Robert Morley

  1. Raymond Massey, The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1934.   Laughton was  offered  Chauvelin. Laughton sdid not agree. Future  roles for the very English Morley included George III, Louis XI and… the Emperor of China!

  2. Charles Laughton, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1938.      Director William Dieterle’s one and only titular choice was Laughton.  However, he was trying to set up a  Cyrano De Bergerac at MGM.  Before that dream collapsed  and he signed on as Quasimodo, RKO looked at the obvious (Bela Lugosi or Lon Chaney Jr) and  the intriguing… Morley, Claude Rains and even Orson Welles. 

  3.  Cary Grant passed  on WWII heroics, leading to the Hollywood debut of not only the Austrian Henreid but the French Michèle Morgan.  Also up for the WWII French Resistance leader Paul Lavallier were fellow Frenchies Charles Boyer and Jean Gabin (Morgan’s co-star in  the classsic Le quai des brumes, 1938). Also, Hollywood’s Thomas Mitchell  and –  somewhat  surprisingly –  the unprepossessing Brit, Robert Morley.  Well, then again, he had been  the French  king Louis XVI in MGM’s Marie Antoinette in  1937.  
  4. Peter Ustinov, Quo Vadis, 1950.        Took America 26 years to film Henryk Sienkiewicz’s 1895 epic novel about ancient Rome. MGM won the rights in 1925, with Wallace Beery in mind for Nero in 1935. Amid the 1942  promise of  “176 speaking parts and 30,000 extras,” the choice was between  Broadway star Alfred Lunt, Orson Welles.  By 1943, it was Charles Laughton, the Nero of Paramount’s 1932 Sign of the Cross… then, Morley in 1949.   Ustinov was Oscar-nominated in 1951.
  5. James Robertson Justice, Doctor In The House,  1954.        Bombastic surgeon Lancelot Spratt’s great  “What’s the bleeding time?” joke passed to JRJ when Morley grumbled about money.  He was too rich for producer Betty Box’s budget.  “Then I remembered dear old Jimmy Justice –  he doesn’t have to do very much except be himself.” And for a tenth of Morley’s £15,000 fee.  And so began her smash-hit Doctor series ruling the British comedy scene until her husband, Peter Rogers, took over with his Carry On series. Morley proved cheap enough as Spratt’s brother in Doctor In Trouble, 1970.
  6. Sebastian Cabot, Kismet, 1954.  For the much-filmed 1911 Edward Knoblock play – Aladdin meets MGMusicals! – Morley was up for the evil Wazir. However he he was (luckily) booked elsewhere.
  7. Dennis O’Dea, Esther and the King, 1960. David and Bathsheba, The Ten Commandments, Solomon and Sheba – The Bible was big biz. Again!  Excited by her huge trtiumph in Samson and Delilah, 1948 (she stole the entire epic), Lamarr agreed to headline The Story of Esther for the Brits (with Glenn Ford, of all non-Biblical  faces, as Ahasuerus. (Say that in a hurry and people say: Gusenheidt). CB DeMille, who directed her Delilah, had wanted her as Esther opposite Robert Morley as Mordecai way back in… 1939!  Neither project happened until Joan Collins and Richard Egan were directed by Raoul Walsh (and Martin Ritt) in Rome. Fox changed the title as it was already shooting The Story of Ruth…  The very English Morley became the very Irish O’Dea as the  very   Jewish  Mordecai in  the Raoul Walsh version.


 Birth year: 1908Death year: 1992Other name: Casting Calls:  7