Leo McKern as Rumpole of the Bailey
The Australian actor Leo McKern, best known for his portrayal of the title character in the TV series Rumpole of the Bailey, once unsuccessfully auditioned for the role of ‘Pockets’ in Hatari (1962), the part eventually going to American actor Red Buttons. McKern always claimed that he missed out on the role because he was not impressed with director Howard Hawks and did not fancy working with John Wayne because of the man’s extreme right-wing political views. As a 15 year-old, Leo had lost an eye in an accident and was forced to wear a glass eyeball for the rest of his life. During visits to bars with friends he would delight in tapping on his glass eye with a coin before removing it from its socket and placing it next to his drink. ‘Keep an eye on my beer’, he would tell it whenever he trundled off to the toilet.
Joseph Wiseman as Dr No (1962)
Joseph Wiseman will always be remembered by James Bond fans as the first actor to play 007’s main villain, the sinister title character in Dr No (1962). ‘I had no idea what I was letting myself in for’, he said years later. ‘I know nothing about mysteries. I don’t take to them. As far as I was concerned, I thought it might be just another Grade-B Charlie Chan mystery.’ The Canadian-born actor’s unique phrasing helped enhance many fine films until he passed away in 2009 at the age of 91.
Rita Gam was nominated for a ‘Most Promising Female Newcomer’ Golden Globe for her performance in The Thief (1952). Two years later she auditioned for a role in CB DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956), but was rejected when she told the pious director she was not religiously inclined. Her most memorable film role would be as Herodias in The King of Kings (1961), but today she is best-remembered for her real life role as a bridesmaid to her friend Grace Kelly when she wed Prince Rainier of Monaco. She and Grace first met in 1952 when Rita’s husband Sidney Lumet directed the future princess in a TV production of Don Quixote.
The wonderful 1952 film version of Rafael Sabatini’s romance/adventure Scaramouche was originally set to star Gene Kelly in the title role with Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner providing the beauty. Furthermore, it was intended to be a musical. However, when new studio contractee Stewart Granger heard that MGM intended this remake of its 1923 silent version, he offered to sign an exclusive contract if he was given the lead in it. The studio agreed, Liz and Ava by then were committed to other films, and Kelly happily went off to make Singin’ in the Rain instead. The musical turned into an action flick that would feature an eight-minute swordfight between Granger and Mel Ferrer that has since become part of movie folklore.
William Haines Jimmie Shields
William Haines was a silent era heartthrob whose career came to a sudden halt in 1933, not because his voice was unsuitable for talkies (as was often the case), but because he was openly gay in an era when studios kept a very firm lid on such things. His boss at MGM, LB Mayer, insisted he enter into a sham marriage for the sake of publicity, but Billy was having none of it and refused to leave his boyfriend Jimmie Shields. LB cancelled his contract on the spot and blacklisted his acting career, so Billy and Jimmie quickly opened an antiques dealership and an interior design firm. They catered to southern California’s elite, including movie stars such as Joan Crawford, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and many others. The couple remained together until Billy’s death in 1973, one of Hollywood’s most enduring love stories.
Diane Cilento Gene Tierney & Prince Aly Khan
Diane Cilento was in London’s East End shooting The Angel who Pawned her Harp (1954), when she became aware of a swarthy gent staring at her. For the rest of the day he kept appearing nearby wherever she went. Clearly, the man was stalking her. The following evening she was in her apartment writing, unaware she had inadvertently left her door unlocked. He suddenly appeared alongside her bedside and proceeded to attempt a seduction. ‘Don’t be frightened’, he assured her, ‘I just want to make love to you. I’m a very good lover. Don’t worry. It will be wonderful for you.’ And with that he forced himself upon her. Diane wriggled free and delivered a kick to his groin before running out the door. The next morning an enormous basket of red roses arrived at the studios. A card addressed to her simply read: ‘I love your spirit – Aly Khan’. The millionaire prince’s girlfriend Gene Tierney had been filming nearby at the time.
Olivier (L) and Coward in Private Lives Marion Davies & Hearst
Noel Coward was privy to everybody’s secrets. Speaking of his good friend Sir Laurence Olivier, he once said, ‘Did you know that Larry, by his own admission, possesses one of the smallest willies in the Western world? He used to call it his ‘rosebud’.’ He then went on to explain that ‘rosebud’ was also William Randolph Hearst’s pet name for Marion Davies’ clitoris. ‘At some grand piss-up at San Simeon’, Coward went on, ‘ the castle he built where they entertained lavishly, she told her old drinking mate, Tom Mankiewicz, all about her intimate life with the richest tycoon of the day.’ Mankiewicz then told Orson Welles and the two men proceeded to write the screenplay for Citizen Kane (1941), using the theme of ‘Rosebud’. Hearst was infuriated. Consequently, he and his newspapers did a hatchet job on Welles for the rest of his life.
Quique and Louis Jourdan
Frenchman Louis Jourdan played Dr Nicholas Agi opposite Grace Kelly in The Swan (1956). She would become Princess Grace of Monaco later in the same year the picture was released. Cast in most of his pictures as the French lover of caricature, Jourdan always resented the implication, for in real life he was not the lothario most cinema-goers assumed he was. In fact, he had wed his childhood sweetheart Berthe Frederique, known as ‘Quique’, in 1946 and they stayed together until her death 68 years later. Louis died the following year. In 1981, the couple had to endure the tragic death of their only son Louis Henry from a drug overdose.
Susan Morrow & Heston in The Savage (1952)
The 1952 western The Savage starred Charlton Heston as the Indian chief War Bonnet, but it is the picture’s leading lady who is of particular interest. Playing Tally Hathersall was an actress named Susan Morrow. She only appeared in eleven movies and a couple of dozen TV shows, but she was the older sister of a lady named Judith Exner-Campbell. Judy is known to history as the mistress of both President John F. Kennedy and mobster Sam Giancana.