Bing Crosby (1903-1977)
- Cary Grant, Alice In Wonderland, 1932. Crosby refused what he felt was an insult of a role - Mock Turtle. Cary did all his studio asked of him - in his13th film in two years, while waiting for the end of his contract and becoming the first star independen to studios - and making zillions.
- Fernandel, Le Petit Monde de Don Camillo/The LittleWorld of Don Camillo, France-Italy, 1952. Frank Capra saw journalist Giovanni Guareschi's 1940s' book as a musical comedy for Der Bingle - aka Father Chuck O’Malley in Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary's, 1944-1945. Fernandel’s straight version launched a series of five films over the next 14 years.
- Dick Powell, Thanks A Million, 1934. Let’s do the election right here…! First Bing, then Lawrence Tibbett were mooted for the crooner accidentally shining so much in a Gubernatorial campaign that the public want him to stand, not the drunken candidate. Working title: Sing, Governor, Sing.
- Dick Powell, Happy Go Lucky, 1942. The planned co-stars, Bing Crosby and singer-composer Edna Heard, became Dick Powell and Lillian Randolph. Not the only change. The first title was Cupid with a Beard. Honest!
- Dick Powell, True To Life, 1943. The old firm of Crosby and Bob Hope were first due as radio writers trying to save their failing show. They churned into Powell and Franchot Tone.
- 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 contenders who had played the role on-stage (Jim never stopped reviving the play in the UK and US). Other potential Elwoods were: Crosby, Jack Benny, James Cagney, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Jack Haley (The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz), even crooner Rudy Vallee.
- Will Rogers Jr, The Story of Will Rogers, 1952. When Joel McCrea refused - “I’m not qualified” - Jack Warner tested Crosby among others.
- Fernandel, Le Petit Monde de Don Camillo/The Little World of Don Camillo, France-Italy, 1952. Frank Capra saw journalist Giovanni Guareschi's 1940s' book as a musical comedy for Der Bingle - aka the world’s most famous movie priest, Father Chuck O’Malley in Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary's, 1944-1945. Fernandel’s straight version launched a series of five films over the next 14 years.
- Mel Ferrer, Oh... Rosalinda!!, 1955. Part of what UK director Michael Powell called his “Neverland cast.” They met in Paris when The Old Groane r“would talk of nothing but golf.”
- Marlon Brando, Guys and Dolls, 1955. Bing wanted it so much, he sent his attorney to producer Sam Goldwyn to plead his case. But,... case dismissed! And as the posters pontificated: Brando Sings!
- Gary Cooper, Friendly Persuasion, 1956. In 1950, Frank Capra planned Crosby and Jean Arthur as the Quaker couple. Paramount thought it too expensive (over its $1.5m ceiling) and he sold it (plus another reject,m Roman Holiday!) to Wlliam Wyler... and made two Crosby quickies. D’oh! Cooper hated his screen wife and son, Dorothy Maguire and Anthony Perkins, and the film. “A boring piece of crap,” Maybe that’s why it was Ronald Reagan’s favourite movie.
- John Rait, The Pajama Game, 1956. At Warner, it was Marlon Brando v Frank Sinatra for the lead in the musical about a pajama factory strike (!). Then, Crosby offered his services - but proved far too expensive. Enter: Broadway’s Rait. He should have stayed there.
- Burt Lancaster, The Rainmaker, 1956. Producer Hal Wallis considered Der Bingle’s entreaties, then turned to, first, William Holden, then Lancaster. Elvis Presley tested for the Earl Holliman role.
- Spencer Tracy How The West Was Won, 1961. Der Bingle was first to see a Western epic in the stories running in Life magazine. When MGM won the rights, Crosby was booked as the narrator - until Tracy’s bad health forbade any on-screen role. Other A-Listers who did not finally appear in the Cinerama epic included Brando, Cagney, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.
- Albert Sharpe, Darby O’Gill and The Little People, 1958. The half-Irish Walt Disney had been planning his dream film since the early 40s when he naturally, wanted Film City’s resident leprechaun, Barry Fitzgerald, for both Darby and the lirtle person King Brian of Knocknasheega… No, no, I’m far too old, he claimed when 59 in ’47. OK, said Disney just play the king and I’ll get Bing for Darby. Crosby and Fitzgerald had been supreme partners as priests in Going My Way, 1943, resulting in Fitzgerald making Oscar history as the (still) only actor to be nominated as Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for the same role. On March 15 1945, Crosby won actor with Barry, as always, best support. Both got plaster Oscars as all metal had gone to the war effort.
- Clifton Webb, Holiday for Lovers, 1958. A dozen years earlier, head Fox Darryl Zanuck didn’t want the gay Webb in Laura in case of bad publicity. Now the studio was buying vehicles just for Webb - and if he said No (and he should have avoided this lousy comedy), they had Crosby as First Reserve for the psychologist father taking his teenage daughters on vacation in South America. Chunky or not, Bing’s boy, Gary, was cast as Carol Lynley’s USAF guy.
- Dean Martin, Who Was That Lady? 1959. Old mates Crosby and Bob Hope saw the comedy as a kind Road to Quantico as Bing helps Bob concoct a story that he’s an FBI agent and the girl that his wife saw him kissing was… a Russian spy! No, didn’t work any better with Martin and Tony Curtis.
- Robert Preston,The Music Man,1962. Like Gene Kelly, Crosby tried to buy the rights but composer Meredith Wilson stuck with the Broadway star - making the film a disaster abroad, not even released in some territories.
- Burl Ives, Rocket To The Moon, 1966. A succession of re-writes made him withdraw from playing the super showman PT Barnum.
- Walter Brennan, The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band, 1967. Sure, said Bing, I’ll play the grandfather head of the 1888 family band - for a piece of the action. Walt Disney wasn’t having any of that nonsense! (In 1949, Crosby narrated Ichabod Crane’s story in the Disney toon, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad).
- Lee Marvin, Paint Your Wagon, 1969. When Paranount first tried to mount a version lite!
- Peter Falk, Columbo, 1971. Thomas Mitchell had been heading to Broadway as Lieutenant Columbo when he died in 1962, Bing turned down the first Columbo tele-movie in the Universal Mystery Movie series for NBC. He was just too busy for Prescription: Murder. (ie playing golf). “So,” said Falk, “it’s because of golf that I”m here.”
- Walter Matthau, The Sunshine Boys, 1975.