Edmund Purdom


  1. Mario Lanza, The Student Prince, ,1954.   Lanza simply got too fat.  Or, that was the excuse, the legend, the spin…  What actually happened (when shooting started in 1952) was that the tenor would not be told how to sing by directorCurtis Bernhardt.    Lanza strode off the set and refused  to return as long as Bernhardt remained in charge. A studio injunction then banned Lanza from  performing anywhere for the remaining 15 months of his MGM contract. It was not until May 1953 before MGM secured a deal to make the musical with Purdom miming to Lanza’s  singing – ironically helmed by the guy who had made a Lanza a star with The Great Caruso 1951:   Richard Thorpe. 
  2. Richard Burton, My Cousin Rachel, 1954.    Pretty Purdom’s entrance into Hollywood was testing for Olivuia De Havilland’s cousin. Enter: Burton… ! “I was so broke,” Purdom recalled, “that I couldn’t afford to pay the doctor’s bill when my daughter was born. I had no money for bus fare. I had to walk from studio to studio looking for a job. Once we were evicted for not paying the rent.”
  3. Bill Travers, Bhowani Junction,  1955.     MGM  made lohn Masters’  India novel in… Pakistan! After  quickly selecting Ava Gardner and Stewart Granger and proving undecided about Taylor, the oafish “cheechee”  railway station manager.    Edmund Purdom, Cornel Wilde or Michael Wilding?  Purdom simply split, and for some reason, Travers knocked the other two out of the park.  Because  he was surly and lost looking? 
  4. Tyrone Power, The Eddy Duchin Story, 1955.Band leader Eddy Duchin had great style. He was handsome, suave, debonair, a dreamboat. Cary Grant, obviously!  But he’d  been there/done that ten years earlier as Cole Porter in Night and Day  –  a similarly botched, and dishonest biopic.  MGM turned to the new Brit in town. Edmund Purdom  but the Duchin Estate refused to sanction certain Metro demands. Therefore, Duchin pal  Ned Brandywine (!) taught  Ty Power  most of  Eddy’s joanna tricks:  crossing his hands , playing with a single finger…  like a certain Marx brother. Duchin’s also piano-playing son, Peter, said Power’s  “dark looks and boyish charm seemed perfect.” Besides, he was nine years younger…
  5. Roger Moore, Diane, 1956.      Moore was less. But Lana Turner catergorically refused Purdom, her co-star from The Prodigal.
  6. Anthony Perkins, Green Mansions, 1958.    Director Vincente Minnelli shut down   shooting of Alan Jay Lerner’s   script   –   on producer Arthur Freed’s orders.   Purdom and co-star Pier Angeli next met up, with careers in the doldrums, in Italy’s   L’Ammutinamentio, 1961, by  Silvio Amadio.   Who?  Exactly!
  7. Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur, 1958.  Sword and sandal epics were in.  And producer Sam Zimbalist, who’d made one of the biggest – Quo Vadis, 1950 –  was back in Rome in charge  of the better (well, William Wyler was directing) re-make of the 1923 silent Ben-Hur, racing chariots and all.  Sam even considered retaining his Vadis trio: Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Stewart Granger. Friendly rivals Marlon Brando and Paul Newman were up for the titular Judah; still smarting  from his  1954 debut,  The Silver  Chalice, Newman hated  ancient Rome costumes, or cocktail dresses as he termed them. Sam also short-listed  Richard Burton (from The Robe, 1953), Montgomery Clift, Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson (furious with Universal refusing to loan him out), Van Johnson (no, really!),  Burt Lancaster (an atheist with no interest in Christianity commercials,  although he had earlier tried to mount his  own version),  true Brit Edmond Purdom… plus Italians, known and unknown: Vittorio Gassman  and Cesare Danova.  MGM voted Heston, CB De Mille’s Moses in The Ten Commandments, 1954. According to “contributing writer” Gore Vidal, Willie Wyler called Heston wooden. Brando, for one, would not disagree.  Yet Judah Ben-Heston still won his Oscar on April 4 1960.


 Birth year: 1924Death year: 2009Other name: Casting Calls:  7