Robert Ryan



  1. Charles Boyer, The Arch of Triumph, 1947.    Enterprise Productions wanted to loan RKO’s Ryan for Ingrid Bergman’s lover. RKO refused by insisting upon “unmeetable demands.” He was lucky to escape the massacre of Erich Maria Remarque’s  great novel.

  2. Victor Mature, Samson and Delilah, 1948.  
    Cinemperor Cecil B DeMIlle first planned the epic in 1935 for Henry Wilcoxon and Miriam Hopkins.   Next in line, producer David O Selznick envisaged Kirk Douglas and Marlene Dietrich… By ’48, CB got serious. So did James Mason – suggesting $250,000. (DeMille showed him  the door). He toyed with Roberts Mitchum, Ryan  and Taylor; ruled out  Lex Barker (he became a five-time Tarzan) and Burt Lancaster –  too inexperienced, a bad back and  “bad” politics. Other also-rans went from longtime CB acolyte John Bromfield, Rory Calhoun, Jim Davis (future father of JR in Dallas),  Errol Flynn, William Hopper (Hedda’s son!), John Ireland, Glen Langan, Willard Parker… to the youngest new evangelist in town, Dr Billy Graham!. Then, CB was telling 22-year-old Steve Reeves, to tone down his muscularity – while packing Mature  off to the gym to beef his up!  Here’s a review by Groucho Marx:No picture can hold my interest where the leading man’s bust is larger than the leading lady’s!”

  3. Raymond Massey, Dallas,  1949.      A fine  old-fashioned Western  with a fine old-fashioned villain – Massey at his best worst, leading Steve Cochran and Zon Murray on the run from Gary Cooper’s vengeful renegade-turned marshal Reb Hollister.
  4. Robert Mitchum, Where Danger Lives, 1949.   A Roberts battle. One story said Leo Rosten’s thriller was bought for Mitchum. Another said, for Ryan.  Mitchum won as RKO continued damage limitation after his mariuana bust (which actually seemed to do him so much good, one wonders if it was not all studio planned). Snared between Faith Domergue and Maureen O’Sullivan, he had to be careful where he put his hands. Domergue was his boss Howard Hughes’ latest, er, find and O’Sullivan was wed to his director, John Farrow.
  5. John Hodiak, Battleground, 1949.   Producer  Dore Schary had booked  Roberts Mitchum and Ryan, plus Bill Williams for The Battle of the Bulge script about  “The Battered Bastards of Bastogne”. No, said RKO’s owner Howard Hughes: people are tired of war films. Schary moved to MGM – where his new boss, LB Mayer, said much the same.  Schary insisted and the film  was such a winner than he  was  swiftly elected to the Metro board and Mayer was  fired in 1951.
  6. Ray Milland, A Life of Her Own, 1950.    Or The Abiding Vision when Vincente Minnelli was due to direct Cary Grant opposite Lane Turner’s comeback after three years away. When Cary proved unavailable, new director George Cukor  looked over James Craig, Howard Keel, James Mason, George Murphy, and Robert Ryan. Cukor chose Wendell Corey. La Turner did not and had him fired. Enter: Ray Milland.
  7. Victor Mature, The Las Vegas Story, 1950.      Laura scenarist Jay Dratler’s original script (not many of them to the pound) went from Burt Lancaster at Warner in 1948 to Ryan (or Robert Mitchum) at RKO in January 1950, before Mature arrived from Fox with his one RKO movie a year deal in November.
  8. Glenn Ford, Human Desire, 1953.  Austrian director Fritz Lang hated the title.  “What other kind of desire is there?” Brando hated everything else. “I cannot believe that the man who gave us the über dark Mabuse, the pathetic child murderer in M and the futuristic look at society, Metropolis, would stoop to hustling such crap.”  Lang was also considering Olivia, Rita Hayworth and Jennifer Jones for Glenn Ford’s lover…. While Hollywood gossip hen Louella Parsons  said the producers wanted Lang’s 1951 Clash by Night line-up: Pau; Douglas, Robert Ryan and Barbara  Stanwyck.
  9. Edward G Robinson, The Ten Commandments,,1954.
  10. Stephen Boyd, Ben-Hur, 1958.     Sword and sandal epics were in.  And producer Sam Zimbalist, who’d made one of the biggest – Quo Vadis, 1950 –  was back in Rome, re-making the 1923 silent Ben-Hur.  (Sergio Leone claimed he directed the stunning  chariot race. He did not).         Losing Messala were Kirk Douglas (now you know why he became  Spartacus), Charlton Heston (who became Judah Ben-Hur). Plus New Yorker Ray Danton, British Stewart Granger (from Quo Vadis), Welsh Ronald Lewis, Canadian  Leslie Nielsen, way too  old Robert Ryan (when way too old Burt Lancaster was to be Judah Ben-Hur) and Scottish. Bill Travers. Were they bright enough to comprehend what Heston never twigged  –  that “contributing writer” Gore Vidal implied Judah and Messala had been lovers.

  11. Anthony Eisley, The Naked Kiss, 1964.    Maverick autuer Samuel Fuller had recently lost one of his idols, Gary Cooper, and one of his stars, Jeff Chandler – and now another favourite, the star of The House of Bamboo, 1954 – close to forming a company with Sam – was stricken with lung cancer.
  12. Lee Van Cleef, Per qualche dollaro/For A Few Dollars More, Italy-Spain-Germany, 1965.    What a career turnaround… for the sometime guest star inClint Eastwood’s Rawhide TV series. “As soon as we met, Sergio made up his mind: That’s Colonel Mortimer. Well, I wasn’t going to argue with him. Hell, I couldn’t pay my phone bill at the time.” As the old-timers Ryan andHenry Fonda snubbed the rising force of director Sergio Leone, Lee signed on. “I did the thing, paid my phone bill andexactly one year to the day – 12 April 1966 – I was called back to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” Followed by the Sabata films,… before Hollywood begged him to come home for The Magnificent Seven Ride!
  13. William Windom, Star Trek (#$35, The Doomsday Machine), TV, 1967. Stardate 4202.9… One of the great guest roles… A  Captain Ahab-type, obsessed with revenge for the loss of his USS Constellation and crew. Ryan  proved unavailable (scenarist Norman Spinrad wrote it for him) and Windom became the sole (and traumatised) survivor of the USS Enterprise’s attacked sister ship.. He reprised the role (as did the Doomsday Machine!) in the opening chapter of the fan-created web series, Star Trek New Voyages Phase II  #1:In Harm’s Way.he  This was the second of  three Trek tales inspired by Moby Dick. Spinrad was right.  Ryan would hae been t perfect Ahab.
  14. Keenan Wynn, C’era una volta il west/Once Upon A Time in the West, Italy-US, 1968.    If it was good enough for Hank Fonda… Ryan accepted Sergio Leone’s sheriff. Until he got a better (well, larger) role in The Wild Bunch.
  15. Walter Coy, Pancho Villa, 1971.  Ryan had been first choice for General Pershing. Telley Savalas was Pancho. Who loves ya, baby?
  16. Rex Harrison, Don Quixote, TV, 1973.    Some years earlier, when Ryan was diagnosed with cancer, he was scheduled to play The Don. Harrison,  however, finally tele-filmed it in 1973 – the year Ryan died, having leased his apartment, No. 72,  in New York’s Dakota Building to… John Lennon and Yoko Ono.



 Birth year: 1909Death year: 1973Other name: Casting Calls:  16