Jack Benny

  1. Ray Bolger, The Great Ziegfeld, 1935.    At one  time, Benny’s MGM debut was to be  as a guest star in the very-Hollywood bio of Broadway icon, Florenz Ziefeld.  Bolger played himself, instead.
  2. Bob Hope, The Big Broadcast of 1938, 1937.    Benny shrugged and passed on radio star Buzz Fielding in the last of Paramount’s Big Broadcast series, opening the movie door for Bob Hope and, indeed, his signature tune, Thanks For The Memory (winning the Best Song Oscar). Also aboard the good ship SS Gigantic – WC Fields and Hope’s continual partner, Dorothy Lamour.
  3. Cary Grant, Arsenic and Old Lace, 1941.  Frank Capra is one of the great Hollywood directors…. and liars!  He told Grant that he was the only actor in America who could do justice to the screwball role of Mortimer Brewster. So what did Capra tell  Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan (!) and Richard Travis (who?). Shot in 1941, when Archie Leach legally became Cary Grant,  the release was delayed, as per contract, until after the play closed… in 1944. Cary Grant felt his Mortimer was say over the top.  .”Jimmy Stewart could  have done a much better job  did. He would have been wonderful… I told Frank Capra that at the time,  He just wouldn’t t listen.” Capra said he’d  solve it in the final edit Except  he went to film WWII  for  his superb  Why We Fight series.  
  4. Spencer Tracy, Father of the Bride, 1949.    Soon as he heard MGM had won the rights, Benny was aching to be Stanley T Banks, father of Elizabeth Taylor. Metro suits Dore Schary and Pandro Berman weren’t applauding, nor was director Vincente Minnelli after shooting a test. “Terrible  – because it wasn’t for him. And Benny never talked to his pal, Minnelli, again for ten years. “Well, who you gonna get?” asked Schary. “Spencer!” “You’ll never get Spencer to do it.” “I’ll get him.”   For the sequel, too! Liz Taylor had time to marry and divorce between the two premieres.
  5. James Stewart, Harvey, 1949.    Playwright Mary Chase had final approval of the movie Elwood P Dowd, an alcoholic who sees and relates to an invisible giant rabbit called Harvey. Stewart and Joe E Brown were the only contenders  who had played the role on-stage (Jim never stopped reviving the play in the UK and US!).  Other potential Elwoods were: Benny, James Cagney, Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, Cary Grant, Jack Haley (The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz), even the silent   era comic Harold Lloyd and crooner Rudy Vallee. In 2000, another Harvey –  the later disgraced New York producer Harvey Weinstein planned a re-tread. With Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler  or John Travolta. Spielberg as well. With Tom Hanks.   Or Robert Downey Jr.
  6. Spencer Tracy, It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, 1962.    Producer-director Stanley Kramer’s movie was stuffed full with stars – mainly comics. Not all agreed to join  the party, being terrified at the prospect of working with the great Spencer Tracy.    William  Rose (co-scenarist with his wife Tania) always aimed the central Captain TG Culpepper at Benny – but he only agreed to a cameo. And inherited one from  Stan Laurel. 
  7. George Burns, The Sunshine Boys, 1975. 


 Birth year: 1894Death year: 1974Other name: Casting Calls:  7