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Lucille Ball (1911-1989)

  1. Vivien Leigh, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
  2. Wendy Barrie, Men Against The Sky, 1939.      Early on, Ball was booked as Kay - but then so was Robert Wise as editor. Neither one worked on the Edmund Lowe aviation thriller.  Decades later, Joan Crawford  rasped "And they call me a bitch - Lucy can out-bitch me any day of the week!"  
  3. Wendy Barrie, Cross-Country Romance, 1939.   Lucille and James Ellison were all set as a wealthy heauty fleeing her wedding and hiding out in a doctor’s camping-car – talk about meet cute - when someone said: Hold it.  Didn’t Wendy make the similar Love On a Bet, with Gene Reymond in ’35?  And doesn’t this seems to match  another Raymond romance: The Bride Walks Out, 1936…?   Sp, let’s get ‘em twogether again.  But, but, Gene hasn’t made a movie in two years! Well, it’s about time he did..!
  4. Ellen Drew, The Night of January 16th, 1940.       Ayn Rand’s play had a great gimmick - the murder trial jury being drawn from the audience every night. All the movie could offer was Drew, the wondrous Paramount princess, beating Lucille Ball, Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard and Barbara Stanwyck to murder suspect Kit Lane.
  5. Barbara Stanwyck, Ball of Fire, 1941.      Until Gary Cooper suggested his 1940 Meet John Doe co-star -  and Stanwyck proved available - the redheaded Ball-of-fire  was  all set to be the  re-made Snow White now called... Sugarpuss O'Shea! In 1947, Howard Hawks re-made his film as A Song Is Born with Danny Kaye. Virginia Mayo (badly) played Sugarpuss - renamed Honey Swanson.  (From 007's little black book?). 
  6. Jane Wyman, Footlight Serenade, 1942.      Ball made it clear that she little interest in playing Flo La Verne, so  could she now go home, please. New York Times critic Bosley Crowther agreed it was a paper-doll role.  
  7. Angela Lansbury, The Harvey Girls, 1945.       The birds are waitresses at the famous 1880s’ Fred Harvey restaurant chain. (MGM accepts any excuse for a Judy Garland musical). Ball, Eve Arden, Ann Sothern, Lana Turner  had the good fortune to  lose Em - which had poor Lansbury hissed at by the public for  being the on-screen  rival of everyone’s sweetheart. Judy Garland.
  8. Frank Morgan, Yolanda And The Thief, 1945.      This tale comes from TCM superscribe Robert Osbourne: For a wee moment, the musical’s con artists (Fred Astaire and Morgan) were going to be  Astaire and Lucy!

  9. Hedy Lamarr, Samson and Delilah, 1949. 
    Cinemperor Cecil B DeMille’s 1935 plan had been had Henry Wilcoxon with Joan Crawford, Larraine Day, Dolores Del Rio, Paulette Goddard, Jane Greer or Miriam Hopkins.   Next in line, producer David O Selznick envisaged Kirk Douglas and Marlene Dietrich… By ’48, CB got serious.  He sought a mix of Vivien Leigh, Jean Simmons and “a generous touch of Lana Turner” from among… Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Rhonda Fleming (the Queen of Babylon, 1954), Ava Gardner, Greer Garson (Mrs Miniver!!), Susan Hayward (1951’s Bathsheba), Rita Hayworth (the future Salome), Jennifer Jones (St Bernadette in 1943), Patricia Neal, Maureen O’Hara, Nancy Olson (too demure), Jean Peters, Ruth Roman, Gail Russell, Ann Sheridan, Gene Tierney… even such surprises as comical LucIlle Ball (!) and song ‘n’ dancer Betty Hutton.  Plus the Dominican Maria Montez (perfect!), Italian Alida Valli and two Swedes: Viveca Lindfors and Marta Toren.  But CB had already fancied Lamarr for his unmade epic about the Jewish queen Esther (played by Joan Collins in 1960).  Here’s a Samson review signed Groucho Marx: “No picture can hold my interest where the leading man's bust is larger than the leading lady's!"  As well as many less flattering terms, Ball was known as Technicolor Tessie because of her red hair, blue eyes and red lips. In the 50s, she was bigger than producer-director Cecil B DeMille, buying her old studio, RKO, to make her TV farces about I Love Lucy: Esmeralda McGillicuddy Ricardo...

  10. Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday, 1950.   Hearing that Columbia boss King  Cohn refused to let the Broadway show's star test, Katharine Hepburn threw their  film, Adam's Rib, to Judy as one  gigantic test - forcing  Cohn to change his mind about Lucy, Alice Faye or Barbara Stanwyck. Result: an Oscar for Horrible Harry Cohn's “fat Jewish broad.”
  11. Gloria Grahame, The Greatest Show On Earth, 1951.     Cecil B DeMille was not  happy when she reported a pregnancy.  “Well,” he barked, “do something about it.” And he rasped at her husband, Desi Arnaz:  “Congratulations, Mr. Arnaz - you are the only man who has fucked Lucille Ball, Columbia  Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Harry Cohn  and Cecil B De Mille, all at the same time.”
  12. Joan Caulfield, My Favourite Husband, 1953-1955.   Thie radio series,1948-1951, starred Lucille Ball and Richard Denning as the Coopers with  Gale Gordon and Bea Benadaret as their neighbors, the Atterburys. Sound familiar? Of course, it does, Think I Love Lucy.  That   was Lucille’s thinking, too, as she switched from radio to TV - but not as everyone thought to continue the Coopers’ fun and games, but  in a new version, opposite her real husabmd, Desi Arnaz. Many of  their  scripts were dusted off from the radio, ”sometimes,” reported IMDb “with dialogue reproduced virtually word-for-word.” Many of the radio team, joined the TV series, but the Atterburys were too busy to become Lucy’s neighbours, the Mertzes. However, Gordon would co-star as Ball cantankerous boss in The Lucy Show, 1962-1968.
  13. Angela Lansbury, The Manchurian Candidate, 1962.     Every  studio refused the project - until JFK's interest. “In fact,” recalled John Frankenheimer,  “he just  wanted to know who was playing the mother.”  Sinatra  insisted upon Ball yet proved “extremely gracious” about Lansbury as Laurence Harvey’s overbearing, controlling and incestuous mother
  14. Maureen O’Sullivan, Never Too Late, 1965.     Spencer Tracy was the only thought for Harry. arry in Opposite one of a dozen choices for his wife - pregnant at 50, ho ho! From Rosalind Russell to Katherine Hepburn (“but I’m too old for Edith?”). Plus Ball, June Allyson, Anne Baxter, Joan Fontaine, Susan Hayward, Deborah Kerr, Eleanor Parker, Ginger Rogers, Ann Sheridan. Ultimately, Warner Bros went with the Broadway hit’s duo: Paul Ford and O’Sullivan.
  15. Susan Hayward, Valley Of The Dolls, 1967.
  16. Lee Grant,  Plaza Suite, 1970.      On Broadway, George C Scott and Maureen Stapleton starred in all three Neil Simon mini-plays. Paramount wanted six stars:  Scott & Stapleton (reprising the first of their triples),  Peter Sellers & Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau & Lucille Ball.  Then, Matthau insisted on playing the three guys - with Lee Grant, Barbara Harris and  Stapleton. Simon didn’t like the cast, nor the picture. “Walter was wrong to play all three parts. That’s a trick Peter Sellers can do. I would only have used Walter in the last sequence and,  probably, Lee Grant.”
  17. Bette Davis, Wicked Stepmother, 1988.  Director Larry Cohen had been shooting his horror trip for a week when  his star - Bette Davis, herself - took off for a dental, appointment.  And was never seen again.  She blamed the script, not her health. Cohen contacted Bea Arthur and Lucille Ball to take over - but then decided his eleven minutes of Bette film would be enough, changed her character into her cat, morphing into Barbara Carrera,as the new villain. (No,really!) Female impersonator Michael Greer did all necessary Bette dubbing in what proved her 123rd and final screen role.  Lucille, also ill at 77, died six months before Bette at 81, in 1989.

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