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Robert Stack (1919-2003)

  1. Patric Knowles, Sin Town, 1942.        After being chosen to give singer Deanna Durbin (and later, Diana Barrymore) The First Screen Kiss, Stack fled into WWII instead of making a fourth successive film with fellow Universal-pactee, Ann Gwynne..   (Ex-Sin City. Well, Dietrich was originally going to star!).
  2. Gordon MacRae, Oklahoma, 1955.     From the outset, director Fred Zinnemann wanted actors rather than singers... For example: Montgomery Clift,JamesDean or Paul Newman as Curly. However, the musical’s parents had casting approval -Rodgers and Hammerstein, agreed only on Rod Steiger for p’or Jud Fry. The next Curlies includedpretty boys like Stack, singer Vic Damone and Dale Robertson. PS: Oklahoma was shot in... Arizona.
  3. Jeffrey Hunter,The Proud Ones, 1955.Apart from using CinemaScope, Fox had little idea what to do with Thad, assistant to Marshal Robert Ryan who had gunned down the kid’s “no-good gun slinger” father. Choices ranged from  Guy Madison, 33 (moved over to  Hilda Crane), Robert Stack and Jeffrey Hunter, 34, to Robert Wagner, 25   Hunter was 29.
  4. Mel Ferrer, The Sun Also Rises, 1957.    The reason, Stack insisted, he didn’t get to co-star with Ava Gardner is because he refused to co-star with her before - in a fourway at her LA home. It had happened a few years earlier. Hewas eating in a Hollywood restaurant, talking (loudly) about his matador experiences while shooting The Bullfigher and The Lady.A nearby Ava, something of a matador groupie, joined the chat, invited him home, slipped into something comfortable and talked about some new friends,a couple into foursomes - perhaps she should invite them over...? Stack made his excuses and left. Ava Gardner never forgave himand made sure the Sun never rose on him.
  5. James Garner, Darby’s Rangers, 1958.      The lead role… for peanuts!   Charlton Heston was sacked by Jack Warner when learning his agent had  won him 5% of the gross Garner and Stack were up for roles. Garner won and suffered - financially. After Sayonara with Marlon Brando and the Maverick pilot, “they told me I was such a good guy that they wanted to give me a raise.” He was getting $250 a week. With a pregnant wife and a young daughter just out of hospital with polio, he was bumped up to $500 a week. Cheap at the price… “Well, on Monday morning, I found out I’d been given Heston’s starring role... OK, the sons of bitches got to me!”
  6. Laurence Harvey, The Alamo, 1960.    As first-time director John Wayne gave into his backers’ demands to play a more substantial on-screen role, Colonel William Travis spun around between Clark Gable, William Holden, Stack and Larry Harvey.
  7. David Janssen, The Fugitive, TV, 1963-1967.        After the first chapter, Janssen asked co-star Barry Morse: “You think we’ll get a couple of weeks work out of this?” “And I turned it down,” recalled Stack. “Nobody thought that series was going to makeit.But look what happened!” - 120 episodes, one more than his Special Agent Eliot Ness had in The Untouchables, 1959-1963.And all the front pages… when Dr Richard Kimball finally caught The One Armed Man killer ofhis wife inthe highest-rated episode in TV history (until thenaming ofWho Shot JR? chapter of Dallas) winning more than 78 million viewers!
  8. Mike Connors, Mannix, TV, 1967-1975.        Another Desilu show…Ran longer than Stack’s Untouchables - 194 episodes to 119. “I was offered Hawaii 50, as well. Anyone can say: You’re a conceited ass for not taking them.But they were risks.I didn’t want to go on playing a cop all my life.Unless you get into something like Bonanza or Gunsmoke, where they’ve broken down the schedules to make the actor’s life bearable, series like that are a terrible strain... It’s insane if you don’t have a happy family life and a career.”
  9. Jack Lord, Hawaii 50, TV, 1968-1980.       No more cops! Or shooting six hours a day with scant time for his family.“I was living on anti-bioticsfor most of The Untouchables… with a 101 temperature. No one gives a Chinese screw for your health as long as the camera keeps rolling!” And that they did for longer than TheUntouchables or Mannix - 281 episodes! A record procedural crime show until the 456 episodes of Law & Order tied with Gunsmoke as overall series champ.
  10. Richard Burton, Raid On Rommel, 1971.       Once described by Bette Davis as “the dullest actor who ever lived,” the old untouchable was contracted to Universal. After Stack collected his $175,000, Burton offered to make veteran director Henry Hathaway’s tired World War II programmer for less. Much of the film comprised footage from Universal's Tobruk, 1966 - the reason Burton had a blond rinse to match George Peppard's ’66 long shots.
  11. Tom McGrath, Penguins of Madagascar, 2005.       One last offer…  Stack was first choice to voice Skipper.  He died in 2003 - long before animation, let alone character-recording, began. 

 





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