Marjorie Main

  1. Georgia Caine, Remember The Night, 1939.   Barbara Stanwyck’s mother was rapidly recast after Main “played it just like a crazy woman,” reported director Mitchell Leisen’s secretary, Eleanor Broder. “She lost all control…  It just wasn’t real. After one take, I remember asking her if she needed some smelling salts.” Wasn’t a director supposed to notice and change that – on the set. (At the time, Main  – the future Mat Kettle – was in her long affair with another top character actress Spring Byington)..  Caine, from San Francisco, made 88 films in 20 years – one role less than Main  scored since 1929.
  2. Flora Robson, Bahama Passage, 1940.      Shooting in the the British West Indies mean Brits had to have roles. Hence Robson as Sterling Hayden’s mother. The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther liked to see films with the public and reported his audience “laughed at the more ‘dramatic’ moments and even cheered when poor Miss Robson passed away.” They would have hollered even more at the original title. Dildo Cay.
  3. Fay Bainter, Salute to the Marines, 1942.     Main, Van Johnson, future director Richard Quine and Lewis Stone were first announced by MGM as Wallace Beery’s co-stars for the flag-waving patriotism.
  4. Spring Byington, Gentle Annie, 1944.   All change when director Woody Van Duke fell ill after a month’s shooting in 1942. Main, Susan Peters, Van Johnson (as Violet Goss!) and Charley Grapewin became Byington, Donna Reed, Paul Langton and John Philliber for new helmer Andrew Marton in ’44.   Only James Craig and Morris Ankrum remained aboard – but in new roles. Indeed, Craig took over the lead from Robert Taylor.
  5. Una Merkel, Rich, Young and Pretty,1950.   Change of  Wendell Corey’s housekeeper – in the  screen  debuts of Vic Damone and Fernando Lamas.  Pretty as they were, the title role belonged to Jane Powell! “Marjorie Main looked like she hadn’t taken a bath in six months.,” recalled Margaret O’Brien, who made Bad Bascomb with her in  1945.  “Yet, she was a neat-freak. She’d go around looking for dust. Picking it up or wiping it off, whatever. She was also crazy as a loon. She had once been married but her husband was long dead. Yet she still talked to him – or to his ghost, just like he was there, which he wasn’t. She had a place for him at lunch and babbled on to this corpse – it was bizarre.”

 Birth year: 1890Death year: 1975Other name: Casting Calls:  5