Lew Ayres, Okay America, 1931. “Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea. Let’s go to press…” The tItle was Winchell’s radio catchphrase and the script was penned for him to play gossip columnist Larry Wayne (his boss called him Ego!) in what was almost The Walter Winchell Story.
Cary Grant, His Girl Friday, 1939. Columbia’s vulgarian chief Harry Cohn first suggested Cary as Hildy Jphnson or Winchell as his editor, Walter Burns. Hawks cleverly changed Hildy from male to female (Grant then became Burns) and quickened the dialogue by having actors overlapping each other’s lines – long before Robert Altman was locked out of Warner Bros for doing it in Countdown, 1966… and all his other movies.
Humphey Bogart, All Through the Night, 1941. The Mr Staccato columnist was booked first as the New York mobster, “Gloves” Donahue. But he was too busy being the most powerful and feared journo in the US. Second choice, George Raft (who hated being a second choice) passed to Bogie. As usual. Winchell was the model for Burt Lancaster’s loathsome columnist, J J Hunsecker, in Alexander Mackendrick’s magnificent Sweet Smell of Success, in 1956. Lancaster’s performance did for Winchell what Winchell had done for so many celebrities and “Commies” – it destroyed him.
Usual occupation: Radio reporter legendBirth year: 1897Death year: 1972Other name: Casting Calls: 3