Gary Cooper (1901-1961)
- John Wayne, The Big Trail, 1930. Big break for Wayne, and such a flop his career remained in the B-toilet for eight more years until his 80th film made him: Stagecoach, also spurned by Cooper. In all but 11 films Duke Wayne had the lead, thus holding the record for the actor with the most leading parts - 142. And damn nearly all the same!
- Victor McLaglen, Dishonoured, 1931. Having battled through Morocco with Marledne Dietrich, that was enough of director Josef von Sternberg, thank you! And poor Marlene was saddled with McLaglen who, as Steven Bach put it “belonged in a poolroom, not a bedroom.”
- Chester Morris, The Miracle Man, 1932. After City Streets, Paramount saw a team in Cooper-Sylvia Sidney. He did not - when the studio rushed up a re-make of Lon Chaney's 1919 silent hit. Cooper was replaced by Fredric March, dropped for Chester Morris as miracles hit B-movie proportions.
- Cary Grant, Hot Saturday, 1932. Romping through a Euro "rest cure" (ie. romancing Countess Dorothy di Frasso), Cooper was on safari in Tanganika when being warned by pal Fredric March about of Paramount's "new Cooper"... winning various Coop projects.
- Cary Grant, Madame Butterfly, 1932. Lieutenant Pinkerton sure sounded different.
- Cary Grant, The Eagle And The Hawk, 1933. All change! Fredric March substituted George Raft and Cary Grant took over Coop's intended role adding to their feud. Coop loathed Cary's mannerisms - “always got on my nerves.”
- George Raft, Pick-Up, 1933. When he refused again to work with the boss' mistress, Sylvia Sidney, Paramount chief BP Schulberg hit back by loaning Cooper to MGM for Today We Live for a rare double. In a single year, Coop starred in the first filmed works of William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway.
- Cary Grant, The Last Outpost, 1935. Grant swipes yet another Coop project. Paramount wanted a quickie sequel to The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, but Coop and director Henry Hathaway said once was enough. Told to toughen up, Grant grew a moustache... and looked like a third Fairbanks.
- Henry Fonda, The Farmer Takes A Wife, 1935. Hollywood rarely used the original stars of the Broadway shows. Janet Gaynor was given June Walker's role, but with Cooper and Joel McCrea tied up, Fonda scrapped into his debut.
- Fred McMurray, Hands Across The Table, 1935. The obvious first Paramount choice for Theodore Drew III. Next? Ray Milland. But he was scared of comedy, so director Mitchell Leisen played McSafe.
- Paul Muni, Dr Socractes, 1935. Coop did not feel it was him. Paramount let it go to Warners.
- George Raft, The Glass Key, 1935. Quit to take over Peter Ibbetson from Brian Aherne.
- Joel McCrea, Barbary Coast, 1935. Poor McCrea had a zero role, just watching as Edward G Robinson stole everything but the saloon piano. Wild Bill Wellman was to begin shooting in the Spring of ’34 with Cooper and Gloria Swanson. By May, it was Coop and Anna Sten. In January ’35, producer Sam Goldwyn shelved his project, fearful of censor hassles and, anyway, he has lost Cooper back home to Paramount. The couple became McCrea and the Paramount boss BP Schulberg’s favourite, Miriam Hopkins.
- John Boles, Rose of The Rancho, 1936. With lavish trade ads in May 1940, Paramount announced the talkie re-tread of Cecil B DeMille's 1914 film with Coop opposite Rosita Moreno, Lillian Roth. Instead, he took The Spoilers from George Bancroft.
- Ronald Colman, A Tale of Two Cities, 1936. A far, far better thing that he wanted to do. He even did costume tests in 1931. Paramount passed it to MGM.
- George Brent, The Case Against Mrs Ames, 1936. Carole Lombard also said no and so it became the case against Madeleine Carroll.
- Fred MacMurray, The Texas Rangers, 1936. Booked for King Vidor’s Western, Coop left Hollywood with Jackie Oakie for the New Mexico locations on May 2, 1936. and promptly quit when producer Samuel Goldwyn started talking Maximilian of Mexico with Merle Oberon. That’s all Sam did. Talk.
- Fred MacMurray, Swing High, Swing Low, 1937. This time the Samuel Goldwyn talk took off: The Adventures of Marco Polo. And MacMurray swung into Coop’s place. Brainging his home-made sandwiches for lunch, as usual.
- Clark Gable, Gone With The Wind, 1939.
- John Wayne, Stagecoach, 1938. Producer Walter Wanger wanted Coop and Dietrich. “Too expensive for us,” said John Ford. “Gary was on the fence about it,” reported Coop’s wife, Rocky. “I read it and advised him to turn it down. Stagecoach...! It made a star out of John Wayne [in his 80th film!]but we turned it down.” (We?) She was not alone. Errol Flynn and Joel McCreas also fled.Coop never made the same mistake again. He immediately accepted Capra’s Meet John Doe, sight unseen. “Frank, I don’t need a script.”
- James Stewart, Mr Smith Goes To Washington, 1938.
Before Frank Capra and James Stewart rescued it, the Lewis R. Foster story was producer Harold Wilson’s project for Ralph Bellamy (!). That’s when it was known variously as The Gentleman from Montana and The Gentleman from Wyoming - just as Capra first intended Mr Deeds Goes to Washington. Mr Smith was always Mr Deeds to Mr Capra... but he could not lasso Cooper again. And then saw more credibility in Mr Stewart’s age (younger) principles (strong) and talent (impeccable). “I felt that in many ways, Mr Smith was James Stewart. I also felt that, considering the filibuster scene, Stewart was better equipped technically as an actor.”
- Ronald Colman, The Light That Failed, 1938. Tailored for him in l935, but he was still hooked by Goldwyn.
- James Stewart, Destry Rides Again, 1938. “I came cheaper than Coop!” Producer Joe Pasternak didn’t think Jim could hack Cooper’s role of a man avenging his father’s murder, “so made my character someone who becomes a deputy... who doesn’t believe in wearing a gun... The critics didn’t realise it... but it was really a satire on the kind of Western that Tom Mixe used to make.”
- Joel McCrea, Union Pacific, 1939. “You’re better off with Cooper,” McCrea told Cecil B De Mille. “I love Cooper. But he’s committed at Warners and Goldwyn.” And so, as if McCrea had not already made 45 movies, CB announced to his cast, crew and 75 extras on the first day: “My former newsboy is now my star.”
- William Holden, Arizona, 1939. The novel’s hero, Peter Muncie, was scripted for Coop. He said “Nope!” Apparently he’d had enough of Jean Arthur (after The Plainsman and Mr Deeds Goes To Town, 1935). Next choices, Joel McCrea and James Stewart, further proved that Holden, the new golden boy was as an anonymous New York Times critic phrased it, not “yet sufficiently far from knee-pants to seem credible as [Arthur’s] protective knight in armour.” He was 22, she 40.
- Raymond Massey, Abe Lincoln In Illinois, 1939. Coop as Abe? Yep! Nope, declared Robert E Sherwood. He’d written his play for Massey and insisted he repeat the role on-screen – or no sale! For too long a time Massey never got out of character, dressing and talking like Lincoln in real life. So much so, his friend George S Kaufman, another playwright, observed: “Massey won’t be satisfied until someone assassinates him.”
- James Stewart, The Philadelphia Story, 1940. Katharine Hepburn held all the cards - the rights, too - and required “two marvellous actors who were also stars.” Her first demands at MGM were Gable and Tracy. then Errol Flynn at Warners or Coop at Paramount. Producer Sam Goldwyn offered her director William Wyler and Cooper to co-star. Coop was not pleased as being passed over for Grant, saying his rival was too pretty to be chucked out by a wife. (Didn’t he read the papers!).
- Henry Fonda, The Grapes of Wrath, 1940. Producer Sam Goldwyn’s West Coast story editor, Edwin Knopf, begged him to buy Steinbeck’s book for Cooper. Goldwyn disliked its “gloom and the sordidness of the background and the people plus a pro-Communist indication.” He told Lilian Hellman, who longed to script it: “Let Zanuck make a mess of it.” Yeah, like seven Oscar nominations and two winners: John Ford, Jane Darwell.
- William Holden, Arizona, 1940. Almighty flop. The young Holden was hardly the best partner for Jean Arthur.
- Ronald Colman, The Light That Failed, 1940. Robert Montgomery also dropped the Rudyard Kipling piece.
- Joel McCrea, Foreign Correspondent, 1940. Hitchcock wanted Cary Grant. Of course, he did. As to be proved soon enough by Suspicion and Notorious, they were soul brothers - inside each was the other. Grant was already filming, Cooper and Clark Gable turned down the fat Englishman and he made do with McCrea while famously moaning: “I always end up with the next best.” Not always. ..” Years later, Coop told Hitch: “That was a mistake. I shoulda done it.
- Robert Cummings, Saboteur, 1941. Hitchcock was mad. Not even he could muster who he wanted: Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck and Harry Carey as the villain. Of course he was mad. He felt (correctly) that Cummings was more light comedy material.. not very Hitchcockian. Apart from a few sections, notably the Statue of Liberty climax,the same could be said of the over-talky, propaganda thriller.Coop’s last film, The Wreck of the Mary Deare, 1959, was a longtime Hitch project, dropped by him for being too close to his Marie Celeste project.
- Cary Grant, Destination Tokyo, 1943. Gary turned down Captain Cassidy and Cary took over - for a fifth time.When Tony Curtis saw Grant at the periscope he decided to be an actor. And 16 years later, Grant and Curtis made a sub comedy, Operation Petticoat.
- Don Ameche, Happy Land, 1943. Howard Hawks was busily passing on several potential Cooper vehicles - The Pride of the Yankees, Saratoga Trunk, The Hard Way, China Sky, etc - so by the time he found something for them, Coop was way too busy. And Irving Poicel made the movie with Ameche.
- Alexander Knox, Wilson, 1944. Coop and Hank were considered for the White House, but the Canadian Knox was finally elected as 28th US President Woodrow Wilson. (Just no mention of him supporting the Ku Klax Klan). 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.” Coop never played a POTUS, true or false, in his 119 movies; Fonda played three (including Abraham Lincoln).
- Dennis Morgan, God Is My Co-Pilot, 1944. Warner’s first choice for the biopic about Colonel Robert Lee Scott Jr. Then, Bogie or Cary Grant… or even Scott, himself. Colonel Sott was a WW11 USAF fighter pilot hero - his dream, since the age of eight. (A 1989 episode of the Coming of Age series, was called Todd Is My Co-Pilot).
- John Hodiak, A Bell from Adano, 1944. Fox house-star Andrews and bigger A stars - Cooper, James Cagney, Spencer Tracy - jockeyed to be Major Joppolo (in reality, Lieutenant Colonel Frank E Toscani) running a WWII damaged Italian town requiring a new town bell. In John Hersey’s book, Joppolo supplied a modest ship’s bell. In Hollywood, it was a full blown carillon. Rather like the difference between Hodiak and Cooper.
- John Wayne, Red River, 1946. Not for me said Cooper. Too hard, hostile, ruthless. Watching Wayne’s work while Howard Hawks was editing shook Duke’s other great director, John Ford.“Never knewthe big sumafabitch could act.”
- Gregory Peck, The Macomber Affair, 1946. Sam Goldwyn, director Howard Hawks, director Victor Fleming and Cooper talked about producing the Ernest Hemingway tale in 1941. Five years later, director Zoltan Korda’s chose Peck for the hunter based on Bror Blixen - aka Klaus Maria Brandauer in Out of Africa, 1985. Safari scenes were shot on Kenya, the rest of Africa was played by Mexico.
- Spencer Tracy, State of the Union, 1947. Mr Smith Goes To The White House? Well no. Coop sided with Clark Gable about not running for US President... for the film-maker they both owed so much to: Frank Capra. Coop’s name came up when MGM refused to part with Gable - Capra had hoped to reunite Gable and “Frankie Froggie” (Tracy’s name for Claudette Colbert), his 1934 Oscar-winning duo from It Happened One Night. Finally, Tracy said it was about time he worked with Frank Capra - and Union became the third of Tracy and Katharine Hepburn’s nine films.
- Kirk Douglas, The Big Sky, 1951. Cooper was wanted until Howard Hawks decided he was too old for the book he paid $30,000 for.
- James Stewart, Harvey, 1949. Playwright Mary Chase had final approval of the movie Elwood P Dowd, an alcoholic who sees and relates to an invisible giant rabbit called Harvey. Stewart and Joe E Brown were the only con tenders who had played the role on-stage (Jim never stopped reviving the play in the UK and US!). Other potential Elwoods were: Cooper, Jack Benny, James Cagney, Bing Crosby, Cary Grant, Jack Haley (The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz) and singer Rudy Vallee.
- John Wayne, Red River, 1948. “Take ’em to Missouri, Matt!” Like Cary Grant, Coop found the hero –and villain - Ted Dunson too brutal. But then Duke never considered Coop a great actor. “He never enters the skin of his characters.” And Duke did?
- Danny Kaye, Hans Christian Anderson, 1952. Producer Samuel Goldwyn planned it for Coop and Merle Oberon in 1939 - when David Daniel Kaminski was 26 and making his Broadway debut.
- Robert Taylor, Westward The Women, 1952. Director legend Frank Capra wrote his sole Western for Cooper but Frank’s new home, Paramount, rejected all of Capra’s five projects (including Roman Holiday), for being above the $1.5m budget ceiling. Coop made one of them for Allied Artists, Friendly Persuasion, 1956. And Capra sold this one to his neighbour. Wild Bill Wellman.
- Robert Taylor, Ivanhoe, 1952. Planned by producer Walter Wangerfor Coop as far back as1935.
- Richard Burton, The Robe, 1952. Five toppermost stars were discussed for the centurion hero, Marcellus Gallio… totally regardless of age! From Spencer Tracy at 52 to Gregory Peck at 26. Plus Cooper, 51; Laurence Olivier, 45; Robert Taylor, 41. Burton was… 25.
- John Wayne, The High and the Mighty, 1953. Producer John Wayne tried Coop, Henry Fonda and Spencer Tracy for the veteran pilot and then said: “Aw hell, I’ll do it myself.” Superbly. A calm pro playing a calm pro - and cutting five of his close-ups in the editing. Everyone else, especially Jan Sterling and Claire Trevor were working for Oscars. Didn’t get ’em.
- James Mason, A Star Is Born.1954.
- Robert Ryan, House of Bamboo, 1954. Like every other 50s’ producer, Buddy Adler wanted Cooper. “IMPOSSIBLE,” growled maverick auteur Samuel Fuller, who invariably growled in CAPITALS. “I’m shooting with HIDDEN CAMERAS on the streets of Tokyo - where everyone knows Cooper. They’ll MOB him. HE CAN’T BE INCOGNITO!”
- Robert Mitchum, Night Of The Hunter, 1954. Charles Laughton’s crazy notion... with YEP! and NOPE! tattooed on his fingers!!? Cooper would never be accepted as a villain. So, after talks with the inevitable, the scared and the interested (John Carradine, Cooper, Laurence Olivier), first-time director Charles Laughton had a brainwave… He called Mitchum and and warned him: “The role is of an irredeemable shit!” Mitchum promptly answered: "Present!"
- Joel McCrea, Stranger On Horesback, 1955. Coop sat on the Louis L’Amour Western for three months until producer Leonard Goldstein asked McCrea to read it. Joel asked for 25% of the profits, although his agent said he’d never see any. For six, eight months he didn’t. Then, the cheques rolled in. As his agent said:“You cast your bread upon the waters… and it’s coming back to you.”
- Tom Ewell, The Seven Year Itch, 1955.
Although Ewell won a Tony for the Broadway role, Director Billy Wilder could think only of Walter Mathau for the New Yorker bemused and bedazzled by his neighbour: Marilyn Monroe. Except Matthau was unknown. Hence some stupid notions from Wilder and Darryl Zanuck, until the head Fox saw sense. “If I had read the script at the time we were casting the picture I would never have recommended William Holden or anybody else except Tommy Ewell. No one I can think of can play this particular script… Holden would have been as big an error as Cooper.” And he didn’t have to add that James Stewart would have been, well, simply embarrassing!
- Randolph Scott, Seven Men From Now, 1955. Actor pal Paul Fix brought Burt Kennedy’s script to Batjac, better than anything Wayne had read since The Searchers - which he’d just finished, so too early for another vengeful Western. When Cooper, Joel McCrea and Robert Preston passed, Mitchum tried to buy the project. Finally, as producer, Duke rescued Scott’s fading career with this first of five (hackneyed) Westerns with director Budd Boetticher - all written by Kennedy for Wayne… who eventually let Kennedy direct him in The War Wagon, 1966, and The Train Robbers, 1972.
- Rod Steiger, Run of the Arrow, 1957. Samuel Fuller’s first film for his new Global Enteprises - but the money came from RKO where the owner insisted on Coop. “NO,” thundered Sam in his usual CAPITALS. “I need the opposite of Cooper. HATEFUL. A MISFIT. SEE, MY FILM’S ABOUT A SORE LOSER, NOT A GALLANT HERO. I want this newcomer, Steiger. HE’S GOT A SOUR FACE. AND A FAT ASS.” (And was mule-headed on the set).
- Spencer Tracy, The Old Man and the Sea, 1958. There was only one Hollywood vieux - as Tracy’s counterpart, Jean Gabin, was known in Paris. And yet Coop thought he had a deal in 1952 with his pal, novelist Ernest Hemingway. Maybe so. Just not once Tracy was free of his MGM contract.
- William Holden, The Key, 1957. Making his first (UK) production for Columbia, the formerly blacklisted writer-producer Carl Foreman had a dream - re-uniting Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, unseen together since For Whom The Bell Tolls in 1943. Never happened, but Holden and Sophia Loren did. (Cooper, of course had won his 1953 Oscar in Foreman’s final Hollywood film: High Noon).
- Peter Finch, The Nun's Story, 1958. It was Coop, in fact, who gave the book to Fred Zinnemann - in thanks for High Noon.
- Burt Lancaster, The Devil's Disciple, 1958. Plan A was Cooper as the Reverend Anthony Anderson with the 31-years younger Elizabeth Taylor as his wife, Judith. Coop was not a well man and the co-boss of Hecht-Lancaster Productions took over the character based upon Peter Muhlenberg, “The Fighting Parson of the American Revolution.”
- Robert Mitchum, The Sundowners, 1958. Medics ruled against his stomach ulcer traveling as far as Australia. As it was, it traveled into cancer. Mitchum jumped at the chance to work anew with Deborah Kerr after Heaven Knows Mr Allison, 1956 - and insisted she had top billing. They made two more films together: The Grass Is Greener, 1960, and Reunion at Fairborough, TV, 1985.
- Bing Crosby, High Time, 1959. Or Big Daddy when director Blake Edwards prepared it for Coop.He was, however, terminally ill. Everything was revamped for Crosby, including an aptly named Oscar nominated song: “The Second Time Around.”
- John Wayne, Hatari! 1960. Or Africa when Howard Hawks first started musing upon a safari saga during his European break... of four years. Wayne signed on for Tanganyika or Bring ’Em Back Alive or Africa Roars or Untamed for $750,000 and 10% of the profits. Hawks made a messy hotch-potch of his own (and others) movies for his $300,000 and 50%.
- John Wayne, The Comancheros, 1960. Director Michael Curtiz’s final feature was first planned for Cooper and Burt Lancaster as a follow up to their successful Vera Cruz. But Coop died and the script was rejigged for Duke and… Charlton Heston. No, no and no! Following his Ben-Hur Oscar, Chuck had finished with second-fiddling… and so in came Stuart Whitman, from the terminally ill Curtiz’s previous film, Francis of Assisi. Curtiz was so ill, that Wayne directed half the Western, produced by his old Republic director George Sherman In the 1963 re-make, Rio Conchos, Whitman played Duke’s rôle!
- Gregory Peck, The Guns of Navarone, 1960. Hardly suprising that writer-producer Carl Foreman would think of Coop for Mallory, leader of the WWII heroes. Foreman had written High Noon… But now, Cooper was badly ill, having surgery for prostate cancer in April 1960 after it had spread to his colon.
- Arthur Kennedy, Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man, 1961. Coop was set to be the doctor father of Nick Adams when he died. Then, while the film was on location in Italy, news arrived from Ketchum, Idaho, about Hemingway’s suicide.
- Spencer Tracy How The West Was Won, 1961. Jimmy inherited the Linus Rawlings role after Coop’s death. Both veterans were totally miscast. Rawlings was 28, Stewart 54 and Cooper, 60.
- Jeff Chandler, Merrill’s Marauders, 1961. This time, Sam Fuller (co)wrote the WW11 biopic especially for Coop. “I SAW ONLY HIM as my Merrill. A FATHER-IMAGE, who could MOVE LIKE A GAZELLE, A PUMA...” Cooper as too ill and died at 60 in May. . One month later, Chandler died at 42.“GENIAL actor!” exclaimed Sam about Coop. “He had NO EGO. He talked about himself int he third person. And A GREAT CARTOONIST.”
- Randolph Scott, Ride The High Country (UK: Guns in the Afternoon), 1962. Dismayed by what happened to the Western after TV spat it out, Coop kept looking for a good ‘un to end on. However, the end came too quickly... Joel McCrea,Randolph Scott and writer-director Sam Peckinpah made it a classic. With Scott as Coop’s double-crosser redeemed in the final scene Charlton Heston (who decided to make Sam’s Major Dundee, 1965,because of it) planned a re-make with Clint Eastwood as the two “town tamers.” But, hey, Chuck needed Clint more than vice-versa.
- Marlon Brando, The Chase, 1965. A decade before producer Sam Spiegel star-smothered it to death, Cooper bought the rights to Horton Foote’s soap-opera-esque thriller. To be the sheriff hunting Montgomery Clift’s escaped con. Brando played the sheriff - beaten up, of course, and worse than in On The Waterfront or Two Eyed Jacks. He didn’t come cheap: $750,000, plus $130,000 for his Pennebaker company and a role for his older sister, Jocelyn. Doesn’t seem right whatever which way around, but Brando played another ex-Cooper role in A Countess From Hong Kong, 1967 - for Chaplin.
- Kirk Douglas, The Way West, 1966. Cooper bought the rights to AB Guthrie Jr’s Pulitzer Prize winning Western saga. And suggested Howard Hawks buy Guthrie’s The Big Sky. Neither made either.
- Robert Mitchum, The Way West, 1967. In the late 50s, producer Harold Hecht first envisaged Burt Lancaster and Jimmy Stewart being saved by Cooper on the 1843 wagon trail to Oregon. Coop was ill - dying.
- Marlon Brando, ACountess From Hong Kong, 1967. Brando and Loren had been set in the 30s for Çoop and Mrs Chaplin, Paulette Goddard. Ironically, Brando's partner in his Pennebaker company, George Englund, had started in the film business with Chaplin's son, Sydney - also in the film. Brando called Chaplin the nasty, sadistic asshole from Hell. “And I’m being kind.”
- Lee Marvin, Paint Your Wagon, 1969. MGM boss LB Mayer’s choice when mounting a Cinerama version just before his 1957 death.
- Gregory Peck, Shoot Out, 1971. Back in the 50s, director Henry Hathaway wanted Coop as the bank robber, fresh out of jail and on the vengeance trail.
- Philippe Noiret, Il deserto dei tartari, Italy-France-West Germany, 1976. French realisateur Claude Sautet worked for four months with Italian scenarist Dino Buzzati, adapting his novel - an allegory for a man, life, destiny and all that jazz in a desert. They quit when their producer wanted Coop as the old general. (They must have seen him stumbling, crumbling through They Came To Cordura, 1968). Valerio Zurlini made the final film.
- Liam Neeson, Ethan Frome, 1993. Bette Davis pushed hard to film the novel in 1947 - five years before Neeson was born - as Warners toppled into an artistic and financial slough.