Shirley MacLaine


  1. Jean Seberg, Saint Joan, 1957.     Shirley had no need of the tyrannical producer-director-ogre Otto Preminger having just completed a triumphant entry into cinema with Hitchcock’s The Trouble With Harry, Artists and Models with Martin & Lewis and Around The World in 80 Days. Anyway, at 23, she was four years older than the Maid of Orleans. Preminger’s instinct was right. Shirley would later hear voices.
  2. Natalie Wood, Marjorie Morningstar, 1958.       She tested and lost-firstglitchina runaway screen career starting with Hitchcock, Martin & Lewis and Mike Todd’s Around TheWorld in 80 Days.“Some people think I look like a sweet potato, I consider myself a spud with a heart of gold.” (Natalie had also been a rival for for Saint Joan).
  3. Barbara Nichols, That Kind of Woman, 1958.     To help make his wife a global superstar, Italian producer Carlo shoved Sophia Loren into much drek Americana.  This was the worst. Tab Hunter as her leading man. Tab effin’ Hunter!!  And no MacLaine as her pal, Jane, as she might have taken the limelight offs “My-a Sophia.” Sidney Lumet directed. By phone? No, Lumet blamed the flop on Ponti interference. “The best scenes were cut out,” he told the New York Times in 1960, “and the weak ones were left in.”  
  4. Carolyn Jones, Career, 1958.     Producer Hal Wallis booked Jones for Sharon Kensington but she fought to swop roles with MacLaine as the showbiz agent of Anthony Franciosa. Jones was a veritable lookalike of Wallis’ original choice. Bette Davis. One of the earliest Hollywood films to mention the Hollywood Black List – one of the three scenarists, Dalton Trumbo, had been a victim of that disgusting period.
  5. Carla Gravini, Jovanka e le altre (US: Five Branded Women, Italy-US, 1959.     With their heads shaved for sleeping with German soldiers during WWII, five Yugoslav women then bravely fought for their homeland with the very partisans who humiliated them.  Also seen for the heroines: Claire Bloom, Ava Gardner, Julie Harris,  Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren, Barbara Nichols, Lee Remick.
  6. Janet Leigh, Who Was That Lady? 1960.       Hal Wallis was about to cash in on two of his MGM-rescued finds, MacLaine and Dean Martin, in a Tony Curtis comedy, when Sinatra called her for Can-Can (after Marilyn Monroe refused). Thistime, Wallis charged $250,000- and made do with Mrs Curtis. Thetrailer was funnier.
  7. Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, 1961.    Author Truman Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe, 34, as his American geisha, Holly Golightly, aged 19. She backed off when her drama coach, Paula Strasberg, said playing a callgirl wasn’t good for her image. Next up: Jean Seberg, 22; Kim Novak, 27… but hey, hasn’t Audrey, 31, had her baby? And so at 26, Shirley lost this one but she is quite a collector of  roles rejected   by others – mainly by Marilyn Monroe and, even once, by Brigitte Bardot. A rare double!
  8. Janet Leigh, Wives and Lovers, 1962.   Refusing to be Van Johnson’s wife (like, well, wow !) led  to a fierce legal tussle with Paramount. 
  9. Elizabeth Taylor,  Cleopatra, 1963.

  10. Debbie Reynolds, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, 1964.    
    MGMusical director Charles Walters’ plan of MacLaine-Robert Goulet “fell through when he wanted the soundtrack rights and she demanded the world plus a large chunk of the profits.” After a smash Vegas comeback, Debbie said she’d do it for free. (She was wed to millionaire Harry       Karl – busily gambling away her money as she later found out). Shirley supposedly accused her of undercutting her. Debbie replied:    “Shirley, this might be my last film – you’re going to make many great films.” One of those proved to be as Reynolds, herself, as depicted in her daughter Carrie Fisher’sbook Postcards From The Edge, 1990.“I called Debbie: Is it OK with you?Why don’t you do it?And she said: Because I wouldn’t be good enough – the objectivity isn’t there.”

  11. Felicia Farr, Kiss Me Stupid, 1964.     As Peter Sellers’ wife when co-writer and director Billy Wilder was planning to juggle Sellers, Sinatra, MacLaine and Monroe. And survive!
  12. Paula Prentiss,What’s New Pussycat?, 1964.    First to leave whenbrother Warren Beatty was dithering over Woody Allen’s script.Apparently, it was not the scenario that bothered Shirley but the Mafia.Being friends with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin led tonews that there was a plot to kidnap her daughter, Sachi. She thought it best to be outside the USfor a spell- and at that time Pussycat was set LA and not Italy (!), or Paris.
  13. Audrey Hepburn, My Fair Lady, 1964.    MacLaine wanted  to be Eliza Dolittle in  what proved to be Head Brother Jack Warner’s biggest error – guarding his record $5.5m purchase by choosing non-singing Hepburn (at $1m) over Broadway’s Julie Andrews (at $75,000), thereby allowing Walt Disney to give  her a triumphant, Oascar-winning consolation prize: Mary Poppins. Head Brother Jack had even thought of Oklahoma’s Jones as the London flower-seller…opposite Rock Hudson (!!) as Henry Higgins.
  14. Anjanette Comer, The Loved One, 1964.   “The motion picture,” yelled the posters,” with something to offend everyone.”  Comer, 25, won the young embalmer, Aimee Thanatogenous (“death by bleeding” in Greek) from such unlikely candidates (and ages) as Carroll Baker and  Claire Bloom, 33; Diane Cilento, 32;  Joy Harmon (Cool Hand Luke’s car-washer!), 24; Julie Harris, 39; Shirley MacLaine, 30; Nina Shipman, 26; and Elizabeth Taylor, 32, when Richard Burton was up for the British  poet hero. Badly based on Evelyn Waugh’s 1948 satire of the American funeral homes, this is the only Hollywood movie that Jayne Mansfield was cut out of!
  15. Suzanna Leigh, Boeing Boeing, 1965.     Producer Hal B Wallis had MacLaine under contract and so could shove her in any old crap he wanted… Two years earlier, she was his Boeing plan. For one of three airline stewardesses being serviced by Tony Curtis without them knowing it…. Vicky became Suzanna Leigh and British – indeed, British United Airways – Dany Saval was Air France (well, it was from a French play), Christine Schmidtmer was Lufthansa. Unbelievably, Steven Spielberg’s favourite UK actor, Mark Rylance, won the first of his three Tony awards for playing the Jerry Lewis rôle on Broadway.
  16. Brigitte Bardot, Viva Maria, 1965.      Replacing MM was one thing-butBB? (Opposite Julie Christie as Maria 2). No way! Co-star Jeanne Moreau always wanted to work with Bardot. “Despite everyone else,I always felt Brigitte was a marvellous actress – a fragile woman who did formidable things in cinema.” As a fond nod to Eisenstsein, realisateur Louis Malle first calledit Que VivaMaria!
  17. Julie Christie, Darling, 1965.       UK director John Schlesinger was told money would be easier with Shirley, Audrey Hepburn, Liz Taylor, even Monica Vitti. Shirley and Julie became great friends when shelived with brother Warren Beatty fora decade.
  18. Claudine Auger, Thunderball, 1965.
  19. Faye Dunaway, Bonnie and Clyde, 1966.
  20. Ursula Andress, Casino Royale, 1966.

  21. Kim Hunter, Planet of the Apes, 1967
  22. Katharine Ross, The Graduate, 1967.

  23. Inger Stevens, The Pink Jungle, 1967.       Universal’s first choice for rich widow Alison Duquesne.  Or Anne de Villemont  when Stevens subbed opposite boxer-writer-drifter George Peppard and a neo-fascist Orson Welles. In the US, the lame thriller was bottom of a double bill with Elvis Presley and various nuns in… wait for it… Change of Habit. 

  24. Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl, 1968.     Adhering the usual, stupid Hollywood rule – if possible, never hire the Broadway stars –  Columbia suits wanted Shirley as the  funny Fanny. No way, said Ray Stark, producer of both the stage and screen versions. He insisted upon Broadway’s Barbra in the role of, as it happened, his mother-in-law!    Asked whether La Barb been difficult to work with, director William Wyler said:  “No, not too hard, considering it was the first movie she ever directed”!

  25. Barbra Streisand, Hello Dolly! 1968.  
    Dolly Levi was a match-maker. Therefore, not supposed to be young enough for  a blushing bride. And yet Fox avoided the show’s award-winning Broadway star, Carol Channing, and offered Dolly to Julie Andrews, Carol Burnett, Doris Day, Shirley MacLaine (the bride in in the straight movie version, The Matchmaker, 1957), Debbie Reynolds and (gulp!) Elizabeth Taylor! All she knew about singing was having wed (Debbie’s) Eddie Fisher… La Barb rubbed co-star Walter Matthau up the wrong way. She had, he said, “no more talent than a butterfly’s fart.” As the shoot went from bad to worse, Streisand called Arjhur Laurents, the Broadway/Hollywood scenarist who started her off in I Can Get It For You Wholesale  (he beefed up her  role because ”she was simple, vulnerable, moving, funny,. mesmerizing, anything she wanted to be.” So, she called him from the Dolly set. “I’ve got a tap dancer for a director. [Gene Kelly].  What can I do?” “Nothing.“ “Nothing??II”  “Nothing. You shouldn’t have taken the part. You’re at last 20 years too young.” But hot, certified and incorporated… 
    But when  nominated for a Broadway Tony for her Funny Girl,Streisand was beaten by… well, hello Carol!

  26. Jennie Linden, Women In Love, 1969.     Glenda Jackson (and her new, improved, pregnant breasts) had the better role of Gudrun.   While MacLaine (anti-nudity), Faye Dunaway, Vanessa Redgrave (never anti-nudity, calling her body part of her acting instrument), Tuesday Weld and Carol White were up for Ursula. Alan Bates and Oliver Reed, made sure they were up for each other. For their famous nude wrestling,
  27. Catherine Deneuve, The April Fools, 1969.     Delayed on Sweet Charity – and campaigning for RFK.
  28. Geraldine Chaplin, Sur un arbe perché, France, 1970.     At first, it was to be Yves Montand and Annie Girardot (already coupledin Claude Lelouch’s Vivre pour vivre, 1967) as the man and his mistress trapped in a car, cartoonishly suspended by a tree after crashing off a cliff. Funes put a stop to that, grabbing it for himself and… MacLaine, pourquoi pas. Shirley begging a short shooting delay was all he needed to drop her, rather than interfere with the start of his next farce. Orbecause he was afraid she’d steal the movie from under his incessant mugging? “Fufu” settled for the daughter of his idol, to play… no, not his mistress, but wife.Danny De Vito’s re-make never happened, Montand and MacLaine coupled in My Geisha, 1961,andFufu wed Girartdot for La Zizanie (US: The Spat), 1977.
  29. Debbie Reynolds, What’s the Matter with Helen?, 1970.    Impressed by What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? in 1962, director Curtis Harrington and producer George Edwards asked novelist Henry Farrell  what else he had up his sleeve. He showed them a contemporary story, The Box Step, about two old ladies running a dance school. “Change it to the 30s and we’ll get Joanne Woodward!”    He did. They didn’t. They didn’t land Shirley, either!
  30. Liza Minnelli, Cabaret, 1971. 
    Confirming the fact that director Bob Fosse was here to stay (alas not for long enough), Cabaret stems from the Weimar Berlin stories by Christopher Isherwood who based his main character (he is the other one!) Sally Bowles on the British often naked teenage libertine flapper-actress-singer-writer Jean Ross – later Communist , Spanish civil war correspondent and lover of jazz pianist (later actor) Peter van Eyck.  On her father’s advice, Minnelli (rejected for the Broadway production!) chanelled Louise  Brooks as Sally. Isherwood said Liza was too talented  such a “medicore” singer.  Never said what he thought of her ten rivals: Ursula Andfess, Julie Andrews, Ann-Margret, Faye Dunaway, Jane Fonda, Jill Ireland (!), Glenda Jackson, Shirley MacLaine, Barbra Streisand, Brenda Vaccaro and Natalie Wood

  31. Liv Ullmann, 40 Carats, 1973.      Among veteran US director William Wyler’s list of possibilities for the 40-year-old falling for a half-her-age studduring a Greek holiday.His listalso included… Doris Day!Bizarre, bizarre!!

  32. Ellen Burstyn, The Exorcist1973.

  33. Ellen Burstyn, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, 1974.     Shirley almost agreed after Robert Getchell sent her his book. Then, about the director, she said: “Who is this Martin Scorsese person?” Ellen knew andwon the Oscar – “deservedly.”
  34. Katharine Ross, The Stepford Wives, 1975.    Among the Top Seven considered by Brit film-maker Bryan Forbes before signing Tuesday Weld, being rejected by Diane Keaton (or her analyst ) and ending with Katharine.
  35. Susan Clark,Amelia Earhart,TV, 1976.     Pete Hamill wrote the aviatrix’lifefor her -“best script I’ve read in 15 years.” Carol Sobieski’s TVersion took off first.

  36. Sylvia Kristel, Alice ou la derniere fugue, France, 1976.  
    La NouvelleVague
    icon Claude Chabrol had loftier aims for his nightmarish tale of a young wife leaving her husband, crashing her car and finding herself in….  the hereafter. Or close by.  He also wanted Laurence Olivier as God… or, maybe, Death.  Another veteran, Charles Vanel, took over opposite the finest performance by Kristel,  aka Emmanuelle.  Not MacLaine’s first French offer…   Scenarist Michel Audiard wanted her (and Brando) in his mid-60s’ (aborted) version of Celine’s Voyage au bout de monde.

  37. Margot Kidder, Superman, 1978.
  38. Julie Andrews, 10, 1979.
  39. Leland Palmer, All That Jazz, 1980.     Only fair…since she gave stage-screen musical director Bob Fosse the idea. Heclaimed not to remember her suggesting “Why notmake a musical about death?” when she visited himin hospital after his heart attack. Anyway, she had no wish to be his Gwen Verdon figure. “She felt a star in that role would throw the picture off balance.”
  40. Candice Bergen, Gandhi, 1982.    While married in The Bliss of Mrs Blossom, 1968, Richard Attenborough regaled Shirley with his planned epic – and asked her to enact photographer Margaret Bourke-White. A great lover of India, she readily agreed. And waited for the call And waited. Until, as she phrased it, “the years passed.”  And it was a further 25 years on before Dickie achieved his dream of directing Shirley – in his twelth and final directing gig, Closing the Ring, 2007. He died seven years later at 90.

  41. Madeleine Kahn, Slapstick, 1982.     Young producer Steven Paul achieved the impossible by getting Kurt Vonnegut Jr to script his own novel but could not land Shirleyand Jerry Lewis astwins for their first outing twogether since 1955.
  42. Dolly Parton, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, 1982.      Worked hard to win the role,planting items in the columns, etc. Co-writer Larry L King said “she’d be jest fine.” Universal’s comment: “Not big enough atbox-office anymore.” ( Dolly never was, 9 To 5 not having opened). King felt Dolly was too obvious, “looks like she might run a whorehouse or work in one.” Owch!
  43. JoBeth Williams, Poltergeist, 1982.     Refused Diane Freeling to win another Oscar as Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment, 1983: “Impatient boys sometimes miss dessert!”
  44. Lainie Kazan, Lust inthe Dust, 1985.     As Tab Hunter’s long simmering Western send-upbegan to take off, he wanted Shirley tothe sister of drag queenDivine (Harris Glenn Milstead). “That,” he said, “proved impossible.”Next stops:Chita Rivera, Shelley Winters… WhenLainie agreed, Tab said: “Not since Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas had there been such perfect casting of siblings.”

  45. Renée Zellweger, Chicago, 2002.
  46. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago, 2002.
  47. Queen Latiifah, Chicago, 2002.











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