Milton Berle


  1. John Carroll, Hit Parade of 1943, 1942.   Republic Pictures’ plan for Berle and Constance Bennett became  MGM’s Carroll and Paramount’s Susan Hayward. Not the same thing at all. (Berle was funny – sometimes – Carroll never was). Republic staged a contest for the worst possible song title.  Winner was… wait for it… Autumn Leaves in the Gutter, Never Again Will They Flutter.
  2. Richard Denning, Quiet Please Murder, 1942.  No punctuation. And no Berle, either. The comic was, inexplicably, chosen originally for the stalwart private dick investigating the nefarous doings of George Sanders and Gail Patrick in a public library. Now do you get the title?!
  3. Gene Sheldon, The Dolly Sisters, 1944. For unexplained reasons – like money or billing! – Berle fell out of being Professor Winnup in the fictional bio-pic of Yansci and Roszika Deutch, going from Budapest to the Ziegfeld Follies in 1911-1912, as Jenny and Rosie Dolly – played by Betty Grable and the Pocket Grable, June Haver.
  4. Robert Preston, The Music Man, 1962.    Now, if they’d only have let Uncle Miltie do it in drag…  Actually, Berle kept his trombone in his pants. Jack Warner begged… but Cary Grant felt only the Broadway show’s star should do it. “Not only will I not star in it, but if Robert Preston doesn’t star in it, I will not see it,” he said – and used a similar line about Rex Harrison when Warner offered him  My Fair Lady, in  1963.” Also refusing to steal Preston’s  thunder:  Milton Berle, Ray Bolger, Art Carney, Dan Dailey, Danny Kaye, Phil Harris, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.
  5. Jerry Lewis, The Day The Clown Cried, 1972.        US TV’s top funny man ached, of course, to be Hamlet. Or Helmut Dorque, a German clown keeping kids amused… in Auschwitz. Bobby Darin, Joseph Schildkraut and Dick Van Dyke also tried… Jerry felt the whole world conspired against his (never released) version. It was called – take your choice – unwatchable/never finished/never seen/buried in his vault/in litigation/out to lunch. “Perfect” – in its awfulness!” said actor Harry Shearer. “Like a student film,” said producer Jim Wright. Not even Steven Spielberg offered to re-make it.



 Birth year: 1908Death year: 2002Other name: Casting Calls:  4