Mitzi Gaynor


  1. Tina Pine, Park Row, 1952.      Tough guy auteur Samuel Fuller financed his cut-price Citizen Kane – and lost the whole shebang: $200,000.The Press loved the newspaper story, but Darryl Zanuck was right. To win the the public Sam needed stars. For example, Mitzi Gaynor as the best loved barmaid on the famous (titular)journalism street – and Dan Dailey as the headlined Brooklyn Bridge jumper. “Hell,” growled Sam, who invariably growled in CAPITALS, “THAT’S A  MUSICAL!”Exactly what Zanuck was thinking.Which is how come Sammy paid all and lost all – $200,000.
  2. Betty Grable, The Farmer Takes A Wife, 1952.      Who else but the top Fox pin-up and musical star could take over Janet Gaynor’s 1934 wife in this (dullard) musical version from (dullard) director Henry Levin. Null and void. Earlier, Gaynor (no kin to Janet) and Jeanne Crain (in 1944) had been in the mix. Grable decided one more was enough and after How to Marry a Millionaire, sure enough, she retired.
  3. Gloria Grahame, Oklahoma, 1955.      The shows composers,   Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, wanted   her as Ado Annie, the gal who can’t say no.   But Fox could, refusing to loan   her.
  4. Leslie Caron, Daddy Long Legs, 1955.       And Fox dropped her the same   year after There’s No Business Like Show Business – preferring MGM’s gamine. So did Daddy-Astaire: “Leslie will hold up   production for many minutes (or hours) until she feels in complete control of what she’s about   to do.   I consider that a most commendable trait.”
  5. Debbie Reynolds, The Tender Trap, 1955.       Mitzi and Barbara Darrow were also in the mix for the Julie chased by Frank Sinatra. Three years later, they were thisclose to being matched anew  for  Say One For Me, 1958.   
  6. Sheree North, The Best Things In Life Are Free, 1956.      Now Fox wanted her back. She told them where to get off.
  7. Marilyn Monroe, Some Like It Hot, 1958.      Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, said Billy Wilder, was the weakest, yet most important part. He needed a good actress. A Star. He was considering Mitzi when he got a letter from Marilyn hoping they would work together again. Of course! Perfect! Wilder said she was like smoking: impossible to give up. He melted, knowing the magic she’d bring – and the headaches. Such as 47 takes of the line: “Where’s that bourbon?” (Finally shot with her back to the camera). Winning over Marilyn (for 10% of the gross) meant he could have his way regarding Jack Lemmon – in the first of seven films together during 1958-1981. Wilder never admitted he was writing Sugar for her. “They don’t like that.” So he would say: “I know you can interpret this part because you can play anything… They love that.”
  8. Shirley Jones, Bedtime Story, 1963. Or, King of the Mountain, when the comedy’s  con-men went from Cary Grant-Rock Hudson to Cary Gant-Tony Curtis to Rock Hudson-Warren Beatty to finally – incredibly! – David Niven-Marlon Brando.   Likewise the girl in the middle changed from Angie Dickinson, Mitzi Gaynor, Hope Lange or Sheila MacRae to Shirley, the recent support actress Oscar-winner for Elmer Gentry.
  9. Julie Andrews, The Sound of Music, 1964. Two years before the musical reached Broadway in 1959, Paramount secured rights to Germany’s 1956 Die Trapp-Familie – and  quickly cancelled the re-make when Audrey declined to  play the choir’s mother, Maria Von Trapp.  Fox’s 1957 South Pacific star Mitzi Gaynor then made “a whopping offer” for the musical only to be beaten by Fox which played safe by wanting either Anne Bancroft, Leslie Caron, Doris Day or Grace Kelly wed to Bing Crosby (of all Austrians!) as the Von Trapps. Later as directors changed from Stanley Donen, George Roy Hill, Gene Kelly and a deaf William Wyler to Robert Wise, TV actress Sandra Church and Fox’s 1954 Oklahoma! star Shirley Jones were potential Marias. Critic Pauline Kael famously tried to bury “the sugar-coated lie that people seem to want to eat” but it saved Fox from the near bankruptcy  of the Cleopatra debacle.

  10. Vanessa Redgrave, Camelot, 1966. 
    For his last hurrah after 45 years running Warner Bros, head bro Jack L Warner – having learned his lesson the hard way by ruining My Fair Lady – wanted the original Broadway stars to reprise their 1960 roles of King Arthur and Guenevere. Richard Burton was not keen (or not for the money on offer).  Nor was Julie Andrews, certainly not after the way Jack Warner dumped her from My Fair Lady (even though that led to her Mary Poppins Oscar).  ).  “OK, we’ll take Liz, as well,” said Warner.  And why not their mate, Peter O’Toole, as Lancelot.  However, Elizabeth Taylor was not going where Burton was not going…  Julie refused  to work with Burton’s replacement, Richard Harris. They had not got on during Hawaii  which is where he first heard about the film and started pushing to be the king.  Top candidates to succeed Julie were  Julie Christie, Petula Clark, Marianne Faithfull, Audrey Hepburn(part of her My Fair Lady deal), Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor Jan Waters. Jack Warner separately considered the way cheaper Ann-Margret, Polly Bergen, Cher, Mitzi Gaynor and  Shirley Jones. Vanessa and  Franco Nero (as Lancelot) were lovers on and off the screen. They finally wed in  2006. 


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  10