So who's up first. Well lets see who they billed as the new Rock Hudson. Here's Rock dizzy with the success of his career in the 1950s including 'Giant' and 'Written on the Wind' with subsequent hits towards the end of the 50's in his grown-up comedies with Doris Day.
And here's Universals other promotion at the end of the 50's- John Gavin. Similarity with rugged handsome 1950's looks, but poles apart in their films and screen personas. John Gavin appeared in classics such as Spartacus and Psycho. He was Lana Turner's devoted man in 'Imitation of Life' and a pipe smoking all round good fellow in 'Thoroughly Modern Millie'.
Both men did however go into television after their movie career with Mr. Gavin appearing in 'Doctors' Private Lives' and Mr. Hudson sporting a great cheesy moustache appearing in 'MacMillan & Wife' both in the 1970s.
So we've mentioned the gorgeous Lana Turner so let's see who they tried to emulate her with. Of the many contemporaries of Ms. Turner at the time, Mary Beth Hughes was considered to be a rising star that could no doubt keep Lana on her toes. Unfortunately, the pretty Mary Beth didn't quite get into the big league and remained a 'B' star at Fox Studios. She was usually cast as a less sophisticated woman in her films of the 30's and 40's and during the 50's mainly as a gangster style moll. It may have been too much of an ask for Mary Beth Hughes to keep up with the revelations of Lana Turner's personal life which no doubt the public could not get enough of. You just can't beat 7 marriages, several love affairs and a shooting.
Mary Beth Hughes (on the left) went into television throughout the 1950s including appearances in 'The Red Skelton Show' and 'Rawhide'. Lana Turner continued to be one of Hollywood's star legends and her final television work was in the series 'Falcon's Crest' in the 80s.
We'll go from a gorgeous blonde to a gorgeous redhead. Rita Hayworth made her debut in 1935 and after five small parts was dropped by Fox Studio. After some hard sell by her husband and agent, Rita was bought up by Columbia, but only when she was lent by them to Warner Bros. for the lovely little film 'The Strawberry Blonde' with James Cagney and her subsequent charming performance in 'You'll never get Rich' that she was officially a star. Columbia however, not satisfied with their star, decided to sign up a doppelganger in the shape of model Mary Castle after her photo was spotted in a magazine. She was put into low budget films, usually westerns and her dependence on alcohol unfortunately interfered with a burgeoning career in movies. Unfairly to both ladies, Mary Castle was used as a threat to replace Rita if she stepped out of line and when Rita subsequently married Prince Aly Khan.
So, who've we got next. One of my screen favourites, Errol Flynn. Seeing him leaping around in his green sparkly tunic in The Adventures of Robin Hood was brilliant when I was little and it still remains one of my favourite oldies. Warner Bros. in their wisdom decided that the English actor Patric Knowles was an adequate replacement for the somewhat unpredictable Errol. In fact, Patric appeared alongside Errol in two films. He was Robin Hood's Will Scarlett and he played Errol's younger brother in 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'.
Patric Knowles was of genuine Irish decent and Errol Flynn was Tasmanian but publicised as Irish decent because of the name Flynn! Mr. Knowles was also a licenced private pilot who was a genuine daredevil. Patric appeared as mainly a second lead to strong female characters and was in some light comedies. However on becoming freelance rather than contract he remained at Universal during the 40's and was generally typecast in their 'b-movie' horrors such as 'The Wolf Man' (1941) and 'Frankinstein meets The Wolf Man' (1943). It would seem that, again, the personal lives of these men differed completely and Errol's provided enough off screen titillating gossip and on screen presence to over-shadow his contemporary. I'm currently reading 'My Wicked, Wicked Ways' Errol Flynn's autobiography and it doesn't disappoint.!
Panic ensued when the golden girl of the 50's, Grace Kelly, swapped her position as Hollywood Royalty to actually Royalty and embarked on trying to replace her with a lookie likie. After Ms. Kelly's performances for Alfred Hitchcock, 'Dial M for Murder' with Ray Milland & Robert Cummings and a stand-out performance in Rear Window with James Stewart and Thelma Ritter (both made in 1954) she was crowned queen of sophisticated, effortless cool and imposters were signed to try and fill the void she left. Hitchcock subsequently signed Tippi Hendren in two of his films maybe overestimating the appeal of his new leading lady and underestimating the charm appeal of his now absent leading lady.
Another beautiful blonde similar to Grace was Dina Merrill. A socialite born into the Hutton family (of Woolworth empire) and cousin to Barbara Hutton (second wife of Cary Grant) oozed sophistication and class. She never really became leading lady material but was a welcome addition to the films she appeared in one of which was Operation Petticoat (1959) as a sought after love interest for Tony Curtis's character.