- Adolphe Menjou, The Easiest Way, 1930.
Hollywood censor czar Will Hays ruled that the Broadway play about this poor girl winning riches on her back “would not be good for the industry.” But great for business. Everyone was trying to give Will Hays the finger… from Harry Cohn to David O Selznick, from Columbia and Fox to Universal and, finally, MGM… where Montgomery and Constance Bennett took over from the 1927 choices of Veidt and Belle Bennett (no kin). Even then, Hays felt Metro’s version, with another Bennett (no kin), was more dangerous than the play itself – because the horizontal Laura, wasn’t punished enough! The New York Times simply found it “a disappointing audible pictorial version of Eugene Walter’s old play” and critic Mordaunt Hall suggested “when Mr Menjou indulges in forced acting one appreciates that he is carrying out the director’s instructions.” When the film played Alberta, it was in such a censor-slashed mess that it appeared as if reels were being shown out of order.
- Bela Lugosi, Dracula, 1931. Chaney was dead before the script was ready Universal boss “Uncle Carl” Laemmle selected the German Hans Walter Conrad Weidt as the vampire, directed by Paul Leni. Paul Muni refused to be third. Also in the vampire mix: John Carradine, William Courtenay, Ian Keith. Enter: director Tod Browning with the Hungarian Be’la Ferenc Dezso Blasko.He had been Broadway’s Dracula (during a legendary 1927-1930 run). He refused to be Frankenstein’s monster the following year. Enter: Boris Karloff. Bye Bye Bela! Oh, it’s tough in Film City.
- Laurence Olivier, Fire Over England, 1936. Change of John Engolby at the court of Flora Robson’s Queen Elizabeth I. In LA, the asinine Hays Office insisted on cutting the scene where Olivier screamed, as only Olivier could scream, “Fire! Fire!” – in case the public took it for a real alarm and bustled out of the cinemas!!! No, really…
- Robert Morley, Marie-Antoinette, 1937. When MGM production chief Irving Thalberg could not land Charles Laughton for Louis XVI, he spun through such possible royals as Veidt, John Gielgud, Cedric Hardwicke, Oscar Homolka. Every accent except French!
- Cedric Hardwicke, The Moon Is Down, 1942. All the major studios fought for John Steinbeck’s praised/villified novel/play about the Nazi occupation of Norway. (It was, in fact, superb propaganda for anti-Nazi reistance). Fox chief Darryl F Zanuck won because of how well he made Steinbeck’s previous book, The Grapes of Wrath. (The then highest price of $300,000 helped, too) There were eight possibilities for Colonel Lanser: Veidt, Fritz Kortner, Charles Laughton, Paul Lukas, Broadway’s Alfred Lunt, Otto Preminger, George Sanders, Orson Welles.
- 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 (as trhe venerable Tibetan lama). 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.
Usual occupation: 1943Birth year: 1893Death year: 1943Other name: Casting Calls: 6