Melvyn Douglas

  1. Fernand Gravey, The Queen’s Affair (US: Runaway Queen), 1934.     UK producer-director Herbert Wilcox had gone Hollywood, signing   Jeanette   MacDonald and Douglas.   She never showed up for rehearsals, simply flew home. Douglas followed her. Gravey, the bilingual, Belgian-born French star, had a career almost as long as Melvyn’s.
  2. Preston Foster, Love Before Breakfast, 1935.       When Douglas bowed out, Foster was bowled in. And surprised to find Carole Lombard still there on the Universal set. She had peviously lashed out at what she felt was a bad scenario. She once rejected a Preston Sturges scrip. Tough lady. (She had a black eye on the poster!).With an instinct about what played best for Lombard.
  3. Walter Pidgeon, The Shop Worn Angel, 1937.        Douglas was selected  but  when  shooting began on  March 28, 1938  – two days after my birth –  Pidgeon was playing Sam Bailey. (Bailey was the family name of co-star James Stewart’s most celebrated character in It’s A Wonderful Life, 1945.
  4. Douglas   Fairbanks   Jr, The   Rage  of  Paris, 1938.        Unlike Universal, he was tiring of waiting a full year for the top French star, Danielle   Darrieux, to decide to   turn up and start her Hollywood contract in a screwball comedy – what else?
  5. Edward G Robinson,  The   Amazing   Dr   Clitterhouse, 1938.      Everyone,   except studio boss Jack Warner, figured Robinson would cause waves among filmgoers   as   the   medico   studying   the   criminal   mind, instead   of leading   the   gang.   Warners   turned down all suggested replacements, from Douglas and Boyer to Cary Grant and… Bette Davis.   Well, co-star Humphrey Bogart did call it Dr Clitoris.
  6. Walter Pidgeon, Society Lawyer, 1938.      Change of hot-shot lawyer opposite Virginia Bruce. Douglas passed the hero – a jilted lawyer turning detective to Pidgeon. New York Times critic Frank S Nugent did not approve. “If he keeps on appearing in these Class B’s, we’re going to begin thinking of him as Carrier Pidgeon.”
  7. Leslie Howard, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
  8. Laurence Olivier, Rebecca, 1939.
  9. William Powell, Another Thin Man, 1938.        And the title was nearly true… Suffering from the death of his bride-to-be, Jean Harlow, and his own cancer battle, Powell had been missing for two years. So, the title was true when MGM talked to Douglas and Reginald Gardiner about being the new hero. Powell bounced back to the series – named after the character Clyde Wynant, and not as most fans figured after Powell’s Nick Charles – with shorter working hours, for the third of the six Powell-Myrna Loy gems.
  10. Ray Milland, Skylark, 1941.        Paramount was beginning to make a star of   the actor first billed in his first British films as Spike Milland.

  11. Charles Boyer, Gaslight, 1943.       Instead of a  husband driving his  wife insane., Douglas went to WWII…  The couple, starting at Columbia as a repeat teaming of Boyer and Irene Dunne  worked far better at MGM as Boyer-and – winning her first Oscar – Ingrid Bergman. Debuting as Boyer’s flirty maid: Angela Lansbury, “an English refugee girl of 17 [with] great promise as an actress,” reported Hedda Hopper. She wuz right! I am writing this a few days after Lansbury won her first Olivier Award in London as Best Supporting Actress of 2014… at age 89.
  12. Humphrey Bogart, Sahara, 1943.    Gary Cooper refused Sergeant Joe Gunn  in the WWI desert movie. Melvyn Douglas and Glenn Ford were then bookedThey became Humphrey Bogart and Bruce Bennett,…  and, indeed, Broderick Crawford and Lloyd Bridges in the 1952 Western re-make version, Last of the Comanches. Bridges was in both movies.
  13. Keenan Wynn, The Thrill of  Brazil, 1946. In bad health, Melvyn Douglas had to quit the Columbia musical. He was subbed  by Lee Bowman –  replaced in turn  by Keenan Wynn, borrowed from  MGM for the occasion… along with Ann Miller.  All about as muddlesome as the plot… Tito Guizer loves Miller who loves Wynn who loves his ex-wife, the top-billed Evelyn Keyes. Few loved the movie.  Nor the daffy song entitled: Man is Brother to a Mule.
  14. Ray Collins, The Man From Colorado, 1947.     The change of co-star opposite Glenn Ford in a rare baddy role was nothing compared to the vitriolic fallout from the animosity between Ford, director Charles Vidor and Columbia czar Harry Cohn. Before things went nuclear, MGM giant LB Mayer brokered a peace – of sorts. It cost poor Vidor $15,000 a year for five years.
  15. Raymond Massey, The Fountainhead, 1948.       Warner Bros bowed to protest letters by the tonaboutputting such an anti-Fascist as Douglas inAnn Rynd’s script of her novel.(Lauren Bacall was similarly replaced by Patricia Neal) An apparently unsullied Masseytook overnewspaper tycoon inspired by William Randolph Hearst. Variety buried it under cold, unemotional, loquacious.A major flop blamed on Gary Cooper being far too old at 47 for the 20-something architect hero. Plus none of the cast seemed to understand their dialogue.
  16. John Houseman, The Paper Chase, 1973.     An Oscar for his third film in 36 years. led to a TV series based on the film – for Houseman at 73. He was the producer and co-founder (with Orson Welles) of the legendary Mercury Theatre Players.
  17. Fred MacMurray, There’s Always Tomorrow, 1955.       Douglas and Robert Young were also in the frame for the mid-aged business success with an empty existence until, Barbara Stanwyck sashshayed back into his life – and not, this time, for him to murder her husband. Despite how it sounds, this is not the usual soapy melo from director Douglas Sirk. It’s a man’s not a woman’s picture, for example, and there is damn little gloss on the moss.



 Birth year: 1901Death year: 1981Other name: Casting Calls:  17