Dame Judith Anderson

  1. Blanche Yurka, A Tale of Two Cities, 1934.   For the infamous Madame Defarge in the fourth screen version of the Charles Dickens classic, producer David O Selznick also tested Emily Fitzroy, Lucille LaVerne and May Robson.  Broadway’s Yurka was making her first talkie – indeed, her first film since 1918.
  2. Bette Davis, The Old Maid, 1938.   Opening at the start of the year, the play won a Pulizter Prize and producer-director Ernst Lubitsch, no less, planned a Paramount version with Bradway’s “sisters”, Anderson and Helen Menken. But Par sold out the brothers Warner. Davis’ heroine hid her unwed 1866 pregnancy by… opening an orphange!
  3. Irene Rich, The Mortal Storm, 1939.   Anderson was director Frank Borzage’s original Mrs Roth in what New York Times critic Bosley Crowther called blistering anti-Nazi propaganda. Hitler  agreed. And promptly banned all MGM films in Nazi Germany.
  4. Bette Davis, The Old Maid, 1939.  Four years earlier, director legend  Ernst Lubitsch bought Akin’s Pulitzer Prize winning play.  He was planning Judith Anderson and Helen Menken at Paramount as  the Lovell cousins – the conniving  Menken raising the sweet Anderson’s  illegitimate daughter. The eventual  Warner Bros casting  was far more explosive – bitter enemies Bette Davis and Miriam  Hopkins!  That was too much for Humphrey  Bogart to referee.  He made sure he got sacked!
  5. Elsa Lanchester,  Ladies In Retirement, 1940.   According to Hollywood Reporter, Anderson, Helen Chandler, Lillian Gish, Pauline Lord and Laurette Taylor were in the mix for Ida Lupino’s sisters.  Demented,  every one.  Like Lanchester’s Emily. 
  6. Blanche Yurka, Lady For A Night, 1941.   Anderson lost out to another Broadway star in the vehicle made for two. John Wayne and Joan Blondell.   Ironically, the role in question was named Anderson.
  7. Ann Revere, National Velvet, 1944.  Celebrating her first decade in Hollywood movies, the Australian stage star was tested for Spencer Tracy’s wife and, more importantly, the mother of  Elizabeth Taylor’s Velvet Brown.
  8. Mercedes McCambridge, Giant, 1955.
  9. Virginia Gregg, Psycho, 1959.    For the (uncredited) voice of Mrs Norma Bates, herself, Alfred Hitchcock listened to Paul Jasmin (close pal of the film’s star Anthony Perkins), Margaret Hamilton (The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz), Helen Hayes (First Lady of the American Theatre), Una Merkel (whose career began in 1928 as Lilian Gish’s stand-in during The Wind).  And two former Lady Macbeths: Maurice Evans’ Dame Judith and Orson Welles’ Jeannette Nolan. 

 Birth year: 1897Death year: 1972Other name: Casting Calls:  9