Payday Loans
Fredric March (1897-1975)


  1. Gary Cooper, Morocco, 1930.     When the Hollywood debut of Marlene Dietrich and her director-mentor Josef von Sternberg was thwarted by John Gilbert's MGM shackles, they turned to March - but Paramount  had him shackled to The Royal Family of  Broadway. Enter: Coop.
  2. Chester Morris, The Miracle Man, 1932.   They were low-grade miracles after Gary Cooper was replaced by March, who handed it (further) down to Morris.
  3. Cary Grant, Hot Saturday, 1932.     It was March who first warned his pal about Paramount's “new Cooper.” He also warned Coop off this lead role, having refused it, himself, saying Faden was a better role. That had been ear-marked for Grant, now it went  to Randolph Scott... Cary's future  and  longtime house-mate.
  4. Gary Cooper, A Farewell To Arms, 1932.   When director John Cromwell was replaced by Frank Borzage, March simply walked out of  the first  film of an Ernest Hemingway novel. There was a similar helming switch on the 1957 re-make, from John Huston to King Vidor. Except Rock Hudson didn’t quit his version.
  5. Brian Aherne The Song of Songs, 1933.   “Why have you come to do this silly picture?” Marlene Dietrich asked Aherne.  “I have to do it because of my contract and because Mr von Sternberg  has walked out... but you are the great actor from New York and can do what you like.  Are you crazy?” Over her, for sure. And he promptly made her, as well as the film.
  6. John Gilbert, Queen Christina, 1933.   Among the many men discarded by Greta  Garbo as she successfully battled for her old lover to play Don Antonio de la Prada.
  7. Robert Donat, The Count of Monte Cristo, 1934.    This is the great Donat’s one and only working visit to Hollywood. Due to bad health – asthma – he could never travel  again to America. March had been RKO-Pathe’s first choice for the central character Edmond Dantes. (I live in Marly-le-Roi, France, within walking distance of the author Alexandre Dumas’ former home, Le chateau de Monte Cristo).
  8. Henry Wilcoxon, Cleopatra, 1934.  March enjoyed fame as the  first of the new talkie stars, hated being hyped as a second John Gilbert - and positively refused to be typed in costume dramas. Much less, Cecil  B DrMille’s  “epic with sex”  directorTherefore, CB  called on Wilcoxon (CB’s ever loyal lieutenant. Actor, associate producer, etc, over the years) and explained how Ceasar "thought in terms of nations, not individuals. He did and thought things on a grand scale. The world was his canvas." Said Henry: "Why don't you play it?"
  9. Clark  Gable,  It Happened One Night, 1934.    Because the great director Frank Capra could not interest March, or get Robert Montgomery, he was given a Gable being punished by MGM.  And the Oscar goes to...
  10. Clark Gable, The Call of the Wild, 1934.    Feeling March was better suited to Valjean in Les Miserables, Fox production chief Darryl Zanuck changed his Jack London hero to Clark Gable - and then, his lady from  Madeleine Carroll to Loretta Young.  (Not to mention King, rather than Cappy, as the dog Buck!).

  11. Franchot Tone, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, 1934.  Gary Cooper was Lieutenant Alan McGregor.  No question about that! But who should have second  billing as Lieutenant John Forsythe?   There were (at least) seven candidates…  Colman, Douglas Fairbanks Jr (high-jacked by The Rise of Catherine the Great), Cary Grant (he headlined Gunga Din, a far better three Brit soldiers in India actioner in 1938; better writer, too - Rudyard Kipling!), Philip Holmes,  Fredric March, Ray Milland and Henry Wilcoxon - involved, as always, with Cecil B DeMille’s latest endeavour, The Crusades. Henry was the English King Richard – his nickname for evermore. 

  12. Gary Cooper, Peter Ibbetson, 1934. Paramount had a “verbal option”  on Robert Donat and Brian Aherne for Ibbetson.  He did not feel bound by it. Fredric March was next up.  Then,  Coop - he always said he was miscast as the architect hero. Didn’t stop him playing much the same again in The Fountainhead, 1948. 

  13. Errol Flynn, Captain Blood, 1935.  Robert Donat began  the film but  his asthma forced him to quit. Warner’s first thought was loaning Cary from Paramount. Although it hardly sounded part of his vocabulary, the always histrionic  director Michael Curtiz  protested that  Grant  was “too effete.”  Brian Aherne, Ronald Colman, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, Fredric March were in/out/disinterested before Errol was in like Flynn and became an overnight star.  (Alec Baldwin or Arnold Schwarzenegger  were due for  a re-make in 1994).
  14. Warner Baxter, The Prisoner of Shark Island, 1935.       Change of The Prisoner - Dr Samuel Mudd, jailed in 1865 as a conspirator in Lincoln’s assassination, simply because he innocently treated the broken leg of killer John Wilkes Booth. Baxter took over because March was about to be loaned to Warner Bros. In 1869, Mudd was pardoned and released by President Andrew Jackson and yet, despite repeated attempts by family members, the conviction has never been overturned.

  15. Leslie Howard, Romeo and Juliet, 1935.    
    Absolutely preposterous…!!  The 13-year-old Juliet was played by Norma Shearer, who was 36, opposite Leslie Howard playing Romeo…  at 43.  “It is comical watching these middle-aged folks act as high school sophomores,” said web critic Matthew M Foster at Foster on  “But even more ridiculous is Romeo’ hotheaded, class clown friend, Mercutio, portrayed by the 54-year-old John Barrymore!”!  It could have been far worse. Other unlikely Romeos were Brian Aherne, Clark Gable (Romeo with a trash tash?), Fredric March, Franchot Tone, Roberts Montgomery and Taylor.  The British Robert Donat, John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier (a recent hit playing Romeo and Mercutio alternately in London) made (slightly) more sense … but really. What a sad end to Irving Thalberg’s producing career, even jf it was a love letter to his wife, Shearer – his widow months later in 1936.  (Olivier narrated the Franco Zeffirelli version – with real teenage lovers – in 1967).

  16. Charles Boyer, The Garden of Allah, 1936.     March had passed on sculpting  a naked Dietrich in Songs of Songs, 1933, and lost her again -  when  producer David Selznick voted for France.
  17. Ronald  Colman, The Prisoner of Zenda, 1937.     Envious actor Hume Cronyn called March a total actor. “He  could play anything.” As long as it was not in costume!
  18. Cary Grant, Bringing Up Baby, 1937.     The Three Ms – Fredric March, Ray MIlland, Robert Montgomery – passed on paleontologist David Huxley. Likewise, Ronald Colman and Leslie Howard – who -preferred Alexander Korda’s production of Lawrence of Arabia, which never happened. (Well,co-star Katharine Heoburn turned down Howards;  he had sacked her for stealing their Broadway play, The Animal Kingdom, in 1931). Grant  wasn’t sure he  could  play an intellectual. “Hah,” said director Howard Hawks., “Cary was right on on from  the first day.  This was his kind of role and he just took to it naturally..”  The trouble, he added, was Katharine Hepburn. Unlike Grant, she was not naturally funny.  Christopher Reeve said he based Clark Kent in his four Superman films on the Huxley role. Grant and Hawks made four more  movies, the most Hawks  ever made  with the same actor.    They all turned it down... Ronald Colman, Ray Milland, Robert Montgomery - and Katharine Hepburn Leslie Howard.
  19. Louis Hayward,The Saint in New York, 1937.    “What we need is a Robin Hood…”  RKO had no jdea who should play Simon Templar.  March was selected, then subbed by Hayward - dropped after this first chapter to make way for the more suave George Sanders in the in the next five (he left to become the copy-cat Falcon)  and Hugh Sinclair for the final two. Like Connery and Bond, Hayward was best. Just not so much 16 years later when  he had the halo anew for The Saint’s Return (US: Saint’s Girl Friday).
  20. Annibale Ninchi, Scipione l'africano (US video: Scipio Africanus: The Defeat of Hannibal) ,Italy,1937.  An infamous peplum basically “produced” by the Italian dictator Mussolini. Sheer propaganda for his  troops, about  how , in 202 BC, the titular hero defeated Hannibal  and all his elephants - some of which were papier-mâché, pushed around by extras, some of whom wore visible wrist-watches!  This second Il Duce mess was offered to March and Pierre Blanchard. Mussolini then aimed his aborted third film, Rigoletto, atLaurel and Hardy.  They would have fit better with the pachyderms.  (Decades later, Fellini chose Niinchi for Marcello Mastroianni’s father in both La Dolce Vita  and ).

  21. Clark Gable, Gone with the Wind1938.
  22. George Brent, Dark Victory, 1938. When still at MGM, David O Selznick bought the Tallulah Bankhead play in 1935 – not for her (“too Broadway”) but Garbo and Fredric March. However, Gone With The Wind got in the way. Gloria Swanson tried to make it.  Warner Bros paid $50,000 for it – for Miriam Hopkins. She pondered. Merle Oberon simply refused. Head bro, Jack Warner, told a very interested Davis in 1938: “Who wants to see someone going blind?” Everyone!  It was this one of the biggest Warner hits. Producer Hal Wallis told Bette to use her current marital problems as Judith Traherne (her favourite role at the time). She djd more than that, starting a two-year affair with co-star George Brent, in  the  first of their eleven films.  Director William Wyler was waiting to marry her, Brent as well, when she upped and wed her #2, a certain Arthur Austin Farnsworth. 
  23. Robert Preston, Union Pacific, 1938.  Cecil B DeMille’s first Technicolor film was without a hero during six months of pre-production.  First choices, March, Joel McCrea, Cary Grant and John Wayne were lost to other movies. Coop became  the Texas Ranger working with the Mounties after swopping roles with McCrea so that Joel could make Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent.  

  24. Errol Flynn, The Sisters, 1938. 
    George Brent, Fredric March (due opposite Irene Dunne) and Franchot Tone were on the mix for Bette Davis’ lover – until head bro Jack Warner selected Flynn.  (He  even said the billing should be:  Errol Flynn in The Sjsters…!)  Flynn tried his best to add Bette’s scalp to his bedpost. She resisted all overtures.  Besides, she (a) didn’t fancy bi-sexuals and (b) was in one affair with director William Wyler and another about to start with an often impotent  Howard Hughes.   In her time, she also had liaisons with March and Tone.

  25. Gary Cooper, North West Mounted Police, 1940.   Cecil B DeMille’s first Technicolor film was without a hero during six months of pre-production.  First choices, March, Joel McCrea, Cary Grant and John Wayne were lost to other movies. Coop became  the Texas Ranger working with the Mounties after swopping roles with McCrea so that Joel could make Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent.  
  26. Robert Montgomery, Mr and Mrs Smith, 1941.      One of many suggestions  when Alfred Hitchcock could not land Cary Grant opposite Carole Lombard.
  27. Monty Woolley, The Man Who Came To Dinner, 1941.  When the comedy tickled director Howard Hawks’ fancy, he wanted Cary Grant as the titular critic Sheridan Whiteside However, public  insisted that  only Woolley could and should play his famous stage role. Orson Welles wanted to direct and play Whiteside. (And he did so in a 1972 TVersion). Bette Davis wanted John Barrymore, but he could no longer remember his lines. Tests of Robert Benchley and Laird Cregar were respectively deemed “too mild-mannered” and “overblown and extravagant,” by producer Hal Wallis. (Probably why Charles Coburn refused to test at all). Director William Keighley also saw Charles Laughton (he made two terrible tests) and  Fredric March. And Grant was still around - “far too young and attractive,” said Wallis.  Anyway, acerbic or no, causing havoc or not, who’d be upset if Cary Grant suddenly came to dinner?
  28. Don Ameche, Heaven Can Wait, 1942.  As it was scripted  for Rex Harisson or Fredric March in mind, director  Ernst Lubitsch  was furious when head Fox Darryl F Zanuck imposed Ameche on him for “commercial reasons”; ie, he was cheaper. (Actually they got on rather well; Ameche always said this was his favourite film). The feature has nothing to do with Warren Beatty’s 1977 film of the same name. The ‘43 film has a similar plot but stems from a Leslie-Bush-Fekete play called Birthday, while the Beatty opus is a re-make of Here Comes Mr Jordan, 1940, based on an unproduced 1938 play by Harry Segal. called Heaven Can Wait... eventually produced on stage as Wonderful Journey!  Are we clear? (And I refuse to get entangled  (or not here), with the various Jordan sequels  of,  in turn,  Rita Hayworth, Olivia Newton-John and Chris Rock).  Lubitsch later recanted his opposition to Ameche, won over by his  dedication and professionalism.  Ameche always said this was his favourite film. 
  29. Fred MacMurray, Double Indemnity, 1943.   Director Billy Wilder's first thoughts for the murdering adulterer Walter  Neff:  March,  James Cagney, Brian Donlevy, Alan Ladd, Gregory Peck, George Raft. Spencer Tracy.  They all fled.
  30. Walter Huston, Mission To Moscow, 1943. Frederic March and Olivia De Havilland, as President Roosevelt’s ambassador to Russia and his cereal heiress-wife, Marjorie Post,  wound up as  Harding and Walter Huston. US philosopher John Dewey, who had headed an inquiry into Stalin’s 1936-19348 trials, attacked the film (ordered by FDR) as "the first instance in our country of totalitarian propaganda for mass consumption… which falsifies history through distortion, omission or pure invention of facts." 

  31. Leo G Carroll, Spellbound, 1944.     Whoops, there goes another Alfred Hitchcock thriller… Greatly aided by Hitch and Salvador Dali visuals, the script derived from various writers including Mrs Alma Hitchcock, Ben Hecht and producer’s David O Selznick’s shrink. DOS was still not satisfied. He wanted a love triangle between Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck and whoever played Dr Murchison… When March passed and Ralph Bellamy, Paul Lukas and Alan Napier made unimpressive tests, the idea was dropped in favour of what Hitch always labelled “just another manhunt wrapped up in pseudo-psychoanalysis.”22 - Alan Ladd, Two Years Before The Mast, 1946. March refused the Republic project in the mid-30s. By the time, it was made, he was more suited for Brian Donlevy’s villain than the hero.
  32. Alan Ladd, Two Years Before The Mast, 1946.   March refused the Republic project in the mid-30s. By the time, it was made, he was more suited for Brian Donlevy’s villain than the hero.
  33. Dana Andrews, Boomerang! 1946.   Despite considerable age differences, John Payne (34), Joseph Cotten (41), March (49) and Walter Huston (63) short listed for the idealistic prosecutor bravely dropping trumped-up charges against the suspect in the 1924 Connecticut murder of a Catholic priest. Andrews was 37 and the real prosecutor, Homer Stille Cummings, 54 at the time. He famously declared it was vital to protect the innocent as to convict the guilty. Nine years later, was President Franklin Roosevelt made him America’s Attorney General.
  34. William Powell, Life With Father, 1946.    Warner Bros rejected Mary Pickford. No one  knows her, she’s been retired for 13 years. Yet, after musing on March and Ronald Colman,  it was OK that Powell had been off-screen for the nine years since the tragically early death of his lover, Jean Harlow.
  35. Cesar Romero, Captain From Castille, 1947.     Change of  the all-conquering Conquistador, Hernando Cortez,  in  a typical Tyrone Power swashbuckler. 
  36. Vincent Price, The Baron of Arizona, 1949.  Auteur Samuel Fuller’s original choice for James Addison Reavis, the con-man trying to steal Arizona from the USA.And March was extremely keen. Sam’s producerRobert L Lippert was not.“Price,” growled Sam in his usual capitals, “was a GREAT actor. WHAT A VOICE!
  37. Leo Genn, Quo Vadis, 1950.   Both March and Claude Rains were on the list to play Petronius in the postponed epic.John Huston quit as director after oneof his famous divisions of opinion.
  38. Spencer Tracy, Father of the Bride, 1950.   After Jack Benny’s “terrible” test, March, Charles Laughton, Walter Pidgeon entered the frame as Tracy went through his usual ponderous routine of swift refusal, making suggestions, hating the first draft, demanding more final alterations... The book’s author, New York banker Edward Streeter, said he’d heard reports “ranging from Harpo Marx to Paul Robeson... Tracy is the one I wanted. March is obviously out. As for Benny, I’d nominate Abbott and Costello. Better, I’d nominate myself.”
  39. Robert Taylor, Ivanhoe, 1951. Taylor was first attached (closer to the right age) in…1938!  Opposite Hollywood’s King, Clark Gable, as King Richard. The title was a place not a person:  the gallant Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe. And a sort of rehearsal for Quentin Durward in 1955.  Both mini-epics were by the 19th Century author Sir Walter Scott, both were made by MGM, both  Richard Thorpe directing Taylor. Difficult to separate one from the other. Except Ivanhoe was first planned in 1935 (!) with Fredric March as the hero saving his sovereign… then Erroll Flynn… then Laurence Olivier… then Stewart Grangert.   March’s king was unbelievably aimed at Gary Cooper. Yup!
  40. Edward G Robinson, The Ten Commandments, 1954.

  41. Chill Wills, Giant, 1955.
  42. Curt Jürgens, The Blue Angel, 1958.      Early “Monroe trouble” had  Spencer Tracy walking away from Marilyn, top billing in the re-make, “fabulous part” and $200,000.   March didn’t even stay until April...
  43. Anthony Perkins, Green Mansions, 1958.   A stop-go project since 1933 at RKO. Ten years later, press agent turned producer James B Cassidy won the rights. He planned an unknown for Rima, the jungle sprite (up for Pier Angeli, Leslie Caron, Dolores Del Rio, Yma Sumac, Elizabeth Taylor and finally Audrey Hepburn across the years) and March or Ronald Colman as the Abel in her thrall.
  44. Edward G Robinson, Seven Thieves, 1959.  March planned a heist of a Monaco casino, helped by Richard Widmark – also busy falling for Anne Bancroft’s stripper. Except they became Edward G Robinson, Rod Steiger and Joan Collins -  totally outclassed by Frank Sinatra’s Ocean’s Eleven… robbing five Vegas  casinos in one night.
  45. Maurice Chevalier, Fanny, 1960.    Safe choices by US stage-screen director Joshua Logan.Marcel Pagnol convinced Chevalier to accept the wealthy widower, Panisse, taking on Fanny and her son in French playwright and film-maker Marcel Pagnol’s Marseilles trilogy - 7 hours 18 minutes compressed by Hollywood into  2 hours 13 minutes.
  46. Thomas Mitchell, By Love Possessed, 1960.  Maybe it’s because film cameras are following his every move, but Efrem Zimbalist Jr has only just noticed that everyone he knows, in and out of his family, are just terrible people. Including Mitchell l as his father-in-law - from their New England law firm. Jason Robards Jr, was in the cast. He called it: “The worst film ever made.”
  47. Thomas Mitchell, Pocketful Of Miracles, 1961.  Directing legend Frank Capra never knew this re-make of his 1933 Lady for a Day  would be his final  film. Or he would have tried harder…  and found a better business partner than his star, Glenn Ford...  Burl Ives,Charles Laughton, Fredric March and Edward G. Robinson were in the frame for Judge Henry Blake which went to Jack Oakie… who had quit due to “a lingering intestinal virus.”  And so, Hizzoner became Thomas Mitchell, a Capra regular.. but never before in anything  that was, as Capra said, "was shaped in the fires of discord and filmed in an atmosphere of pain, strain and loathing.”

  48. Rex Harrison, Cleopatra, 1963.
  49. Melvyn Douglas, I Never Sang For My Father, 1970.     Electric directorJohn Frankenheimer loved it - for March and his wife, Florence Eldridge. “What gives?” asked writer Robert Anderson months later. “I’ve got too many major pictures on my schedule - can’t do it.” So Anderson turned it into a play. Which, of course, became the film.
  50. Walter Matthau, Kotch, 1971.      Jack Lemmon’s directing bow was about an old man of 76.March, 74, accepted the lead, but the majors wanted a bigger draw. Lemmon's pal, Matthau, 51, offered himself without bothering to read the script.










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