Claudette Colbert (1903-1996)
- Helen Hayes, A Farewell To Arms, 1932. For the first Ernest Hemingway novel to be filmed, Paramount desired Colbert-Fredric March. Next, Gary Cooper-Nancy Carroll. Next, Cooper-Eleanor Boardman. Finally, MGM loaned Helen to join Coop.
- Margaret Sullavan, Only Yesterday, 1933. The 1920s unwed mother, also rejected by Irene Dunne, made a star of Margaret in her debut. "Perhaps I'll get used to the bizarre, elaborate theatricalism called Hollywood, but I cannot guarantee it."
- Carole Lombard, Now and Forever, 1934. In the ex-Honour Bright, Gary Cooper collectes $75,000 from his rich in-laws for selling his daughter - Shirley Temple!
- Norma Shearer, Romeo and Juliet, 1936. Director George Cukor tested her - at 31 she was five years Shearer's junior. But she was married to the MGM production boss!
- Norma Shearer, The Women, 1938. One year earlier, the company behind the Broadway hit, signed Gregory LaCava to direct Colbert in a screen version. Then, MGM pounced. Like a lion. For Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, etc… indeed of 135 women and no men. (Even every animal in the film was female).
- Barbara Stanwyck, Union Pacific, 1939. Director Cecil B DeMille used Colbert's name as bait when trying to persuade unknown Vivien Leigh to accept his (four-film) deal. "A better offer than Greer Garson got from MGM," commented Laurence Olivier, except they both knew she was interested only in landing Scarlett.
- Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday, 1939. Jean Arthur and Irene Dunne also passed on thefast-talkin’ hot-shotreporter Hildy Johnson, originally, a guy (Pat O’Brien) in1931’s The Front Page. Not difficult channging Hildebrand to Hildegarde. In fact,Howard Hawks first chose Cary Grant for Holly, not his editor Walter Burns - then scripter Charles Lederer suggested Hildy and Walterbe ex-spouses.
- Carol Bruce, This Woman Is Mine, 1940. The producers aimed too high as Colbert could see it was the guys’ movie, not her stowaway’s. Enter: the Broadway musical star. Ironically, Bruce won greater fame as another Julie on another water vessel - in the 1946 stagte revival of Show Boat.
- Barbara Stanwyck, The Lady Eve, 1940. For his deliciously sexy comedy, director Preston Sturges went through various combos for the con-woman chasing an heir to zillions… In 1938, the rascally gal was Colbert. In July, the couple was Joel McCrea and Madeleine Carrol, then Ray Milland and Paulette Goddard. By August, Carroll and Fred MacMurray. In September, Fox loaned Henry Fonda to join Goddard - and they wound up as Fonda and Stanwyck… at her wicked best. And then Sturges claimed he wrote it for her. Oh really!
- Ellen Drew, The Night of January 16, 1941. RKO wardrobe lady Ayn Rand's play made audiences the jury deciding whodunnit. An impossible gimmick for a film, just one of the delays causing less than A-casting.
- Lana Turner, Somewhere I’ll Find You, 1941. This nearly became Colbert and Clark Gable’s third teaming. His heart wasn’t in it after the plane crash death of his wife, Carole Lombard, on January 16, 1942. On returning to work a week later, Gable insisted on a title change rather than hear Somewhere I’ll Find You yelled by the clapper-boy before each take. MGM called it Red Light (!)… for a wee while.
- Paulette Goddard, Reap The Wild Wind, 1941.All hands on deck - and fathoms below - for a boisterous CB DeMille adventure classic. With a battle royale to be John Wayne’s lady, Loxi Claiborne. Between Colbert, Katharine Hepburn and two survivors of the Scarlett O’Hara wars, Tallulah Bankhead and Susan Hayward.
- Rosalind Russell, Take A Letter, Darling, 1942. Directors Mitchell Leisen and Preston Sturges needed Claudette at the same time. Sturges won when Paramount insisted she replace Carole Lombard in Palm Beach Story. Leisen got Colbert for his next one - shot on some of the Sturges sets,.
- Geraldine Fitzgerald, Wilson, 1943. Gary Cooper and Henry Fonda were considered for the White House - and then Ronald Colman with Colbert as his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt. Finally, the Canadian Alexander Knox was finally elected as 28th US President Thomas Woodrow Wilson. (Minus any mention of him supporting the Ku Klux Klan). With Fitzgerald as First Lady. The result was such a major flop that its loving producer Darryl F Zanuck banned everyone talking to him about his paean to the “pre-FDR.”
- Olivia De Havilland, To Each His Own, 1946. Director Mitchell Leisen wanted a fifth film with Claudette. No, she felt, four was enough to thank him for designing her costumes - and the asses' milk bath - in DeMille's Sign of the Cross, 1932.
- Paulette Goddard, Suddenly It's Spring, 1947. Well, how about this as a fifth?
- Katharine Hepburn, State of the Union, 1947.
Claudette inexplicably quit the weekend before shooting was to start on October 12, 1947. Officially, she'd insisted on stopping work each day at 5pm; whereupon Spencer Tracy is supposed to have said: “Katie isn’t hamming it up at the moment. But the bag of bones has been helping me rehearse...” The truth, according to the rarely substantiated sensationalist author Darwin Porter, is that Colbert's husband, Dr Joel Pressman, found his wife and Tracy rehearsing - in bed. Pressman called Tracy's lady, Hepburn, without realising that she and Claudette had been lovers for the previous eight years. On hearing that news, the doctor struck his wife. Kate drove her to hospital with cuts and bruises... She forgave Tracy but never talked to Colbert again.
- Bette Davis, All About Eve, 1949.
- Barbara Stanwyck, East Side West Side, 1949. MGM bought Marcia Davenport's novel for $200,000 in September 1947. By June ’49, Colbert and Fred MacMurray were MGM’s targets for the lady of leisure wife and her adulterous husband.
- Bette Davis, The Star, 1952. Re-run of the All About Eve casting… for a star down on her luck. Whoops, far too close to home for CC. .
- Ann Blyth, One Minute To Zero, 1952. On a snow filled location in Colorado, Claudette was downed by pneumonia. Negotiations with Joan Crawford (another of her lovers) took forever and Ann flew in as the now younger heroine.
- Susan Hayward, The Marriage Go-Round, 1959. Co-playwright Leslie Stevens wanted the same Broadway couple, Colbert and Charles Boyer. Instead, they became Hayward and James Mason. Sole Broadway star reprising was Julie Newmar as the ravishing Swedish woman wanting her US host, Professor Mason, to give her baby. Echoing Dietrich and George Bernard Shaw.
- Micheline Presle, If A Man Answers, 1961. David Niven, Nancy Kwan and Colbert suddenly became Lund, Sandra Dee and… well, it was another Frebch star as Lund’s wife delivering The Line: “If you want a perfect marriage, treat your husband like a dog… Husbands often leave home, pets never. There must be a reason.”