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Richard Carlson (1912-1977)

  1. Leslie Howard, Gone With The Wind,  1938.
  2. William Holden, The Golden Boy, 1938.        When Columbia czar Harry Cohn could not get John Garfield for boxer Joe Bonaparte, he turned to Carlson  - far too busy in Broadway’s Stars in Your Eyes.  And then, supposedly, he looked at 5,000 actors, testing more than 80 - like Dale Robertson at age 17.  Tyrone Power passed.  Cohn didn’t rate Holden at all.  But he wanted Barabra Stanwyck as Lorna - and La Barb wanted the swiftly golden Holden. His thanking her for his breakthrough was among the higlights of the 50th Oscar night in 1978.  “Oh, Bill!”  she cried. Literally.As Holden soared, Carlson remained a second banana throughout his  103 films.
  3. Broderick Crawford, The Black Cat, 1940.         Carlson lost a handy pay-cheque when suddenly replaced by the bulkier Crawford as A Gilmore Smith… as opposed to the Gilmore Smith.
  4. Philip Terry, Bataan, 1942.      Change of the medic Matthew Hardy when the shooting began - in every sense - for what resembled a re-make of  John Ford’s 1933 war film, The Lost Patrol.  
  5. Van Johnson, A Guy Named Joe, 1943.   In, then out of the WWII drama (“something prankish and wistfully imaginative,” said the New York Timss) with Spencer Tracy as… a ghost. This is one of Steven Spielberg’s favourite movies; as proved by making such a dog’s breakfast out of his 1989 re-make, Always.    
  6. James Craig, Kismet, 1943.      For The Caliph - among the early casting suggestions, ie before Marlene Dietrich made it as her one and only MGMovie.
  7. Van Johnson, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, 1944.   The first bombing of Japan by USAF planes put Johnson in the pilot’s seat as Ted Lawson - who wrote the book the film is based on, about the bombs and his crew’s capture by Chinese forces.
  8. Macdonald Carey, Meet Me After The Show, 1950.   The song and dances were far better than the tiresome script. Which is why Cameron and Cary Grant refused to be Betty Grable’s wandering husband. (First title was Don't Fence Me In). Plus the obvious fact that neither one was a hoofer!
  9. Hugh Marlowe, The Stand at Apache River, 1952.   When all set to be Colonel Morsby beseiged by Apaches on location at California’s Red Rock Canyon State Park, Carlson was ordered back to the studio to be Barbara Stanwyck’s ex-husband - “Now He Knew Her as Other Men Had!” - in All I Desire, a Douglas Sirk-Ross Hunter soap. Quelle joi!.
  10. Vic Damone, Kismet, 1955.      For the much-filmed 1911 Edward Knoblock play - Arabian Nights kitsch, Aladdin meets MGMusicals - the young Caliph was first offered to Carlson. Damone, of course, was a real singer.
  11. Raymond Burr, Perry Mason, TV, 1957-1966.   When the overweight Burr agreed to shed 60 lbs to be the LA DA Hamilton Burger, he was the perfect Mason. Also in the mix for the defence attorney who rarely lost a case were Carlson, Richard Egan, William Holden, William Hopper (he became Mason’s private eye, Paul Drake), Fred MacMurray, John Shelton, William Tallman (given Ham Burger (!), instead). “We couldn't afford a big star,” explained producer Gail Patrick Jackson. No shows did in the 50s - they simply made big stars. Such as two other Mason wannabes: Mike Connors (becoming Mannix, 1967-1975) and Efrem Zimbalist Jr (77 Sunset Strip, 1958-1964).





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