Chester Morris

  1. Claude Rains,  The Invisible Man, 1932.   After Boris Karloff refused (“I’m not seen until the end!”), Morris was offered the cloak of invisibility… and voted with Karloff. Author HG Wells  was  more upset by the script making a lunatic of his brilliant scientist. Said director James Whale: “In the minds of rational people only a lunatic would want to make himself invisible.”
  2. Charles Bickford, This Day And Age,  1932.      Although he billed it as “The FIRST Great Spectacle of Modern Times,” this is the  forgotten  Cecil B DeMille film –  his only gangster talkie. (Close  to his 1929 demi-talkie, The Godless Girl). CB had a tough job finding his LA crimelord. Morris, Lionel Atwill, Walter Huston, Burgess Meredith, Paul Muni, fled.  After reading  the script?  The gangster was taken down by LA High School students, no less. 
  3. Nils Asther, The Bitter Tea of General Yen, 1932     Accents are accents…  Constance Bennett’s Christian missionary fell for Chinese warlord Asther… who was Swedish.   Other contenders included British Leslie Banks and the Americans Morris and  Leo Carrillo. (Some 25 years later, in the similar (but true) Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Ingrid Bergman’s  missionary become involved (untrue) with a Chinese Army officer Curd Jürgens – who was German).
  4. William Harrigan, The Invisible Man, 1933.   Director James Whale‘s first choice for Dr Arthur Kemp – who survived in the Mary Shelley novel, but is among the 120-pus killing spree of the invisible Claude Rains. Leading lady Gloria Stuart, 23, is – yes! – the same Gloria playing Old Rose in Titanic and winning an Oscar nominateion at 87.
  5. Lester Matthews, The Raven, 1935.    Well, if you don’t even know how to spell the guy’s name, why should I play him..? For Morris, read Matthews as Dr Holden (but  Halden in the credits)  in the 15-day quickie, costing $109,750.Of which sum, $10,000 went to Boris  Karloff, $5,.000 to Bela Lugosi and $1,154 to Matthews.
  6. Willard Parker, One Way To Love, 1945. OK, but not the comedy of the year. Yet there was a battle royale for the lead: from Bowman and Cary Grant to Chester Morris, Dennis O’Keefe. Despite the Hail the Chief working title, it was about LA radio writers and not any Washington POTUS.
  7. Tony Curtis, Houdini, 1953.       Having been 1932’s Miracle Man, the Dick Tracy lookalike (becoming Boston Blackie in a 13-film series, 1941-1949) was among numerous Hollywood names eager to play legendary magician HarryHoudini – long before fantasy producer George Pal handcuffed the idea.


On his death bed in 1952, director Roland West confessed to  his friend Morris to the murder of his lover, blonde starlet Thelma Todd – an infamously “unsolved” “Mob hit” or “suicide” since 1935.  Toddy was 29 and had made an astonishing 119 films (in every genre) during  just nine years!


 Birth year: 1901Death year: 1970Other name: Casting Calls:  7