Sylvia Sidney

  1. Lina Basquette, The Godless Girl, 1928.    SS was doing well in a Chicago play,  where she was found (by DW Griffith, Himself)  for the atheist teenager in CB DeMille’s final silent movie.  CB was not smitten. He’d fallen for Basquette in rushes from The Noose and she became the atheist teenager. lina went on to have eight husbands (two died).  Legend insists that she received a fan letter from Austria.  Signed…  Adolf Hitler.  
  2. Elissa Landi, The Sign of the Cross, 1932.     Director Cecil B DeMille must have ket tue cat out of the bag…  Both Frances Dee and Syvia Sidney  craved the role of the slave girl, Mercia.  When played by Landi, she was a par6y of what cine-historians cited as Hollywood’s first lesbian scene, with Joyzelle Joynor dancing seductively around her. 
  3. Ann Dvorak, The Way To Love, 1933.       Maurice Chevalier was the teacher butSidney became “ill.”
  4. Dorothea Wieck, Miss Fane’s Baby Is Stolen, 1933.   Sidney, Carole Lombard, Gloria Swanson fled the drama of a kidnapped baby – for coming far too soon after the 1932 Lindbergh baby case. In her second and last Hollywood movie, the Swiss-born, Sweden-raised German actress Wieck showed them what they missed in a stunning performance, tearing at our emotions and causing our tears, as the widowed actress mother of the stolen tot played by ever smiling two-year-old Baby LeRoy. Wieck returned to Berlin, opening her own drama academy and winning another 40 screen roles until retiring in 1975.
  5. Joan Bennett, The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo, 1934.       20th Century tried to borrow Sidney from Paramount but her studio had other plans for her. And so Bennett tried to help get the casino’s money back from Ronald Colman.
  6. Jean Parker, Limehouse Blues, 1934. Sidney was due as Chinese-American  George Raft’s new squeeze, Toni,  in London’s dockland gang warfar. Web critic  Dan Stumpf called it unmitigated bosh.  “Raft’s constipated thesping could almost be mistaken for Oriental inscrutability…  A lot of fun, though you may not respect yourself in the morning.”
  7. Hedy Lamarr, Algiers, 1938. Producer  Walter Wanger decided to re-make Jean Gabin’s  1936 French hit, Pépé  le Mojo,  with Charles  Boyer as the gangster on the  run.  Opposite  Dolores Del Rio,  Hedy Lamarr  or Sylvia Sidney  in the  Mireille Balin role  of his halfcaste lover, Gaby. “Another tenement girl,” moaned Sidney,  “this time in spangles!” She wanted Broadway. “I’m an actress, not a star.” Plus, she said, Hedy Lamarr would steal both Boyer and the film.

  8. Sigrid Gurie, Algiers, 1938. Sylvia was also  offered Inès – . Line Noro  in the original Julien Duvivier classic.

  9. Merle Oberon, Wuthering Heights, 1938.
  10. Mary Astor, The Great Lie, 1940. Or  Women of the World when Bette Davis decided to play nice for once instead of her close to home bitches (and then, naturally, called it “one of the few times I played a character basically like myself.” Hah!  The concert pianist Sandra Kovak (“cold and poisonous” said critic Bosley Crowther) was the harder to fill.  Perfect for Miriam Hopkins but she and Davis had…. issues. Next in line were Sylvia Sidney, Anna Sten (Stench to some) and the unknown Muriel Angelus and Katherine Locke. But Mary Astor could play piano.    And so the most sublime “character: was… Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1…perfectly fingered by Astor but actually recorded by Max Rabinovitch.  

  11. Ann Sheridan, City For Conquest, 1940.       Warners failed a second time in teaming Cagney and Ginger Rogers. Sylvia rushed in. When directors changed, the woman with the saddest eyes in  Hollywood rushed  out. Enter: Sheridan. “It was a very good part and, of course, it was Cagney again.  He sold like wildfire.  To be in a picture with him was the greatest.” But she lost his next one, The Strawberry Blonde, 1940,  after fighting with Warner (like Cagney before her) for better parts.  And money. He won, she didn’t.
  12. Arline Judge, Girls In Chains, 1942.      Sidney was booked for another gig, so Judge became the teacher in a women’s jail. Anyway, it was a bit of a quickie for a star like Sidney. Director Edgar G Ulmer knocked it off in five days! Deft at any role, Judge as known as One Take Sally on the set. Not at the altar. She married eight different husband and , one more than Lana Turner. (In fact, they both wed Henry (Bob) Topping Jr – Judge first).
  13. Nancy Kelly, Tornado, 1943.  Change of Victory Kane – and title (from Black Tornado– go figure) in a routine disaster thriller headlining Chester Morris  and marking the debuts of  Connie Stone and Moi-Yo. You must have been wondering when they started…
  14. Bette Davis, All About Eve, 1950. 
  15. Signe Hasso, Crisis, 1950.  Or plain Ferguson when Hasso tested for  dictator Jose Ferrer’s wife in the thriller by writer-director Richard Brooks, combining Howard Hawksian improv and Alfred Hitchcockian suspense. – Spencer Tracy was the  MGM  choice for the brain surgeon hero.  But that was before  Brooks ran into Cary Grant at the Santa Ana racetrack and talked about his story and how he wanted to direct it.  Grant read the script and told Metro he wanted to make the film – but only if Brooks directed.  Much in the same way that he backed  Delmar Daves for Destination Tokyo in 1943.  That worked better but in the end, Brooks had the brighter career than Daves.
  16. Jennifer Jones, Carrie, 1952.     Theodore Dreisler’s novel was promised to Sidney in 1933 when Paramount would put herin anything – even a movie ofthe studio canteen menu.
  17. Joan Fontaine, Ivanhoe, 1952.      Planned by Walter Wanger in 1935, after picking up her contract at Paramount – where she had been the lover of the studio boss, BP Schulberg (Budd’s father). Sidney soon quit for Broadway to recover her self-confidence – killed, she said, by director William Wyler during Dead End, 1938.
  18. Carol Bruce, WKRP in Cincinnati, TV, 1979-1982.       Norma Desmond lives..! As the 30s/40s siren let everyone know how she felt the “ridiculous” series was beneath her.  She got her way – and was dumped after the pilot. “Mama” Carlson was handed to Carol for ten shows in the first season.   
  19. Pat Carroll, The Little Mermaid, 1989.     “An answer to a prayer,” said Carroll on winning her a lifetime’s ambition – voicing a Disney character. Ursula had been designed for Bea Arthur – far too busy with The Golden Girls, 1985-1992. Next? Divine (at Disney?!), Charlotte Rae, Roseanne the Absolutely Fabulous Jennifer Saunders and singer Nancy Wilson. Plus a slew of veteran ladies: Sidney, Coral Browne, Nancy Marchand – and Elaine Stritch, who won the gig, then lost it after disputes with lyricist Howard Ashman.



 Birth year: 1910Death year: 1999Other name: Casting Calls:  19