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Maureen O’Sullivan (1911-1998)

  1. Jean Parker, Murder in the Fleet, 1934.      Maureen O’Sullivan was replaced as Betty by Madge Evans who was replaced in turn by Parker who… stayed put in the play-it-again version of director Edward Sedgwick’s previous whodunnit, Death ln the Diamond, 1933. Only the settings were different - a US Navy cruiser instead of a baseball team.
  2. Janet Gaynor, Small Town Girl, 1935.     Jean Harlow and Robert Montgomery were MGM’s initial Kay and Bob, finally worn  by Gaynor and Robert Taylor, after a thoughts about O’Sullivan-Montgomery (or Franchot Tone when  Montgomery was up for Romeo and Juliet).  No connection with 1952 musical of the same name.
  3. Anita Louise, Marie-Antoinette, 1937.     Mrs Tazan was all set for Princess de Lambelle, when  she was dispatched to replace  an  ill Luise Rainer at the head of  Port of Seven Seas.   On loan from Warner, the substitute princess had been Marie-Antoinette, herself, four years earlier opposite Madame Du Barry.
  4. Constance Cummings, Haunted Honeymoon (aka Busman’s Honeymoon), 1940.     First Tazan’s girl, now the wife of Robert Montgomery’s Lord Peter Wimsey.  When she got off the Queen Mary from New York, Maureen had to return to America post-haste. WWII had begun.
  5. Mary Howard, Billy The Kid, 1940.      Having already partnered Robert Taylor in two ’38 films, (The Crowd Roars, A Yank at Oxford), the Irish beauty was MGM’s first thought for Edith Keating opposite the right-handed Taylor’s left-handed Billy Bonney. (At 30, Taylor was ten years too old for The Kid). WWII intervened and she quit to join her husband, director John Farrow, serving with  the Royal Candian Air Force. (In his 2005 autobiography, Tab Hunter, who’d obviously  seen Get Carter, described  Farrow as “just generally creepy, with beady eyes like a pair  of piss holes in the snow”).
  6. Frances Gifford, Tarzan Triumphs., 1942.    A new Jane was required for the ape-man as O’Sullivan was pregnant with her second son, Patrick. Gifford filled in on the vine this once only. Brenda Joyce became the next mate for five movies, including the transition from Johnny Weissmuller to Lex Barker.  Joyce was not pleased with any of the movies and quit after  Barker’s debut in Tarzan’s Magic Fountain, 1948.

  7. Elaine Stritch, September,1986. 
    In his 2020 memoir,  Apropos of Nothing, Woody Allen  called the film “a drama that asks the question: Can a group of tortured souls come to terms with their sad lives when directed by a guy who should still be writing mother-in-law jokes for Broadway columnists?”   The Bermanesque chamber piece was more of a chamber pot.  A mess from start to finish - twice over. For his second slice of anything-Ingmar-Bergman-can-do-I-sure-can’t-and-wished-I-could, Woody Allen was rewriting at lunch and again after dinner, while dropping actors including his lady Mia Farrow’s mother.  To save face, O’Sullivan had a diplomatic pneumonia.  Woody called up Gena Rowlands and she didn’t fancy it. Enter: Elaine.  Next, to his producers’ horror, Woody threw the film in the garbage and started all over… He usually had an extra week or two built into the budget for revisions, but not to re-make an entire movie. He would have been wiser to scrap it and move on.   Only Farrow (pregnant by the end of shooting) and Dianne Wiest stayed put; DenholmElliott, too, but in a different role. Result: Woody’s biggest flop - grossing a mere $486,484. That would have killed other directors’ careers, not Woody’s. He just carried making new films - good, bad and otherwise - and in Europe when LA wouldn’t fund him - every… September.

  8. Mia Farrow, Widows' Peak, 1994.      Irish playwright Hugh Leonard had created the script for Maureen and her daughter, Farrow. Feeling too old, O'Sullivan passed it to Mia and Natasha Richardson played Mia's role.




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