Robert Taylor (1911-1969)
- Leslie Howard, Romeo and Juliet, 1935. Media-dubbed The It Boy, 25-year-old Spangler Arlington Brughwas the youngest of MGM resident genius Irving Thalberg’s possible Romeos opposite his wife, Norma Shearer’s 36-year-old Juliet. Her final Romeo was... 45!
- Charles Boyer, The Garden of Allah, 1935. Losing the ex-Trappist monk wooing the ex-convent girl Marlene Dietrich, meant Bob was free to woo Garbo’s Camille the same year - also first set up by Selznick for Dietrich.
- Clark Gable, Love on the Run, 1935. MGM bought the short story, Beauty and the Beat, because it was a new spin on Clark Gable’s It Happened One Night. Loy and Robert Montgomery were set as the runaway bride and undercover reporter. Then, Jean Harlow and Montgomery, or Harlow and Taylor, and finally: Gable and Crawford… on-off lovers during 30 years and several marriages.
- Cary Grant, Suzy, 1936. MGM loaned Grant from Paramount to be third banana to Jean Harlow (sans panties)and Franchot Tone. The role (and the film) was just not importantenough to offer it to Metro’s big guys: Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery, William Powell, Taylor, Spencer Tracy, Robert Young.
- Richard Arlen, Three Live Ghosts, 1936. Taylor was switched to Arlen just before shooting began in November. So was everyone else, including leading lady Ann Loring, when shooting was swiftly halted after two days for a fortnight.
- Leonard Penn, Marie-Antoinette, 1937. Taylor, Herbert Marshall and Shepperd Strudwick were in and out as Toulan over the years until the once hot project of the suddenly dead MGM production genius Irving Thalberg was knocked off in a rapid (ie. cheap) hurry by “One Take Woody” Van Dyke.
- Robert Young, Northwest Passage, 1938. Conceived as another Gone With The Wind, the film took so long in getting its act together it lost four stars to other projects, Taylor included. Only Spencer Tracy remained in what ended as just half of Kenneth Roberts’ book. Taylor remained at the studio for 25 years, beating Gable’s 24 and being the only contract star to collect an MGM pension.
- Cary Grant, The Philadelphia Story, 1939. Katharine Hepburn beat Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and Ann Sheridan. But the toast of Broadway was still“box-office poison” in LA. So, MGM’s A-List went AWOL - Clark Gable, Taylor, Spencer Tracy.
- Laurence Olivier, Pride and Prejudice, 1939. MGM house genius Irving Thalberg, was due to supervise his pet project - co-starring his wife Norma Shearer and Clark Gable – when the production chief tragically died at age 37. By 1939, Shearer was still aboard with Robert Donat or even Errol Flynn(!). Another possible Mr Darcy was Robert Taylor – quickly booked for Waterloo Bridge with Vivien Leigh who craved the Austen vehicle with her lover, Laurence Olivier.Finally, Metro safe with Olivier opposite Greer Garson. Olivier was very unhappy with the result. “Difficult to make Darcy into anything more than an unattractive-looking prig, and darling Greer seemed to me all wrong as Elizabeth.”
- Brian Aherne, Smilin’ Through, 1940. Director Frank Borzage wanted Taylor (or James Stewart) to be, Sir John Cartertet - played by Leslie Howard in the first, 1932, re-make of (the first) Harrison Ford’s 1922 original. Stewart quickly enlisted in the US Air Force. Probably because MGM saw him as a British knight. Co-star Jeannette MacDonald only cared about her other co-star - husband Gene Raymond.
- John Hodiak, Marriage Is A Private Affair, 1942. Two years earlier, Warner Bros said George Cukor would direct Robert Taylor and Myrna Loy. Instead, the scenario was sold to MGM where, after numerous re-writes ordered by the Production Code, Fred Zinnemman was set to helm Lana Turner and Gene Kelly. Lana finally made it with John Hodiak but for director Robert Z Leonard. Z is right
- James Craig, Gentle Annie, 1944. Starting in October 1942, shooting was shuttered after four weeks when director WS Van Dyke fell ill. Two years on, with Andrew Marton helming, the original cast went thataway excepting Morris Ankrum - and Craig, now inheriting the lead, US Marshall Lloyd Richland, from Robert Taylor and, hunting himself - well, his original role of the outlaw Cottonwood Goss.
- Robert Mitchum, Pursued, 1947. Duel in the Sun scenarist Niven Busch also wrote this Western for his wife, Teresa Wright, was extremely fussy about who would play the heroine’s hero. Taylor and Joel McCrea were too old! Montgomery Clift (Teresa’s choice), too young, too small.And Jack Warner absolutely refused to consider Kirk Douglas.
- Peter Lawford, The Red Danube, 1947. Change of ages as Lawford took over from Robert Taylor As a UK officer in the anit-Communist thriller set in post-war-Vienna. His major was known as Twingo. His girl was not Clio (nor Caddy), but Janet Leigh as a defecting Russian refugee ballerina called Olga Alexandrova.
- Van Heflin, The Three Musketeers, 1948. Charismatic musketeers - Taylor and Ricardo Montalban - were ousted for boring Heflin and Robert Coote tomake sure the the spotlight stayed upon Gene Kelly’s D’Artagnan.
- Van Johnson, Command Decision, 1948. Furious at having to make The Hucksters, 1946 - he said the book was filthy and not entertainment - Clark Gable insisted on playing General Casey Dennis from William Wister Haines’ novel. Gable got his way. But he did not win about Taylor being his co-star.
- Van Johnson, Battleground, 1948. Taylor was not interested in any ensemble, he wanted star vehicles. He quit fighting The Battle of the Bulge for a rotten Western, Ambush. With one of the Bulge battalion: John Hodiak.
- Barry Sullivan, Tension, 1948. MGM first aimed the terrible film noir at Taylor as the sardonic homicide cop - opposite Richard Basehart as the wimpy chemist planning to kill his wife’s lover.
- Victor Mature, Samson and Delilah, 1949. Made up for it with an epic run in the 50s: Quo Vadis, Ivanhoe, Knights of the Round Table.
- Wallace Beery, Big Jack, 1948. Like the movie (his last), Beery was not well. At one point, Taylor had been nominated to take over the rough, tough, but golden-hearted Big Jack Horner - despite being 26 years younger than Beery… who died on April 15, 1949.
- Gene Kelly, Black Hand, 1949. "At the turn of the century, there were more Italians living in New York than in Rome…" As MGM upped the thriller’s status from B to A, Taylor was replaced as Giovanni (Johnny) Columbo by… a dancer!
- Dick Powell, The Reformer and the Redhead, 1949. Taylor and Lana Turner were switched into the great couple (on-screen and off) of Powell and June Allyson. This is was the first of their two films together.
- Joel McCrea, Stars In My Crown, 1949. Decisions, decisions! In February 1948, Taylor was set for the soldier-turned-clergyman battling the Ku Klux Klan in a small Western township. In March, it was Van Heflin. Then, April came along…
- Van Johnson, Too Young To Kiss, 1950. Sorry Bob, no room for you in the fifth of six Johnson-June Allyson MGMovies. Stupid title for an Allyson vehicle. She was 33!
- Errol Flynn, Kim, 1950. An on/off MGM project since 1935 when Jphn Barrymore was due as Mahbub Ali, The Red Beard and Freddie Bartholomew as the titular boy wonder. Two months before the opening of their previous Rudyard Kipling tale, Captains Courageous, Barrymore was dropped. Then, so was the film, until Mickey Rooney was booked for Kimball O’Hara. in 1942. That was dropped, too. Once again, the expense - and politics - of even token shooting in India shelved the project. For a further eight years.
- Marlon Brando, Viva Zapata, 1952. Scenarist John Steinbeck’s source for the Brando film was Edgecumb Pinchon's novel, Zapata The Unconquerable - bought by Metro in 1940 for Taylor, seven years after its Wallace Beery success, Viva Villa!
- Richard Burton, The Robe, 1952. Five toppermost stars were discussed for the centurion hero, Marcellus Gallio… totally regardless of age! From Spencer Tracy at 52 to Gregory Peck at 26. Plus Gary Cooper, 51 ; Laurence Olivier, 45 ; Taylor, 41. Burton was… 25. (Taylor had taken over an earlier toga epic, Quo Vadis, when Peck had eye trouble in 1950).
- Glenn Ford, Blackboard Jungle, 1954. MGM wanted one (any!) of their remaining contract guys as the schoolteacher Dadier: Taylor or Mickey Rooney(!). Director Richard Brooks wanted new, raw actors - and Ford looked that way in his new, ex-military buzz-cut. Among othesrs passing muster (even if more in their twenties than teens) were Vic Morrow (beating Steve McQueen to his role), Sidney Poitier, future director Paul Mazursky and a certain Jameel Farah… billed as Jamie Farr on TV in M*A*S*H, 1972-1983.
- Cornel Wilde, The Scarlet Coat, 1954. First Stewart Granger, then his often co-star Taylor were selected as US secret agent Major John Bolton versus Michael Wilding in his final (and best) MGMovie. Within two years, Liz Taylor would also dump him.
- James Mason, A Star Is Born, 1953.
- Richard Widmark, The Cobweb, 1954. Original plans called for Bob webbed to Grace Kelly and Lana Turner.
- Rock Hudson, Giant, 1955.
- Glenn Ford, Teahouse of the August Moon, 1956. Taylor was not keen on becoming Captain Fisby. It was another ensemble, even if it was ruled on Broadway by John Forsythe’s Fisby. Sure wasn’t going to be that way in the film, once Marlon Brando decided he must play the Japanese interpreter Sakini. (Did he not understand this was a satire about Westernising the Japanese after WWII?). Ford did a surprisingly good job of not being buried by Brando.
- Richard Widmark, The Cobweb, 1955. Original plans called for Bob webbed to Grace Kelly and Lana Turner.
- John Wayne, The Wings of Eagles, 1956. When John Ford was dithering about making a film about a friend, Richard Thorpe was set to direct Taylor as the US Navy pilot and screenwriter Frank W “Spig” Wead. Ford swore that everything in the movie was true. “The fight in the club - throwing the cake - I can verify that as an eyewitness. I ducked it. And the plane landing in the swimming pool right in the middle of the Admiral’s tea - that really happened.”
- Yul Brynner, The Brothers Karamazov, 1957. MGM’s idea opposite Van Heflin in 1947 - nine years before Marilyn Monroe started to prove she had read it.
- Dana Andrews, Night of the Demon, 1957. Whatever certain critics praise, Hollywood’s resident realisateur Jacques Tourneur for, it was never judicious casting... He chose Rory Calhoun over Robert Mitchum for Way Of A Gaucho, 1952. And when unable to persuade Taylor or Dick Powell to join this UK horror number, the French director son of a French director father called on the star who hadn’t exactly uplifted their previous collaboration: Canyon Passage, 1946. And yet,the wooden Andrews also headed Tourneur’s next outing, The Fearmakers,1958.
- Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur, 1959. Metro thinking cheap...Pitting the studio’s Quo Vadis hero opposite his recent MGM co-stars, Ava Gardner and Stewart Granger.All under contract. Meaning all the more money for thestunt aces in thechariot race... At the time, Taylor was on a paltry $6,000 a week.
- Yul Brynner, Solomon and Sheba, 1959. "No one asked could say No," said Brynner. Except Taylor. An unlikely choice, he was among the few spurning offers to succeed Tyrone Power, dead in mid-shooting on November 15, 1958.
- Cary Grant, Operation Petticoat, 1959. Taylor was so keen on being the submarine commander that he offered Tony Curtis 5% of the veteran’s !0% of the gross... “No,” said Tony, who found the script. “I wanted Cary Grant... and that’s what I got.”
- Richard Widmark, The Long Ships, 1964. Widmark’s blond hair was better for a Viking chief called Rolfe.