Sunday, September 29, 2013

Role Play

Today, we're inaugurating a series of posts which take some quick peeks into "what might have been" -- the stars who were originally intended for some of our favorite films. These posts are tailor-made for lots of commentary and fun hypothesizing, so we encourage audience participation (and also welcome suggestions for future posts)! Have fun, darlings!

Paulette Goddard in Reap the Wild Wind (Paramount, 1942)
"The longest and most extensive search for a screen heroine ended today when Paulette Goddard was signed to a long term contract by David O. Selznick, producer of Gone with the Wind..." -- Louella Parsons' column, February 3, 1938

"Who's going to play Scarlett in Gone with the Wind? Paulette Goddard, and worry no more about it..." -- Buck Herzog's column, December 4, 1938

"Vivien Leigh, the young English actress who will play Scarlett O'Hara in the screen dramatization of Gone with the Wind, was 'terribly nervous'...but at the same time 'grateful beyond words.'" -- Associated Press, January 15, 1939

Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (Selznick International/MGM, 1939)


11 comments:

  1. No one should have to be compared with Vivien Leigh in 1939...a Goddess instead of a Goddard ...however Goddard would have been okay in the movie if it had to be . Certainly she was the best of the screen tests of the others in the running I have seen...Susan Hayward was perhaps a tad too young

    But if Paulette played the part, it would simply be another movie from 1939...instead of a movie miracle that is both of its time and not of its time. Of course that's because of a number of factors, but Leigh puts it over the top

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    1. I agree. Paulette would have been fine in the role, but the film wouldn't be the revered classic it is today without Vivien Leigh's magnificent performance. I like Paulette a lot as a performer, and she would have conveyed Scarlett's conniving and cunning quite well; but Paulette was very "hard," and wouldn't have been as likable ("admirable" is perhaps a better word) as Leigh was in portraying a woman who, when all was said and done, was not a "nice" person.

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  2. Imagine if Talullah had got it? Or Lana? Jx

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    1. Or Lucy! (Could her Scarlett be any worse than her Mame?) And how about the alleged stunt casting of Mae West as Belle Watling? Brother!

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    2. Lucille Ball was dreadful on the big screen. Definitely a television personality. I never knew Mae was ever supposedly considered for GWTW (I thought she was still "blacklisted"). But "Mother Gin Sling" got the part, so that's OK... Jx

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    3. I actually like some of Lucille's snappy little B pictures when she was a wisecracking RKO starlet. But the films she made AFTER "I Love Lucy", where they tried to make "star vehicles" for her -- no dice. Her best film work, I think, is her brassy take on the Harlow role in the 1946 remake of "Libeled Lady," retitled "Easy to Love." It stars two of my least favorite performers (Esther Williams and Van Johnson) in the Myrna Loy and William Powell roles, but Lucille gives a terrific, brash comedy performance which is two parts tough tootsie and one part proto-Lucy Ricardo.

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    4. Maybe I need to catch-up with more B-movies... Jx

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    5. What's fun about B movies is that their aims and expectations are inherently lower than most A pictures -- they're not meant to be anything but entertaining 70-90 minutes to fill a double bill. And what's fun about Lucille's B pictures (some of them, anyway; she made quite a few stinkers) is that her early film persona was completely different from her "Lucy" television personality -- she was basically always cast as a hard-boiled, tough-talking, comically brassy chorine. She gets some great one-liners in her supporting roles in major films like "Stage Door" (1937) and "Follow the Fleet" (1936), and she's not bad at all in such stock programmers as "The Affairs of Annabel" (1938), where she plays a movie queen "kidnapped" by Jack Oakie as an overzealous publicity man.

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    6. Oh TJB we share a disdain for Esther and Van! I try and separate the artist and the person but ever since Esther first spilled the beans on Jeff Chandler's supposed secret cross dressing, obviously something that would have been a heavy and painful secret in the 50's and certainly not her secret to tell then admitted she invented it to sell more books I can't bring myself to watch her without a feeling of revulsion for that mean spirited shrew.

      Van is just so often a smug, insufferable ass though there are a few occasions, State of the Union being the one that comes to mind, where he is more subdued and therefore easier to take.

      One of my favorite Lucy movies, a minor one and a trippy one to boot, is Lured with George Sanders, Charles Coburn and in a ghoulish cameo Boris Karloff. It's got wonderful atmosphere and a sassy, flip Lucy who is quite glamorous. One of the amazing things about the studio era is that a film with that cast list was considered a lower case entry, now that seems baffling but was often the case at the time.

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    7. Frankly, I'm not convinced that Esther was telling the truth about Chandler. The whole "reveal" sequence that she writes about is so stagily described and clearly done for dramatic effect. (I also have serious doubts that Esther happened to see Joan Crawford, alone on a darkened soundstage, crying out to imaginary fans, "Why have you left me???") So many of the anecdotes seem to have been "gussied up" for maximum titillation, even if they had a small basis in fact. Especially where it concerns Chandler, even if the gist of the story is true, Esther comes off as particularly tacky to write about it. It's clearly included just to embarrass his memory.

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  3. If anybody had a shot at Scarlet other than Vivien Leigh it would have been Paulette. She could have done a good job with the right coaching. The two are rather similar with the smirks and temptress stares. It all comes down to how convincing the actress would be when Mammy says, "and you sittin' there waitin' for him, just like a spider."

    I agree with you on Lucy's earlier B pictures. Some of them she was quite glamorous. An old friend who was a Hollywood reporter during WII referred to her as a 'chippy'.

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