Joseph Cotten (1905-1994)
- Cary Grant, The Philadelphia Story, 1940. “Who couldn't fall in love with Joseph Cotton?” said Katharine Hepburn. “He's handsome. Talented. And oh, so charming.” But he was not enough... During the Broadway run of the play, she has simultaneous affairs with both co-stars, Joe Cotton and Van Hellin, Both expected to be in the movie,. Both were disappointed. She did better!
- Paul Henreid, Casablanca, 1941.
- Don Ameche, Heaven Can Wait, 1942. The Broadway play opened for Christmas 1934. Eight years later, producer-director Ernst Lubitsch had talks with Cotten about playing Henry Van Cleve… the ladies’ man discussing his life and loves with Laird Cregar’s Satan. To Lubitsch’s surprise, Ameche proved as perfect as the film.
- Michael O’Shea Lady of Burlesque, 1942. The lite title for the famous stripper Gypsy Rose Lee’s novel, G-String Murders, after censors forbade it - and queried the use of “this extremely intimate female garment” as a murder weapon! Producer David O Selznick suggested Cotten as the lead opposite… well, Gypsy was tested and had everything that a stiff Barbara Stanwyck did not.
- Sonny Tufts, Government Girl, 1943. Change of the naive politico Ed Browne in the lame comedy about the $1-a-year volunteers for Washington work during WWII. Sole surprise is the scenarist. Budd Schulberg. And, of course, all together now… Sonny… Tufts???!!!!
- Robert Young, The Enchanted Cottage, 1944. As RKO took 15 years trying to re-make the 1923 movie, directors changed from Jean Renoir to John Cromwell, and the battle-scarred hero from Cotten to Young after Alan Marshal quit following a “nervous collapse.”
- Gregory Peck, Spellbound, 1944. Hitchcock and Mr Cardboard, Part One. Having enjoyed him so much in the favourite of his films, Shadow of a Doubt, 1943, Alfred Hitchcock picked Cotten again - and then again for The Paradine Case. Hitch regretted using him in Under Capricorn, 1948, when he really wanted Burt Lancaster. Next, Cotten was seen by Hitch for Tom Helmore’s Vertigo, 1957.
- Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944. Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick gave up after two years and sold out to Fox when he couldn’t find the perfect (all too perfect) hero, Father Francis Chisholm. Contenders included Cotten, Dana Andrews, Maurice Evans, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Dean Jagger, Gene Kelly, Franchot Tone, Spencer Tracy, Orson Welles… plus the most unlikely Catholic missionaries of all: Alan Ladd and Edward G Robinson! Auteur Joseph L Mankiewicz signed Peck in July 1943 for his second film - and first Oscar nomination.
- Gregory Peck, The Paradine Case, 1946. Hitchcock and Mr Cardboard, Part Two. This time it was Peck assisting a murder suspect. Hitch finally won Cotton for his favourite movie, Shadow Of A Doubt, 1942 - and regretted using him in Under Capricorn, 1948,when he really wanted… Burt Lancaster!
- James Stewart, The Greatest Show on Earth, 1951. Three years before CB De Mille made his old dream of a circus film (and inspired a six-year-old Phoenix kid named Spielberg to make movies), the Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick planned risking $6m on a big top number named after the slogan of the Ringling Bros circus. The DOS line-up would have featured Cotten, Jennifer Jones, Louis Jourdan, Dorothy McGuire, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, Shirley Temple and Alida Valli. Obviously the CB epic was a different script, but it’s safe to surmise that the actual roles would have been much the same…
- Alec Guinness, The Swan, 1955. First sexy Rexy Harrison (s0 called), then boring Joseph Cotten were up for Prince Albert - Guinness’ Hollywood debut. And Grace Kelly’s tepid finale before playing the story for real - the film opened in the US on April 18, 1956, the day of her wedding to Monaco’s Prince Rainier. Their son is… Prince Albert! (Also the name of a penile device sex toy).
- Sidney Blackmer, Beyond A Reasonable Doubt, 1955. Ida Lupino and her husband, actor Howard Duff, and writer Douglas Morrow formed a company to film Morrow’s tale of a novelist fighting the flaws of capital punishment by framing himself for murder. Ultimately, Bert Friedlob produced it as director Fritz Lang’s last US movie.
- Humphrey Bogart, The Harder They Fall, 1955. Before director Mark Robson got his hands on Budd Schulberg’s novel, RKO chief Dore Schary had the rights and aimed the boxing expose at Cotten and Robert Mitchum - in what sadly became Bogie’s 85th and final role.
- Kevin McCarthy, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956.
“I didn’t care about the movies really. I was tall. I could talk. It was easy to do.” Katharine Hepburn said his voice was so melodious, “he could talk a gal out of her pants in five minutes.”
- Tom Helmore, Vertigo, 1957. In November 1956, Alfred Hitchcock was undecided between about the villainous Gavin Elster. Lee J Cobb or Cotten – who was Uncle Charlie in the director’s favourite film, Shadow of a Doubt, 1942. Hitch settled for Helmore as the the suave manipulator of James Stewart’s poor, acrophobiac ex-cop.
- Edmond O’Brien, The 3rd Voice, 1960. The Voice went to another member of the Orson Welles (radio) family. Welles always considered Cotten brilliant.
- Stewart Granger, The Wild Geese, 1978. One of several lastminute changes.