John Derek

  1. Guy Madison, Since You Went Away, 1943.     Many were seen  by producer David O Selznick for his war effort film –  a US take on MGM’s  Mrs Miniver -lost decent  roles but wound up with compensatory screen debut bits. 
  2. Humphrey Bogart, In A Lonely Place, 1949.    Handsome Derek in a Bogie role… ? Yes, well, Dix Steele, scenarist and drunk, was much younger in Dorothy B Hughes’ story. However, Bogie loved the script and was ready to go without revisions, although director Nicholas made plenty.
  3. Anthony Dexter, Valentino, 1950.  The second of Dexter’s 25 screen roles (go on, name one) is his most famous film. The Nebraska farm boy was a real clone of the silent movie icon – aka Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla. “Incredible!” declared George Melford who directed Valentino’s The Sheik in 1921. “The same eyes, ears, mouth – the same grace in dancing.”  The Columbia Pictures publicity machine insisted  that 75,000 applicants led to 400 screen tests – none seemed to be Italian. Certainly not the final seven. Producer Edward Small (his name condemned his work in advance – Small productions!) finally went through Argentine Fernando Lamas, two Mexicans, (Arturo de Córdova, Ricardo Montalban) and three Yanks (John Derek, Jon Hall, Guy Williams) before voting Dexter. UK director Ken Russell made a glossier (well, typically Russellian) version in 1976.  His Rudolph wasn’t Italian either. But Russian! The ballet star Rudolph (geddit?) Nureyev.
  4. Montgomery Clift,  From Here To Eternity,  1952.
  5. Edmund Purdom, The Egyptian, 1953.    Once Brando split for his New York shrink’s couch, head Fox Darryl Zanuck scurried around searching for a new Sinuhe, the court physician – Derek, Dirk Bogarde, John Cassevetes, Montgomery Clift,  Richard Conte, Rock Hudson, John Lund, Guy Madison, Hugh O’Brian, Michael Pate. Fox borrowed MGM’s wooden Purdom and sued Brando for $2m, settled when he agreed to make (the much worse) Désirée.   Or Daisy-Rae as he called the one that got away from Napoleon.  
  6. Aldo Ray, We’re No Angels, 1954.   There was some talk of trying to attract the younger generation by having Derek as the third of the Devil’s Island escaped cons messing around on the mainland. Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Ray made the perfect trio in a well nigh perfect (originally French) comedy. Most critics appeared astonished by Bogie’s comedic talent. Hadn’t they seen his other work?
  7. Kevin McCarthy, An Annapolis Story, 1955.    The handsome Derek kid was beginning his slide (into photography)and insisted on playing the other midshipman brother. “I pointed out that his was the better role,” recalled director Don Siegel.   “He obviously didn’t believe me. So they changed   parts.   It actually made not the slightest difference.”   To the film, nor to either actor’s career.
  8. Rory Calhoun, Il colosso di Rodi(US:The Colossus of Rhodes),Spain-Italy-France, 1961.    Following the globaltriumph of The Ten Commandments, Derek threw his weight around on the Madrid setuntil Sergio Leone had him fired. Mrs Derek, the then unknown Ursula Andress, pleaded on his behalf, saying Derek was threatening to jump out hishotel window. “Let me knowwhen,” said Leone.“I’ll be along to watch that!” Already in Italy for the title role in MGM’s Marco Polo, Calhoun took over on a day’s notice… with a large bracelet and cloak hidinghis tattooed left arm. Derek was not Leone’ s only problem. One of his produces kept asking who was plaing the colossus. “But… it’s a statue.”“A statue?!! Oh I’m ruined, I’m ruined!”
  9. Tony Curtis, The Great Race, 1964. The Great Leslie nearly wasn’t the fourth movie Curtis made with Blake Edwards. After Charlton Heston rejected it to be Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ectasy, the director wanted a younger daredevil hero:   Derek or Robert Wagner. Head brother Jack Warner did not. It became, said Curtis. a matter of TC or no $$.

 Birth year: 1926Death year: 1998Other name: Casting Calls:  9