John Smith

  1. James Garner,  Sayonara, 1956.    Garner  was given Smith’s smaller  role  in  compensation  for losing  the lead  to a fella named Brando.  Smith was Robert Earl Van Orden when Henry Wilson, the agent known as “the gay Svengali”, re-branded  him. “I always gave a green actor a trick name to help him get noticed”… just as Larry Parnes  was doing with his pop star stable of teenage heart-throbs  in Swinging London (Billy Fury, Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde, etc).  “I named Guy Madison from Dolly Madison cakes,” said Wilson. “Tab Hunter? I couldn’t think of anything to tab him with.” For Roy Fitzgerald,he wanted something strong and big. Rock of Gibraltar…  and  the Hudson River.”  Aka, his greatest find. Rock Hudson! What about giving  Robert Errol Van Orden the new name of John Smith? Said Wilson:  “I just got tired.”  When changing his name legally, an incredulous judge asked him:  “You mean you’ve got a good name like Van Orden and you want to take a common name like John Smith?” “Yessur, just plain John Smith,” said the  future TV star of  Laramie, 1959-1963.  “I’ll be the only one in the business.”   PS. Humphrey Bogart’s gang made fun of Wilson’s names and tried to out-do him.  Their best effort was…  Dung Heep.
  2. Don Murray, Bus Stop, 1956.  Elvis Presley was first choice for the dumbcluck cowpoke, Beauregard Decker – aka Bo – taking Marilyn Monroe’s Cherie away from all this bar singing stuff.  Elvis & Marilyn – what a wet-dream combo! Except “Colonel” Tom Parker didn’t want nobody takin’ the shine off his boy!   Despite (or because of) Marilyn being all Stanislavsky at the time, Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift weren’t interested. And she only ever wanted Rock Hudson (more into Jane Wyman sob schlock).  Also considered: three tele-cowpokes: Fess Parker, aka Davy Crockett, John Smith, from Laramie, 1959-1963., and the lanky Rowdy Yates on Rawhide, a  certain Clint Eastwood. Murray (the first star I interviewed  – walking along te beach – at  the first of my 26 Cannes festivals in 1961) won an Oscar nomination for his debut  and wed his other co-star, Hope Lange.
  3. Jim Hutton, A Time to Love and a Time to Die, 1957.    The title was chopped in half at various times by Universal before being glued back together.  Smith  tested as a WWII Gestapo informer. So did Hutton. His debut credit read: Dana J Hutton.

 Birth year: 1931Death year: 1995Other name: Casting Calls:  2