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Walter Pidgeon (1897-1984)

  1. Allan Jones, Show Boat, 1936.    Pidge, to his (very) intimates,  started as a singer - Fred Astaire  recommended him to some Broadway friends - but was so determined on drama, he refused all musicals until returning to Broadway in the mid-50s.
  2. Laurence Olivier, Rebecca, 1939.
  3. Kent Taylor, I Take This Woman, 1939.   AKA I Re-Take This Woman… as the MGMess went through three directors - Josef Von Sternberg, Frank Borzage, WS Van Dyke.. The main stars, Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr, survived all the cast changes, but Pidgeon had to leave after being loaned to Republic’s Dark Command.
  4. Edward Everett Horton, Ziegfeld Girl, 1940.     Not about one girl but three: Judy Garland, Hedy Lamarr and, stealing the show: Lana Turner.  Oddly, no one  played  Broadway icon  Florenz Ziegfeld. (William Powell was busy?).   Pidgeon and Frank Morgan were in the mix for his  right-hand man… in 1938 when the gals were . Virginia Bruce,  Joan Crawford and Eleanor Powell.
  5. Spencer Tracy, Woman of the Year, 1942.    As with The Philadelphia Story, Katharine Hepburn had nutured  another pip of a comedy for herself and...   MGM said Clark Gable. Or Walter Pidgeon. “Tracy or nothing,” said Kate, starting  their nine films during not so much an affair (after the opening lust waned) as companionship and dependency for 27 tumultuousj years up to his 1967 death, while both had affairs numerous  other bisexuals - with stars and what director George Cukor  called out-of-work actors.
  6. Robert Taylor, Bataan, 1942.   Announced for the tough veteran Sergeant Bill Dever in October 1942 - or Bill Dane when Taylor played him. To the hilt.
  7. Robert Taylor, Song of Russia, 1943.   Change of symphony conductor.  in MGM’s over-egged slice of  (WW11) Soviet propaganda. Eight years  later, Hollywood was accusing everyone and his wife of being Reds!  Headliner Robert Taylor (in  his last film before going to WWII in the US Navy) called the film:  “Distastefully Communistic.” 
  8. Orson Welles, Jane Eyre, 1943.   After dithering between  Pidgeon, Ronald Colman and  Alan Marshal, producer David O  Selznick saw the light in July ’42 and  invited Welles to be the byronic Mr Rochester. By November,   DOS had sold it all  to 20th Century-Fox.  Plus Claudia and Keys of the Kingdom.
  9. Walter Huston, Dragon Seed,  1944.      “Get  me Walter.” “Which one?”  “Look, any damned one will do...!”  One of the wildly miscast movies of all time. “Of the 33 actors with speaking roles, only three were Oriental,”  admitted co-director  Jack Conway. Insulting! Pearl Buck’s book had a point - exposing Japanese atrocities in China.  MGM made it a farce, with the unlikeliest-looking Chinese ever spawned by Hollywood. And  could only think of their usual paterfamilias for Ling Tan. Except Edward Arnold, Donald Crisp, Frank Morgan, Walter Pidgeon and Mr Miniver failed their Eurasian tests. Finally, Huston looked  about as Chinese as his daughter -  Katharine Hepburn!!
  10. Spencer Tracy, Cass Timberlane, 1946.   MGM thought hard about Pidgeon as Sinclair Lewis’ judge Timberlane,  marrying a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Then, Tracy became free. Or dry. And Pidgeon contributed  a cameo... as himself Tracy was unhappy with director George Sidney - preferring George Cukor, even Vincente Minnelli.

  11. Dennis O’Keefe, Dishonoured Lady, 1947.     The producer was the star:  Hedy Lamarr. That's why she chose John Loder as the lover she was accused of murdering.  Great publicity as he was the third husband she was divorcing.  When Walter (and later Herbert Marshall), couldn't agree terms to be her new doctor lover, she cut her “pattern” to suit her budget and settled for O’Keefe. Only  his initials were OK.
  12. Judy Garland, The Pirate, 1947.    MGM snapped up SN Behrman’s play for… let’s see now, more stars than in the heavens above…    So how about them Minivers: Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon? Garson or Myrna Loy plus Cary Grant plus Charles Laughton…  Or, the Notorious Grant and Ingrid Bergman couple… or William Powell and Hedy Lamarr?  Hey, we’re MGM!  Why not a musical? With Judy Garland and… er… John Hodiak? They got on real swell in The Harvey Girls. He can’t really sing ‘n’ dance? No prob - Judy and Gene Kelly! And so it came to pass. Uneasily... The Minnellis (Judy and director Vincente) were at each other’s creative throats. A shrink was added to the budget to make sure Judy could get through it all.  LB Mayer ordered the Judy-Kelly Voodoo number burnt: it was too torrid. (Judy-Kelly were torrid?). In fact, LB hated it all, calling it high-brow and extremely pretentious. But that’’s Kelly - and Minnelli - in a nutshell.
  13. Errol Flynn, That Forsyte  Woman (UK: The Forsyte Saga), 1948.  Pidgeon and Flynn simply swapped roles. Flynn became the icy Soames Forsythe and Pidgeon,  the warmer Young Jolyon (who pinches Soames’ wife).  Author John Galsworthy’s celebrated title was changed because MGM did not believe Americans understood the word: saga. 
  14. Spencer Tracy, Father of the Bride, 1950.    After Jack Benny’s “terrible” test, Pidgeon, Charles Laughton, Fredric March, entered the frame as Tracy went through his usual ponderous routine of swift refusal, making suggestions, hating the first draft and 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. As for Benny, I’d nominate Abbott and Costello. Better,  I’d nominate myself.”
  15. Leo Genn,  Quo Vadis, 1950.   Took Hollywood  26 years to film Henryk Sienkiewicz’s 1895 epic novel about ancient Rome. MGM won the rights in 1925. And planned to shoot in  1935…or 1942… or 43… By 1950, Pidgeon was in the mix for Petronius. Instead, he became the ancient Rome epic’s narrator.  Uncredited. No way to treat Mr Miniver! 
  16.  Fredric March, The Bridges At Toko-Ri, 1954.     In the Paramount frame for  William Holden’s boss,  Rear Admiral George Tarrant, were: Pidgeon, Walter Abel, Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy and even director William (Wild Bill)  Wellman. 
  17. Chill Wills, Giant, 1955. 
  18. John Carradine, Myra Breckinridge, 1969.   The sex-change surgeon with the final cut went from Pidge (there was enough gayness happening) to Carradine as an in joke. He was a previous Dr Frankenstein, of course. Ho! Ho! The absolutely awful film of Gore Vidal’s scandalous satire ruined the careers of UK director Michael Sarne, actor Roger Herren (finished after just three screen roles) and, to a certain degree, poor Raquel Welch as the transgender Myra, hoping to play her previous self, Myron, as well. Hearing that Sarne was reduced to working as a pizzeria water, Gore Vidal, said it  proved “ that God exists and there is such a thing as Divine Symmetry."
  19. John Ireland, Welcome To Arrow Beach, 1973.     Or Yellow-Headed Summer  when Pidgepn and Donna Reed were due to be involved  in the el cheao horrorfest from Brut, of all companies. Laurence Harvey’s final film was later re-released as Tender Flesh.  Didn’t help none.

 





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