Wallace Beery (1885-1949)
- Cliff Edwards, Free and Easy, 1930. Paramount said Beery had no talkie future after his 1926-28 comedy series (with Raymond Hatton). He was rescued by MGM, playing Buster Keaton's sidekick in his riotous wartime "experiences." Following Lon Chaney's death, Beery was rushed into The Big House instead and, to Paramount's shock, won an Oscar nomination. He got the award the following year for The Champ and became one of the biggest MGM stars across two decades.
- Harry Carey, Trader Horn, 1931. Director WS Van Dyke preferred Carey's panache for dangerous stunts to Berry - first of Gloria Swanson's six husbands.
- Charles Laughton, Mutiny on the Bounty, 1934. Almost inevitably, Beery was MGM’s first choice for Captain Bligh. He didn’t like Clark Gable. Much less the idea of being stuck with him for months on location. And on the same damn ship! To get to know Laughton better, Gable invited him to a brothel, not realising he was gay - one reason why MGM’s house genius, production chief Irving Thalberg, chose him, knowing how Laughton would upset the homophobic Gable…greatly assisting their on-screen enmity.
- WC Fields, David Copperfield, 1934. Before choosing Fields to replace Charles Laughton after his first two days as Mr Micawber, MGM had asked Beery to take over. He refused, as his wife, was gravely ill. Fields was quite scared (as was Laughton) of his first dramatic role, often resorting to his usual schtick, most of which was cut out. He also had much of his dialogue written out for him around the set, a la John Gilbert and pre-Brando style. But producer David Selznick was right: Fields made a better Micawber than Laughton.
- Victor McLaglen, Professional Soldier, 1934. Beery would have over-egged the soldier of fortune guarding the boy king Freddie Bartholomew. McLaglen saved the entire enterprise… which more than somewhat… er, influenced the Star Wars finale.
- Lionel Barrymore, Test Pilot, 1937. At first, the co-stars of Gable - Hollywood ‘s new King - were to be Beery, Jean Harlow, and Jimmy Durante. They became Barrymore, Myrna Loy (by sheer happenstance, the new Hollywood Queen), and (in a thankless buddy role) Spencer Tracy.
- Frank Morgan, The Wizard of Oz, 1938.
- Walter Brennan, Northwest Passage, 1939. Metro honcho LB Mayer saw another Gone With The Wind in Kenneth Roberts' best-seller. By the time it staggered into production, Beery, Greer Garson,Robert Taylor, Franchot Tone, were syphoned off to other films. Only Spencer Tracy remained in what became sub-titled: Book 1: Rogers' Rangers. The Book 2 eventually became a TV series and released as three movies during MGM's slack 1959.
- Robert Donat, Goodbye Mr. Chips, 1939. Wally was credible casting for an ancient UK schoolteacher - that won Donat his Oscar - although Berry was far from the lovable slob created by MGM publicity.
- Akim Tamiroff, For Whom The Bell Tolls, 1943. Among the ususal suspects for such a support role: Edward Arnold, Wallace Beery, Lee J Cobb, Charles Laughton, Thomas Mitchell, Edward G Robinson.
- Edward G Robinson, Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, 1945. Beery said no to the Norwegian farming patriarch. Robinson said: Ja.
- William Bendix, Johnny Holiday, 1949. Shortly before production began, Beery died from a heart attack..
- Peter Ustinov, Quo Vadis, 1950. After negotiating for the rights since 1925, MGM came close to filming Henryk Sienkiewicz’s 1895 novel in 1935. With a Beery Nero and Marlene Dietrich as his missus, Poppaea. The 1950 couple was British: Ustinov and Patrica Laffan. And Sophia Loren (and her mum) were among the extras.
- Robert Newton, Soldiers Three, 1951. Years before, MGM planned to call up Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Beery to the Kipling battalion.
- Emlyn Williams, Ivanhoe, 1951. When first planned in the mid-30s, MGM aimed to squeeze too many contract stars into unlikely roles in Sir Walter Scott’s 12th Century, Robin Hoodish tale of chivalrous knights, warring Saxons, Normans, Christians and Jews. Such as Lionel Barrymore, Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Luise Rainer. And Beery as Wamba, the court jester who becomes the hero Robert Taylor’s squire.