George Brent (1899-1879)
- Phillips Holmes, Her Man, 1929. Brent, Walter Abel, Russell Gleason (whose father, James, played Steve), Russell Hardie, Dean Jagger and James Murray tested for Dan in in Tay Garnett’s melo stemming from the Frankie and Johnnie song. The result is preserved by the US Library of Congress. Oh yes it is!
- Spencer Tracy, 20,000 Years In Sing Sing, 1931. Brent came and went after James Cagney quit the role from Warden Lewis E Lawes’ best-seller over a contract row. Then, Lawes fully endorsed Tracy... for his one and only film with Bette Davis.
- Donald Cook, Frisco Jenny, 1932. Brent quit (no wonder with a title like that!) to join 42nd Street. Cook was better than usual and never that good again. But the film, like the title, was all Ruth Chatterton’s in a re-run, almost re-make, of her earlier brothel madame, Madame X, three years before.
- Warren William, Gold Diggers of 1933, 1932. “It’s the Depression, dearie.” And Broadway’s chorus curvies are fishing for rich hubbies. William William, inherited Brent’s blue-nosed millionaire in a sassy (pre-Code) musical that had everthing. Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Ginger Rogers, songs (one in pig-Latin) dances (from Busby Berkeley), female nudity… and during the ‘Shadow Waltz’ number at 5.55pm on March 10, 1933 the Long Beach earthquake, 6.4 on the Richter scale. Next ? Well, Gold Diggers of 1935, Gold Diggers of 1937 and Gold Diggers in Paris.
- Clark Gable, Forsaking All Others, 1933. Well, he had the Gable tash... Brent and Joel McCrea were to be best pals, one of them leaving Loretta Young at the altar. The fine trio was Gable, Joan Crawford, Robert Montgomery turning the Hays Office censors purple by using such injurious words as tramp, sex appeal and - oh no, cover your ears! - nudist wedding.
- Ralph Bellamy, Spitfire, 1934. The title role was not the WWII fighter plane but Katharine Hepburn as a hill-billy (!) faith-healer.
- Errol Flynn, Captain Blood, 1935. Brent made a lousy test (to replace the ailing Robert Donat). That’s how Errol Flynn went from being a corpse in The Case of the Curious Bride to superstar.
- Charles Boyer, The Garden of Allah, 1936. Producer David Selznick ran through as many as 14 guys for the role of the runaway Trappist monk falling for Marlene Dietrich.
- Errol Flynn, The Sisters, 1937. For once, Brent didn’t have to go to the barber’s shop… He always maintained that all he had to do when up for a Bette Davis film was get a hair-cut… as only the back of his head would be seen! But that can’t be why Flynn cut off his moustache…
- Robert Montgomery, Mr and Mrs Smith, 1941. In the running as Carole Lombard’s leading man when Hitchcock failed to snare Cary Grant. Lombard actually directed the Hitch walk-on - and demanded several takes!
- Alan Hale, Captains of the Clouds, 1941. Director Michael Curtiz dream-wished for Brent, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable and Raymond Massey... and got James Cagney, Dennis Morgan, Alan Hale and Reginald Gardiner. For a Royal Canadian Air Force tribute since labeled the 1941 Top Gun.
- John Loder, Old Acquaintance, 1942. Brent escaped a hair cut for the Bette Davis vehicle by enlisting in the US Coast Guard.
- Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca, 1942.
- Robert Ryan, The Woman on the Beach, 1946. Change of Coast Guard Lieutenant Scott in French réalisateur Jean Renoir’s final Hollywood work. He called it “the sort of avant-garde film which would have found its niche a quarter of a century earlier, between Nosferatu the Vampire and Caligari.” Or nearly.
- George Sanders, Death of a Scoundrel, 1956. Fell ill after shooting a party scene with very many expensive extras. Sanders took over but not in the party scene. Naturally, Brent remains visible.