3 January 2018

Projects that never happened

We all know the finished projects, the films that made it to the big screen. But of course, there were also plenty of projects that, for whatever reason, never came about. Interesting collaborations that never happened. 

Here are three letters that speak of such projects.

The first letter is dated 26 February 1963 and is from director George Cukor to Bette Davis. Cukor wrote to Bette because a friend of his, screenwriter DeWitt Bodeen, had plans for a film adaptation of Edith Wharton's novella My Son. Bodeen wanted Cukor to direct the film and Bette and Olivia de Havilland to star in it. The film was never made but the two actresses did eventually play together in Robert Aldrich's Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

Cukor and Davis would never make a film together, although they did work together in the theatre in the 1920s. In 1926, Bette joined Cukor's stock company in Rochester, New York, and stayed with the group for only one season. Cukor later remembered: "Her talent was apparent, but she did buck at direction. She had her own ideas, and though she only did bits and ingenue roles, she didn't hesitate to express them." Bette kept insisting for years that Cukor had fired her even though Cukor kept saying that he hadn't. In the letter below, Cukor's remark about the 'Rochester Method' is an obvious reference to his theatre days with Bette. 

Via: we love bette davis (instagram)



February 26, 1963

Congratulations on your nomination- your tenth, no less*. It certainly proves that the Rochester Method pays off.

I am functioning as a Friend of Friends. One friend, DeWitt Bodeen, is a very nice man and a good screenwriter, whose last effort was "Billy Budd". He is presently negotiating for the rights of a novella by Edith Wharton called "Her Son". I must confess I'd never heard of it before. He has asked me to send it to you, which I am doing under separate cover. He thinks it would make a bangup picture for you and Olivia DeHavilland. The switch is that you would be the Good Woman and Olivia the Doxie.

I called your house yesterday and was told by your sister that you were in New York. Then I spoke to Olivia. She said that no time be wasted in getting the book to you because you were presently making Big Decisions in New York. So here the matter rests.

Every good wish and kindest regards.

signed 'George'

Note* The Oscar nomination was for Bette's role in Robert Aldrich's Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? Anne Bancroft would eventually win the Oscar for her leading role in The Miracle Worker.

Written on 16 January 1957, the second letter is from Kirk Douglas to Gary Cooper. The letter shows that Douglas was quite excited about a film he was planning to make based on the television show The Silent Gun. Douglas wanted to make the film with Gary Cooper and director Charles Vidor and to produce it through his own production company Bryna Productions. Eventually, the film was never made, and Douglas and Cooper would never work together. 

Source: live auctioneers


January 16, 1957

Mr. Gary Cooper
200 Baroda Drive
Los Angeles, California

Dear Gary:

This is the television show, THE SILENT GUN, I spoke to you about on the phone. I'd like you to see it just as a basis for a discussion that we can have when I get back from New York.

We have been in touch with the Colt people, and have worked out wonderful arrangements to use all their museum pieces of guns and old machinery used in the manufacturing of guns, to make this a completely documentary background.

As I told you, Charles Vidor is awfully anxious to do it. From my point of view, I'm completely wide open. I think this film can be made on a surprisingly reasonable budget. And, by the way, I just checked the records and I don't have $30,000 in the story in rough treatment but approximately $22,000.

I think this could be a really exciting one. I hope you think so, too. I'll call you when I get back.

Best regards,
(signed 'Kirk') 
Kirk Douglas

Rare photo of Kirk Douglas and Gary Cooper together, here pictured with Patricia Neal. (Cooper and Neal had an intense love affair while Cooper was marriedDouglas had also once dated Neal.)


The third and final letter comes from Cary Grant and is addressed to 'Dick', an associate of silent comedian Harold Lloyd. Grant had just received a script, meant as a possible vehicle for him and a potential new project for Harold Lloyd's production company. After reading it, Grant was not overly enthusiastic; he couldn't picture himself in the story and besides, a similar script had been offered to him once before (which he talks about in an amusing way). 

Grant's letter was written in January 1943, at a time when Harold Lloyd's Hollywood career was practically over. Lloyd would star in only one more film, in Preston Sturges' The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947), which became a big flop. As a producer, Lloyd had made two films for RKO in the early 1940s, i.e. A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob (1941) and My Favorite Spy (1942), which had proven unsuccessful too. A deal with Columbia to produce another film was signed in February 1943 but that film was never made. In the end, Lloyd would never produce again and a collaboration between him and Cary Grant never happened.

(Incidentally, while I have tried to find more information on 'Dick', unfortunately I could find nothing.)

Source: leading lights autographs


Jan. 16, 1943
1515 N. Amalfi Dr.
Pacific Palisades

Dear Dick:

Many thanks for letting me read this---- I had a most enjoyable evening. It is undoubtedly a very funny and different idea, but with the script in it's [sic] present rough form I find it difficult to visualize completely it's [sic] possibilities as a vehicle for me. Incidentally, if Harold and yourself are keen to put this type of story into production, I think I should tell you that there is a synopsis lying around town, and which was submitted to me some time ago, embodying a similar idea-- though in that story the dog was the supposed reincarnation of the first husband who came back to worry the second husband and his former spouse--- it made for fun in a bed-room on a wedding night for two people and a dog-- you get the idea. I thought you both should know of it's [sic] existence although I have forgotten whether it is owned by a studio.

Hope to see you soon, Dick, and perhaps then we can discuss this story more fully, but in any case I'd be grateful if you would let me know what happens to it and the manner in which it is to be finally developed. Too, if we cannot get together on this one, I do hope I shall have the pleasure and the good fortune to work with you in the near future. Best personal wishes, and regards to Harold.

signed 'Cary'

While Cary Grant and Harold Lloyd never worked together, Grant's comedic performance in Howard Hawks' Bringing Up Baby (1938) was influenced by Lloyd. When Grant didn't know how to play his character (the nerdy paleontologist David Huxley) Hawks suggested Grant look at the films of Harold Lloyd. Grant did, and in Bringing Up Baby he imitates Lloyd's acting style and even wears his trademark black horn-rimmed glasses and ill-fitting suit.


  1. The synopsis Grant mentioned sounds to me like You Never Can Tell which was made in 1951 with Dick Powell. A cute picture.

  2. I don't know that movie but will surely check it out:) Thanks!