Douglas Fairbanks (Jr) (1909-2000)
- Lew Ayres, All Quiet On The Western Front, 1930. Some careers never recover from losing such an important film. The book’s German author, Erich Maria Remarque, was also considered to play Paul, the universal soldier.
- Lloyd Hughes, Moby Dick, 1930. Ahab was John Barrymore, vastly improving on his first version (The Sea Beast, 1926). Head brother, Jack Warner, moved Junior to The Dawn Patrol - which won him a longterm pact, with rapid Senior-like powers on scripts and directors.
- Clark Gable, The White Sister, 1932. Mr Gable is pleased to announce the birth of a (Fairbanksian) moustache… Yeas, this was the first time MGM’s new star find - since slapping Norma Shearer in A Free Soul, 1930 - sported his celebrated tash. (Well, he was subbing Fairbanks in the soap). Apart from Mutiny on the Bounty, 1934, Gable never shaved his upper lip again! He did, however, work again with the director Victor Fleming. On a little something called Gone With The Wind, 1938.
- Gary Cooper, Design for Living, 1933. Ernst Lubitsch, Ben Hecht, Noel Coward - what a creative line-up. (Well, actually the first two kept just one line from the third’s play, “For the good of our immortal souls!"). Lubitsch wanted Ronald Colman and Leslie Howard. He settled for Fredric March and Fairbanks. However, Junior Doug then got croup (and pneumonia) and Lubitsch got Coop (and perfection). Five years later, Cooper took over a role intended for Senior Doug - The Adventures of Marco Polo, 1938.
- Joel McCrea, Private Worlds, 1935. Both actors had the same agent, Frank Vincent (who also handled Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Cary Grant!). But McCrea was Gregory La Cava's pal, so no room for Fairbanks or producer Walter Wanger's choice, Robert Montgomery. McCrea started work without a contract - wound up being paid double his normal salary. Now that's an agent!
- Gary Cooper, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, 1935. Director Henry Hathaway’s first lancers were Junior Doug, Richard Arlen, Henry Wilcoxon.
- Robert Taylor, Magnificent Obsession, 1935. Lucky to escape the ten-hanky weepie.
- Leslie Howard, Romeo and Juliet, 1936. Howard was 43! Even Junior Doug was too old for Romeo at 27.
- Franchot Tone, Quality Street, 1936. Producer Pandro Berman had telephone talks Junior Doug - working in the UK - but finished up borrowing MGM’s Tone to co-star with Katharine Hepburn (in her second consecutive JM Barrie tale).
- Ronald Colman, The Prisoner of Zenda, 1936. Junior Doug as reportedly devastated when losing the famous dual role to Colman. Producer David O Selznick compensated him with the rakish Rupert of Hentzau because “nobody else stood a chance!” In a go-for-it speech, Senior Doug declared it was the best role and advised his heir on costumes. And billing! (Playing Colonel Zapt, C Aubrey Smith remarked: “In my time I've played every part in Zenda except Princess Flavia.”)
- Adolphe Menjou, Stage Door, 1936. Change of heart about the Broadway producer Tony Powell meant upping his age from Junior’s 27 summers to Menjou’s 46. He played a similar character in Morning Glory, 1932, also opposite Katharine Hepburn.
- Richard Greene, Four Men And A Prayer, 1937. For Greene, fresh in from London, this was a big deal. His first starring role, after a bit back home in Gracie Fields’ Sing As We Go, 1933. For director John Ford, it was nothing. “I just didn’t like the story, or anything about it.”
- Errol Flynn, The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1937. Senior Doug had made been to Sherwood in 1921, and Junior had no wish to be competing with him. He agreed, however, agreed to be King Richard in the 1967 musical version, The Legend of Robin Hood.
- James Stewart, Vivacious Lady, 1937. When Stewart fell ill and then had to report to his next MGMovie, Of Human Hearts, Fairbanks and James Ellison were seen as possible substitutes. Director George Stevens wisely waited until Jim was available again.
- Louis Hayward, The Man in the In Mask, 1938. Idem. Again, Pop had been there, done that Dumas tale - ten years earlier. So… not me!
- Gary Cooper, The Adventures of Marco Polo, 1938. Dad's idea. Senior Doug planned it in the mid-30s. As his star diminished, he suggested it to producer Samuel Goldwyn for Junior Doug. Sam pushed both of them out of the deal and made it as Cooper's first under his new contract. His first flop, too, after three directors tried to make sense of it.
- Laurence Oliver, Wuthering Heights, 1938.
- Richard Greene, Four Men And A Prayer, 1938. Second John Ford film for Greene that year (afterSubmarine Patrol, when he also replacedanother guy). True Brit Greene had a Fox contract and almost as much fan mail as Tyrone Power.Once back home, he was born again as Robin Hood for 143 TV episodes during 1955-1960.
- Joel McCrea, Primrose Path, 1940. Joel’s director pal, Gregory La Cava, put Junior off it by deliberately recounting the story to in such a way that his character was fairly meaningless.
- Richard Derr, When Worlds Collide, 1950. Wandering star Bellus is is on a collision course with old mother earth... Unusually, the first script (by Jack Moffitt) came complete with a cast list. Producer George Paul rewrote both. Moffitt’s choices were too pricey: Junior Doug, Ronald Colman, Susan Hayward.
- Robert Taylor, Knights of the Round Table, 1953. Junior finished up in UK films (and was knighted in 1949), but not all his London projects bloomed.
- Peter Finch, Elephant Walk, 1954. Not this one, either… First to secure rights to Robert Standish’s novel in October 1951 was Dougfair - Junior Doug’s company (formed with Alexander Macdonald). Fairbanks planned to co-star with Deborah Kerr - before selling out to Paramount in June 1952, in order to concentrate on TV production.
- Alec Guinness, The Bridge On The River Kwai, 1957.
About Doug, producer Sam Spiegel wrote to his director, David Lean: "Please react after having first overcome the inital shock." (Not sure his reaction is printable…). Sam also sussed out: Ronald Colman, John Gielgud, Cary Grant, Charles Laughton, James Mason, Ray Milland, Laurence Olivier, Eric Portman, Anthony Quayle, Ralph Richardson - and Spencer Tracy, who bluntly told Spiegel that the mad Colonel had to be an Englishman. “I can’t imagine anyone wanting to watch a stiff-upper-lip British colonel for two and a half hours,” said Guinness. Spiegel took him to dinner. “He was very persuasive.” (Of course, he was. In the 50s/60s, to “Spiegel” was LA parlance meaning: to cajole, manipulate or downright con. That’s how he won his deals, casts, women - and Guinness. “I started out maintaining that I wouldn’t play the role and by the end of the evening, we were discussing what kind of wig I would wear.”
- Charles Grodin, King Kong 1976. Who cared about Grodin...? All the publicity was attuned to beautous Jessica Lange and the 3,100 ft of hydraulic hose and 4,500 ft of electrical wiring required for the $1.7m Kong.
- Christopher Plummer, The Return of the Pink Panther, 1975. David Niven would not repeat his gentleman thief (or not until Peter Sellers was dead!). Doug took over - before being passed over. This was Prince Charles’ favourite Sellers film. “I laughed so much,” he told Peter, “that I wet the dress of the woman in the next seat.”
- EG Marshall, Superman II, 1980.
- Murray Matheson, The Twilight Zone,1982. Steven Spielberg directed Kick The Can, second of three re-made tales from the classic 50s/60s TV series. Joe Dante shot the third, George Miller the fourth and John Landis the prolouge and the conroversial first tale, Time Out, that resulted in the death of actor Vic Morow and two Vietnamese child actors Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen, during an on-set helicopter crash. Spielberg was talked out of canceling the film. He still never got Doug Jnr for old geezer learning the importance of being young at heart.
- Cesar Romero, Falcon Crest, TV, 1985-1988. Three other suave movie kings were also looked over for the billionaire Greek shipping magnate Peter Stavros (involved with Jane Wyman for 50 episodes): Junior Doug, Louis Jourdan and Gregory Peck.