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Dame Judith Anderson (1897-1972)

  1. Blanche Yurka, A Tale of Two Cities, 1934.   For the infamous Madame Defarge in the fourth screen version of the Charles Dickens classic, producer David O Selznick also tested Emily Fitzroy, Lucille LaVerne and May Robson.  Broadway’s Yurka was making her first talkie - indeed, her first film since 1918.
  2. Irene Rich, The Mortal Storm, 1939.   Anderson was director Frank Borzage’s original Mrs Roth in what New York Times critic Bosley Crowther called blistering anti-Nazi propaganda. Hitler  agreed. And promptly banned all MGM films in Nazi Germany.
  3. Elsa Lanchester,  Ladies In Retirement, 1940.   According to Hollywood Reporter, Anderson, Helen Chandler, Lillian Gish, Pauline Lord and Laurette Taylor were in the mix for Ida Lupino’s sisters.  Demented,  every one.  Like Lanchester’s Emily. 
  4. Blanche Yurka, Lady For A Night, 1941.   Anderson lost out to another Broadway star in the vehicle made for two. John Wayne and Joan Blondell.   Ironically, the role in question was named Anderson.
  5. Ann Revere, National Velvet, 1944.  Celebrating her first decade in Hollywood movies, the Australian stage star was tested for Spencer Tracy’s wife and, more importantly, the mother of  Elizabeth Taylor’s Velvet Brown.
  6. Mercedes McCambridge, Giant, 1955.
  7. Virginia Gregg, Psycho, 1959.    For the (uncredited) voice of Mrs Norma Bates, herself, Alfred Hitchcock listened to Paul Jasmin (close pal of the film’s star Anthony Perkins), Margaret Hamilton (The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz), Helen Hayes (First Lady of the American Theatre), Una Merkel (whose career began in 1928 as Lilian Gish’s stand-in during The Wind).  And two former Lady Macbeths: Maurice Evans’ Dame Judith and Orson Welles’ Jeannette Nolan. 

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