilmore, Gene Tierney. And the only real Londoner on the short list:  Ida Lupino. 
  5. Jennifer Jones, The Song of Bernadette, 1943.         Baxter,  Mary Anderson, Linda Darnell, Lillian Gish, Beatrice Pearson, Ruth Quigley, Gene Tierney, Teresa Wright were all in the frame for the French girl who had a vision of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes in 1858. Finally, on December 9, 1942, Jones won “the plum role of the year” - which “introduced” her although she she had made two Republic movies under her real name, Phylis Isley. Now she was being shoved into stardom by her lover and future husband, Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick.  (She was his very own Susan Alexander). To swing her the film, DOS offered to share her contract with Fox. Henry King directed the tests by telling actresses  to look beyond the camera at a shining light.  Jones, said King, didn’t just look - she saw. Hence her Best Actress Oscar on March 2, 1944, although the film was not fully released until April 1945.
  6. Alice Faye, Fallen Angel, 1945. In September 194.        Hollywood Reporter said Fontaine won the lead. By Febriary ’45, it was Baxter or Ida Lupino. They did not stand a chance when top Fox star, Faye, searching through 30 scripts for her first movie in two years, decided this was the one. A new Laura! Not what she said on seeing the rough-cut and how the (Laura) director Otto Preminger cut Faye’s impact (and single song), throwing the picture to Linda Darnell - on studio chief Darryl Zanuck’s orders. Faye sped off the “Penitentiary Fox” lot, chucking her dressingrom key at the gate guard, and never worked for Fox again until she was begged to head State Fair in… 1962!
  7. Joan Blondell, Nightmare Alley, 1947.     In November, Baxter and Mark Stevens were set for Zeena and Stan. Within a month, they became Blondell and Tyrone Power.  Baxter had become too important after winning a support Oscar for The Razor’s Edge in1947, also opposite Power.
  8. Linda Darnell, No Way Out, 1949.      Baxter was first announced as the confused Edie Johnson, who had no idea how to deal with racial hatred. Darnell made 55 other screen roles. But this remains her finest hour.
  9. Patricia Neal, The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1950.    Director Robert Wise’s first choice for Helen Benson became his second… Like everyone else, Neal no idea that the little movie would turn into a sf classic. She found it difficult to keep a straight face while saying her lines to Michael Rennie’s Klaatu. Or: Klaatu barada nikto. (George Lucas named two his Star Wars alien bounty hunters, Klaatu and Barada Nikto).
  10. June Haver, Love Nest, 1950.    Haver was  being Fox-grown into Betty Grable’s successor.  That idea  didn’t last long. (Obviously).  These days, the video-jackets show just Haver’s co-star - Marilyn Monroe in an utterly delicious extended cameo.  More!  More!  (We got that when Haver retired, became a nun, then changed veils to wed Fred MacMurray from 1954-1991).

  11. Jeanne Crain, People Will Talk, 1950.    Among Joe Mankiewicz’s favourite films, despite considering Crain a non-actress.  Her role, he itemised, was “the first time since the start of the Hays Office, that a girl who is pregnant by one man and marries another... is not punished.”  Baxter was - for being pregnant and wed to the father, John Hodiak.
  12. Kim Hunter, A Streetcar  Named Desire, 1951.     “I still think Baxter is our best bet,” said Elia Kazan about Marlon Brando’s wife, the famous “Stelllaaaaahhh!”  Agent-turned-producer Charles K Feldman “went to great lengths” trying to spring her from Fox.
  13. Patricia Neal, Something For The Birds, 1951.     Environmentalist Patricia Neal fights to to save the California Condor. Didn’t work! This largest North American land bird became extinct in 1987. Although some of the  vultures  were captured, housed, bred and reintroduced to the wild  in 1991. Call it Mrs Smith Goes To Washington…  and Finds Victor Mature. 
  14. Susan Hayward, David and Bathsheba, 1952.     Even after All About Eve, Fox felt Baxter was not name enough to bewitch Gregory Peck.
  15. Susan Hayward, White Witch Doctor, 1952.       ...nor Robert Mitchum.
  16. Jean Peters, Niagara, 1953.       Five years earlier, Baxter had taken over the female lead in  the  tacky Western Yellow Sky, when Jean Peters refused it as her debut. (Too sexy, she said). (Baxter,  sexy?) Now, Peters replaced Baxter - fleeing what she saw as being turned into Marilyn Monroe vehicle.  Being under Fox contract, MM was  paid less than her  make-up man.
  17. Marilyn Monroe, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953.       She made it clear, she'd just dye to be Lorelei Lee.   
  18. Maureen O’Hara, The Magnificent Matador (UK: The Brave and the Beautiful), 1954.      In May, the Hollywood Reporter stated that Baxter was about to sign opposite the titular Anthony Quinn.   But O’Hara got the job - a bit of a letdown from director Budd Boetticher.
  19. Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1955.
  20. Linda Darnell, Dakota Incident, 1956.      Wise rejection of a Dale Robertson cowpoke programmer at Republic, which soon had Linda trying to rescue her falling status by trying Broadway. Neither assignment worked. 

  21. Sophia Loren, Heller In Pink Tights, 1959.      Two years earlier, UK star Michael Rennie had formed a company with Western writer Louis L’Amour to film his Heller With A Gun, They both waned Dietrich as the titular heroine, star of his stage company trouping through the Old West. Dissolve. Their rights passed to Ren-Mor Productions for Baxter, then on to Paramount and La Loren!
  22. Maureen O’Sullivan, Never Too Late, 1965.     Spencer Tracy was the only thought for Harry. arry in Opposite one of a dozen choices for his wife - pregnant at 50, ho ho! From Rosalind Russell to Katherine Hepburn (“but I’m too old for Edith?”). Plus Baxter, June Allyson, Lucille Ball, Joan Fontaine, Susan Hayward, Deborah Kerr, Eleanor Parker, Ginger Rogers, Ann Sheridan. Ultimately, Warner Bros went with the Broadway hit’s duo: Paul Ford and O’Sullivan.
  23. Jane Wyatt, Star Trek #39: Journey to Babel, TV, 1966.  (Stardate 3842.3). The veteran Baxter was first choice for Amanda Grayson’s first appearence. After Wyatt (ironically from Mother Knows Best), Spock’s human mother was later played by Cynthia Blaise, Winona Ryder, Mia Kirshner in various Trektales. Although (or because) Baxter often appeared on Batman, she told the LA Times: “I don’t do comic strips, and Star Trekis six or seven comic strips rolled into one.”




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