Bing Crosby

  1. Cary Grant, Alice In Wonderland, 1932.    Crosby refused what he felt was an insult of a role – Mock Turtle.  Cary did all his studio asked of him – in his13th film in two years, while waiting for the end of his contract and becoming the first star independen to studios – and making zillions.
  2. Fernandel, Le Petit Monde de Don Camillo/The LittleWorld of Don Camillo, France-Italy, 1952.   Frank Capra saw journalist Giovanni Guareschi’s 1940s’ book as a musical comedy for Der Bingle – aka Father Chuck O’Malley in Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary’s, 1944-1945.  Fernandel’s straight version launched a series of five films over the next 14 years.
  3. Dick Powell, Thanks A Million, 1934.     Let’s do the election right here…! First Bing, then Lawrence Tibbett were mooted for the crooner accidentally shining so much in a Gubernatorial campaign that the public want him to stand, not the drunken candidate.   Working title: Sing, Governor, Sing. 
  4. Fred MacMurray, Swing High, Swing Low, 1936.   The first time Dert Bingle was up for the same role as Gary Cooper. The second was Friendly Persuasion, 1956. In both cases they passed and here, MacMurray ultimately became Skid Johnson opposite Carole Lombartd and Crosby’s later Road series co-star, Dorothy Lamour.
  5. William Holden, The Fleet’s In, 1941.     Paramount first viewed the sailors-ashore comedy-musical as a Hope and Crosby vehicle. Instead, the suits decided to boost its new talent – Holden, Dortohy Lamour, Betty Hutton, Eddie Bracken. Bing ’n’ Bob were better.
  6. Dick Powell, Happy Go Lucky, 1942.  The planned co-stars, Bing Crosby and singer-composer Edna Heard, became Dick Powell and Lillian Randolph. Not the only change.   The first title was Cupid with a Beard. Honest!
  7. Dick Powell, True To Life, 1943.     The old firm of Crosby and Bob Hope were first due as radio writers trying to save their failing show.  They churned into Powell and Franchot Tone. 
  8. James Stewart, Harvey, 1949.    Playwright Mary Chase had final approval of the movie Elwood P Dowd, an alcoholic who sees and relates to an invisible giant rabbit called Harvey. Stewart and Joe E Brown were the only contenders  who had played the role on-stage (Jim never stopped reviving the play in the UK and US).  Other potential Elwoods were: Crosby,  Jack Benny, James Cagney, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Jack Haley (The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz), even the silent  era comic Harold Lloyd and crooner Rudy Vallee. In 2000, another Harvey –  the later disgraced New York producer Harvey Weinstein planned a re-tread. With Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler  or John Travolta. Spielberg as well. With Tom Hanks.   Or Robert Downey Jr.  
  9. Will Rogers Jr, The Story of Will Rogers, 1952.    When Joel McCrea refused – “I’m not qualified” – Jack Warner tested Crosby among others. 
  10. Fernandel, Le Petit Monde de Don Camillo/The Little World of Don Camillo, France-Italy, 1952.   Frank Capra saw journalist Giovanni Guareschi’s 1940s’ book as a musical comedy for Der Bingle – aka the world’s most famous movie priest, Father Chuck O’Malley in Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary’s, 1944-1945. Fernandel’s straight version launched a series of five films over the next 14 years.

  11. Mel Ferrer, Oh… Rosalinda!!, 1955.    Part of what UK director Michael Powell called his “Neverland cast.” They met in Paris when The Old Groaner “would talk of nothing but golf.” 
  12. Marlon Brando, Guys and Dolls, 1955.   Jumping the gun, thinking it had won the rights battle for the Broadway hit musical, Paramount unveiled its ho-hum-yawn casting of Crosby, Bob  Hope on The Road To  Betty Grable and Jane Russell…!   The studio’s next light bulb moments was Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis!  But MGM saved the day with Brando and Frank Sinatra as Sky Masterson and Nathan  Detroit. Well, Hollis Alpert stated an opinion echoed by many critics: “Brando can’t really sing. But he has moments when he almost convinces you he that can.”
  13. Gary Cooper, Friendly Persuasion, 1956.    In 1950, Frank Capra planned Crosby and Jean Arthur as the Quaker couple. Paramount thought it too expensive (over its $1.5m ceiling) and he sold it (plus another reject,m Roman Holiday!) to Wlliam Wyler… and made two Crosby quickies. D’oh!  Cooper hated his screen wife and son, Dorothy Maguire and Anthony Perkins, and the film.   “A boring piece of crap,” Maybe that’s why it was Ronald Reagan’s favourite movie.
  14. John Rait, The Pajama Game, 1956.  Frederick Brisson, Robert E Griffith and Hal Prince bought the 7 Cents novel for a stage musical  about a strike at a  pajama factory. (Honest). And   immediately started courting Grant, Marlon Brando, Bing Crosby (too expensive), Van Johnson, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra   – surely one would agree to Broadway and Hollywood!  No ? OK, they’ll discovered a new star. And did. Except Rait was wrong! 
  15. Burt Lancaster, The Rainmaker, 1956.  Bill Starbuck by name, con-man by nature.  In something of a dress rehearsal for his Oscar-winning  for Elmer Gantry, 1959, Lancaster was terrific as the promising rain to a parched Kansas town in the Depression – and romance to the similarly dried-up spinster… who had to be  Katharine Hepburn.  And was.  Der Bingle was 100% alone in thinking he could fill Starbuck’s britches or Kate’s pants. Elvis Presley tested for the Earl Holliman role.   Bit his managder, :Colo el: Tom Parker, didn’t understand cinema. As usual. “What you mean,  my Elvis is not The Star?!”  NB This Rainmaker is no kin to the dullard Francis Ford Coppola-Matt Damon courtoom drama of the same title in 1996.
  16. Spencer Tracy How The West Was Won, 1961.   Der Bingle was first to see a Western epic in the stories running in Life magazine.   When MGM won the rights, Crosby was booked as the narrator – until Tracy’s bad health forbade any on-screen role. Other A-Listers who did not finally appear in the Cinerama epic included Brando, Cagney, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.
  17. Albert Sharpe, Darby O’Gill and The Little People, 1958.  The  half-Irish Walt Disney had been planning his dream film since the early 40s when he naturally, wanted Film City’s resident leprechaun, Barry Fitzgerald, for both Darby and the lirtle person King Brian of Knocknasheega…  No, no, I’m far too old,  he  claimed when 59 in ’47.  OK, said Disney just play the king and I’ll get Bing for Darby.  Crosby and Fitzgerald had been supreme partners as priests in Going My Way, 1943, resulting in Fitzgerald  making Oscar history as the (still) only actor to be nominated as Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for the same role. On March 15 1945, Crosby won actor with Barry, as always, best support. Both got plaster Oscars as all metal had gone to the war effort. 
  18. Clifton Webb, Holiday for Lovers, 1958.   A dozen years earlier, head Fox Darryl Zanuck didn’t want the gay Webb in Laura in case of bad publicity. Now the studio was buying vehicles just for Webb – and if he said No (and he should have avoided this lousy comedy), they had Crosby as First Reserve for the psychologist father taking his teenage daughters on vacation in South America. Chunky or not, Bing’s boy, Gary, was cast as Carol Lynley’s USAF guy. 
  19. Dean Martin, Who Was That Lady? 1959.  Old mates Crosby and Bob Hope saw the comedy as a kind Road to Quantico  as Bing helps Bob concoct a story that he’s an FBI agent and the girl that his wife saw him kissing was… a Russian spy!  No, didn’t work any better with Martin and Tony Curtis. 
  20. Robert Preston,The Music Man,1962.    Like Gene Kelly, Crosby tried to buy the rights but composer Meredith Wilson stuck with the Broadway star – making the film a disaster abroad, not even released in some territories.

  21. Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music, 1964.  Shooting started on my birthday, March 26.   Although everyone thought it too saccharine to bother with. Certainly, Germany’s Oskar Werner refused to have anything to do with such a soft  treatment of Nazis was way too soft – a match for The Young Lions!Yul Brynner was one of several people wanting to be The Captain,” recalled director Robert Wise.  “I told  his agent his  name  would  be at the bottom of my list. He’d have been better on the other side!” Driven to drink by it all, Plummer hated everything. The film  – he called it S&M or The Sound of Mucus.  The co-star –  working with  Julie Andrews  (or Ms Disney as he called her)  – was akin to “being hit over the head with a big Valentine’s Day card, every day.”   So maybe Brynner, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Bing Crosby, Peter Finch, Rex Harrison, Walter Matthau (!) and Maximilian Schell were lucky to lose Captain Georg Von Trapp. Keith Michel was first reserve if Plummer proved (as he soon wished) unavailable. Despite all his badmouthing, Plummer and Andrews became good friends.  Critic Pauline Kael famously tried to bury “the sugar-coated lie that people seem to want to eat” but it  saved Fox from the near bankruptcy  of the Cleopatra debacle.
  22. James Stewart, Dear Brigitte, 1964  A former dentist called John Haase wrote the book, Erasmus With Freckles,  in 1963.  Crosby loved it and tried cementing a deal at Paramount or Disney.  Too late! Fox bought it for Jim, scenarist Nunnally Johnson and producer-director Henry Koster, after their previous family-coms: Mr Hobbs Takes a Vacation, 1951, and Take Her, She’s Mine, 1962. This one had a little extra though. Brigitte Bardot!. Jim’s kid, Erasmus, had sent her  fan-mail and when on holiday in Patrs, Dad and Junior met BB at her home – reproduced in a French studio. Bébe, who refused all film offers in Hollywood, flexed her power and more or less said: You want  me, you come  here to Paris.  For a week?  Non. Three days.” And they agreed. Meekly. 
  23. Burl Ives, Rocket To The Moon, 1966.      A succession of re-writes made him withdraw from playing the super showman PT Barnum.  
  24. Phil Harris,  The Aristocats, 1966.  When De Bingle demurred about voicing the cat named Thomas O’Malley, Harris took over. Gladly. For himself. And the public.
  25. Walter Brennan, The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band, 1967.    Sure, said Bing, I’ll play the grandfather head of the 1888 family band – for a piece of the action.  Walt Disney wasn’t having any of that nonsense!  (In 1949, Crosby narrated Ichabod Crane’s story in the Disney toon, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad).
  26. Anthony Newley, Doctor Dolittle, 1967.  As if Fox didn’t have enough trouble finding the suitably-aged romantic interest for Dr Rex Harrison, it plainly had no idea for Dolittle pal, Matthew Mugg… going from Danny Kaye and David Wayne in  their  mid-50s to old Bing Crosby at age 64.  “Must go younger, ” said producer Arthur P Jacobs. He didn’t have to look far. The great Tony Newley, 36, had already helped out on the music with his usual composing partner Leslie Bricusse. Or Newberg and Brickman as they called themselves. Harrison called him much worse in his anti-Semetic tirades against his more talented co-star  disrupting their scenes as often as possible and insisting Tony’s role be reduced.
  27. Lee Marvin, Paint Your Wagon, 1969.     When Paranount first tried to mount a version lite!

  28. Peter Falk, Columbo, 1971.  
    The tenacious but eventually boring Lieutenant Frank Columbo actually dated back to 1960 and Bert Freed playing the William Link and Richard Levinson creation in the Enough Rope episode of NBC’s The Chevy Mystery Show. Two years later, they turned the  script into a stage play, Prescription For Murder, with Mitchell just-one-more-thinging.   Audiences preferred him to Joseph Cotton’s villain and the writers started musing on a series format for Mitchell. But the veteran  died in 1962. So who else? Lee J Cobb passed.  So did Bing Crosby. Well, he  turned down all series: “It would interfere with my golf game.”  “So,” said Falk, “it’s because of golf that I’m here!”  It took Link andf Levinson three years to wear down Falk’s reluctance down (by agreeing to eight shows a season, instead of the usual 22). Two pilots led to the first season’s opener: Murder By The Book, a Steven Bochco script directed by an unknown whelp named Steven Spielberg. Falk was really reprisng his Lieutenant Bixbee from the 1965 Penelope film with Natalie Wood. He was anti-cliché until, of course, he became a most annoying cliché, himself. With all his oddities: never being called Frank (the name was visible on his warrant card), his pessimism (forever wearing the world’s most famious raincoat in the LA sun), his battered Renault 403, and, finally, a dog. Oh,  and a wife, often mentioned but unseen (until winning her own series). Falk died  at 83 in 2011, no longer knowing who he was. Or Columbo.

  29. Walter Matthau, The Sunshine Boys, 1975.







 Birth year: 1903Death year: 1977Other name: Casting Calls:  29