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Barry Fitzgerald (1888-1961)

  1. Alan Hale, Gentleman Jim, 1941.       Not even director Raoul Walsh could get his own way.  He wanted the delightfully hammy Barry as boxer Jim Corbett’s  father, Phil Silvers for fun,  plus Rita Hayworth or Ann Sheridan for  romance.  Walsh made do with  Hale, Jack Carson, Alexis Smith and managed to keep  Errol Flynn as Corbett. 
  2. Burgess Meredith, Story of GI Joe, 1943. Pulitzer Prize-winning US WWII correspondent Ernie Pyle was revered by his public as, seer and common man.  So producer Lester Cowan naturally first thought of Astaire and Gary Cooper, then James Gleason or Fred MacMurray. Plus two total amateurs: Pittsburgh radio sports jock, Albert Kennedy “Rosey” Rosewell, and an Ernie clone called John M Waldeck: a streetcar conductor nominated for the role by 1,200 St Louisans. Pyle voted for Meredith, a serving US Army captain at the time. Pyle never saw the film - he was killed during the 1945 Okinawa invasion two months before the premiere.
  3. Thomas Mitchell, It's A Wonderful Life,  1946.
  4. Edmund Gwenn, Thunder in the Valleyv (aka Bob, Son of Battle), 1946.      One scene-stealinger for another left por Gwenn fighting for scenes against Red Wulf as Auld Bob - a kinda Rin Tin Lassie.
  5. Cecil Kellaway, The Luck of the Irish, 1947.      Reporter Tyrone Power meets a leprechaun with the proverbial pot o’ gold. Inevitably  aimed at  Film City’s very own leprechaun… except he wouldn’t play Horace.  Kellaway was a perfect substitute. Better than Will Fyffe who was, after all, Scottish! (Strange that no one thought of booking Fitzgerald’s actor brother, Arthur Shields). 
  6. Robert Newton, Androcles and Lion, 1951.     During three years of bizarre casting of the George Bernard Shaw playlet - everyone from the sublime Chaplin (and Harpo Marx) to the ridiculous Eddie Bracken was imagined for the lead. And Fitzgerald as Ferrovius.
  7. Bryan Forbes, Sea Devils, 1953.         "Piece of horeshit," the eye-patched director Raoul Walsh told his  old mate.    "They've got a part they want  Barry Fitzgerald for  but   I can swing it  your  way.   Play it straight.   Don't shave.   Talk in an American accent -   and you never saw me before in your life."   During the auditions, Walsh told producer David E Rose: "We're starring Rock Hudson, right?   We don't want to put him against some vintage Irish ham. Give the kid the part."   Forbes  got  it and another writing deal - "let the kid rewrite his own part"   - from the man who stopped his years of Hollywood struggle by paying his way home.   "If you say here, you'll become a bum."
  8. Jimmy O’Dea, Darby O’Gill and The Little People, 1958.       And a decade later, Fttzgerald was (the half-Irish) Walt Disney’s obvious choice for the Irish leprechaun King Brian of Knocknasheega…. 
  9. Albert Sharpe, Darby O’Gill and The Little People, 1958.       … and as Darby, himself, from the HT Kavanagh stories. Refusing his second leprechaun offer,  Fitzgerald claimed he was too old  - 59 in ’47. Disney promptly talked the three-years-older Sharpe out of retirement. He lacked Fitzgerald’s utter charm and that is the reason, said Disney, that his dream film flopped. (This was Sean Connery’s  Hollywood debut and helped won him a certain Bond, Jams Bond).    




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