Ann Sheridan (1915-1967)
- June Lang, The Road To Glory, 1936. Clara Lou Sheridan had the perfect look for the French nurse caught between two men - the usual Howard Hawks premise. However, her Texan accent was too strong. On Hawks’ suggestion, Jack Warner out her under contract with a new name - and The Grey Fox memorably wed her to Cary Grant a dozen years later in I Was A Male War Bride.
- Ona Munson, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
- Jane Bryan, Each Dawn I Die, 1938. No questioning Cagney’s role - sheer musical chairs with other parts. Including Sheridan losing her second Cagney film to the Hollywood-born actress who quit five films later at age 21.
- Gladys George, The Roaring Twenties, 1938. Panama Smith was a tough role to fill. But nothing had changed that much at Warner since James Cagney had been away… Gladys George replaced Sheridan who replaced Patrick who had replaced Glenda Farrell. Oh, and Raoul Walsh replaced Anatole Litvak as director. (Sheridan then joined Cagney, three film later, for City For Conquest, 1940).
- Katharine Hepburn, The Philadelphia Story, 1940. Everyone was after the year’s big Broadway hit. Warners offered the most ($225,000) for Kate’s rights - for a movie with Errol Flynn. Although, Jack Warner was really trying to ditch Miss Box Office Poison for his Oomph Girl.
- Rita Hayworth, The Strawberry Blonde, 1940. Sheridan lost her next James Cagney gig after fighting with Warner (like Cagney had done) for better parts. And money. He won, she didn’t. Hayworth was borrowed from from Columbia - for her first leading role. And did so well that head brother Jack Warner loaned her again for another romcom, Affectionately Yours. Sheridan’s shrug said it all: “I’d played too many parts like that one.”
- Bette Davis, The Bride Came COD, 1940. Sheridan lost Joan Winfield because she wes being punished by Big Daddy Jack Warner, who put her on suspension. Davis as a surprise replacement for the runaway heiress in her last teaming with James Cagney - as the pilot hired to bring her back home.
- Barbara Stanwyck, Meet John Doe, 1940. Director Frank Capra’s desire was thwarted by a row over the contract of Warners’ Oomph Girl Next, Olivia De Havilland passed on the newspaper woman opposite the titular Gary Cooper. Enter: Stanwyck. She was one of ttwo reasons why Cooper accepted the film, script unseen. The other was the director. Frank Capra.
- Alexis Smith, Gentleman Jim, 1941. Not even a director like Raoul Walsh could get his own way… He wanted the delightfully hammy Barry Fitzgerald as boxer Jim Corbett’s father, Phil Silvers for fun, plus Sheridan or Rita Hayworth for romance. Walsh made do with Alan Hale, Jack Carson, Alexis Smith, while managing to keep Errol Flynn as Corbett.
- Ingrid Bergman, Casablanca, 1941.
- Mary Astor, Across The Pacific, 1942. Something of a Big Sleep reunion (Astor, Humphrey Bogart, Sidney Greenstreet, director John Huston) was first seen as a seventh teaming of Bogie and Sheridan. She was stuck on George Washington Slept Here.
- Ingrid Bergman, Saratoga Trunk, 1943. Head Brother Jack Warner bought Edna Ferber’s book for Olivia De Havilland and then, stupidly, kept her too busy to make it! He then tested Sheridan, Vivien Leigh, Eleanor Parker, Tamara Toumanova (of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo), even Lena Horne – a brave move as black stars were never offered above-the-title roles in those dark years, much less as a white man’s lover.
- Bette Davis, Hollywood Canteen, 1943. Sheridan passed - calling the script “unrealistic.” The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther agreed. “If it’s quality you want in your entertainment and just a slight touch of dramatic grace, beware [of this] elaborate hocus-pocus…. an ‘all-star benefit show’ - with short snatches of diversion (and some not so short) by virtually every player on the Warner lot.”
- Lauren Bacall, To Have And Have Not, 1944. “Get a new face!” exclaimed Warner’s chief Jack Warner when Humphrey Bogart suggested Sheridan. Funny you should say that, said director Howard Hawks... Bogie, meet Betty!. Warners was not interested, however, in any director’s find and insisted that Howard Hawks looked at its contractees instead of grooming “Betty Becall.” None measured up. Hawks kept Sheridan in mind, memorably, for I Was A Male War Bride, 1948.
- Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce, 1944. Lost a possible Oscar. “That’s my fault! Nobody else to blame.” Others sang the same song… James M Cain’s Mildred was an archetypical Stanwyckian broad - climbing over (weak) husbands to the top. So Stanwyck passed and Sheridan, Olivia de Havilland, Joan Fontaine, Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell, were examined. Director Michael Curtiz didn’t want to be lumbered with an old “has-been” like Joan Crawford (as difficult asher shoulder pads). She shook him by agreeing to test, winning him over- and Oscar on March 7, 1946. She merely complied with Mildred’s line: “I don’t know whether it’s right or whether it’s wrong, but that’s the way it’s gotta be.”
- IIda Lupino, The Man I Love, 1945. Titles changed (Night Shift, Why Was I Born?), directors changed (Lloyd Bacon to Raoul Walsh), even the release dates (from ’46 to ’47), so why not the stars… From Sheridan and Humphrey Bogart to Lupino and Robert Alda.
- Joan Crawford, Flamingo Road, 1948. Sheridan fled, saying the adaptation “was neither good nor faithful to the book.” Robert Wilder then rewrote everything and La Crawford sashshayed in. With her shoulder-pads.
- Hedy Lamarr, Samson and Delilah, 1949. Miss Oomph was better suited to comedy.
- Ava Gardner, My Forbidden Past, 1949. Co-producer Polan Banks chose Ann for the film of his Carriage Entrance book. Howard Hughes (who bought RKO in 1948) didn’t fancy her (or her him) and preferred MGM’s new hopeful. Ann sued Hughes and won considerable damages for him for “arbitrarily, wrongfully and unreasonably” violating her RKO contract when he bought the studio… and for losing the film - opposite Robert Mitchum. “If I could have gotten him into bed,” admitted Ava, “I would have.” He said she did. They had time. Hughes kept tinkering with the movie, delaying its release until 1951. Hughes’ settlement included Appointment in Honduras. Ava got the better movie.
- Joan Fontaine, Serenade, 1955. Imagine turning a James M Cain novel into a Mario Lanza musical! Despite four songs in the first 20 minutes, the (fat) Lanza’s comeback, after four years off-screen, flopped. In 1944, the plan was Dennis Morgan and Sheridan until censors intervened. The novel, said web critic David Vineyard, was dark, sensual, powerful, shocking, blatantly sexual, violent, noirish, symbolic. The film ? “Tired, trite, empty, slick, pointless.”