1. - Randolph Scott, Virgina City, 1940. Errol Flynn’s very B-Western was a good one to miss.
2. - Cary Grant, Arsenic and Old Lace, 1941. How could crucial, global decisions be left to a President who refused one of the most memorable comedy roles? Grant actually hated it, feeling he played it way over the top. (Director Frank Capra joined the US Army Signal Corps during the production and the movie was not released until 1944).
3. - Gary Cooper, Sergeant York, 1941. Warners announced Coop as the war hero of 1918 - without a finished script, much less a director - with Henry Fond and James Stewart as reserves. And then decided to test Reagan - on November 15, 1940. After Fleming, Hathaway, Koster, Taurog, Vidor and Wyler passed, Howard Hawks proved quite satisfied with Coop.
4. - Bruce Bennett, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, 1948. Because of his Warners contract, Reagan had first crack at Cody - and passed. To the relief of writer-director John Huston. “I didn’t want him. God, he’s a bore. And a bad actor. Besides, he has a low order of intelligence. With a certain cunning. Not animal cunnning - human cunning. Animal cunning is too fine an expression for him. He’s inflated, he’s egotistical, one of those people who thinks he’s right. And he’s not right. About anything.”
5. - Joel McCrea, Colorado Territory, 1949. Like everyone at Warners, Reagan was testing for director Raoul Walsh’s second version of High Sierra. McCrea only realised it was a Western when Walsh issued his usual horse-opera order: “Don’t get your hair cut!”
6. - Gary Merrill, All About Eve, 1949.
7. - Errol Flynn, Rocky Mountain, 1950. Dissatisfied with his roles - “I could telephone my lines in” - Reagan was promised a Western... if he found one! He did but quit Warners by the time Ghost Mountain became Rocky Mountain. “I’m going to pick my own pictures. I could do as good a job of picking as the studio has done.” And if not? “Well, I can always go back to being a sports announcer.”
8. - Burt Lancaster, From Here To Eternity, 1952.
9. - William Daniels, The Graduate, 1967. The one thing that might have spoiled Dustin Hoffman’s breakthrough - having Reagan for a dad!
10 - Hugh Gillin, Back To The Future, 1990. The ex-President “reluctantly” passed on Mayor Hubert. He loved the first of the trilogy - cited in his 1986 State of the Union address: “As they said in the film Back to the Future: Where we're going, we don’t need roads." Ronnie often asked the White House projectionist to wind it back to Doc Brown’s disbelief that an actor could become president... Reagan also noted that the Hill Valley cinema was screening his Western, Cattle Queen of Montana, 1954.
11 - Lloyd Bridges, Joe versus The Volcano, 1990. For his helming debut, Moonstruck scenarist John Patrick Shanley considered wooing The Great Communicator back to his old job. A serious idea “met with such consternation by certain parties.” Nancy Reagan, also being wooed back to cinema, said her job was “to protect Ronnie from himself. He has a big Irish heart and trusts everybody.”