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Adventures in Miscasting


slaytonf

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It only took me five seconds--ok, three seconds--to recognize how unfortunately miscast A Majority of One was. Rosalind Russell and Alec Guiness deserve all the plaudits for their acting they get, but this movie demonstrates even these formidable talents had their limits. Watching the few moments of the film I was able to force myself to, I found it difficult to decide which was more intolerably irritating to witness, a New England goy affecting a Brooklyn Jewish mama, or a British upperclass gentleman without a clue trying to imitate a wealthy Japanese buisnessman. Mr. Guiness obviously had zero familiarity with Japanese, their culture, manners, modes of conducting themselves, posture, or movement.

 

I don't know if there ever was a movie more sadly miscast. But who would know? No one would watch it.

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I agree that A Majority of One is pretty painful, for the very reasons you state. Cross-racial casting is fine if race isn't essential to the plot, but otherwise it's just gratuitously stupid. And much as I love Roz in almost every other movie I've seen her in, she was almost as miscast as Guinness.

 

Beyond that film, Charlton Heston in Touch of Evil was as bad as it gets, and after seeing the Claire Bloom version, watching Jane Fonda in A Doll's House was absolute torture. But with those two it was more a case of bad acting than miscasting per se .

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The one thing I hate about threads like this is that I KNOW I've seen a lot of flicks I thought were miscast. But come time to reply, my mind goes blank!

 

 

Two I can think of involve WALLACE BEERY. His beloved film, *The Champ* , while a sentimental favorite has Beery, a too old looking, way out of shape schnook as a prizefighter! Might as well cast LOU COSTELLO as JIM THORPE!

 

 

The next is *Poncho Villa .* You think HESTON was a bad choice as a Mexican? Maybe Welles (or whomever was responsible) thought if people were willing to accept Beery as Villa, then they'll buy Chuck as Vargas. If more come to mind, I'll surely be back.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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Yes, it was miscast, and it was somewhat of a fantasy, but I liked it.

 

Mae Questel, the New York friend and neighbor with the great voice, played the voice of Betty Boop in several Fleischer Studios cartoons in the early 1930s. She also played the voice of Olive Oyl in several Popeye cartoons. She was in 355 films and TV shows, either as a cartoon voice or as an actress.

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slaytonf,

 

Hard as it is for this Roz & Alec fan, I totally agree.

 

The nominee for a "Mis-Casty Award" that springs instantly to mind is Dragon Seed with Katharine "Jade Tan" Hepburn.

 

I have others ... (What self-respecting cinemaddict does NOT have lists of "Bests," "Worsts" and "Shoulda Beens" ?)

 

But the "Mis-Casties" changed for me a few years ago when a similarly deranged fellow Hollywoodphile and I created our own little trivia game in which we got to re-cast our Most Mis-cast movies. We called it "Insteada."

 

Say that you can go back in time and "correctly" cast, say, A Majority of One ... BUT you have to do it within the rough "parameters" of the industry as it was then -- and while It DOES help to know a heap of Hollywood trivia, it can also be a hoot Googling for casting ideas along with who's hot and who's not, who "just" starred in what films, who's freelance and who would have to be loaned out, who's been branded a Commie, a drunk or a pervert ... who's sworn that they'll NEVER work with that louse "So-and-So" again ... EVER ! ... etc.

 

Fortunately, in your favor, you are reeeally powerful and pursuasive ...

 

So ... Bam ! It's 1960 - 61 and Majority of One is in pre-production at Warner Bros -- which means Jack Warner is still stalking the halls, looking for fresh victims to tell his terrible, tasteless jokes to.

 

You're co-producing with Mervyn Leroy, he's also directing, and the script is by Leonard Spiegelglass (no slouch !) who adapted it from his hit stage play.

 

So insteada Roz ... WHO ?

 

1. Gotta Go There: she played it on Broadway for Leonard and it ran over a year ... Gertrude Berg.

 

Mervyn: "You mean the yenta in the tenement on the TV show ?"

 

Leonard: "Mmmm ... 'The Goldbergs.' I love Gertie Berg but she'll hardly knock 'em dead in Kokomo. I've got points in this picture and two kids in college, y'know ?"

 

Jack: "Ha ha ! Remember the Titanic ! ... Berg ? Titanic ? Ha ha !"

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Plowing Ahead: Okay, how about Shirley Booth ?

 

Mervyn: "You mean the yenta who's the maid on the TV show ? Do you watch anything else but TV shows ? Like movies ? Plays ? Birds ?"

 

Jack: "Shirley you jest! Ha ha!"

 

Leonard: "Mmmmmm ... Shirrrrrleeeeeey ... ? Mmmmmmaybe as a back-up."

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Going For It: We could "Stunt Cast" it with Merman !

 

Mervyn: "You mean make it a musical ???"

 

Leonard: "Mmmm, an extremely LOUD musical ... "

 

Jack: "Anybody else want a sandwich ?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. The Hail Mary Pass: Well, there's always Bette Davis ...

 

Mervyn: "She played it four years ago and nobody's begging for a sequel to "Catered Affair'."

 

Leonard: "Mmmm ... we could call it The Cratered Affair' ..."

 

Jack: (ulcer churning with Bette memories) "Burrrrrrrrp! -- Hey, did you guys know I can burp 'The Star Spangled Banner' ?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for insteada Alec, it's too obvious: Sessue Hayakawa.

 

Mervyn: "Hmmmm. Might be his Oscar ..."

 

Leonard: "Didn't he start back in silent movies or something ?"

 

Jack: "No -- doing my laundry ! Ha ha ! Burrrrp!"

 

All in unison: "So how 'bout that sandwich, J.L. ?" ... "Yeah, great idea, J.L." ... "Mmmmmaybe lunch will help ..."

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so on, and so on ... etc.etc. ... we still play via email.

 

There is just one tiny little danger: Insteada should not be played alone or one can easily become susceptable to a condition called terminal normadesmonditis in which a classic movie lover slips slowly but permanently into the fantasy world of a "perfect Hollywood" in which he or she is very powerful and persuasive.

 

Well ... now ... I'm sure I've moooore than adequately explained the ins and outs of Insteada ... to death ... (or, as someone remarked following my recitation of some interminable Hollywood anecdote, "Wow!! That sounds REEEALLY interesting ... to YOU.")

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It strikes me as a movie that not only was cast poorly, but then when they were done with it, they didn't know how to promote it. Did you see the awful trailer that TCM was running, most of which was devoted to LeRoy sitting in his office? When it came to showing actual footage, more time was spent on the less ethnic Ray Danton and Madlyn Rhue when it came to speaking, there were no dialogue tracks for the two leads. Even Rhue only gets to say "Oh Jerry," it's the dulcet tones of Danton that are dominantly heard.

 

Other than LeRoy that is.

 

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/204105/Majority-of-One-A-Original-Trailer-.html

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Another casting mistake: Gregory Peck in "Moby Dick." Peck is a good actor but terribly wrong for Ahab. He was out of his element playing such a dark obsessed character. James Mason, Brando, even Kirk Douglas would have been a much better choice than Gregory Peck. A fatal flaw that the movie never quite recovers from.

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A few others who should have thought twice before making the movie:

 

1- "The Conqueror"- John Wayne as Genghis Khan, head of the Mongol Empire.

 

2- "Teahouse of the August Moon" Marlon Brando as Sakini A Japanese farmer/conman.

 

3- Paint Your Wagon"- Clint Eastwood singing love ballads.

 

4- "Breakfast at Tiffany's"- Mickey Rooney as Japanese neighbor of Holly Golightly

 

5-"A Stranger Among Us"- Melanie Griffith as a N.Y. cop undercover as a Hasidic Jewess...

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>Might as well cast LOU COSTELLO as JIM THORPE!

 

Odd that you should say that.

 

When, in the late 1940s, RKO was considering producing a biopic of Thorpe's life, studio chief Dore Schary met with the great American Indian Olympian to discuss how it might be done. Schary asked Thorpe whom he might like to see play him.

 

Gregory Peck, replied Thorpe.

 

Schary politely countered that Peck simply didn't have the physique of an athlete, and would be hard to make up as a convincing Indian, but suggested that he had the perfect candidate, a charismatic, up-and-coming actor named Anthony Quinn.

 

Thorpe, who was, by then, far from his athletic prime, and beaten down by years of enduring the racism that had stripped him of his Olympic medals for having played a few baseball games for pay, was outraged: "Quinn! A Mexican! You might as well get a damn n****r to play the part!"

 

Schary, who'd admired Thorpe for decades, was aghast but held his tongue. Their meeting ended and RKO dropped the biopic project. It was, of course, picked up by Warner Bros. and released in 1950, with Burt Lancaster playing Thorpe. One can only assume that Thorpe felt Lancaster was sufficiently non-Hispanic to portray him in a movie.

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Hey what about the entire cast of the film Juarez! Never before have I seen such a boring film that boasted of such talented cast. I don't know what happened because the film had the "cream of the crop" as far as acting goes and a great director, but boy what a bomb! To me no one was believable in their roles. Paul Muni was so stiff it was ridiculous, and not pleasant to watch. Bette Davis over acted her part, Claude Rains over acted as well, and what was with Brain Aherne hairdo? Even my favorite actor John Garfield could not save this lemon. I don't think he was meant to do period films, but I kind of liked the moustache and goatee look. I read that John Huston blamed the film's failure on Paul Muni. Evidently Muni insisted that his brother in-law be brought in to "beef up" or really ruin the script. Well, thank you Mr.Muni. While I admit Paul Muni was a great actor, and I especially enjoyed him in "Scarface" and "I am a fugitive from a chain gain' in many of his films he too tended to over act. I think Muni would have done better if he would have left his wife and brother in-law at home.

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My top one is John Wayne in "The Conqueror".

 

Clint Eastwood in "Bridges of Madison County"

 

Chuck Conners in "Geronimo" (was the casting dept drunk?)

 

Donna Reed in "The Far Horizons" (how many gallons of suntan lotion did they used?)

 

Kevin Costner in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (British actors in that short supply?)

 

All the main cast in "The Brady Bunch Movie"

 

Like to mention television, the newest C.S.I. episodes, Ted Danson of all people?

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Can't agree with you about *Juarez*. It's a favorite of mine, and I find it well-cast. BTW, Muni was deliberately being as stiff as he could be, because that was a well-known character trait of Juarez. Brian Aherne, hairdo and all, was perfect as the self-deluded fop, Maximilian. Bette does her best as Carlotta, and pulls it off reasonably well. But I'll admit that she would not have been my first choice for the role.

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To HAMRADIO:

 

 

Are British actors in that short supply?

 

 

Well, I don't know about THEN, but they are NOW, as most British (and Australian) actors and actresses are busy playing Americans in American made movies and television programs.

 

 

And IMHO, with the exceptions of *Silverado, Field of Dreams* and AMC's *Open Range* , I find Costner to be miscast in just about everything he's done.

 

 

And I'd like to put in my two cents and say that Peck was SUPERB as Ahab. Set the bar, you might say. If you're gonna have BRANDO do Ahab, you might as well suggest PAULEY SHORE!

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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I think most of the anglo actors in DRAGON SEED are miscast (Katharine Hepburn as a Chinese woman?!), but it is still a well-made MGM production. The same can be said about the studio's earlier effort, also based on a story by Pearl S. Buck, THE GOOD EARTH. We can lament the fact that white actors are portraying these roles in yellow-face, or we can just get past that and judge the film on its overall merits.

 

dragon-seed-150a100709-fp.jpg

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Sepiatone wrote:

<< And I'd like to put in my two cents and say that Peck was SUPERB as Ahab. Set the bar, you might say. If you're gonna have BRANDO do Ahab, you might as well suggest PAULEY SHORE! >>

 

LOL, thanks of reminding me of Pauly Shore, that reminded me of another movie I should and will mention. The only thing he was casted right for was the "Casper" sequels. Love they chose him for the voice of "Snivel"

char_50507_thumb.jpg

 

and his "Oracle" role in the badly miscast (not him) roles of "Casper Meets Wendy" (1998). The only perfectly cast actors in this disappointment was George Hamilton (was a major scene stealer) and his sidekicks.

But Hiliary Duff, (Wendy) and her three aunts Geri (Cathy Moriarty), Gabby (Shelley Duvall), and Fanny (Teri Garr) was a miscasting blunder.

 

First her aunts suppose to look like the casting call of "The Evil Dead" NOT to be silly and stupid. Hiliary Duff?? Talk about being lazy in the casting department, she is not all that cute, disrespectful, snotty and arrogent.

 

Something could had been done a lot better with this movie and finding the *right* child would have been a major task but could had paid off as a charmer. If anyone think this is too far out there, well I have 2 words *Harry Potter* Do boys flying on brooms look more silly??

 

Hollywood I have a challange for you , bring the *real,* not politically correct, original "Wendy" to real life! (OMG, did I just asked for another 3D CGI smorgasborg :0 )

 

Edited by: hamradio on Mar 25, 2012 8:42 PM

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Such a great list, fredbaetz, I can't resist ...

 

Insteada:

 

1. John Wayne as Genghis Khan, head of the Mongol Empire, in "The Conqueror" ... ?

 

YUL BRYNNER, ANTHONY QUINN or VICTOR MATURE.

 

 

2. Marlon Brando as Sakini, a Japanese farmer/conman, in "Teahouse of the August Moon" ... ?

 

PETER LORRE or PETER SELLERS.

 

 

3. Clint Eastwood singing love ballads in "Paint Your Wagon" ... ?

 

ROBERT GOULET, GEORGE CHAKIRIS or (if their singing could be acceptably dubbed) ROBERT REDFORD or WARREN BEATTY.

 

 

4. Mickey Rooney as Japanese neighbor of Holly Golightly in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" ... ?

 

SESSUE HAYAKAWA ! (He could've just reprised his character from "Bridge on the River Kwai" ...)

 

 

5. Melanie Griffith as a N.Y. cop undercover as a Hasidid Jewess in "A Stranger Among Us" ... ?

 

Tough one. DEBRA WINGER ? ... BARBRA STREISAND ? (no way she'd have done it though it could've been a great career move) ... or else turn it into a comedy with either BETTE MIDLER or MISS PIGGY.

 

 

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When, in the late 1940s, RKO was considering producing a biopic of Thorpe's life, studio chief Dore Schary met with the great American Indian Olympian to discuss how it might be done. Schary asked Thorpe whom he might like to see play him.

 

Gregory Peck, replied Thorpe.

 

Schary politely countered that Peck simply didn't have the physique of an athlete, and would be hard to make up as a convincing Indian, but suggested that he had the perfect candidate, a charismatic, up-and-coming actor named Anthony Quinn.

 

 

Thorpe, who was, by then, far from his athletic prime, and beaten down by years of enduring the racism that had stripped him of his Olympic medals for having played a few baseball games for pay, was outraged: "Quinn! A Mexican! You might as well get a damn n****r to play the part!"

 

Schary, who'd admired Thorpe for decades, was aghast but held his tongue. Their meeting ended and RKO dropped the biopic project. It was, of course, picked up by Warner Bros. and released in 1950, with Burt Lancaster playing Thorpe. One can only assume that Thorpe felt Lancaster was sufficiently non-Hispanic to portray him in a movie.

 

Just out of curiosity, what's the source for that story?

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Just out of curiosity, what's the source for that story?

 

Not to jump in sprocket man's shoes, but I read that story in Dore Schary's autobiography titled "Heyday."

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