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Jack Oakie (1903-1978)

  1. RIchard “Skeets” Gallagher,  Merrily We Go To Hell (UK: Merrily We Go To ----.),  1931.  The UK title give some idea how pre-Production Code this film was, so futuristic in sexual boldness that 30s’ people must have considered it science-fiction.  The great Dorothy Arzner perfectly directed  the  open marriage behaviour of Fredric March and Sylvia Sidney. This was Cary Grant’s four film, a role  way  smaller than that of Gallagher’s drunken  reporter.  Within a year, just  seven  years later, Grant was co-starring with March in The Eagle and the Hawk… and soon  ruling Paramount.
  2. Wallace Ford, Three Cornered Moon, 1932.    An early script in the Paramount story files at the AMPAS library confirmed that Oakie was in as Kenneth... until Ford was. Made scant difference. This was Claudette Colbert’s show - 150%.
  3. Harold Lloyd, The Milky Way, 1936.    The original cast had a rushed make-over when Jack Oakie was pushed aside for Harold Lloyd in the comedy about a milkman KOing the world middleweight boxing champ in a street brawl. Danny Kaye made a superior version, The Kid From Brooklyn, in 1945.
  4. Cary Grant, Gunga Din, 1939.   Grant was signed as Sergeant Ballantine, then granted Oakie's Sergeant Cutter -and  quickly gave him his own  true  prenom.  Archibald.
  5. Bob Hope, The Road To Singapore, 1940.   Or, Mandalay, when created for Oakie and Fred MacMurray.  Jack made Chaplin's Great Dictator,  instead,  winning an Oscar nomination for his Mussolini send-up - Benzini Napaloni.
  6. Milton Berle, Sun Valley Serenade, 1940.   Change of the guy named Nifty - would I lie? From “America’s Joyboy” to the stand-up star, soon taking over US TV as Uncle Miltie.
  7. William Tracy, Cadet Girl, 1940.     Seen for the West Point cadet known as The Runt in the less military and more big band musical headed by Carole Landis and George Montgomery.
  8. Thomas Mitchell, Pocketful Of Miracles, 1960.     Burl Ives, Charles Laughton, Fredric March, Edward G Robinson - for what proved his last (and  unhappiest) gig,  director Frank Capra went through many possibilities for the perfect Judge Henry Blake.  And when he found him, Jackie Oakie fell ill and his scenes were re-shot with Mitchell. 
  9. William Tracy, Cadet Girl,1940.    Pittsburg’s Tracy supplied the comedy relief as the West Point cadet known as The Runt - charming! -  in the musical propaganda programmer from Fox with George Montgomery falling for Carole Landis as the singer with his brother Shepperd Strudwick’s band. Cue: loud s(w)inging of  “It won't be fun, But it's got to be done / It's a fight for the U.S.A., And the U.S. way!”
  10. John Huston, Myra Breckinridge, 1969.   In Hollywood, the in-Brit director Mike Sarne, was hoping to just write the script  and back home to delight his bank manager with 75,000 clams! Sarne saw Myra’s antagonist, old cowboy star Buck Loner, as a great comic role for Oakie. Huston thought different and chatted up the Fox folk.  “I can’t even describe how  threatened  I felt,” said the pop singer turned film-maker (Joanna). “He’s  fuckin’ John Huston, for Chrissakes!”  That was before he called him “a decrepit old hack.” A term also suitable for his other ideas:  Oakie and, Mickey Rooney.


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