Gloria Swanson (1897-1983)
- Charlotte Mineau, His New Job, 1914. Starting his first Essanay film (with a screen credit), Charlie Chaplin announced: "I'd like a cast of some sort. Will you kindly send me members of your company who are unoccupied?" He found some guys, including cross-eyed Ben Turpin, but no leading lady: The Film Star. "One applicant seemed a possibility, a rather pretty young girl, just signed up. But oh, God! I could not get a reaction out of her. She was so unsatisfactory that I gave up and dismissed her." As she claimed years later, Gloria had really dismissed him- with aspirations in drama, not slapstick she had been deliberately un-co-operative. Next time they met was on the British Pinewood Studios set of A Countess From Hong Kong... 51 years later.
- Jacqueline Logan, The King of Kings, 1925. Searching for the perfect Mary Magdalene, epic director Cecil B DeMille talked to Vilma Banky, Gertrude Lawrence, Raquel Meller, Seena Owen - and chose Gloria. And she turned him down! Logan, ex-reporter, ex-Ziegfeld Follies girl, followed CB's orders: "Don't play her as a bad woman but one who doesn't know the difference between right and wrong." Swanson was right - the film, and Magdalane, were cut down, to make it shorter and to appease certain states about an implied sexual affair between Magdalene and HB Warner's Jesus... 42 years before director Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ.
- Marlene Dietrich, Der Blau Engle/The Blue Angel, Germany, 1929. For Lola Lola, German director Josef von Sternberg didn’t only consider Tuetonic starlets like Dietrich, Trude Hesterberg, Leni Riefenstahl and the author Heinrich Man’s mistress who was a cabaret singer. Gloria also turned down Von Sternberg.
- Constance Bennett, Rockabye, 1931. RKO had originally bought the Broadway play for Gloria in excellis. Director George Fitzmaurice’s finished film was so terrible that George Cukor was hired for a fortnight of urgent repair, mainly about Joel McCrea replacing Phillips Holmes as Bennett’s guy. That worked and the film did better business than Bennett’s previous What Price Hollywood?
- Carole Lombard, Twentieth Century, 1933. Director Howard Hawks also considered Tallulah Bankhead, Constance Bennett, Ruth Chatterton, Ina Claire, Joan Crawford, Kay Francis, Ann Harding, Miriam Hopkins. Easier to list those he didn't list.
- Jeanette MacDonald, The Merry Widow, 1933. Maurice Chevalier’s MGM contract gave him co-star approval. Therefore, Swanson, Joan Crawford, Evelyn Laye and Grace Moore were seen for Sonia, the widow, when the fussy Frenchman was no longer getting on with MacDonald. Nor with playing “the charming prince and lieutenant roles.” (What did he expect wiz zat acksent? Cowboys and gangsters!).
- Helen Hayes, Vanessa: Her Love Story, 1934. The book was first bought for Swanson, then Shearer - and finally. Helen made the final part of Hugh Walpole’s Herries Chronicle quartet into a… Hays Chronicle. Unwillingly. She hated the script and only made the movie because MGM threatened to sue her for the pre-production costs. $90,000.
- Miriam Hopkins, Barbary Coast, 1935. Wild Bill Wellman was to have begun shooting in the Spring of ’34 with Gary Cooper and Swanson. By May, it was Coop and Anna Sten. As ’35 arrived, the couple became McCrea and the Paramount favourite… Well, Hopkins was the mistress of Paramount boss BP Schulberg.
- Jean Harlow, Riffraff, 1935. Swanson and Clark Gable - the MGM plan for some years - became Harlow and Spencer Tracy, newly signed up from Fox. They were much better in Libeled Lady.
- Katharine Hepburn, Holiday (UK: Unconventional Linda), 1937. Columbia was so slow in finalising the re-make of the 1930 version of Broadway's 1928 hit, Swanson was long gone, into new business affairs and stage tours.
- Bette Davis, Dark Victory, 1938. Davis’ favourite role and her third Oscar nomination in five years. And not just for feeling her blind way up the stairs. On-set, she stopped half-way, asking who was supplying the score “Either I'm going to climb those stairs or Max Steiner is… but I'll be God-damned if Max Steiner and I are going to climb those stairs together!”
- Katina Paxinou, For Whom The Bell Tolls, 1942. Only interested in the lead. At age 46, she wondered why she lost that role to Ingrid Bergman at 28!
- Bette Davis, Mr Skeffington, 1943. Swanson, Irene Dunne and Norma Shearer were closer to Mrs S’s 50 than Davis, Hedy Lamarr, Merle Oberon or Tallulah Bankhead. But then Bette Davis was Bette Davis! When head brother Jack Warner asked the Epstein twin scenarists why the film was behind schedule, they replied: “Bette Davis is a slow director.”
- Joan Fontaine, Darling, How Could You! 1950. That was exactly Gloria’s response when asked... to test! She argued, correctly, that Sunset Blvd, 1950, had proved her mettle was still shining. When Hollywood gossip bitch Heda Hopper recommended another script to her, grandmother Swanson, 54, exploded: "I couldn't possibly play the mother of an 18-year-old daughter."
- Judith Anderson, The Ten Commandments, 1955. CB DeMille was in forgiving mode. He chose Swanson for Memnet, although she had refused his offer 40 years earlier to be Mary Magdalene in his silent classic, The King of Kings. And she did it again. She passed - too busy trying to drum up a budget for a musical stage version of her 1949 comeback, Sunset Blvd. The project died in the early 60s.
- Joan Marshall, The Great Sex War, 1968. She agreed to a role in her Godson Dirk Wayne Summers' film. He did not take kindly to her rewriting his script. Bye-bye Godmother! Not quite. She accompanied him on his Mexican location scouting trip.
- Glenda Jackson, The Incredible Sarah, 1976. As her career dissipated in the mid-30s, Hollywood attempted to turn Swanson away from producing flops. (One reason she made Sunset Blvd, 1950, was to - finally - pay off her Queen Kelly debts dating back to 1928). However, she was not even tempted by the offer to play life of Sarah Bernhardt.
- Silvana Mangano, Dune, 1984.