Helen Hayes

  1. Kay Johnson, Billy The Kid, 1930.      Director King Vidor first wanted Hayes – or Lucile Brown – in the first of the 20-plus movies about William Bonney… played here by Johnny Mack Brown.
  2. Barbara Stanwyck, Forbidden, 1932.     After Hayes refused the Back Street-style melo, Barbara expected$50,000 – or no film. Columbia’s crude czar Harry Cohn won the ensuing court case – and still paid up!  Difficult to imagine Hayes (as my generation knew her as a Queen Mother) playing someone called Lulu Smith!   Stanwyck,  not so much. 
  3. Luise Rainer, Escapade, 1934.      MGM paid a hefty $100,000 for the rights to re-tool the Austrianm romance, Maskerade– for Hayes.  She backed out. Myrna Loy came in. She also backed out, feeling the sobbing and giggling”Leopoldine was mis-casting. Finally, it proved the Hollywood debut of Austrian actress Luise Rainer opposite Loy’s regular co-star, William Powell… and “The voice of the immortal [Enrico] Caruso recorded on Victor records.”
  4. Judy Garland, The Wizard of Oz, 1938.
  5. Bette Davis, All This,  and Heaven Too, 1939.   Head Bro Jack Warner first wanted Hayes or Miriam Hopkins as the virtuous governess Henriette. According to our on-the-spot  reporter Bette Davis, Warner paid  $100,000 for the rights, $1,370,000 for the films (there were an astonishing 67 sets!), plus $1,000 for each of her 35 costumes. She remembered as it was her biggest success at the time. Warner Bros made a profit of $1.24million., And yet Warner never knew what to do with her. 
  6. Bette Davis, Watch on the Rhine, 1942.     Rosemary DeCamp, Irene Dunne, Helen Hayes, Margaret Sullavan were shortlisted but Bette won the  American wife of a German patriot Paul Lukas hounded by Nazis in Washington DC. It was a support role, almost a thank you to Lilian Hellman for also writing Bette’s 1941 film, The Little Foxes. Bette Davis thanking someone?! 
  7. Claudette Colbert, Since You Went Away, 1943.    “This is a story of the Unconquerable Fortress: the American Home…” For the wife missing hubby at WWII, producer David O Selznick dutifully looked at Irene Dunne, Ann Harding, Rosalind Russell and successive First Ladies of the American Theatre, Katharine Cornell and Hayes.  He wanted Colbert… as his indomitable all-American mother!  At 40, she didn’t want to be  the US Mrs Miniver, a 40ish mother of two teen daughters (Selznick’s future second wife, Jennifer Jones, and Shirley Temple in a comeback at 15).  DOS won by  saying the picture would help morale – and paying her $150,000.
  8. Teresa Wright, The Actress, 1953.    Ruth Gordon wanted Spencer Tracy to play her father in her script of her autobiographical play.She had already written two of his and Katharine Hepburn’s nine films (Adam’s Rib, Pat and Mike) with husband Garson Kanin.Finding mother was not so easy. Shirley Booth was rehearsing a play; Uta Hagen was “stunning” said Kanin, but… Maureen Stapleton, Jane Wyman were also listed and, at 53, Hayes felt too old for Tracy. “He usually prefers younger girls.”  He voted Dorothy McGuire, 39. Wright was 41…
  9. Lllian Gish, Night Of The Hunter,  1954.    For his one and only – and classic – directing gig, Charles Laughton was spoilt  for choice  for guardian angel Rachel Cooper.  He saw Gish, Hayes, Ethel Barrymore, Jane Darwell, Louise Fazenda, Agnes Moorehead and, of course, his wife, Elsa Lanchester.
  10. Barbara Stanwyck, These Wilder Years, 1955. MGM bought the story on February 16 – for James Cagney as the millionaire searching for the son he abandoned in his wild oats period – and Hayes was the orphanage director refuseing to help him. She promised her salary to the polio foundation (named after her daughter Mary MacArthur). If she did so it was from another movie As scheduling collided with this one. Or maybe La Stanwyck simply yelled: Hey, it’s about time I worked with Jimmy…

  11. Virginia Gregg, Psycho, 1959.   For the (uncredited) voice of Mrs Norma Bates, herself, Alfred Hitchcock listened to Hayes (First Lady of the American Theatre), Paul Jasmin (close pal of the film’s star Anthony Perkins), Margaret Hamilton (The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz), 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.
  12. Peggy Wood, The Story of Ruth, 1959.  Adapted less from the prophet Samuel than the prophet Samuel Bronston. His Cecil B-ish production – buried by Variety as a “moth-eaten, misleading mishmash of biblical hysterics” proved to be the story of Elana Eden’s Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi, portrayed by Peggy Wood, instead of Irene Dunne or Helen Hayes.
  13. Bette Davis, Pocketful of Miracles,1960.    Pocketful  of Troubles is how  poor old Frank Capra called his re-make of his 1933 Lady For A Day. Scared of playing Apple Annie, Shirley Booth ran. Helen Hayes was “most grateful and  happy to  be  a part  of  it.”  Until Capra’s partner insisted on changing his romantic co-star, delaying scripting, thereby losing Hayes back  to the stage. She was heartbroken. Capra, too. “I could’ve strangled Glenn Ford.  Because he wanted Hope Lange, I lost Helen Hayes. Don’t  compromise.  Only the  daring  should  make films.” Capra retired, hurt after this one –  “shaped in the fires of discord and filmed in an atmosphere of pain, strain and loathing.” 
  14. Mildred Dunnock, Whatever Happened To Aunt Alice? 1969.     Oh c’mon, you offer The First Lady something better, surely. Even the (first) director split after a month.  
  15. Jeanette Nolan, The Fox and the Hound, 1980.     Old-timers  Hayes and Lilian Gish were also in the voice mix for the Widow Tweed,   who adopted the fox named Tod. Nolan (whose husband, John McIntire, played Grumpy Badger) had voiced Ellie May in The Rescuers, 1976. 


 Birth year: 1900Death year: 1993Other name: Casting Calls:  15