Olivia De Havilland
- Jean Arthur, You Can't Take It With You, 1938. Unable to borrow De Havilland from Warners - or Howard Hughes, two-timing her with her sister Joan Fontaine! - director Frank Capra called up Mr Deeds' girl. As usual, she was overly anxious, forever vomiting, requiring non-stop reassurance, as she continually fretted over her looks and got rid of teenage girl fans. "They're so young and beautiful and I'm... not!"
- Brenda Marshall, The Sea Hawk, 1939. Gimme a break, said Olivia… from swashbucklers’ ladies! Not to mention, from Errol Flynn). Enter: Marshall, born Ardis Ankerson, and William Holden’s wife during 1941-1971 and numerous extracurricular affairs on both sides. Raoul Walsh, the director in the eye-patch, said Flynn and De Havilland were “the two most beautiful people I ever photographed.”
- Virginia Bruce, Flight Angels, 1939. Suspension or no suspension, De Havilland refused to be among the airline stewardesses vying for the love of a dashing pilot with a girl in every (air)port. Hence, Warner suspended her.
- Miriam Hopkins, Virgina City, 1940. She had had enough of Errol Flynn - although she swore nothing ever happened between them during eight movies together. He was, in fact, her “15th cousin twice removed.” Everyone knew it was a dumb Western, particularly Bogie... as a Mexican bandit!
- Anne Shirley, Saturday’s Children, 1940. Jane Bryan, “Warners’ next big star,” quit to get married. Olivia was called up and immediately suspended on refusing to play.
- Mary Astor, The Maltese Falcon, 1940. Who didn’t want to be Brigid O’Shaugnessy: “I’ve been bad, worse than you could know.” She was the film noir Scarlett O’Hara and three potential Scarletts were in the mix again: Joan Bennett, Paulette Goddard, Brenda Marhsall. Also delighted at being seen were: Ingrid Bergman, Olivia de Havilland (GWTW’s Melanie), Betty Field, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Janet Gaynor, Rita Hayworth. The rest were livid about not being good enough for bad Brigid… and her just desserts. “If you’re a good girl, you’ll be out in 20 years,” Bogie’s Sam Spade tells her. “I’ll be waiting for you. If they hang you, I’ll always remember you.”
- Ann Sheridan, Honeymoon For Three, 1940. Surprising to find George Brent (who finished up as inert as Brian Donlevy) excelling in light comedics opposite Sheridan - as the couple first aimed at MacMurray and Olivia de Havilland. Then again, Brent and Sheridan married in 1942 - for exactly one year.
- Martha Scott, One Foot In Heaven, 1940. Head brother Jack Warner wanted her to co-star with Fredric March. Wary of his lecherous behaviour with his leading ladies, she got transferred to They Died with Their Boots On. With Errol Flynn. Oh no!!! Except she knew how to deal with in-like-Flynn. This was their ninth and last movie together in three years
- Barbara Stanwyck, Meet John Doe, 1940. Passed on the newspaper woman opposite the titular Gary Cooper. Ann Sheridan had been first choice. Enter: Stanwyck. One of the two reasons Cooper accepted the film, script unseen. The other was the director. Frank Capra.
- Merle Oberon, Affectionately Yours, 1940. De Havilland was shunted aside when, a third successive Bette Davis role passed to Oberon. As soon as Vincent Sherman (another of Bette’s director lovers) rejected it. He said she deeply distrusted men, needed but never enjoyed sex. "There wasn't a great deal of foreplay... or afterplay."
- Betty Field, Kings Row, 1941. De Havilland and Ida Lupino rejected the neurotic Cassandra that Bette Davis craved. (She suggested Field for the part). Laraine Day, Katharine Hepburn, Marsha Hunt, Priscilla Lane, Joan Leslie, Adele Longmire, Susan Peters were also seen for “the town they talk of in whispers,” full of murder, sadism, depravity And worse that had to be axed from Henry Bellamann’s 1940 novel: sex (premarital), sex (gay), incest, suicide... Peyton Place 16 years before Peyton Place!
- Nancy Coleman, The Gay Sisters, 1941. “I need a vacation.” So De Havilland was given a “technical suspension” and Coleman became Barbara Stanwyck’s sister, Susie Gaylord (her family was not unlike the Vanderbilt clan).
- Karen Verne, All Through The Night, 1942. Uninterested, and so the German star joined the Nazi saboteurs thriller reading more like a gangster piece - with Humphrey Bogart replacing George Raft, comme d'habitude.
- Joan Fontaine, The Constant Nymph, 1942. Arriving for lunch at Romanoff’s, director Edmund Goulding stopped by Brian Aherne’s table to chat with his pal. (He had starred in the UK version in 1933). Goulding said it was impossible to find the lead girl. He’d tried De Havilland, Wendy Barrie, Bette Davis, Jennifer Jones, Joan Leslie, Eve March, Merle Oberon, Margaret Sullivan. Head brother Jack Warner craved A Star. “She has to be consumptive, flat-chested, anemic, and 14!” “How about me?” said the the freckled miss sitting with Aherne. “Who are you?” asked Goulding, somehow not recognising his friend’s wife in a leather flight suit and pigtails (they had just flown into LA from their Indio ranch). “Joan Fontaine.” “You’re perfect!” She was 25. So what! She signed next day and called it “the happiest motion-picture assignment of my career.” Oscar nomination, included. Miriam Hopkins, Old Acquaintance, 1942. The rejected role was Bette Davis’ old friend - played by her old enemy. Director Edmund Goulding had a “heart attack” to escape the Davis-Hopkins feud. Davis just loved the scene where shook Hopkins and threw her into a chair. And never worked with her again. Although, she was the guilty party - having had an affair with Hopkins’ husband, director Anatole Litvak.
- Miriam Hopkins, Old Acquaintance, 1942. The rejected role was Bette Davis’ old friend - played by her old enemy. Director Edmund Goulding had a “heart attack” to escape the Davis-Hopkins feud. Davis just loved the scene where shook Hopkins and threw her into a chair. And never worked with her again. Although, she was the guilty party - having had an affair with Hopkins’ husband, director Anatole Litvak.
- Ingrid Bergman, Saratoga Trunk, 1943. Big Brother Jack Warner snapped up the Edna Ferber book for the hot Warner romantic team of De Havilland and Errol Flynn. But, quite simply - stupidly! - the studio kept them so busy they had no time for the project. Warner later bought another Ferber novel, also aimed at De Havilland. Giant.
- Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce, 1945. Smelling another comeback, Crawford campaigned hard for the killer role touted for Barbara Stanwyck after Bette Davis spurned it. Also considered: Olivia and sister Joan Fontaine. Plus Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell, Ann Sheridan. Crawford simply complied with Mildred’s line: “I don’t know whether it’s right or whether it’s wrong, but that’s the way it’s gotta be.” Director Michael Curtiz didn’t want to be lumbered with an old “has-been” like Crawford (as difficult asher shoulder pads). She shook him by agreeing to test, winning him over - and Oscar on March 7 1946.
- Irene Dunne, Anna and the King of Siam, 1945. “If David comes off his high horse,” said production chief Darryl F Zanuck about dealing with David O Selznick, “we will use [Dorothy] McGuire; if not, we will have practically the pick of the industry for this role”: Jean Arthur Myrna Loy - and De Havilland asked Ernest Lubitsch to intercede on her behalf. Then, DFZ added: “I forgot to mention Irene Dunne although in my opinion she is too old for it.”
- Teresa Wright, The Best Years Of Our Lives, 1946.
- Gene Tierney, The Razor’s Edge, 1946. Sisters de Havilland and Joan Fontaine were in the frame for Isabel Bradly, Tyrone Power’s co-star on his return to Fox after four years at WW11 in the US Marine Corps. Donna Reed, It’s A Wonderful Life, 1946.
- Donna Reed, It’s A Wonderful Life, 1946.
- Margaret Sullavan, No Sad Songs For Me, 1950. Columbia first planned it for Olivia - or Irene Dunne.
- Joan Fontaine, Ivy, 1946. Never such beguiling sisters...! De Havilland quit when discovering that her agent had pushed her into the literally poison Ivy - adulteress and killer - because he had a financial interest in the project. (And, anyway, she had just wed for the first time). Fontaine took over… to start her four-picture Universal deal. With their mother, Lillian Fontaine, as Lady Flora.
- Ida Lupino, On Dangerous Ground, 1950. Also in the snowy mountains frame for the blind Mary were Lauren Bacall, Faith Domergue, Susan Hayward, Wanda Hendrix, Deborah Kerr, Janet Leigh, Margaret Sullavan, Teresa Wright, Jane Wyman, - and Broadway newcomer Margaret Phillips. RKO chose well. Because, although un-credited, Lupino also co-directed the noir thriller with Nicholas Ray. In all, she helmed 41 films and TV shows during 1949-1968 when Hollywood women were just supposed to pout, pirouette and pucker up.
- Claudette Colbert, Three Came Home, 1950. Two years earlier, the LA Times reported that De Havilland would be play the Japanese POW Agnes Newton Keith. Instead, it became Colbert’s “most stimulating and happiest experience of my entire career." Despite sustaining a back injury that cost her the role of of Margo Channing in All About Eve. (“Thank God!” said Bette Davis!).
- Vivien Leigh, A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951. Elia Kazan gave in when Warner’s honcho Jack Warner preferred the double-Oscar-winner over the original Blanche, Jessica Tandy. Then Warner blew up at Olivia’s $175,000 fee and got Leigh for $100,000 to Marlon Brando's $75,000. Alone among Method-ists, the manic-depressive Viv suffered a deeper trauma than when directed by Olivier in the London stage version - erupting, said biographer Alexander Walker, "in notes of delirium and despair which echoed the very text of the madness she had embodied so brilliantly." Hence, she was in no condition for My Cousin Rachel, 1952, taken over by Olivia.
- Anne Baxter, I Confess, 1952. Alfred Hitchcock had first been intrigued by Paul Anthelme’s 1902 play, Nos deux consciences/Our Two Conscience) in the 30s. He wanted De Havilland as Ruth, but she as too important for a secondary role. Hitch’s next choice, the 1950 Miss Julie... who arrived in Quebec with her lover, writer and their baby daughter. Avoiding another Ingrid Bergman-style scandal, Hitch called up another AB, his original Rebecca choice. Bye-bye Bjork.
- Jane Wyman, Magnificent Obsession, 1953. It was Wyman’s idea to re-hash the 1935 Universal weepie. She first approached director Douglas Sirk about it. And then, whadderyerknow, Universal did the dirty and started talking to De Havilland, Joan Crawford and Eleanor Parker about being Helen Phillips… As if Wyman was going to let that happen! She didn’t get all her own way, though. Jeff Chandler fled saying the story was “soppy.” (And how!)
- Gloria Grahame, Human Desire, 1953. After Barbara Stanwyck and Rita Hayworth walked, De Havilland agreed - only opposite Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster or Robert Mitchum. When Glenn Ford was signed, she fled.
- Susan Hayward, The President’s Lady, 1952. Every American recognises Andrew Jackson, the seventh US president (1829-1837). His face is on every $20 banknote. Few know about The Jackson Scandal… living as man and wife with Rachel Donelson without realising that her divorce was never finalised. He was called a wife-stealer, his wife much else…. Irving Stone’s novel as bought by Fox when still in galley proofs - for De Havilland and Gregory Peck. They became Hayward and Charlton Heston.
- Grace Kelly, Dial M For Murder, 1954. Alfred Hitchcock lore: “A murder without gleaming scissors is like asparagus without the hollandaise sauce. Tasteless.” First of hisd three classics with his absolute perfect leading lady, Grace Kelly. It would have been more (Marnie, etc) but for her marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco.
- Elizabeth Taylor, Elephant Walk, 1954. High on the list to take over after Vivien Leigh's breakdown on Ceylon locations.
- Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1955.
- Deborah Kerr, The King and I, 1956. Up came her reliable name, after Maureen O’Hara and before Kerr.
- Lana Turner, Peyton Place, 1956. All the obvious, well, MILFS, of their day were in the frame for Constance McKenzie - in the mother and father of all movie and TV soaps. Namely: De Havilland, Turner, Joan Crawford, Susan Hayward Jane Wyman.
- Lauren Bacall, Written on the Wind, 1956. Due in a 1949 version with sister Joan Fontaine and Henry Fonda.
- Constance Ford, A Summer Place, 1958. De Havilland and Teresa Wright were seen but, frankly, the role did not need a star. Helen Jorgenson was not The Other Woman, but the Dumped Wife. As her hubby Richard Egan rekindled an old romance with Dorothy McGuire, his son and her daughter (Troy Donahue, Sandra Dee) started one… during Max Steiner’s lushest theme since Tara’s in Gone With The Wind, 1938.
- Joan Crawford, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? 1962. Producer William Frye, a great friend of Davis, unearthed Henry Farrell's book when searching material for his Thriller TV series. Recognising the potential. he wanted Ida Lupino to direct Bette Davis-De Havilland. Universal’s Lew Wasserman was not keen on Davis after an unimpressive Wagon Train TV episode. Ida told Robert Aldrich who immediately wanted Crawford. "No one," swore Jack Warner, "will pay to see those two old broads act."
- Lucille Ball, The Facts of Life, 1959. When due for De Havilland and James Stewart in 1951, the 23rd (of 26) comedies by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank just did not percolate. Uniting for a third time, Ball and Bob Hope helped supply the missing sparkle. Wasn’t all fun… Ball bruised her leg and face in a fall, Hope smashed a finger, Don DeFore injured his back, director Melvin Frank broke an ankle and the publicist got the mumps. Quipped Hope: “This film should have been shot at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital.”
Then… the soundstage caught fire.
- Gene Tierney, Toys in the Attic, 1962. “This turgid drama and his avid actors …get completely out of hand and run wild in a baffling confusion of theatrical bursts and attitudes.” Owch! That was the New York Times critic Bosley Crowther. As for Tierney, she is a blank, “a random figure in a melodramatic plot.” Obviously, director George Roy Hill was out-of-his-depth. He could not have better controlled the studio’s first, dream-wish cast. De Havilland, Katharine Hepburn, Wendy Hiller and… and Vivien Leigh!
- Virginia McKenna, Waterloo, Italy-Soviet Union, 1969. Change of the The Duchess in the enormous flop was the reason why Stanley Kubrick lost backers for his own Napoleon piece.
- Jennifer Jones, The Towering Inferno, 1974. When Olivia said no, Jones' third husband, Norton Simon, a large Fox stockholder, supported her comeback after five years away. It was her final film.