Robert Taylor

  1. Leslie Howard, Romeo and Juliet, 1935.   Absolutely preposterous…!!  The 13-year-old Juliet was played by Norma Shearer, who was 36,  opposite Leslie Howard playing Romeo…  at 43.  “It is comical watching these middle-aged folks act as high school sophomores,” said web critic Matthew M Foster at Foster on  “But even more ridiculous is Romeo’ hotheaded, class clown friend, Mercutio, portrayed by the 54-year-old John BarrymoreIt could have been far worse. Other unlikely  Romeos were Brian Aherne, Clark Gable (Romeo with a trash tash?), Fredric March, Franchot Tone, Roberts Montgomery .   The British Robert Donat, John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier (a recent hit playing Romeo and Mercutio alternately in London) made (slightly) more sense… The youngest  potential Romeo was  The It Boy, Robert Taylor… at age 25. For too young for Norma Shearer! What a sad end to Irving Thalberg’s producing career, even jf it was a love letter to his wife, Shearer – his widow months later in 1936.
  2. Charles Boyer, The Garden of Allah, 1935.     Losing the ex-Trappist monk wooing the ex-convent girl Marlene Dietrich, meant Bob was free to woo Garbo’s Camille the same year – also first set up by Selznick for Dietrich.
  3. Clark Gable,  Love on the Run, 1935.   MGM bought the short story, Beauty and the Beat, because it was a new spin on Clark Gable’s It Happened One Night.  Loy and Robert Montgomery were set as  the runaway bride and undercover reporter. Then, Jean Harlow and Montgomery, or Harlow and Taylor, and finally: Gable and Crawford… on-off lovers during 30 years and several marriages.
  4. Cary Grant, Suzy, 1935.   MGM loaned Grant from Paramount to be third banana to Jean Harlow (sans panties)and Franchot Tone. The role (and the film) was just not importantenough to offer it to Metro’s big guys: Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery, William Powell, Taylor, Spencer Tracy, Robert Young.
  5. Richard Arlen, Three Live Ghosts, 1936.  Shooting began on November 6 – and stopped two days later. The script was respun in ten days, reset at end of WWI, and when shooting restarted on November 18, the entire cast was new.  Taylor and his gal, Ann Loring, for example, became Arlen and Cecilia Parker.
  6. Leonard Penn, Marie-Antoinette,   1937.    Taylor, Herbert Marshall and Shepperd Strudwick were in and out as Toulan over the years until the  once hot project of the suddenly dead MGM production genius Irving Thalberg was knocked off in a rapid (ie. cheap) hurry by “One Take Woody” Van Dyke. 
  7. Robert Young, Northwest Passage, 1938.    Conceived as another Gone With The Wind, the film took so long in getting its act together it lost four stars to other projects, Taylor included. Only Spencer Tracy remained in what ended as just half of Kenneth Roberts’ book. Taylor remained at the studio for 25 years, beating Gable’s 24 and being the only contract star to collect an MGM pension.
  8. Cary Grant, The Philadelphia Story, 1939.    Katharine Hepburn beat Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and Ann Sheridan. But the toast of Broadway was still“box-office poison” in LA. So, MGM’s A-List went AWOL – Clark Gable, Taylor, Spencer Tracy.
  9. Laurence Olivier, Pride and Prejudice, 1939.  MGM house genius Irving Thalberg, was due to supervise his pet project – co-starring his wife Norma Shearer and Clark Gable – when the production chief tragically died at age 37. By 1939, Shearer was still aboard with Robert Donat or even  Errol Flynn(!). Another possible Mr Darcy was Robert Taylor – quickly  booked for Waterloo Bridge with Vivien Leigh who craved the Austen vehicle with her lover,  Laurence Olivier.Finally, Metro safe with Olivier opposite  Greer Garson. Olivier was very unhappy with the result. “Difficult to make Darcy into anything more than an unattractive-looking prig, and darling Greer seemed to me all wrong as Elizabeth.”
  10. Brian Aherne, Smilin’ Through, 1940.     Director Frank Borzage wanted Taylor (or James Stewart) to be, Sir John Cartertet  – played by  Leslie Howard in the first, 1932, re-make of (the first) Harrison Ford’s  1922 original.  Stewart quickly enlisted in the US Air Force. Probably because MGM  saw him as a British knight.   Co-star Jeannette MacDonald only cared about her other co-star  – husband Gene Raymond.

  11. John Hodiak, Marriage Is A Private Affair, 1942.    WEDLOCK OR PADLOCK??”  screamed the ads…  Not  good for the public, said the Production Code suits, as Judith Kelly’s novel included adultery, illicit sex and abortion. (Well, Tennessee Williams had a digit in the script).  George Cukor was due to be helming Taylor and Myrna Loy at Warner in 1941. The project was axed and sold to heMGM where, after  numerous re-writes ordered by the Production Code, Fred Zinneman was set to helm  Lana Turner and Gene Kelly.  Lana finally made it with John Hodiak but for director Robert Z Leonard.  Z is right.  MGM was no better, having planned at one time the  pairing Clark Gable and Judy Garland…   and to hell with their age difference. He was 42 to her 20! 
  12. James Craig, Gentle Annie, 1944.  Starting in October 1942, shooting was shuttered after four weeks when director WS Van Dyke fell ill. Two years on, with Andrew Marton helming, the original cast went thataway excepting Morris Ankrum – and Craig, now inheriting the lead, US Marshall Lloyd Richland, from Robert Taylor and, hunting himself – well, his original role of  the outlaw Cottonwood Goss. 
  13. Robert Mitchum, Pursued, 1947.     Duel in the Sun scenarist Niven Busch also wrote this Western for his wife, Teresa Wright, was extremely fussy about who would play the heroine’s hero. Taylor and Joel McCrea were too old! Montgomery Clift (Teresa’s choice), too young, too small.And Jack Warner absolutely refused to consider Kirk Douglas.
  14. Peter Lawford, The Red Danube, 1947. What a dfference a year makes. 1947’s Spencer Tracy, Irene Dunne, Robert Taylor, Audrey Tootter and Cyd Charisse became… Walter Pidgeon, Ethel Barrymore, Peter Lawford, Angela Lansbury and Janet Leigh. Lawford was a UK officer in the anit-Communist thriller set in post-war-Vienna. His major was known as Twingo. His girl was not Clio (nor Caddy), but Leigh as a defecting Russian refugee ballerina called Olga Alexandrova.
  15. Van Heflin, The Three Musketeers, 1948.    Charismatic musketeers – Taylor and Ricardo Montalban – were ousted for boring Heflin and Robert Coote tomake sure the the spotlight stayed upon Gene Kelly’s 19-year-old D’Artagnan. Kelly was… 35.
  16. Van Johnson, Command Decision, 1948.   Furious at having to  make The Hucksters, 1946 – he said  the book was filthy and not entertainment – Clark  Gable insisted on playing General Casey Dennis from William Wister Haines’ novel.  Gable got his way.  But he did not  win  about Taylor being his co-star. 
  17. Barry Sullivan, Tension, 1948.   MGM first aimed the terrible film noir at Taylor as the sardonic homicide cop – opposite  Richard Basehart as the wimpy chemist planning to kill his wife’s lover.
  18. Wallace Beery, Big Jack, 1948.   Like the movie (his last), Beery was not well. At one point, Taylor  and   the equially unsuitable Van Johnson were  nominated to take over the rough, tough, but golden-hearted Big Jack Horner in the black comedy Western.  Taylor was 26 years younger than Beery… who died three days after the premier in April 1949, after 19 years as MGM. 

  19. Victor Mature,  Samson and Delilah, 1948.    
    Passed  but made up for it with an epic run  in the 50s: Quo Vadis, Ivanhoe, Knights of the Round Table.  But not, as we shall see, The Robe…  .Cinemperor Cecil B DeMIlle first planned the epic in 1935 for Henry Wilcoxon and Miriam Hopkins.   Next in line, producer David O Selznick envisaged Kirk Douglas and Marlene Dietrich… By ’48, CB got serious. So did James Mason – suggesting $250,000. (DeMille showed him the door). He toyed with Roberts Mitchum, Ryan  and Taylor; ruled out  Lex Barker (he became a five-time Tarzan) and Burt Lancaster –  too inexperienced, a bad back and  “bad” politics. Other also-rans went from longtime CB acolyte John Bromfield, Rory Calhoun, Jim Davis (future father of JR in Dallas),  Errol Flynn, William Hopper (Hedda’s son!), John Ireland, Glen Langan, Willard Parker… to the youngest new evangelist in town, Dr Billy Graham!. Then, CB was telling 22-year-old Steve Reeves, to tone down his muscularity – while packing Mature  off to the gym to beef his up!  Here’s a review by Groucho Marx: “No picture can hold my interest where the leading man’s bust is larger than the leading lady’s!”

  20. Van Johnson, Battleground, 1949.   The Battle of the Bulge script about “The Battered Bastards of Bastogne” was rescued by MGM when Howard Hughes refused to OK it at RKO. Producer Armand Deutsch said Metro talked with Taylor – only to find him disinterested in anything other than a star vehicle. No ensembles! Deutsch pulled a Western out of thin air. Ambush.  Fine, said Taylor. Only it wasn’t.

  21. Gene Kelly, Black Hand, 1949.    “At the turn of the century, there were more Italians living in New York than in Rome…” As MGM upped the thriller’s status from B to A, Taylor was replaced as Giovanni (Johnny) Columbo by… a dancer!

  22. Dick Powell, The Reformer and the Redhead, 1949. Taylor and Lana Turner were switched into the great couple (on-screen and off) of Powell and June Allyson. This is was the first of their two films together.
  23. Joel McCrea, Stars In My Crown, 1949. Decisions, decisions!  In February 1948, Taylor  was set  for the soldier-turned-clergyman battling the Ku Klux Klan in a small Western township.   In  March, it was Van Heflin. Then, April came along…
  24. Van Johnson, Too Young To Kiss, 1950.   Sorry Bob,  no room for you in the fifth of six Johnson-June Allyson MGMovies.  Stupid title for an Allyson vehicle. She was 33!
  25. Peter Lawford, The Red Danube, 1949.  Another British Army officer for Lawford: Major John “Twingo” McPhimister  falling for Cyd Charisse, er no Janet Leigh’s Volksdeutsche  ballerina  in one of the first looks at the  WWII aftermath. People weren’t interested, so a massive  MGM flop.  Even with Lawford borrowing  a Taylor moustache.

  26. Errol Flynn, Kim, 1950.  
    Fourth time lucky for MGM’s desire to film the Rudyard Kipling classic 1900 adventure  about Kimball O”Hara,the orphaned  son of a British soldier  in the 1886 India under British rule. Kim posed as a Hindi beggar boy to help the UK Secret Service spy on Russian agitators.  Irving Thalberg won the rights for MGM in 1934 and a year later, the ex-Little Lord Fauntelroy, Freddie Bartholomew was  selected opposite  Lionel Barrymore as his Indian mentor, Mahbub Ali the Red Beard, in 1935.  The project was shelved for another Kipling tale, Captains Courageous, with Spencer Tracy and young Freddie – announced as Kim again in 1937, opposite Robert Taylor as Red Beard.  After various delays Mickey Rooney (like who else) was the  1942 hero  in a typically Metro all-stars  line-up of John Carradine, Laird Cregar, Cedric Hardwicke, Basil Rathbone, George Sanders, Akim Tamiroff and Conrad Veidt  WWII killed that as the script was too pro-British Empire and anti-Russia. Finally, MGM’s Boy With Green Hair, Dean Stockwell,  was Kim opposite  (a way too old and hardly Indian)  Errol Flynn. He quit King Solomon’s Mines to be Red Beard, because he didn’t fancy living  in a tent in Africa, while he had a hotel in Lucknow…  where Stockwell was doubled by a local  kid.

  27. Marlon Brando, Viva Zapata, 1952.    Scenarist John Steinbeck’s source for the Brando film was Edgecumb Pinchon’s novel, Zapata The Unconquerable – bought by Metro in 1940 for Taylor, seven years after its Wallace Beery success, Viva Villa!
  28. Richard Burton, The Robe, 1952.      Five toppermost stars were discussed for the centurion hero, Marcellus Gallio… totally regardless of age! From Spencer Tracy at 52 to Gregory Peck at 26. Plus   Gary Cooper, 51 ; Laurence Olivier, 45 ; Taylor, 41.   Burton was… 25. (Taylor had taken over an earlier toga epic, Quo Vadis, when Peck had eye trouble in 1950).
  29. Glenn Ford, Blackboard Jungle, 1954.   MGM wanted one (any!) of their remaining contract guys as the schoolteacher Dadier: Taylor or Mickey Rooney(!).  Director Richard Brooks wanted new, raw actors – and Ford looked that way in his new, ex-military buzz-cut. Among othesrs passing muster (even if more in their twenties than teens)  were Vic Morrow (beating Steve McQueen to his role), Sidney Poitier, future director Paul Mazursky and a certain Jameel Farah…  billed as Jamie Farr on TV  in M*A*S*H, 1972-1983.  
  30. Cornel Wilde, The Scarlet Coat, 1954.    First Stewart Granger, then his often co-star Taylor were selected as US secret agent Major John Bolton versus Michael Wilding in his  final (and best) MGMovie.  Within two years, Liz Taylor would also dump him. 

  31. James Mason, A Star Is Born, 1953.
  32. Richard Widmark, The Cobweb, 1954.   Original plans called for Bob webbed to Grace Kelly and Lana Turner.
  33. Rock Hudson, Giant, 1955.
  34. Glenn Ford, Teahouse of the August  Moon, 1956.  Taylor was not keen on becoming Captain Fisby. It was another ensemble, even if it was ruled on Broadway by John Forsythe’s Fisby. Sure wasn’t going to be that way in the film, once Marlon Brando decided he must play the Japanese interpreter Sakini.  (Did he not understand this was a satire about Westernising the Japanese after WWII?). Ford did a surprisingly good job of not being buried by Brando.
  35. John Wayne, The Wings of Eagles, 1956.   When John Ford was dithering about making a film about a friend, Richard Thorpe was set to direct Taylor as the US Navy pilot and screenwriter Frank W “Spig” Wead. Ford swore that everything in the movie was true. “The fight in the club – throwing the cake – I can verify that as an eyewitness. I ducked it. And the plane landing in the swimming pool right in the middle of the Admiral’s tea – that really happened.”   
  36. Yul Brynner, The Brothers Karamazov, 1957.     MGM’s idea opposite Van Heflin in 1947 – nine years before Marilyn Monroe started to prove she had read it.
  37. Dana Andrews, Night of the Demon, 1957.    Whatever certain critics praise, Hollywood’s resident realisateur Jacques Tourneur for, it was never judicious casting… He chose Rory Calhoun over Robert Mitchum for Way Of A Gaucho, 1952. And when unable to persuade Taylor or Dick Powell to join this UK horror number, the French director son of a French director father called on the star who hadn’t exactly uplifted their previous collaboration: Canyon Passage, 1946. And yet, the wooden Andrews also headed Tourneur’s next outing, The Fearmakers,1958.

  38. Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur, 1959.    
    Sword and sandal epics were in.  And producer Sam Zimbalist, who’d made one of the biggest – Quo Vadis, 1950 –  was back in Rome in charge  of the better (well, William Wyler was directing) re-make of the 1923 silent Ben-Hur, racing chariots and all.  Sam even considered retaining his Vadis trio: Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Stewart Granger. Friendly rivals Marlon Brando and Paul Newman were up for the titular Judah. Still smarting  from his  1954 debut,  The Silver  Chalice, Newman hated  ancient Rome costumes, or cocktail dresses as he termed them. Sam also short-listed  Richard Burton (from The Robe, 1953), Montgomery Clift, Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson (furious with Universal refusing to loan him out), Van Johnson (no, really!),  Burt Lancaster (an atheist with no interest in Christianity commercials,  although he had earlier tried to mount his  own version),  true Brit Edmond Purdom… plus Italians, known and unknown: Vittorio Gassman  and Cesare Danova.  MGM voted Heston, CB De Mille’s Moses in The Ten Commandments, 1954. According to “contributing writer” Gore Vidal, Willie Wyler called Heston wooden. Brando, for one, would not disagree.  Yet,  Judah Ben-Heston still won  the Oscar…

  39. Yul Brynner, Solomon and Sheba, 1959.    “No one asked could say No,” said Brynner. Except Taylor. An unlikely choice, he was among the few spurning offers to succeed Tyrone Power, dead in mid-shooting on November 15, 1958.
  40. Cary Grant, Operation Petticoat, 1959.   How Cary Grant made his most successful movie… Tony Curtis was hot. And Universal asked him what we wanted to do next (anything to keep him at the studio). “A service comedy about submarines,” said Curtis. Fine, nodded the suits, we’ll get Chandler or Robert Taylor for the captain. “No,” said Curtis. “Cary Grant or nobody.”  The Un-suits reported Taylor wanted to  be Lieutenant-Commander Matt T Sherman skipper of the Sea Tiger sub so much that he‘d give Curtis 5% of his share of the gross profits.  “No,” said Curtis. “Cary Grant or nobody.”   Curtis got his way, Grant got his biggest box-office success. Plus at least $3m.
  41. Richard Widmark, The Long Ships, 1963.  Widmark was way too old, looking ten years older than his 49, for the Viking leader Rolfe. Robert Taylor was no better – at 62!  But director Jack Cardiff thought Widmark looked more Viking.  And the American-in-London producer Irving Allen (ex-partner of Cubby Broccoli) was the best friend of Hollywood oldies – Macdonald Carey, Jose Ferrer, Rhonda Fleming, Rita Haywqorth, Alan Ladd, Victor Mature, Ray Milland, Jack Palance, Robert Taylor. They were much cheaper, of course, than the current hot-shots.  George Peppard’s agent, for example, won him a $2m pay day. Except  George had no wish to spend  six months in Yugoslavia. Taylor, 52, also came and went.    Widmark signed on as long as his pal, Sidney Poitier, played the villain. Of course. he could.  Ernest Borgnine had just refused it. Done deal!


 Birth year: 1911Death year: 1969Other name: Casting Calls:  41