John Garfield

  1. Errol Flynn, The Sisters, 1938.      Flynn tested with Bette Davis. So did George Brent, Jeffrey Lynn, Franchot Tone. It was   Bette pointing   out the risky connotation when   Hal Wallis had planned the following billing :   Errol Flynn in The Sisters.
  2. William Holden, Golden Boy, 1938. Garfield had lost the stage play to Luther Adler and immediately quit the Group Theater company for Hollywood.According to biographer Bob Thomas, boxer Joe Bonaparte was refused by both Garfield and Tyrone Power. Not. Quite. True. The rôle was was refused for them (without them knowing, of course) by their respective studios, Fox and Warner Bros. Co-star Barbara Stanwyck insisted on the swiftly golden Holden.
  3. William Holden, Invisible Stripes, 1938.        Warners polished this one for Cagney-Garfield. The brothers became George Raft-Holden in Humphrey Bogart’s  first film with  Raft, as opposed to instead of Raft! 
  4. George Raft, Each Dawn I Die, 1939.      Garfield had made six films that year. Enough was enough.  Screenwriter Julius J Epstein on Garfield: “A nice guy, but kind of a sad sack. We’d tease him. There was something called The Writers’ Table, where writers sat around at lunch in the commissary, and I remember Garfield coming up once and saying, ‘Let’s have an intellectual discussion.’  I said, ‘Sure, who’s going to represent you?’. ”
  5. Fred Astaire, Second Chorus, 1940.        Inheriting Garfield’s trumpeter proved a rare Astaire flop and the final film of clarinetist Artie Shaw, who hated movies as much as he lusted after movie stars. Doris Dowling, Ava Gardner, Evelyn Keyes, Lana Turner were among his eight wives.   
  6. Jeffrey Lynn Underground, 1940.        Garfield was first tapped for one of the two Franken brothers – SSiblings in WWII. Lynn’s Kurt tries to warn Phililip Dorn’s Erik, about what the Nazis are really doing. 
  7. John Wayne, The Shepherd of the Hills, 1940.   The age of the contenders for the vengeful “Young Matt Matthews” fluctuated. Garfield and Tyrone Power were 27, and Robert Preston, 22 … before Wayne, at 33, made it his first colour Western. “A lachrymose bore,” said the New York Times.
  8. Richard Whorf, Blues in the Night, 1941.    Usually Humphrey Bogart picked up the roles (stupidly) dropped by George Raft.  This time, they both refused the same part – pianist Jigger Lane, forming a jazz band  with musicians he found  himself in jail with. (Including a clarinetist played by… Elia Kazan!). Also passing on Jigger were John Garfield and Anthony Quinn.  Head brother Jack Warner   wanted Quinn, showed him the script. Whaddyer think? ‘Well, Jack,” began Quinn.  Warner stopped him right there with a curt  “Forget it!”  Moral: You don’t call the boss, Jack – even if you are Cecil B DeMille’s son-in-law! 
  9. Ronald Reagan, Kings Row, 1941.      Garfield in a role played by Reagan?!!   Well, this wasn’t Bedtime With Bonzo!  Eddie Albert, Dennis Morgan, Franchot Tone were also up for the orphaned playboy,  Drake McHugh –  Reagan’s finest hour as an actor, particuarly when realising his legs were  amputated: “Where’s the rest of me? ” (This became the title of his 1965 autobio and Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s score was played during Reagan’s inauguration as the 40th US President (1981-1989). 
  10. John Shepperd, The Loves of Edgar Allen Poe, 1941.      Garfield, Louis Hayward, Claude Rains and Franchot Tone were all in the Poe mix in what The New York Times complained was “no more than a postured and lifeless tableau.”  Probably why Shepperd reverted to his (real) Broadway name: Shepperd Strudwick.

  11. Alan Baxter, Bad Men of Missouri, 1941.   “Are you kidding me?” rasped Humphrey Bogart when told he’d be playing Cole Younger, leader of the Confederate bushwacker-turned-outlaw brothers In the Ray McEnright Western. (He was promptly suspended… until The Maltese Falcon needed a Sam Spade).  The four brother later joined force with John Garfield’s Jesse James.  Wayne Morris who played Bob Younger, was Cole in 1948’s The Younger Brothers.

  12. Glenn Ford, The Adventures of Martin Eden, 1942.       Once again, Jack Warner refused to loan him to Columbia.   Nor to United Artists for…

  13. Dennis Morgan, The Hard Way, 1942.     Garfield and Phil Silvers were early notions as the rubbishy song ’n’ prance vaudevillians finding a brighter talent to exploit to the full. Except, the girl’s sister proves a much tougher Stage Momma – based, in fact, on Ginger Rogers’ formidable mother, Lela E Rogers.
  14. Michael O’Shea, Jack London, 1943.      Obvious United Artists   choice as John had   just starred in London’s Sea Wolf. Warners refused any loan deal.   O’Shea was plainly not up to it.   At least, he found a wife in the support cast: Virgina Mayo.
  15. Robert Alda, Rhapsody In Blue, 1943.  On February 23, 1943, Variety’s  headline read: “Garfield May Play Gershwin For Screen.”   Or may not. Before Garfield and Robert Alda were tested, Clifford Odets  had started writing his George Gershwin biopic for Cary Grant, one of the composer’s friends.  Director Irving Rapper, who wanted Tyrone Power because no one would believe Grant was a composer.  Plus, he was not American enough. When, in fact, the film was not Gershwin enough!  Cary later played composer Cole Porter in Night and Day which, likewise, was not Porter enough!  A dozen years later, Ty was playing piano for another musical biopic. The Eddy Duchin Story. (And, yes, Robert Alda is Alan’s father). 
  16. Tom Neal, Detour, 1945.     When John expressed interest in the story (by Anthony Quinn’s brother-in-law), Warners   roped in Ida Lupino, Ann Sheridan – and then dropped them all.   Edgar G Ulmer later shot it – in six days! – as   a memorable B-movie. The volatile Neal, in a love-triangle punch-up with Franchot Tone over second wife Barbara Payton in 1951, copied his role (switching a telephone cord for a.45) and killed his fourth wife in 1965. He called it manslaughter, the jury agreed and he was put away for six years.
  17. Wayne Morris, Deep Valley, 1946. As the roles were better than the script, Humphrey Bogart, John Garfield and Ann Sheridan took a hike, giving   their embittered trio to Dane Clark, Wayne Morris and Ida Lupino. Indeed, she was so fed up of her treatment at Warner Bros, that she ran away after this mess.
  18. Robert Ryan, Berlin Express, 1947.   Originally, Team Garfield was in negotiations about the lead role. Not, it seemed, for long. Idem for Cary Grant. French director Jacques Tourneur’s politico-film-noir was , the first Hollywood production shot in Germany after WWII.
  19. Robert Mitchum, Out of the Past (UK: Build My Gallows High), 1947.     Refused while hoping for a re-write of A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway. Hence, Marlon Brando and Mitchum won their   ikon-making classics on stage and screen.
  20. Tim Holt, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1947.     Seven years earlier, the project had been for Garfield, George Raft, Edward G Robinson. By 1943 they became  Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston and Garfield,. As everywhere else, WWII changed everything.  Bogart had become Warners’ biggest star and when he heard that John Huston might be making a film of the B Traven novel, he immediately started badgering him for a part.
  21. Dane Clark, Moonrise, 1947.       A tale of four directors…   Writer and sometime helmer Garson Kanin tried to get the Theodore Strauss book for Garfield. John Farrow beat him to it for Alan Ladd. Then, James Stewart wanted to star – and direct. Finally, it became one of Frank Borzage’s masterpieces with Clark, a decidedly non-A player.
  22. Dennis Morgan, To The Victor, 1948.    Aimed at Bogart or Garfield, Richard Brooks’ first Warners script was   ruined by the singer from Wisconsin.
  23. Gary Merrill, All About Eve,  1950.
  24. Marlon Brando, A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951.      Brando was an unknown, so Garfield was asked to play Kowalski. What and be second fiddle to the Blanche DuBroad… no way!
  25. Dan Dailey, Taxi, 1952.  Gregory Ratoff’s wife saw Sans laisser d’address in Paris and felt it perfect for the Russian actor-“director.” Better, he got Garfield interested; he needed a comeback film after his blacklisting. But he died from a coronary thrombosis before shooting began. Dailey took over as the New York cabby helping a young Irish mother find her missing husband
  26. Frank Sinatra, The Man With The Golden Arm, 1955.  “We suggest you dismiss any further consideration of this material for a motion picture to be made within the Code,” insisted the Production Code suits. That was when John Garfield owned the 1949 drug drama book.   Three years after his early death, producer-director Otto Preminger battled the Code – for Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, William Holden or Sinatra.  Marlon’s agent was slow in passing him the script,.  Sinatra read quicker – most of it – and snapped it up. He  called the result “a milestone in the motion picture business.”
  27. Jack Palance, The Big Knife, 1955.    Due to reprise the much troubled movie star he’d played on Broadway, Garfield suffered a fatal heart attack on May 21, 1952. As the studio head, played by Rod Steiger, in the vitriloic portrait of Hollywood seemed based upon Harry Cohn, the tyrannical Columbia czar took revenge by sacking Knife director Robert Aldrich from Columbia’s The Garment Jungle, 1957.
  28. Mike Lane, The Harder They Fall, 1956.     When the Budd Schulberg property rested at RKO, Jerry Wald wanted Garfield, Marlon Brando or Kirk Douglas as the exploited boxer. Columbia made it as Bogart’s last movie, four yearsafter Garfield died.
  29. Kirk Douglas, Lust For Life, 1956.    Warners first planned the Van Gogh story in ’45 – with Paul Muni, of course.Garfield chased after it up to his death. Then Fred Zinnemann tried to netBrando. (Didn’t they all?)


 Birth year: 1913Death year: 1952Other name: Casting Calls:  29