William Hopper

  1. Victor Mature,  Samson and Delilah, 1948.   This would have been The Biggie for gossip hen Hedda Hopper’s son, drowning in a career of nearly 50 lowly film roles. Although he did become Natalie Wood’s father in Rebel Without  A Cause, 1956, which also featured Dennis Hopper (no kin).  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,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!”
  2. Raymond Burr, Perry Mason, TV, 1957-1966.  When the overweight Burr agreed to shed 60 lbs to be the LA DA Hamilton Burger, he was the perfect Mason.  Also in  the mix for the finest  defence attorney in legal history were Richard Carlson, Richard Egan, William Holden, Fred MacMurray, John Shelton. Plus Hopper, who became Mason’s private eye, Paul Drake – and  William Tallman, who was given Ham Burger (!).  “Wecouldn’t afford a big star,” explained producer Gail Patrick Jackson. No shows did in the 50s – they simply made big stars.Such as two other Mason wannabes: Mike Connors (becoming Mannix, 1967-1975) and Efrem Zimbalist Jr (77 Sunset Strip, 1958-1964).Burr continued to play Mason in auto-cued tele-films up to his  death in 1993


 Birth year: 1915Death year: 1970Other name: Casting Calls:  2