Payday Loans
William Powell (1892-1984)

  1. George Brent, The Keyhole, 1932.    One suave leading man for another, as Brent inherited Powell’s shamus falling for Kay Francis who is twice wed - at the same time! The first hubby  is blackmailing her because he lied about divorcing her and she is, thus, a bigamist. So it flows. On a slow boat to  Cuba. Francis abnd Brent made six films together; he also  clocked up 11 with one-time lover Bette Davis.
  2. Warren William, Lady For A Day, 1932.         Super-director Frank Capra wanted Warners' James Cagney. Or Metro's Powell  as  Dave the Dude.  Capra never got who he wanted for his 1961  remake, Pocketful of Miracles -  ruined by Glenn Ford on  and off-screen.
  3. Lyle Talbot, Girl Missing, 1932.        Powell and Londoner Murray Kinnel were among the chose who did not, in the end, make the the early talkie quickie - shot in two weeks. Never mind. Between them they won 167 other screen roles.
  4. Warren William, The Dragon Murder Case, 1933.      Four films as SS Van Dine’s (actually, Willard Huntington Wright’s) snobbish, cynical, bored, supercilious, dilettante detective Philo Vance was enough for Powell… Raymond Chandler was no fan of “the most asinine character in detective fiction.” And funny poet Ogden Nash added: “Philo Vance/
Needs a kick in the pance.”
  5. Paul Lukas, The Casino Murder Case, 1934.       Naturally, Powell also refused this one, despite MGM planning it for him and Myrna Loy. (They were tons better as The Thin Man and his wife). His exit put Metro into a panic. Did they have another Philo? Well, Basil Rathbone had Vanced once in 1929 (and was Sherlock Holmes, opposite Powell’s Vance in Paramount on Parade, 1929). But that was then, this was now… Otto Kruger topped the list, followed by Columbia’s magician-actor Fred Keating, Warren William (he had Vanced the previous year), Ricardo Cortez and, finally, Lukas - with Ted Healy succeeding Eugene Pallette as Sergeant Heath of the NYPD.
  6. Spencer Tracy, Whipsaw, 1935.     Next, he lost the government agent falling for Myrna Loy’s jewel thief but got Loy to himself - as the debonair Nick and Nora Charles - in  The Thin Man series, 1934-1947.  The first was shot by director “One Take Woody” Van Dyke in 12 days!
  7. Clark Gable, Wife versus Secretary, 1935.     Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy were  always The Secretary and The Wife, but Powell was first pegged for The Husband called…Yes, well, what was he called?  Apparently, Van Sanford, although often referred to as  Mr Stanhope while Loy called him Jack… 
  8. Clark Gable, China Seas, 1935.    Powell proved far too busy to skipper the freighter with £250,000 in hidden gold aboard. Anyway, the teaming of Gable-Jean Harlow-Wallace Beery would sell more tickets. (And did.)
  9. Conrad Veidt, Under The Red Robe, 1936.   It’s the time of D'Artagnan, of Cyrano De Bergerac… and for a switch  from Powell to Veidt as Gil De Berault, the feared duellist known as The Black Death, saved from a death sentence by Cardinal Richelieu to quell a rebellious Huguenot duke, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Powell had beren  the Duke of Orleans  in the second  Red Robe movie in 1922… as William H Powell. 
  10. Ronald Colman, The Prisoner of Zenda, 1936.     The shock death of MGM’s house genius, production chief Irving Thalberg,   changed his US pairing of Powell-Myrna   Loy for the UK’s Colman-Madeleine Carroll.

  11. Edmund Lowe, Espionage, 1936.    Lowe inherited reporter Kenneth Stevens opposite Madge Evans in a terrific MGM B, OK?
  12. Melvyn Douglas, Arséne Lupin Returns, 1937.   At one time, Powell was up for the second Lupin thriller, opposite a certain Myrna Loy - already Nora to his Nick Charles in six MGMovies, during 1934-1947. based on Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man.
  13. Melvyn Douglas, Arsène Lupin Returns, 1937.   For the sequel to 1931’s  version (when John Barrymore’s Lupin was hunted by brother  Lionel as the Paris police chief), MGM dreamed up Powell chased by  ex-FBI man Spencer Tracy. Plus Powell’s Thin Man co-star, Myrna Loy, as the gal in the middle.   Final trio was Douglas, Warren William, Virginia Bruce.
  14. Cary Grant, Suzy, 1937.       Powell, Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery,  Robert Taylor, Spencer  Tracy, Robert Young  -  they were   too important to play third fiddle to Jean Harlow (minus panties) and Franchot Tone. MGM went shopping at  the Paramount superstarmarket..
  15. Melvyn Douglas, Two-Faced Women, 1940.    Two years after Ninotchka, Douglas was also second choice for Grabo’s silly finale.  Powell had been  first for the trite comedy which New York’s Archbishop Spellman condemned as a danger to public morality! “Witnessing this picture maybe an occasion of sin”!!   (“Witnessing?”  “Maybe??  He wasn’t sure?).  Having completed her MGM contract, Garbo upped and quit movies… after reviews like this one from Time: “It is almost almost as shocking as seeing your mother drunk.” That hardly stopped directors, producers, scenarists, stars begging her to return. 
  16. Laurence Olivier, Rebecca, 1939.
  17. Melvyn Douglas, Two-Faced Women, 1940.    Two years after Ninotchk, Douglas was also second choice for Grabo’s silly finale.  Powell had been  first for the trite comedy which New York’s Archbishop Spellman condemned as a danger to public morality! “Witnessing this picture maybe an occasion of sin”!!   (“Witnessing?”  “Maybe?? He wasn’t sure?) No wonder, having completed her MGM contract, Garbo upped and quit movies for (sadly) ever more.  That hardly stopped directors, producers, scenarists, stars begging her to return. 
  18. Joseph Cotten, Shadow of a Doubt, 1942.    MGM refused to allow Alfred Hitchcock to use Powell as the mysterious Uncle Charlie in what Hitch and Charlie’s screen niece, Teresa Wright, always called their favourite film.   Shot in Santa Rosa, where Charles M Schulz lived and worked on his Peanuts comic strip at...  #1 Snoopy Villas.  I know because I interviewed the great man (one of my idols) in his office there.
  19. Ronald Colman, Kismet, 1943.   For the much-filmed 1911 Edward Knoblock play – sheer Arabian Nights kitsch - Powell was first offered the wandering poet and self-styled King of the Beggars, vowing that his daughter will become Queen of Bagdad.
  20. Rex Harrison, Anna and the King of Siam, 1945.   A memo, dated March 8, from  from Fox  production chief Darryl F Zanuck to producer Louis D Lighton revealed DFZ wanted Powell as King Mongkut…and maybe Myrna Loy as Anna. Thereby nearly having Siam ruled by The Thin Man’s Nick and Nora Charles!  Also in the Majesty mix were  the British James Mason, Ralph Richardson, plus Hollywood’s Robert Montgomery.

  21.  Gene Kelly, The Pirate, 1947.    
    MGM snapped up SN Behrman’s play for… let’s see now, more stars than in the heavens above…    So how about them Minivers: Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon? Garson or Myrna Loy plus Cary Grant plus Charles Laughton…  Or, the Notorious Grant and Ingrid Bergman couple… or William Powell and Hedy Lamarr?  Hey, we’re MGM!  Why not a musical? With Judy Garland and… er… John Hodiak? They got on real swell in The Harvey Girls. He can’t really sing ‘n’ dance? No prob - Judy and Gene Kelly! And so it came to pass. Uneasily... The Minnellis (Judy and director Vincente) were at each other’s creative throats.      A shrink was added to the budget to make sure Judy could get through it all.  LB Mayer ordered the Judy-Kelly Voodoo number burnt: it was too torrid. (Judy-Kelly were torrid?). In fact, LB hated it all, calling it high-brow and extremely pretentious. But that’’s Kelly  - and Minnelli - in a nutshell.

  22. Charles Bickford,  A Star Is Born, 1953.
  23. Desi Arnaz, Forever Darling, 1955. No, no, Powell was not about to replace The #1 TV Husband of the #1 TV Wife... Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y De Acha III and Lucille Ball simply dusted off the plot many years after first, The Thin Man couple of Loy and William Powell, then Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn (like who else?), passed on being the splitting couple saved by an angel... - a fun part for James Mason Didn’t work: the Arnazs were divorced five years later. (Powell-Loy made 14 films ensemble, five more than Tracy-Hepburn).
  24. Robert Stack, Great Day in the Morning, 1955.    After  Richard  Burton passed on his first (and only) Western offer in February, producer Edmund Grainger, aimed for Powell or (the 25-years younger!) Robert Mitchum to play Owen Pentecost. Stack was two years younger than Mitchum.
  25. Edmond O’Brien, The 3rd Voice, 1960.     Alan Ladd and Joseph Cotten also passed.


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