Richard Widmark

  1. Robert Walker, Bataan, 1942.    New in from Broadway, Widmark was  nearly Purckett, among Robert Taylor’s WWII suicide mission  in the Philippines. It was another four years before Widmark finally his screen debut– unforgettably, as the cackling killer Tommy Udo  –   in Kiss of Death
  2. Kirk Douglas,The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers, 1946.      Director Lewis Milestone tested five actors – and, paradoxically, chose Widmark’s replacement in the Broadway play, Kiss and Tell.
  3. Jim Davis, Winter Meeting, 1947.   Bretaigne Windust, an unknown French director (better on stage) had been foisted on poor Bette Davis for this interminable weepie. He turned down four potentials for her wannabe lover, a wannabe priest (!().  Two tough guys: Burt Lancaster and Richard Widmark. And two musical stars: singer Gordon MacCrae and dancer Gene Nelson.  And so, war hero Lieutenant Slick Novack became Jim Davis, the future Jock Ewing in Dallas, 1978-1981.  He was way better in his test. than In the  movie, ”He was lost,” said Bette, “and openly admitted it.”  Result: Bette’s biggest flop. Worse, she was stuck with Windust on her next outing, June Bride. A rare comedy for her. Her third turkey in a row as the post-war public changed its needs.  By now she was 40 – looking 50 – and going downhill. Fast.
  4. Richard Basehart, Fourteen Hours, 1950.    As Howard Hawks couldn’t make the-man-on-the-ledge thriller his way – as a comedy with Cary Grant hiding on the ledge when his lover’s husband comes home early! –  Henry Hathaway was offered Widmark for the distraught young man threatening to jump from a New York hotel’s  16th floor. An “entirely fictional” story based on how the NYPD  spent hours trying to persuade John William Warde  from  doing exactly that on July 26, 1938. The release was  postponed for six months after Fox chief Spyros Skouras’s daughter leapt to her death on the actual day of the media preview. Basehart was too old but won praise – and La Strada – from Fellini.
  5. Hugh Marlowe, Rawhide, 1950.   Change of the bad guy  Zimmerman  for the Tyrone Power  vehicle driving a Western into film noir.   One working title got it right. Jackass Mail
  6. James Mason, The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel, 1951.      Soon after The New York Times announced Kirk Douglas for the titular role, a Fox memostated Widmark was “chiefly mentioned as Rommel.” Mason made it his own – and reprised the WWI German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in a second Fox film, The Desert Rats, 1953. The first film has the worst screen Hitler:Luther Adler was so Jewish, he almost said already…
  7. Tyrone Power, Diplomatic Courier, 1951.     Since Power got back from WWII in 1946, his Fox bosses worked him hard. (Well, he was a Marine). Twelve films in five years, including pinching this one first aimed at Fox’s  new guy, Widmark… also home from the war.  
  8. Robert Ryan, The Naked Spur, 1952.      MGM first wanted Widmark, then Robert Horton as Ben – target of bounty hunter James Stewart. In  another of his fine Anthony Mann Westerns.  Finally,  Ryan  was loaned from RKO.
  9. Victor Mature, Betrayed, 1953.   Fox refused to loan Widmark, but weren’t so fussy about Mature. Among the reasons Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Richard Widmark became Clark Gable, Lana Turner and Mature in The King’s final MGMovie.… 28 years after being an extra in The Merry Widow. He’d made a lot of money for the studio. Now going freelcnce, he was after a heftier cut of the action in his final six years.
  10. Humphrey Bogart, The Caine Mutiny, 1954.     The studio wanted Widmark. Producer Stanley Kramer stuck out for Bogie as Lieutenant-Commander Philip Francis Queeg. Roll them balls!

  11. James Cagney, Love Me Or Leave Me, 1954.    Jimmy accepted what Bogie, Spencer Tracy  and Richard Widmark refused –  second billing to  Doris Day as the 30s’ shady  chanteuse Ruth Etting.  Cagney even suggested Doris for the role, far from all her future virgins. Her best work, she thought. Her fans, not so much. Doris lost an Oscar but won Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.
  12. Anthony Quinn, The Naked Street, 1955.      An earlier title was The Mobster – not the usual rôle aimed at Widmark. Producer Edward Small then turned to Bogie – with Tony Curtis as his son-in-law. And got Quinn and Farley Granger. Plus lousy reviews.

  13. Robert Mitchum, Fire Down Below, 1956.   
    When they ran Warwick Films in London, Cubby Broccoli used his Hollywood contacts  to win the stars –Alan Ladd (three times), Victor Mature (six times!), Ray Milland, Robert Taylor – and Irving Allen kept the purse-strings taut for such oldies. A mere  $200,000, per movie. Widmark  passed on this West Indies trip, but agreed to two others: The Long Ships and  A Prize of Gold – some of which was shot in London’s East End.   As  Michael  Caine, then 21, discovered. Richard Widmark  was having tea with my Mum in the kitchen!”  He was shooting in her street and she invited him  in for a cuppa…   Some 21 years later, they co-starred in The Swarm.  Or as Caine put it: “Rotten movie – great house!”
  14. Cary Grant, Kiss Them For Me, 1957.   Widmark missed Jayne Mansfield twice… “To lose one,” to paraphrase  Oscar  Wide , “may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”  Broadway play or not, that was an exceedingly suggestive titie for a film starring what Peter Cook and Dudley Moore used to call the “busty substances” of Jayne Mansfield.  Opposite  a somewhat nonplussed Grant. Widmark  had played the role in the Luther  Davis  play, but when you can get Cary Grant, you rush to  ton to sign him, disregarding  his concerns that he was too old at 53 to be US  Navy flyer. (Yeah, a oilot, again!). But hey, Tom Cruise was 56 when he shot Top Gun: Maverick, 58 when it was released in 2022.   

  15. Rick Jason, The Wayward Bus, 1957.  When Marilyn Monroe, so  cruelly scorned by her studio, astounded us in Bus Stop, Fox dusteddown John Steinbeck’s busload of Chaucerian passengers to do the same for Jayne Mansfield. (Hah!).  The main couple of the bus driver and his alcoholic wife, Alice (running a pitstop diner) went from the unlikely Franco-British Charles Boyer-Gertrude Lawrence to Marlon Brando-Jennifer Jones to Robert Mitchum-Susan Hayward to Richard Widmark-Gene Tierney to, finally, Rick Jason-Joan Collins.  Incidentally,  Marilyn’s bus driver, Robert Bray, turned up here as a chopper pilot hovering around  Joan Collins. (He then blew his career by refusing South Pacific).

  16. Kirk Douglas, Gunfight at the OK Corral, 1957.       Director John Sturges always saw Humphrey Bogart as Doc Holliday – both legends were dying. Sturges then moved on to Mitchum or Widmark.

  17. Dean Martin, Rio Bravo, 1958.
  18. Ben Gazzara, Anatomy of a Murder, 1958.    Two years earlier, Widmark had surprised himself – and horrified the public – as the Dauphin in Otto Preminger’s take on Saint Joan. Now the producer-director-ogre wanted him back as the army officer charged with murdering his young wife’s alleged rapist in, as New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, put it: “the best courtroom melodrama this old judge has ever seen.”  Widmark picked the wrong movie.
  19. Paul Newman,  Rally ’Round The Flag, Boys! 1958.      Something of a comic genius, Leo McCarey directed all the greats,  from  Laurel and Hardy to the brothers Marx. Now, he seemed determined to make a comedy without funny people.  Hence thoughts about Widmark before booking Paul Newman  and his wife, Joanne Woodward, who are to slapstick what Jerry Seinfeld is to Shakespeare. Newman made the gigantic mistake of trying to (over)act funny instead of playing it straight as per Jack Lemmon. Thoroughly embarrassing!
  20. Robert Ryan, Odds Against Tomorrow, 1958.     Negotiations about being Harry Belafonte’s co-star failed. By 1996, more important negotiations at the Writers Guild of America restored the script credit to the earlier  blacklisted Abraham Polonsky (plus Nelson Gidding). For author James Ellroy, this was just the best heist-gone-wrong movie ever made.

  21. Rod Steiger, Seven Thieves, 1959.  Widmark was in Fredric March’s gang planning to heist  a Monaco casino – while he  falls for stripper Anne  Bancroft. Except they became Rod Steiger, Edward G Robinson and Joan Collins –  totally outclassed by Frank Sinatra’s Ocean’s Eleven… robbing five Vegas  casinos in one night.

  22. John Wayne, The Alamo, 1960.      To satisfy his UA backers and rescue his dream movie, director John Wayne agreed to a star role, taking Davy Crockett from Widmark…
  23. Laurence Harvey, The Alamo, 1960.     …making him Colonel William Travis. Widmark preferred being Jim Bowie. Duke mortgaged home and hearth and yacht(s) to help the budget . Paid $200,000, Widmark soon got bored with Wayne, the director – better with cameras, lenses, stunts and editing than actors. Harvey took over Travis for $100,000… And loved to called Wayne…  Dukey. 
  24. Dirk Bogarde, The Singer Not The Song, 1961.     A better idea than Dirk Bogarde’s absurdly camp bandito. “I had a great love affair with myself,” Bogarde admitted years later. “Can you believe not one single person in that bloody [Rank] Organisation knew what I was up to.” More like if they did, they did not dare say anything to Rank’s #1 contractand box-office star – already in tears over imagined problems.
  25. Reginald Kernan, 100.000 dollars au soleil, France-Italy, 1963.     Realisateur Henri Verneuil wanted the Hollywoodian for his American truck-driver, but the budget only allowed for Kernan – in his fourth and final movie. knew it was a vehicle for co-stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Lino Ventura.
  26. Stephen Boyd,  Poppies Are Also Flowers (aka The Poppy is Also a Flower), TV, 1965.  Werner was originally in the international-star-packed TV drama specia, (financed by the United Nations and the Xerox Corporation) about the UN work in curbing  the global flow of illegal opium.  Director Terence Young writer Ian Fleming  (the 007 creator , who died before completing his script) worked for free while all of the international star line-up  got (from Marcello Mastroianni  and  Angie Dickinson to Rita Hayworth  and Harold Sakata (aka Oddjob), plus narrator Grace Kelly – her first film work since becoming Princess Grace of Monaco in 1956)   were paid a symbolic  $1 each. Widmark had been set for Coley Jones.
  27. Robert Mitchum, The Way West, 1967.       “Dick didn’t want to do it,” recalls director Andrew V McLaglen, “so they swopped roles.”  Widmark hated to be called Dick. 
  28. Charles Bronson, Adieu l’ami, France, 1968.     Alain Delon wanted Widmark but he took one look at the scenario in Paris and left.  Film executive Sandy Whitelaw was behind the Bronson casting – which made him a Euro and soon enough global star.
  29. Milo O’Shea, The Adding Machine, 1969.        Two years earlier – just after sundering his usual image by playing The Dauphin in Otto Preminger’s Saint Joan – Widmark was announced as the human adding machine being replaced at work by a mechanical adding machine in the weak UK film version of Elmer Rice’s play.
  30. Jean Yanne, Le Saut de l’ange, France-Italy, 1971.     Yves Boisse  wrote to Widmark the kind of fan letter any Hollywood star would cherish from a French auteur. He had an ulterior motive.  ”I’d love to work with you” – and he enclosed his latest scenario. The reply, according to Yanne, was brutal. “I haven’t fallen so low that I have to accept a film from an unknown director in an equally unknown country.” A dozen years on, Boisset persuaded Lee Marvin to join his 18th thriller, Canicule (US: Dog Day).
  31. John Huston, Momo, West Germany-Italy, 1986.     For Hora, the Master of Time,“a mixture between The Deadra  and the mystery fantasy figure, the spender of time,” director Johannes Schaf wanted a veteran actor, “a little out of the ordinary, able to change his image, like Guinness or Widmark.” He was even thinking of a woman when Huston signed on… fopr his fi al film.  This was my  second and last meeting with the great  Huston – second and last visit to Rome’s Cinecitta studios,  as well.   One helluva day.
  32. Eli Wallach, The Deep, 1976.  In author Peter Benchley’s follow-up tp Jaws, all the villains were black. Not a good plan for a movie, pointed out producer Peter Guber In his diary (published before he’d seen the final cut of the movie!). Scenarist Tracy Keenan Wynne solved the problem by having Robert Shaw’s old friend turning against him and   joining the villainous Louis Gossett . ”All we have  to do is find an Adam Coffin that can convincingly make such a turnaround and take the audience with him.” After juggling with Sterling Hayden, Robert Tessier and  Richard Widmark, –  enter Eli Wallach.  Guber’s thornier problem was not the Jaws 2 the makers and public hoped for.
  33. Raymond Burr, Delirious, 1990. 
    “I am so flattered,” said The Silver Fox. He’d played the racist, ”the biggest lowlife creep I’d ever seen,” in Sidney Poitier’s 1949 debut, No Way Out, made by Tom’s father, Joseph L Mankiewicz. So it was with some regret that Widmark added:   “I don’t want to act anymore particularly. I’m a good actor but I don’t think I’m really good at this kind of  comedy, with the kinds of people you’re going to be hiring.” Oh really? They proved to be John Candy, Mariel Hemingway, Emma Sams, Jerry Orbach, Robert Wagner and – although his agent swore his client  he didn’t want to make films any more,, “so forget it”  – Raymond Burr.

  34. Max von Sydow, Until The End of the World, 1991.        Another German director, Wim Wenders, tried all the vets (Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, etc) to be Sam Neill’s father in the globe-trotting film. Widmark had retired the year before at age 76 – and meant it. He later wed Henry Fonda’s third wife, Susan Blanchard, at 84.

 Birth year: 1914Death year: 2008Other name: Casting Calls:  34