Joseph Cotten


  1. Cary Grant, The Philadelphia Story, 1940.    “Who couldn’t fall in love with Joseph Cotton?” said Katharine Hepburn. “He’s handsome.  Talented.  And oh, so charming.” But he was not enough… During the Broadway run of the play, she  has simultaneous affairs with both  co-stars,  Joe Cotton and Van Hellin, Both expected to be in  the movie,. Both were disappointed. She did better!
  2. Paul  Henreid, Casablanca, 1941.
  3. Don Ameche, Heaven Can Wait, 1942.    The Broadway play opened for Christmas 1934.  Eight years later, producer-director Ernst Lubitsch had talks with Cotten about playing Henry Van Cleve… the ladies’ man discussing his life and loves with Laird Cregar’s Satan. To Lubitsch’s surprise, Ameche proved as perfect as the film.
  4. Michael O’Shea  Lady of Burlesque, 1942.      The lite title for the famous stripper Gypsy Rose Lee’s novel, G-String Murders, after censors forbade it – and queried the use of “this extremely intimate female garment” as a murder weapon! Producer David O Selznick suggested Cotten as the lead opposite… well, Gypsy was tested and had everything that a stiff Barbara Stanwyck did not.
  5. Sonny Tufts, Government Girl, 1943.      Change of the naive politico Ed Browne in the lame comedy about the $1-a-year volunteers for Washington work during WWII. Sole surprise is the scenarist. Budd Schulberg. And, of course, all together now…  Sonny… Tufts???!!!! 
  6. Walter Abel, An American Romance, 1943.     For the finale of his “war, wheat, and steel” trilogy (after The Big Parade and Our Daily Bread), director King Vidor lost Cotton, Spencer Tracty, Ingrid Bergman and found Abel, Brian Donlevy and Ann Richards for the ultra-US story. Earlier titles had been America, American Miracle, The Magic Land, This Is America, An American Story.
  7. Robert Young, The Enchanted Cottage, 1944.      As RKO took 15 years trying to re-make the 1923 movie, directors changed from Jean Renoir to  John Cromwell, and the battle-scarred hero from Cotten to Young after Alan Marshal quit following a “nervous collapse.”
  8. Gregory Peck, Spellbound, 1944.       Hitchcock and Mr Cardboard, Part One.  Having enjoyed him so much in the favourite of his films, Shadow of a Doubt, 1943, Hitch picked Cotten again – and then again for The Paradine Case. Hitch regretted using him in Under Capricorn, 1948, when he really wanted Burt Lancaster. Next, Cotten was seen by Hitch  for Tom Helmore’s role in Vertigo, 1957.
  9. Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944.       Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick gave up after two years and sold out to Fox when he couldn’t find the perfect (all too perfect) hero, Father Francis Chisholm. Contenders included Cotten, Dana Andrews, Maurice Evans, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Dean Jagger, Gene Kelly, Franchot Tone, Spencer Tracy, Orson Welles… plus the most unlikely Catholic missionaries of all: Alan Ladd and Edward G Robinson! Auteur Joseph L Mankiewicz signed Peck in July 1943 for  his second film  – and first Oscar nomination. 
  10. Robert Young, The Enchanted Cottage, 1944.      The play was on Broadway soon after WWI. A film was made in 1923. And re-make plans started as early as ’29, again in ’39, and encore in ’43. Young and Joseph Cotten were up for the literally war-torn GI back from WWII after first choice Marshal suffered “a nervous collapse.” He must have read the script – put down by New York Times critic Bosley Crowther as “more of a horror film than a psychological romance.”
  11. Cary Grant, Notorious, 1945. 
    Producer  David O Selznick  suggested Joe Cotton instead of Grant, delayed on Njght and Day (which  should never have started). DOS didn’t understand the script, either.  Even Alfred Hitchcock and his writer, Ben Hecht, saw it differently.  For Hitch it was an as  erotic-as-possible love story but a  a taut espionage thriller for Hecht. Hmm, mused Hitchcock. why not both?  Selznick sold the entire caboose to RKO; he needed the money for Duel in the Sun, which also should never have started…  In a stunning, Oscar-worthy turn (he was not even nominated), Grant is a manipulative US counterspy falling for a nymphoesque Ingrid Bergman, recruited  by him as a Mata Hair to get the goods on Nazi master spy Claude Rains, even if it means sleeping with him.  Grant is called, simply, Devlin. Just as Sean Connery was plain Bond in 1962 – this Hitch classic is the matrix for the Bond films. John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II tried to copy it and failed. Hitch’s signature walk-on was grabbing champagne and making a fast exit left. Of course. He had a terrific film to make. Cary Grant’s finest hour.

  12. Dana Andrews, Boomerang! 1946.        Despite considerable age differences, Cotten (41), John Payne (34), Fredric March (49) and Walter Huston (63) and were short listed for the idealistic prosecutor bravely dropping trumped-up charges against the suspect in the 1924 Connecticut murder of a Catholic priest. Andrews was 37 and the real prosecutor, Homer Stille Cummings, 54 at the time. He famously declared his job had to protect the innocent as much as convicting the guilty. Nine years later, President Franklin Roosevelt made him his Attorney General.
  13. Gregory Peck, The Paradine Case, 1946.      Hitchcock and Mr Cardboard, Part Two.  This time it was Peck assisting a murder suspect. Hitch finally won Cotton for his favourite movie, Shadow Of A Doubt, 1942 – and regretted using him in Under Capricorn, 1948,when he really wanted… Burt Lancaster!
  14. Leo Genn, The Snake Pit, 1947.  Dierector Anatole Litvak saw Cotten and Richard Conte but    settled on the the British Genn as Olivia De Havilland’s  shrink who, noted New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, “works beneath the benign portraits of Freud.”
  15. Michael Rennie, The 13th Letter, 1950. Cotten turned into Richard Todd who turned into Rennie for director Otto Preminger’s take on Henri-Georges Clouzot’s French class, Le corbeau. Titles also changed from The Last Letter and The Scarlet Pen. So did the name of “Dr” Charles Boyer’s wife to Cora from… oh no!… Laura.
  16. James Stewart, The Greatest Show on Earth, 1951.    Three years before CB De Mille made his old dream of a circus film (and inspired a six-year-old Phoenix kid named Spielberg to make movies),  the Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick planned risking $6m on a big top number named after the slogan of the Ringling Bros circus. The DOS line-up would have featured  Cotten, Jennifer Jones, Louis Jourdan, Dorothy McGuire, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, Shirley Temple and Alida Valli.  Obviously the CB epic was a different script, but it’s safe to surmise  that the actual roles would have been much the same…
  17. Alec Guinness, The Swan, 1955.        First sexy Rexy Harrison (s0 called), then boring   Joseph Cotten were up for  Prince Albert – Guinness’ Hollywood debut. And Grace Kelly’s tepid finale before playing the story for real  – the film opened in  the US on April 18, 1956, the day of her wedding to Monaco’s Prince Rainier.  Their son is… Prince Albert!  (Also the name  of a penile device sex toy).
  18. Sidney Blackmer, Beyond A Reasonable Doubt, 1955.       Ida Lupino and her husband, actor Howard Duff, and writer Douglas Morrow formed a company to film Morrow’s tale of a novelist fighting the flaws of capital punishment by framing himself for murder. Ultimately, Bert Friedlob produced it as director Fritz Lang’s last US movie.
  19. Humphrey Bogart, The Harder They Fall, 1955.      Before director Mark Robson got his hands on Budd Schulberg’s novel, RKO chief Dore Schary had the rights and aimed  the boxing expose at Cotten and Robert Mitchum – in what sadly became Bogie’s 85th and final role.

  20. Kevin McCarthy, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956.
    “I didn’t care about the movies really. I was tall. I could talk. It was easy to do.” Katharine Hepburn said his voice was so melodious, “he could talk a gal out of her pants in five minutes.”

  21. Tom Helmore, Vertigo, 1957.      In November 1956, Alfred Hitchcock was undecided between about the villainous Gavin Elster. Lee J Cobb or Cotten – who was Uncle Charlie in the director’s favourite film, Shadow of a Doubt, 1942. Hitch settled for Helmore as the the suave manipulator of James Stewart’s poor, acrophobiac ex-cop.
  22. Edmond O’Brien, The 3rd Voice, 1960.        The Voice went to another member of the Orson Welles (radio) family.  Welles always considered Cotten brilliant.
  23. Eddie Albert, The Devil’s Rain, 1974.  Gentleman Joe Cotton and Peter Cushing were on the short list for Dr Sam Richards, totally opposed to the horror (or horrid) film’s Satanist #1 – of all people, Ernest Borgnine.
  24. Stewart Granger, The Wild Geese, 1978.        One of several last minute changes, as they say. 


 Birth year: 1905Death year: 1994Other name: Casting Calls:  24