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Robert Wagner


  1. Jeffrey Hunter, Fourteen Hours, 1950.    First Robert Evans, then RJ  was set for Danny when head Fox Darryl Zanuck dropped him in favour of Hunter. Cast as more or less extras were such future  stars as Richard Beymer, John Cassavetes, Ossie Davis, Brian Keith and  Janice Rule.
  2. James Dean, Rebel Without A Cause, 1955.         Clark Gable’s ex-caddy was Warners’ oldest choice for Jim Stark at 25. And far too anyone-for-tennis for director Nicholas Ray. Wagner married Dean’s co-star (and old man Ray’s lover) Natalie Wood. Twice.
  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 to Hilda Crane), Robert Stack and Jeffrey Hunter, 34, to Robert Wagner, 25   Hunter was 29.
  4. Elvis Presely, Love Me Tender, 1956.       The  black-white B Western, with Richard Egan, William Campbell, James Drury and and RJ (Jeffrey Hunter or Cameron Mitchell)  as Western siblings, was transformed when Hall Wallis at Paramount agreed (for a hefty fee) that Fox could take the first box-office gamble on his new contract star - as the youngest brother, whose almost blond hair was suddenly dyed pitch black for the tacked on finale of, what else, but the new Love  Me Tender title song.  (Try singing The Reno Brothers!).    Losing one role to Dean and the next to Elvis was no way to start a career. However, RJ was still working more than 50 years later - 132 screen roles in 58 years.
  5. Cornel Wilde, Omar Khayyam, 1956.      In the Persian frame for the poet  Khayyam - and not Khaiyyam as in a 1945 film, or Khayham for a 1924 short  were Wagner  (too young),  Rossano Brazzi, John Forsythe and John Neville.
  6. Pat Boone, Bernardine, 1956.         RJ was Beau until Fox preferred making it Boone’s debut…. and, in her first movie since The Young in Heart, in 1937, Janet Gaynor’s finale.
  7. Van Johnson, Beyond This Place (US: Web of Evidence), 1958.Major changes - and none for the better - as the initial leads, Diana  Dors and Hollywood’s Robert Wagner, were superceded by Vera Miles and… Van Johnson at 42, replacing Wagner, who was the role’s actual age -  28.
  8. Steve Forrest, Flaming Star, 1959.      At first it was Black Star, and enemies Brando and Sinatra were the half-brothers.  One white, the other Kiowa Indian. For awhile, the half-Indian was for Wagner, but who could say no to Elvis…? Although hushed up by his manager, Colonel Parker, Elvis was proud of his own Cherokee roots from his maternal great-great-great grandmother Morning Dove White - and shared them with his GI Blues character. (Dolores Del Rio played Elvis’ mother; she had been as Wagner’s also Indian Ma in Broken Lance, 1953). 
  9. Robert Conrad, Hawaiian Eye, TV, 1959-1963.       Being more busy (and interested) in movies, RJ passed on the half-Polynesian Thomas Jefferson Lopaka… and suggested his well tanned pal, Conrad. That’s what friends are for.   RJ, or course, eventually went the series route - with Stefanie Powers - in Hart to Hart, 1979-1984.
  10. Tony Curtis, The Great Race, 1964.       The Great Leslie nearly wasn’t the fourth movie role Curtis played for Blake Edwards. After Charlton Heston rejected it to be Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ectasy, the director wanted a younger daredevil hero: Wagner or John Derek. Head brother Jack Warner did not. It became, said Curtis. a matter of TC or no $$.

  11. Max von Sydow, The Greatest Story Ever Told, 1965.      RJ as JC? Yes, when it was a Fox project.  And he was under contract. And, therefore, cheap.
  12. Dean Jones, Any Wednesday, 1966.       At one time, it seemed set for RJ and his pal, Frank Sinatra - vying for Jane Fonda.
  13. John Gavin, Thoroughly Modern Millie, 1966.   While shooting Pedro Páramo in Mexico, Gavin heard his old studio, Universal, was into a pricey Julie Andrews musical. And he fought hard to be her co-star as Mary Tyler Moore’s boyfriend. They would have  been greater with RJ’s polish  in the place of the plywood Gavin, dubbed The Stiff by Hitchcock during Psycho.
  14. John Cassavetes, Rosemary's Baby, 1968.     A surprising early choice by director Roman Polanski for his Hollywood debut was the only Hollywood guy that top showbiz lawyer Greg Bautzer knew ”who was a star without being in a movie.”
  15. Robert Redford, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid1969.
  16. Robert Redford, The Sting, 1973.
  17. Christopher Reeve, Superman, 1977.
  18. Victor Garber, Charlie’s Angels, TV, 2011.      RJ was cast as Charlie.Or, rather, as Charlie’s voice on the phone. ”Hello, Angels!” Then, well,he must have read the scripts. Garber was a proper Charlie for agreeing to such crap. IGN’s critic, Matt Fowler,called itthe worst pilot of the season, due tobad acting and writing and, anyway, he “didn't believe that these ladies could change a flat tyre, much less take down a notorious human trafficker.”  Goodbye, angels...!


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