William Powell (1892-1984)
- Warren William, Lady For A Day, 1932. Super-director Frank Capra wanted Warners' James Cagney. Or Metro's Powell as Dave the Dude. Capra never got who he wanted for his 1961 remake, Pocketful of Miracles - ruined by Glenn Ford on and off-screen.
- Lyle Talbot, Girl Missing, 1932. Powell and Londoner Murray Kinnel were among the chose who did not, in the end, make the the early talkie quickie - shot in two weeks. Never mind. Between them they won 167 other screen roles.
- Spencer Tracy, Whipsaw, 1935. Next, he lost the government agent falling for Myrna Loy’s jewel thief but got Loy to himself - as the debonair Nick and Nora Charles - in The Thin Man series, 1934-1947. The first was shot by director “One Take Woody” Van Dyke in 12 days!
- Clark Gable, Wife versus Secretary, 1935. Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy were always The Secretary and The Wife, but Powell was first pegged for The Husband called…Yes, well, what was he called? Apparently, Van Sanford, although often referred to as Mr Stanhope while Loy called him Jack…
- Clark Gable, China Seas, 1935. Powell proved far too busy to skipper the freighter with £250,000 in hidden gold aboard. Anyway, the teaming of Gable-Jean Harlow-Wallace Beery would sell more tickets. (And did.)
- Conrad Veidt, Under The Red Robe, 1936. It’s the time of D'Artagnan, of Cyrano De Bergerac… and for a switch from Powell to Veidt as Gil De Berault, the feared duellist known as The Black Death, saved from a death sentence by Cardinal Richelieu to quell a rebellious Huguenot duke, yadda, yadda, yadda. Powell had beren the Duke of Orleans in the second Red Robe movie in 1922… as William H Powell.
- Ronald Colman, The Prisoner of Zenda, 1936. The shock death of MGM’s house genius, production chief Irving Thalberg, changed his US pairing of Powell-Myrna Loy for the UK’s Colman-Madeleine Carroll.
- Cary Grant, Suzy, 1937. Powell, Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery, Robert Taylor, Spencer Tracy, Robert Young - they were too important to play third fiddle to Jean Harlow (minus panties) and Franchot Tone. MGM went shopping at the Paramount superstarmarket..
- Melvyn Douglas, Two-Faced Women, 1940. Two years after Ninotchka, Douglas was also second choice for Grabo’s silly finale. Powell had been first for the trite comedy which New York’s Archbishop Spellman condemned as a danger to public morality! “Witnessing this picture maybe an occasion of sin”!! (“Witnessing?” “Maybe?? He wasn’t sure?). Having completed her MGM contract, Garbo upped and quit movies… after reviews like this one from Time: “It is almost almost as shocking as seeing your mother drunk.” That hardly stopped directors, producers, scenarists, stars begging her to return.
- Laurence Olivier, Rebecca, 1939.
- Melvyn Douglas, Two-Faced Women, 1940. Two years after Ninotchk, Douglas was also second choice for Grabo’s silly finale. Powell had been first for the trite comedy which New York’s Archbishop Spellman condemned as a danger to public morality! “Witnessing this picture maybe an occasion of sin”!! (“Witnessing?” “Maybe??He wasn’t sure?) No wonder, having completed her MGM contract, Garbo upped and quit movies for (sadly) ever more. That hardly stopped directors, producers, scenarists, stars begging her to return.
- Joseph Cotten, Shadow of a Doubt, 1942. MGM refused to allow Alfred Hitchcock to use Powell as the mysterious Uncle Charlie in what Hitch and Charlie’s screen niece, Teresa Wright, always called their favourite film. Shot in Santa Rosa, where Charles M Schulz lived and worked on his Peanuts comic strip at #1 Snoopy Villas.
- Ronald Colman, Kismet, 1943. Powell was choice for the beggar Hafiz (aka Hajj in the play and earlier films) before Marlene Dietrich made it as her one and only MGMovie.
- Rex Harrison, Anna and the King of Siam, 1945. A memo, dated March 8, from from Fox production chief Darryl F Zanuck to producer Louis D Lighton revealed DFZ wanted Powell as King Mongkut…and maybe Myrna Loy as Anna. Thereby nearly having Siam run by The Thin Man’s Nick and Nora Charles!
- Kelly, The Pirate, 1947. Over the years, MGM aimed the Broadway drama at (a) Mrs Miniver and hubby, Garson and Walter Pidgeon; (b) Garson, Cary Grant, Charles Laughton; (c) Myrna Loy; (d) the Notorious couple, Grant and Ingrid Bergman; (e) Lamarr and William Powell. No one saluted. So, it was churned into a musical - with (f) a prancing Gene Kelly and an imploding Garland. Metro lost $2m. Including for the first time in any Hollywood budget, paying a shrink. For Judy.
- Desi Arnaz, Forever Darling, 1955. No, no, Powellwas not about to replace The #1 TV Husband of the #1 TV Wife... Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y De Acha IIIand Lucille Ball simply dusted off the plot manyyears after first, The Thin Man coupleof Loy and William Powell, then Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn (like who else?), passed on beingthe splitting couplesavedby an angel...Didn’t work: the Arnazs were divorced five years later. (Powell-Loy made 14 films ensemble, five more than Tracy-Hepburn).
- Robert Stack, Great Day in the Morning, 1955. After Richard Burton passed on his first (and only) Western offer in February, producer Edmund Grainger, aimed for Powell or (the 25-years younger!) Robert Mitchum to play Owen Pentecost. Stack was two years younger than Mitchum.
- Edmond O’Brien, The 3rd Voice, 1960. Alan Ladd and Joseph Cotten also passed.