Ginger Rogers

  1. June MacCloy, Reaching For The Moon, 1930.   Ginger prefered Broadway and what proved a classic George Gershwin musical,Girl Crazy.Ruby Keeler also split. Neither one could compete with the romance of Douglas Fairbanks (in civvies this once) and Bebe Daniels (in fine fettle, as usual).  Not to mention Bing Crosby’s debut – within and without The Rhythm Boys.
  2. Fay Wray, King Kong, 1932.        Saying that her co-star -in The Beast orThe Ape or King Ape or Kong – would be “the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood” did not excite her. And so Ginger never delivered the most famous scream in Hollywood history. Fay did not have to to travel far. Kong’s jungle was the same set from another movie she was making concurrently at RKO,The Most Dangerous Game.
  3. Constance Cummings, Broadway Thru A Keyhole, 1932.       Ginger was first choice for Joan Whelan, a thinly disguised Ruby Keeler The story was by New York columnist Walter Winchell – punched out by Al Jolson on learning the movie was about Jolson’s romance with his wife, Ruby Keeler, and tried to connect her with a gangster based on the recently murdered Larry Fay.
  4. Katharine Hepburn, Alice Adams, 1934.    Jealous of her ten-day affair with co-star Fred MacMurray, director George Stevens did not gell well with Katharine Hepburn. “She has no technique and seems to want none.” He even tried to dump her for Ginger…
  5. Rochelle Hudson, Bachelor Bait, 1934.  Ginger, William Gargan and helmer William A Seiter were first announced for the comedy fluff.  Hudson, Stuart Erwin  and George Stevens made the movie – Stevens’ first film  (and flop)  at RKO.
  6. Frances Langford, Collegiate, 1935.    Change of Miss Hay in the unfunniest of comedies due the (ex-radio) star, Joe Penner. He only made 23 movies (13 were shorts). As a comic, he was absolutely impeachable.
  7. Florence Eldridge, Mary of Scotland, 1936. Katharine Hepburn’s run of flops was allowing Ginger to usurp Kate’s crown at RKO – and she decided to steal Hepburn’s royal movie by playing Queen Elizabeth.  Well, Ginger called herself British actress, Lady Ainsley (with the help of RKO’s make-up chief, Mel Berns) when turning up for her test with Hepburn. Director John Ford didn’t enjoy being duped, Nor did Kate Apparently there is footage of the test and of Kate kicking Ginger in her prized  shins when  realising the ruse and pouring water on Ginger’s mink.. “If it’s real mink, it won’t shrink.”  And bingo – back to Fred, baby!  Ginger: “I’m very versatile. Dancer, dramatic actress, comedienne.”   Kate: “I don’t go to  chorus girl films.” RKO went with the Flo – wife of Hepburn’s co-star, Fredric March, as Liz One.    
  8. Frances Farmer, The Toast of New York, 1936.   Ginger passed and Farmer made her fourth film of ‘36.  Realising what he had missed by refusing to join her on Border Flight, Cary Grant co-starred with Frances.  If Grant and Edward Arnold were the toast, Frances was the jam – based on the scandal couple of the 1860s Wall Street’s gold market: “Big Jim: Fisk (Arnold) and his mistress, Josie Mansfield. Frances   wanted to play Josie as she was – a strong-willed hooker. No, no, said RKO suits, arguing  for day.,  “I just don’t understand why you want to plaster sweetening  all over the character when it’s so much more interesting to tell the truth.” She was right. The film was RKO’s biggest failure in 1937. Her next, Ebb Tide,  no better. “An ill-defined bit of nothing.”  Her love affair with Hollywood was  Leif Erickson. Paramount tried them together in  Die A Crooked Mile, in 1938, aka  The Last Ride. And it was for them.      
  9. Katharine Hepburn, Holiday. 1938.  Or Unconventional Linda and Vacation Bound when Joan Bennett, Irene  Dunne and Ginger Rogers  were in the frame for Linda Seton… loosely based on Gertrude Sanford Legendre, a high society debutante turned big-game hunter and OSS soy in WW11.  At the wrap party for the third of four Hepburn-Cary Grant treats, Kate showed her old RKO test (a scene from the Holiday play).  ”Everyone just fell over – Cary, George [Cukor], everyone laughed themselves sick. I was so terrible! It was heartbreaking to see how eager, how hard I was trying to impress – too eager.” And yet Cukor signed her – and eight more over the years.
  10. Bette Davis, The Sisters, 1937.   There were three of them: Louise, Helen and Grace Elliott. Only Louise really counted in this 1904-1908 soap opera.  And that was Bette Davis as Louise. – instead of Irene Dunne, Kay Francis or Gjnger Rogers. Her co-star’s billing nearly read: Errol Flynn in The Sisters…! Ironically, Bette’s youngest sibling was Jane Bryan – her illegitimate daughter  the following year in The Old Maid, 1939. 

  11. Ruby Keeler, Mother Carey’s Chickens, 1938.       How quickly the RKO queens had  fallen. Both Ginger and Katharine Hepburn were offered this…drek.  “A deliberate insult!” Kate called it.  The film marked the end of Ruby, then Mrs Al Jolson. At the time, Kate and Ginger was both rejecting marriage proposals from Howard Hughes.
  12. Vera Zorina, On Your Toes, 1939.     During James Cagney’s second walk-out from Warners, the studio bought a bunch of properties to woo him back, including this Rodgers & Hart musical – designed for the never seen team of Jimmy ’n’ Ginger. Eddie Albert did it with Zorina – a Ballet Russe star wed to choreograper George Balanchine.
  13. Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday, 1939.  Knowing she was #9 on the list of nine women seen for Hildy Johnson – and that director Howards Hawks  only ever  wanted Jean Arthur – poor Roz Russell kept wailing her insecurities. “You don’t want me, do you? Well, you’re stuck with me, so you might as well make the most of it.” Co-star Cary Grant told her if Hawks didn’t like her, he’d say so.  And he did. In what, from him was the highest praise: “Just keep pushing him around the way you’re doing.”  Her other rivals had been Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Marion Davies, Irene Dunne (“too small a role”), Carole Lombard (too expensive), Ginger Rogers (“Never knew it was going to be with Cary”) and Margaret Sullavan. Hawks cleverly changed Hildy from male to female and quickened the dialogue by having actors overlapping each other’s lines – long before Robert Altman was locked out of Warner Bros for doing it in Countdown, 1966… and all his other movies.
  14. Anne Shirley, Unexpected Uncle, 1940.     RKO’s first thoughts were of a titular Charles Laughton or John Barrymore. And it is possible that Ginger quit once renowned scene-stealer  Charles Coburn was selected. In fact, he stole the entire film when assisting the romance of Shirley and James Craig.   Unfortunately, he did nothing to help, or subdue, Craig’s bizarre voice. 
  15. Ann Sheridan, City For Conquest,  1940.   James Cagney wanted Ginger Rogers,   then Sylvia Sidney signed  and was replaced by Sheridan as  the boxer’s gal. Sheridan had made a better impression in Cagney’s previous Torrid Zone., but she lost his next one The Strawberry Blonde, 1940,  after fighting with Warner (like Cagney had done) for better parts.  And money. He won, she didn’t. “To be in a picture with him, was just the greatest.”
  16. Bette Davis, The Bride Came COD, 1941.  Bette hated it! Some suggested COD meant Cagney over Davis as Warner  Bros trumpeted the first co-starring of their   top attractions.  Or, that is the first time since Jimmy The Gent in 1933…!  It had almost been Cagney and Olivia De Havilland, Ginger Rogers, Rosalind Russell or Ann Sheridan. “It was called a comedy,” snorted Bette. “All I  got out of the film was a derriere full of cactus quills.” 
  17. Barbara Stanwyck, Ball of Fire, 1941.       Jean Arthur, Carole Lombard and Ginger…Producer Samuel Goldwyn had not experienced such leading lady hassles since Stella Dallas, 1937. And he ended up with the same star as Sugarpuss O’Shea.  His first thought was right, his timing off. The Kitty Foyle Oscar was too fresh in Ginger’s grasp to play a Sugarpuss Whosis.
  18. Ann Sothern,  Panama Hattie, 1941.     RKO tried to grab the rights for Rogers. MGM won and passed over the booming Ethel Merman, who headlined the  Broadway  hit.  Nothing much happened between the Cole Porters songs. It was less about about the real Hattie, Mary Lee Kelly, who moved to Panama just before WWI,  than as critic Michael Grost  put  it: “mugging by Red Skelton that makes the Three Stooges look like Olivier.”
  19. Jane Wyatt, Week-End For Three, 1941.   Cary Grant lost four  potential  wives  – Doroth y Comingore, Irene Dunne, Ginger Rogers, Ruth Warrick –  and then the  couple became Dennis O’Keefe and Jane Wyatt in a rapidly downsized production.  Later that year, it was  Ginger and Cary in  the anti-Nazi Once Upon a Honeymoon  –  and again ten years in Monkey Business.
  20. Ann Sheridan, Kings Row, 1941.      Henry Bellamann’s novel was the Peyton Place  (almost the Blue Velvet) of its day.  Producer Hal Wallis sent Ginger  the script before anyone else.  “All the roles I refused were unnecessarily vulgar.” She fled from the pretty, working class tomboy Randy Monaghan.  Or just from “the town they talk of in whispers,”  full of murder, sadism, depravity  And worse that had to be axed from Henry Bellamann’s 1940 novel: sex (premarital), sex (gay), incest, suicide…!

  21. Bette  Davis, Now Voyager, 1941.      
    Production  chief Hal Wallis also sent  the book to Irene Dunne, Ginger Rogers and Norma Shearer. Davis was incandescent with rage when learning  Warners was borrowing Columbia’s Dunne  and rapidly reminded head bro Jack Warner who was under contract to his studio.  Oh, Jack, don’t let’s ask for the Dunne – we have the stars… The most famous scene has  Paul Henreid (Bette’s favourite leading man) lighting two cigarettes at one in his mouth and then handing one to DavisFor years they claimed they improvised the bit on-set. Oh yeah and MGM’s lion is a tiger…! First, it was written in one of the drafts of Casey Robinson’s script. Well, no, actually first, director Irving Rapper said he remembered it from a DW Griffith silent, circa 1917. Second, in another Bette movie, George Brent lit two up for him and Ruth Chatterton in The Rich Are Always With Us, 1931. Third, Tyrone Power also performed the trick for Loretta Young in Second Honeymoon, 1936.

  22. Marjorie Reynolds, Holiday Inn, 1941.       He already had Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby, but director Mark Sandrich wanted the moon…. Rogers and Rita Hayyworth for their gals. Listen up, snarled the Paramount suits, Astaire and Crosby are pricey enough, OK? (Fred actually worked two weeks for free, And didn’t need Ginger for the 38 takes of the patriotic, post-Pearl Harbour firecracker routine).
  23. Anne Shirley, Unexpected Uncle,1941.   RKO snapped up the Eric Hatch novel with Ginger Rogers in mind as the sacked sales girl and Barrymore or Charles Laughton as the mentoring benefactor she calls Uncle.  They became Shirley and Charles Coburn. Perfect!  (One of the two scenarists  was  Delmar Daves, future  director of such Westerns as Broken Arrow, Jubal and 3.10 To Yuma). 
  24. Lucille Ball, Du Barry Was A Lady, 1942.      As part of the deal for  fhe  Panama Hattie rights,  MGM bought another Ethel  Merman show, Du Barry Was a Lady… using Merman in neither! So, first,  Mae West, then Rogers and Ann Sothern were considered when…   after a knock on his head,  Red Skelton dreamt he was   Louis XV chasing after  Madame Du Barry.  You hadda be there!  
  25. Gene Tierney, Heaven Can Wait, 1942.   The Broadway play opened for Christmas 1934. Eight years later, the LA Examiner said producer-director Ernst Lubitsch had wanted Ginger as Martha… in his first colour film.

  26. Paulette Goddard, The Crystal Ball, 1943.      Charles Boyer-Ginger Rogers became Milland-Paulette Goddard in the bright comedy about a beauty queen contestant turning fortune teller…. it says here.
  27. Dorothy Maguire, The Enchanted Cottage, 1944.     The play was on Broadway soon after WWI. A film was made in 1923. Then, RKO bought rights for a re-make with Helen Twelvetree in 1929.   Ten years later , the plan was Rogers – a beauty as the unpretty heroine. Next, Teresa Wright in 1943… In all, it took  this long for the harvest to be reaped. And even then, the New York Times critic Bosley Crowther put it down a “more of a horror film than a psychological romance.”
  28. Olivia De Havilland, To Each His Own, 1945.       Did she wish to play the mother of a son of 22? No, she didn’t. And yes, Ginger sure wished she had when De Havilland won the Oscar on March 13, 1947
  29. Peggy Cummins, Moss Rose, 1946.     Shuffling possibilities like Sam Fuller’s book, The Dark Page,  The Black Door and Dreadful Hollow, Howard Hawks also lost in the shuffle his  plan  to put Ginger in this  London fog thriller  – eventually  helmed by his pal, Gregory Ratoff. 
  30. Olivia De Havilland, The Snake Pit, 1947.  No thank you. And another Oscar for De Havilland. “It seemed Olivia knew a good thing when she saw it,” Rogers wrote.” Perhaps Olivia should thank me for such poor judgment.”  Ingrid Bergman, De Havilland’s sister, Joan Fontaine, and Gene Tierney had also been in the loop.

  31. Barbara Bel Geddes, Caught,  1948.        Lucky Ginger!  The role as fine enough. A department store model marrying super-rich Robert Ryan – only to find his role is based on (take your pick)  Howard Hughes, William Randolph Hearst or  Charles Foster Kane… James Mason rescued her in his first Hollywood experience.  The preview cards were ecstatic, three months later, the reviews were lousy. 
  32. Gloria Grahame, In A Lonely Place, 1949.       “I was born when you kissed me. I died when you left me. I lived a few weeks while you loved me…” Both Rogers and Lauren Bacall were up  for  Laurel Grey in a drama about a self-loathing Hollywood.  Although Rogers was Columbia’s #1 choice, director Nicholas Ray insisted on his (soon to be ex)  wife.  Not that they told anybody about that. Eleven years later, Grahame married her stepson: Anthony Ray.

  33. Betty Hutton, Annie Get Your Gun, 1950.  
    “I bought it [for an unprecedented $700,000] to give Judy a kick,” said producer Arthur Freed. “That’s when she  got sick… I had to take her out. The girl just couldn’t function.”   Ginger immediately called her agent, Leland Hayward: “Get me Annie – money no object.”  But she was shot down at the pass,  like Judy Canova, Doris Day, Bettys Garrett and Grable – plus  Broadway’s  original 1946  Annie: Ethel MERMAN!!!  Louis B Mayer told Hayward: “Tell Ginger to stay in her high-heel shoes and silk stockings, she could never be as rambunctious as Annie Oakley has to be.”   Poor  Ginger had wanted it so badly,  “I’d have done it for a  dollar.”  She did it on stage. For rather more.

  34. Kathryn Beaumont, Alice in Wonderland, 1950.  For his feature-length toon of Lewis Carroll’s heroine, Walt Disney tested many voices from Ginger and radio’s Janet Waldo  to Lisa Davis and Luana Patten before signing a more suitable 12-year-old from London… Davis went on to play Anita in 101 Dalmatians, 1960; Patten worked on several 1945-1957 Disney toons; Waldo ultimately voiced Alice in the Hanna-Barbera’s 1965  take on Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland or What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?

  35. Bette Davis, All About Eve, 1950. 

  36. Jennifer Jones, Carrie, 1950.    Theodore Dreiser’s “immoral” novel, Sister Carrie, was first announced for RKO’s Great Actress inthe 40s.The Laurence Olivier-Jones version was shot in 1950 and shelved for two years in case any the McCarthy clan called it un-American.

  37. Rita Hayworth, Miss Sadie Thompson, 1953.    RKO also bought Rain in the 40s for Ginger. But Hollywood’s successor to Joan Crawford proved to be Hayworth – in 3-D. The two ex-Astaire partners were distantly related: Rita’s uncle married one of Ginger’s aunts.
  38. Jan Sterling,  The High and the Mighty, 1953.     All aboard the flying Grand Hotel – a DC-4 piloted by John Wayne and Robert Stack and stuffed to the flaps with the kind of mixed cliché bag of passengers that continued into the Airport films and were torn to shreds by the Airplane conedies. Tasty or not, the roles were basically cameos. And, therefore, beneath the high and mighty Rogers, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Ida Lupino, Dorothy McGuire and Barbara Stanwyck. They all rejected the sassy old broad, described by New York Times critic Bosley Crowther as a gallant lady of much circulation. Trevor won an Oscar nod.
  39. Mitzi Gaynor, South Pacific, 1957.     The original Nellie Forbush from Little Rock, , Mary Martin, was thought too old at 45 to repeat her Broadway role in the Pulitzer Prize-winner.Stage-screen director Joshua Logan chose Mitzi after also considering Doris Day, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Patti Page, Elizabeth Taylor.

  40. Bette Davis, What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? 1962.  
    Sisters, sisters, such horrendous sisters…  Bette Davis is Baby Jane Hudson, ex-child star, still jealous of her sister Joan Crawford’s better, well longer, career and  deciding to do something diabolical about it.  In case the two bitter enemies couldn’t face working together (Davis even tried to grab the rights and produce the film sans Crawford!), the hag-horrors might have been Ingrjd Bergman and Tallulah Bankhead or Ginger Rogers and Marlene Dietrich, to name just four earlier possibilities. (There are more). Bette and producer William Frye tried to persuade Alfred Hitchcock to tackle what became known as hagsploitation. He was too busy (editing Psycho, prepping The Birds), besides he’d long since worked simply for himself. Other nearly Baby Janes were Susan Hayward, Rita Hayworth, Kathrine Hepburn, Jennifer Jones,  Plus Agnes Moorhead, in a 1960 version with Jennifer West; Agnes joined the sorta-sequel,  Hush…Hush,Sweet Charlotte, 1964.

  41. Maureen O’Sullivan, Never Too Late, 1965.      Spencer Tracy was the only  thought for Harry. Opposite one of a dozen choices for his wife – pregnant at 50, ho ho! From Rosalind Russell to Katherine Hepburn (“but I’m too old for Edith?”). Plus Rogers, June Allyson, Lucille Ball, Anne Baxter, Joan Fontaine, Susan Hayward, Deborah Kerr, Eleanor Parker, Ann Sheridan. Ultimately, Warner Bros went with the Broadway hit’s duo: Paul Ford and O’Sullivan. 
  42. Susan Hayward, Valley of the Dolls, 1967.  

  43. Kate Reid, Atlantic City, 1981.   Burt Lancaster is the aging numbers runner (“a cellmate of Bugsy Siegel”) involved with Susan Sarandon, ex-Betty Grable lookalike working as a waitress in an oyster-bar.  “Ginge” was not happy at being invited to play a  cantankerous old invalid  in Burt’s care. Not happy at all. Réalisateur  Louis Malle got a note from her. “How dare you! At this stage in my career, that I’m going to end up in this filth!”  In fa t,. such a   perfect little gem, it won five Oscar nominations.
  44. Jane Greer, Falcon Crest, TV, 1984-1985.    Ginger was keen to join Season Six as Maggie’s biological mother, Charlotte Pershing, in a six chapter arc.  But the suits said she was too old –  and Marion McCargo was too young!  More like the soap’s chief harridan, Jane Wyman, did not  want the competition. From either of them in  what was nearly  Vulture’s Nest, Falcon Ridge, Falcon Valley – or even Falcon Ridge,  the  name of Rudolph Valentino’s Beverly Hills home.


 Birth year: 1911Death year: 1995Other name: Casting Calls:  44