Robert Preston

  1. John Howard, Disputed Passage, 1938.      Howard picked up the stethoscpe dropped by Preston for the medical soap by author Lloyd C Douglas, more renowned for The Robe and Magnificent Obsession.
  2. Ray Milland, Hotel Imperial, 1938.    Well, it had started in January ’36 with Charles Boyer and Marlene Dietrich. She was far from happy. Got rid of the producer. Ordered a re-write. And a new titile – I Loved a Soldier. But she never got on with director Henry Hathaway. Shooting stopped, the Boyer-Dietrich footage was junked. Everything started over with Margaret Sullavan – until breaking her arm. Enter: Italy’s Isa Miranda. New director Robert Florey made chemistry tests of Isa with Milland and Preston. By which time it was October, 1938.
  3. Richard Carlson, Fly-By-Night, 1941.   Stupid title (the axed Dangerous Holiday was better) for a pretty nifty B-thriller Hitchcock wannabe which saw Albert Dekker, Patricia Morison and Preston churned into Albert Basserman, Nancy Kelly and Richard Carlsen as the typical Hitchcockian hero – an ordinary guy in an extraordinary circumstances. (Yes, with a lovely lady).
  4. John Wayne, The Shepherd of the Hills, 1940.    The age of contenders for the vengeful “Young Matt Matthews” fluctuated. Preston was 22, and John Garfield and Tyrone Power, 27… before Wayne, at 33, made it his first colour Western. “A lachrymose bore,” said the New York Times.
  5. James Craig, Seven Miles From Alcatraz, 1942.  Paramount changed its corporate mind about loaning Preaston to RKO. So it was Craig who escaped Alacatraz… when (get this!) scared od stiff of another Japanese attack after Pearl Harbour. As if a US prison would be their #2 target. Craig looked good, acted bad. MGM only took him, on because he resembled Clark Gable – far away in WWII.
  6. Alan Ladd, This Gun For Hire, 1942.      Rejected for being too tall (!) for Graham Greene’s hit-man, Preston worked on Ladd’s test. “Just ran over the lines with him.   He was obviously going to have the role – even without the test.   He was an awfully good actor. People never realised just how good.”   Robert’s recompense: the   romantic lead, giving Veronica Lake her first screen kiss
  7. Eddie Albert, Lady Bodyguard, 1942.       For Preston read Albert as the test pilot sold a $1,000 policy which got typed up as $1m. And so, for Ellen Drew read Anne Shirley as the insurance woman having to keep him on the ground until sorting the mess out.
  8. Gary Cooper, For Whom The Bell Tolls1942. All the big names were shaken off the A Tree – including Preston, Robert Donat, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Ray Milland, Tyrone Power. Because Ernest Hemingway insisted on Coop and Ingrid Bergman – he’d had them in mind when writing the book.
  9. Dennis O’Keefe, The Story of Dr Wassell, 1943.     CB De Mille lost four of his war drama cast – Alan Ladd, Henry Wilcoxon, Bruce Lester, even CB’s son, Richard – when they signed up for the real WWII. After Ladd,  Preston was given Hoppy Hopkins, but also joined up. Dana Andrews, Alan Baxter, James Brown, Michael O’Shea, Walter Reed, Barry Sullivan, Richard Whorf were seen but O’Keefe won the  wounded sailor inspired to live by the love of a native nurse nicknamed Three Martini.
  10. Howard Da   Silva,   Unconquered,   1947.     Preston refused to play heavies but soon produced a moustache to do so in Blood   on the Moon and Whispering Smith, 1948,

  11. Gregory Peck, Twelve O’Clock High, 1948.     
    The greatest Hollywood fiction of USAF WWII pilots, often unfairly compared to the  weaker  Command Decision – which js why Peck nearly passed.  “Duke told me he’d turned it down,” recalled Peck.  “And I seized it!”   Just not that fast… Clark Gable was extremely keen on General Savage (he made Command Decision, instead). Peck read it again and  was also won over by director Henry King’s empathy for the subject. King was a pilot, himself, and he would helm five more Peck  films). “A fine film,” said Peck, “much honoured  and  respected,  about the psychological stress of total involvement of these men.” Too honest for such a gung-ho movie-hero as John Wayne. This was Peck’s finest hour; forget To Kill A Mockingbird.  Seeing him glued to his chair in a catatonic state of battle-fatigue made one helluva impression on me when I saw it in, hell, I was 11 years old!  It marked me for life.  It also affected Rian Johnson, who called it an influence on his Star Wars:  Episode VII – The Last Jedi, 2016. Others in the Savage loop were Dana Andrews, Ralph Bellamy, James Cagney, Van Heflin, Burt Lancaster, Edmond O’Brien – and three-bobs-worth of  Roberts: Montgomery, Preston and Young.

  12. Randolph Scott, Seven Men From Now, 1955.    Actor Paul Fix brought Burt Kennedy’s script to Batjac, better than anything Wayne had read since The Searchers . Having just completed that John Ford classic, Duke had no use for a second vengeful Western. When Preston and Joel McCrea passed, Robert Mitchum tried to buy the project for himself. Finally, as producer, Duke rescued Scott’s fading career – with this first of seven films (programmers, really) with director Budd Boetticher – all written by Kennedy for Wayne… who eventually let Kennedy direct him in The War Wagon, 1966, and The Train Robbers, 1972.
  13. Peter Sellers, The World of Henry Orient, 1964.     Henry Orient is a celebrated pianist. Hey, why not get The Music Man

 Birth year: 1918Death year: 1987Other name: Casting Calls:  13