Thursday, July 31, 2008

Central Casting Might-Have-Beens

Since I’ve been on a bit of a vacation this week, I’ll apologize in advance for the delightful lack of verbosity in this blog. As many of my fellow woolgatherers do at this time of year, I’ve shirked my duty to remain an informed and permanently outraged citizen of this republic, or even an observant movie fan.
Instead, I’ve contemplated the resemblance of that cloud on the horizon to a winged horse, the number of butterflies in a quiet meadow, and the best way to cook an ear of fresh corn.

In between these bemused thoughts, it’s occurred to me that I’ve recently come across a number of stories that indicate quite a few near misses in the casting department in the studio era. Perhaps you might enjoy these “what might have beens” as well and can contribute other tales from golden era, (or at least the silver age) of film related to role selections.

Director Robert Wise is said to have approached two fine actors for the role ultimately played so well by the other worldly (and far less well known and costly) Michael Rennie in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Though the leading character actor Claude Rains was said to be Wise‘s first casting choice for the beloved classic science fiction film, encompassing themes of peace, eternity and our place in the universe, (as well as some intriguing McCarthy era takes on the human capacity for paranoia), Rains‘ commitment to appear on Broadway in an adaptation of Arnold Koestler’s Darkness at Noon at the time of the film’s production may have prevented him from appearing as Klaatu, though I like to think he’d have brought a fine sense of irony and mischief to the part.
It also didn’t hurt that Rennie was under contract to 20th Century Fox, helping Mr. Wise stay well within his original budget. Less well known, but equally enticing to the imagination is the fact that Spencer Tracy was said to have been seriously considered for the role of the space man Klaatu. Mr. Tracy, whose humanity and naturalism on screen ranks him among the best actors, really seems to be a choice from out of left field for this part–though both he and Rains would have lent some older gravitas to the role too...More on the TCM Movie Morlocks


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