Joan Fontaine

  1. Kay Sutton, The Saint in New York, 1937.     La Fontaine missed the best of the screen Simon Templars when passing her bad girl to Sutton in the first of RKO’s eight movies based on the Leslie Charteris books.
  2. Olivia De Havilland, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
  3. Martha Scott, The Howards of Virginia, 1939.   Fontaine being rushed into abdominal surgery meant a second feature for Scott. She was rhapsodic about co-star Cary Grant’s professionalism and assistance. (He even arranaged her lighting). He got the worst reviews of his career, and refused all other period pieces until The Pride and the Passion, 1956.
  4. Margaret Sullavan, Back Street, 1940.   Or as the  credits (but not the poster) put it: Fannie Hurst’s Back Street. Or, again, as French web critic Nicholas Rhodes, called it: The queen of tearjerkers. Well, Fontaine didn’t fancy it – nor producer David  O Selznick. He had rejected her as Scarlett O’Hara.  She felt this weepie was a come-down after Rebecca – and suggested Sullavant for the part in the second of three Hollywood takes on the book about a married man’s mistress being stuck in the back streets of his existence. The first couple in 1938 was Irene Dunne-John Boles, followed by Sullavan-Charles Boyer here (almost directed by Alfred Hitchcock), and Susan Hayward-John Gavin, in 1960.
  5. Laraine Day, Foreign Correspondent, 1940.      Producer Walter Wanger Alfred Hitchcock was “fat, forty, and full of fire.” But that didn’t help him land total  opposites Joan Fontaine or Barbara Stanwyck as the leading lady of the titular hero, Joel McCrea –  unjustly smeared in  Hollywood as  the poor man’s’ Gary Cooper. Discussing  the drowning  scene in the plane,  Laraine said that co-star George Sanders – such a British  gent! –  took advantage of being underwater to get his hands under her dress. Joan won an Oscar for  Hitchcock’s fourth, Suspicion, 1941.
  6. Olivia De Havilland, They Died With Their Boots On, 1942.     How to avoid Errol Flynn – twice.   Joan disliked the role of General Custer’s wife.   Her   sister made it as her eighth and last Errol Flynn movie,   while Fontaine made The Constant Nymph…   as soon as Charles Boyer replaced Flynn.

  7. Teresa Wright, Shadow of a Doubt, 1942.    
    The Sisters – Olivia De Havilland and Joan Fontaine – were short-listed by Alfred Hitchcock. But they were otherwise engaged.  He couldn’t get Cary Grant or William Powell for Uncle Charlie, either. Yet the result was forever his favourite movie. ‘We all know that,” I said when we finally met…. Hitch looked like  he was nodding off  after his good lunch.  Help!  What to do? “Hey,” I  said, “but what’s your second favourite?” He woke up,  didn’t even take time to blink:  “The Trouble With Harry,” he cried.. “But,” I yelled, “that’s my favourite!” From then on he loved me. The interview was a breeze – a  terrific experience!. Much  of Doubt was shot in Santa Rosa, next door to San Francisco  – where years later I would interview another idol. Schulz.  The father of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang.  Happy daze.

  8. Ida Lupino, Devotion,1942. Warners tackles the Brontës – and tried to borrow Fontaine to play oppoisite her sister, Olivia De Havilland, as Jane Eyre’s Charlotte and Wuthering Heights’Emily. Fontaine must have read the script. Which, as  New York Times critic Bosley Crowther complained, took ”the brilliant and bafflling” siiblings sters  and made them something out of Louisa May Alcott – “a couple of ‘little women’ with a gift.”  And the youngest, Ann Brontë, was seen but forgotten.  (Film was not released until 1946).
  9. Dorothy McGuire, Claudia, 1943.   Win some, lose some. In David Selznick’s habitual testing  games,  Fontaine won Rebecca from McGuire, but lost Claudia to her. Then, the producer lost interest, selling script and star to Fox. Finding her husband was more difficult. Don Ameche, 35, Cary Grant, 39, Franchot Tone, 38, were too old for a “child bride.” How salacious! Not really. She wasn’t Lolita but an immature 20-something aimed at Fontaine, 26, Katharine Hepburn, 36, and Jennifer Jones, 24. Dorothy McGuire repeated her Broadway role at 27, opposite an old Young, 36, in  “an altogether winning caprice,“ said TS in the New York Times. They were still together two years later for the sequel, Claudia and David.  Snore!
  10. Ginger Rogers, I’ll Be Seeing You, 1944.       Joan was the first to   succeed Ginger as Fred’s partner as A Damsel In   Distress, 1937. Now, Fontaine preferred suspension for a year while feuding with David Selznick for loaning her out for fees higher than her $17,000 Suspicion salary.   

  11. Joan Crawford, Mildred  Pierce, 1944.    Smelling another comeback, Crawford campaigned hard for the killer role touted for Barbara Stanwyck after Bette Davis spurned it. Also considered: Joan and sister  Olivia De Havilland. Plus: Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell, Ann Sheridan., Barbara Stranwyck. 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.”  Oscar voters agreed on March 7 1946.
  12. Laraine Day, Those Endearing Young Charms, 1944.      Producer Sam Goldwyn bought the Jerome Chodorov play for Dana Andrews and Teresa Wright… or Joan Fontaine. He then sold it RKO, where director Lewis Allen chose Day and Robert Young.
  13. Alice Faye, Fallen Angel, 1945.     In September 1944, Hollywood Reporter said Fontaine won  the lead.  By February ’45, it was Ida Lupino or Anne Baxter. They did not stand a chance when Faye, the Fox queen, searched through 30 scripts for her first movie in two years, decided this was the one. A new Laura! Not what she said on seeing the rough-cut and how the (Laura) director Otto Preminger cut her impact (and single song), throwing the picture to Linda Darnell – on studio chief Darryl Zanuck’s orders. Faye sped off the “Penitentiary Fox” lot, chucking her dressingrom key at the gate guard, and never worked for Fox again until she was begged to head State Fairin… 1962!
  14. Gene Tierney, The Razor’s Edge, 1946.      Sisters Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland were in the frame for Tyrone Power’s co-star on his return to Fox after three years in the US Marine Corps. 
  15. Laraine Day, The Locket, 1947.     Producer William Dozier bought Sheridan Gibney’s scenario for his wife – and then would not wait for her to be   free of another commitment and substituted Laraine opposite Robert Mitchum.
  16. Angela Lansbury, If Winter Comes, 1947.      Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick bought the morality tale in 1939 for Fontaine and Leslie Howerd – or Vivien Leigh opposite her husband, Laurence Olivier. They all passed. So did DOS, selling his rights in 1940 to UK producer Alexander Korda… who did the same to MGM, which wanted Donat and Greer Garson as the feuding Sabre couple, ultimately Lansbury and Walter Pidgeon on, for the historic first time, non-flammable film.
  17. Olivia De Havilland, The Snake Pit, 1947.    De Havilland’s sister, Ingrid Bergman, Gene Tierney  – even Ginger Rogers! –  had also been in the loop for the film – the role! – that compelled 13 states to change their mental health laws.
  18. Alida Valli, The Miracle of the Bells, 1947.      Fontaine, Barbara Bel Geddes, Greer Garson, Jennifer Jones and ballerina Ricky Soma were in the mix for the Polish actress dying upon completion of her Joan of Ark film in Hollywood. Plus the unknown Jane Garth, who played the role on-stage.Naturally, the real screen’s next Maid, Ingrid Bergman was also considered by producer Jesse L Lasky for his surprisingly limp version of Russell Janney’s novel .But wait,  for a Polish girl,  you need… an Italian!
  19. Rosalind Russell, A Woman of Distinction, 1949.     Russell, Fontaine, Jean Arthur and Loretta Young were up for the slapsticky romcom with Cary Grant – well, no, it was Ray Milland in the end. Fine, but he was no Grant and this was no Bringing Up Baby.
  20. Deborah Kerr, From Here To Eternity, 1952.

  21. Bette Davis, All About Eve, 1950.
  22. Celeste Holm, All About Eve, 1950.
  23. Angela Lansbury, Harlow, 1965.    Fontaine, Rita Hayworth (!) Patricia Neal -and Shelley Winters –  they all fled from playing Jean Harlow’s mother in one of the trashiest Hollywood biopix ever made. Joan quit Hollywood when  asked to play Elvis Presley’s mother. “Not that I had anything against Elvis Presley. But that just wasn’t my cup of tea.”  Ginger Rogers’ final film was as the mother when Judy Garland refused the rjval Harlow – no better.

  24. Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1955.

  25. Kim Novak, The Eddy Duchin Story, 1955.     Both Fontaine and Eva Marie Saint were seen for the 30s/40s’pianist-bandleader’s first wife, Marjorie Oelrichs. (She died in childbirth). Director George Sidney said he preferred Novak.  Younger, he said. And not a word about her being under contract to the film’s backer, Columbia.  Tyrone Power was an effective Duchin.   
  26. Dorothy Malone, Written on the Wind,  1956.      Due in a 1949 version with sister Olivia De Havilland and Henry Fonda. Malone won a support Oscar which did her career no good at all. Fontaine, complained Orson Welles, had “two expressions, and that’s it.” J 
  27. Jane Wyman, Holiday for Lovers, 1958.      The female roles seemed jinxed.  Or was it just the lousy script?  Tierney was set for Mary, wed to her waspish Laura co-star Clfiton Webb! – and taking their teenage daughters on a South American holiday. Then, Tierney had an emotional breakdown. Joan Fontaine replaced her –  and had her own breakdown. Head Fox Darryl Zanuck was having similar trouble with one of the daughters when he went for a real, trouble-free pro and Wyman made her first films for three years.  It led to many more.
  28. Maureen O’Sullivan, Never Too Late, 1965.     Spencer Tracy was the only thought for Harry. arry in Opposite one of a dozen choices for his wife – pregnant at 50, ho ho! From Rosalind Russell to Katherine Hepburn (“but I’m too old for Edith?”). Plus Fontaine, June Allyson, Lucille Ball, Anne Baxter, Susan Hayward, Deborah Kerr, Eleanor Parker, Ginger Rogers, Ann Sheridan. Ultimately, Warner Bros went with the Broadway hit’s duo: Paul Ford and O’Sullivan. 
  29. Angela Lansbury, Harlow, 1965.    Joan Fontaine, Rita Hayworth (!), Patricia Neal and Shelley Winters – they all fled from playing Jean Harlow’s mother in one of the trashiest Hollywood biopix ever made. Marilyn Monroe threw up when reading a previously rotten Fox version. “I hope they don’t do that  to me  after I’ve  gone.”  They  did.  With equally dumb tele-movie caricatures to equal those of the not one but eventually two Harlow horrors. Ginger Rogers’ final role was as the mother (refused by Judy Garand and Eleanor Parker) in the rIval production. No better.



 Birth year: 1917Death year: 2013Other name: Casting Calls:  29