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Frances Dee (1907-2004)

  1. Virginia Bruce, Sky Bride, 1931.  When the damsel called Ruth was  built up, poor Dee was dropped down to a walk-on as Brucesoared where most players  fell in Paramount’s tribute (scripted byJoseph L Mankiewicz among others) to “those courageous adventurers in the clouds... the barn storming stunt fliers... true pioneers of aviation.”One of them, Leo Nomis, was killed during a spin around flying stunt in the movie.
  2. Helen Gahagan, She, 1934. RKO wanted Mr and Mrs Joel McCrea and settled for Randolph Scott and Helen... A huge flop, it was her first and last film. Mrs Melvyn Douglas turned to politics, serving two terms in House of Representatives. Her 1950 bid for the Senate was crushed by a nefarious campaign by her opponent, Richard Nixon. Or as Helen was first to call him... Tricky Dicky.
  3. Patricia Ellis, Hold 'Em Yale, 1934.  The choice for the top-billed, sploit heiress Clarice Van Cleve was said to be a “toss up” between Dee and Bette Davies. The suits must have tossed another coin because Ellis won her - and Buster Crabbe.
  4. June Lang, Nancy Steele Is Missing, 1936.   Exploiting the Lindbergh baby kidnapping in a convoluted manner, the drama had Nancy meeting her kidnapper 20 years later and believing him to be her father. (I did say convoluted!). Among the potential Nancies were: Dee, Francis Farmer, Jean Parker and Jane Wyatt.
  5. Vivien Leigh, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
  6. Olivia De Havilland, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
  7. Joan Bennett, The Man in the Iron Mask, 1939.    Variety reported that Dee and Sigrid Gurie were tested for the Alexandre Dumas heroine,  Maria Theresa, opposite the titular Louis Heyward - in a change of pace for Frankenstein  director James Whale. (Ironically,  his cast included the debut of Peter Cushing - Hammer’s Professor Frankenstein six times during 1956-1973). 
  8. Ginger Rogers, Tales of Manhattan, 1941.    Or Tails, at first, as the anthology tales were - flimsily - linked by a tail coat passed from one to another. For the second stanza, Dee and her husband  Joel McCrea became Rogers and Henry Fonda. In all, six vignettes (WC Fields’ was cut until DVDays) by 20 writers (only a  dozen credited) from 40 bought stories. 
  9. Betty Field, The Southerner, 1945.     Dee and husband Joel McCrea saw few prospects in a film about poor farmers. Even if the great Frenchman, Jean Renoir, was directing!  Worth about $100m, the McCreas made four lightweight movies before he  died on their 57th wedding anniversary.
  10. Gloria Stuart, Titanic, 1997.

 





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