Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sam & Diane in the golden age of film

Here’s a fun Friday Question. And it’s one you can participate in. I’ll give my answers. You share yours.

Justin Russo asked:

Ken, with your affinity for classic films and stars of the era, I have a bit of a whimsical question for you. Were you to cast "Cheers" using classic stars, who would you choose for each character? I keep picturing Thelma Ritter as Carla and David Niven as Frasier.

Assuming that all are age appropriate…

Well, Thelma Ritter as Carla for sure. I wouldn’t go with David Niven myself. I might pick William Powell for Frasier.

For Sam, who else? Cary Grant. And for Diane? The young Katherine Hepburn.

The Coach might be Charles Coburn. (You younger readers might have to look up some of these people.) For Norm, how about Wallace Beery?

Cliff is a toughie. Edward G. Robinson perhaps?

The young “No Time For Sergeants” Paul Newman would make a good Woody.   Note:  This was the live TV play version of "No Time For Sergeants," and yes, it was Paul Newman not Andy Griffith who starred.

Vivien Leigh would be my Lilith. The young Shelley Winters would be my Rebecca.

Okay. Those are mine for now. But you may some better suggestions and I’ll go, “Yes. Of course.” So I reserve the right to change my mind. Blogger’s privilege.

Thanks much.


Wendy M. Grossman said...

Your mention of younger people not recognizing some of the names along with Shelley Winters reminds me of a bit in one of the late, great Jean Kerr's pieces about working in the theater. It was a column about surviving as a playwright, in which she recommended avoiding very young producers, and then noted that it was also possible to err on the other end of the age spectrum with a story of a friend who had been taken to lunch by an interested producer and suggested (this is probably 1960s) that Shelley Winters might be perfect for the lead role. Inquired the aging producer, "What *are* Shelley Winters?"


Nick Alexander said...

Sam: William Holden
Diane: Greer Garson
Coach: William Demerest
Cliff: Young Peter Ustinov
Carla: Thelma Ritter [wholehearted agreement]
Norm: W.C. Fields
Woody: You were probably thinking of Andy Griffith (not Paul Newman!)
Rebecca: Bette Davis
Frasier: Ronald Coleman
Lilith: Margaret Hamilton (fr Wizard of Oz)

Justin Russo said...

This made my day :) I'll have to compose a "cast photo" with the new stars!

Stephen Marks said...

Let's do this for a specific episode. The one where Diane turns down Sam's proposal of marriage and he tosses her off his yacht and into the ocean:

Robert Wagner as Sam

Natalie Wood as Diane

Hey, I"m just doing what Ken asked, okay.

Brent said...

I could see Jack Lemmon as Cliff and Walter Mathau as Norm.

Peter said...

This is a tough one, only because Cheers was cast so perfectly that I can't imagine anyone else in those roles!

Here are my picks!

Sam - John Dall

Diane - Young Diane Keaton

Carla - Patsy Kelly

Coach - Elisha Cook Jr

Norm - Sydney Greenstreet

Cliff - Clint Howard

Woody - Stan Laurel

Frasier - Young Richard Dreyfuss

Rebecca - Linda Fiorentino

Lilith - Young Lara Flynn Boyle

John in NE Ohio said...

NORM - Jackie Gleason
COACH - Bob Newhart or Lou Costello. If you could change the backstory enough to change gender, Betty White.
SAM - Dean Martin
CARLA - again, if you can change gender, Don Rickles. If nothing else, him and Newhart together would have made a great blooper reel.

Sue Dunham said...

Great choices.

Steve said...

Come on Ken: Oscar Levant as Cliff.

Anonymous said...

I thought it would be obvious:
As Frazier Oliver Hardy (constantly trying to maintain his dignity no matter the situation)
And as Niles of course Stan Laurel (a great physical comedian)

In that vein perhaps Jimmy Finalyson as Martin
Maybe Thelma Todd as Roz
And Patsy Kelly as Daphne

Steve Bailey said...

Frasier - Joel McCrea. Lilith - Jane Russell. Coach - Thomas Mitchell (uncle in It's a Wonderful Life). Carla - Patsy Kelly. Norm - Eugene Pallette. Cliff - Porter Hall (low-key fellow from Preston Sturges comedies). Carla - Thelma Todd. Woody - Joe E. Brown. Rebecca - Greta Garbo. Sam and Diane - Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.

1955david said...

Nick Adams in No Time For Sergeants?

VP81955 said...

A '30s (post-Prohibition) "Cheers" might be fascinating, especially if the bar had a backstory as a speakeasy. The Coach (or Sam) could be a Braves or Bosox alumnus and I love the idea of Bill Powell as Frasier. But Carole, the lady who used to reside in my avatar, is ticked that K. Hepburn was picked as Diane. After all, both Lombard and Shelley Long are Fort Wayne natives.

gottacook said...

Pat Hingle as Coach.

Jonny M. said...

Love this post. To really make this serious speculative fiction (and maybe take all the fun out of it) I chose a specific decade so that everyone would be contemporary.

The decade: 1940s

I agree with Ken on these:

Sam: Cary Grant
Diane: Katherine Hepburn
Carla: Thelma Ritter

Where we diverge:

Coach: Henry Travers
the angel from It's a Wonderful Life

Norm: Jack Carson
Brother Man from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and 10 million other things

Cliff: Lou Costello
This would be some serious stunt casting in 1942

Fraiser: James Mason
Ken's choice of William Powell seems off. Powell is too much a man of the people. Think of Nick from The Thin Man. James Mason seems to mirror Kelsey Grammer in so many ways, even that they both played comedy and villians.

Woody: Mickey Rooney
Paul Newman wouldn't be the right age for the 1940s.

Rebecca: Rosalind Russell
Of "His Girl Friday" fame. If we're going to use Cary Grant, why not get another actress he can spark with. Also in my 1940s fantasy, Ken’s choice of Shelley Winters would be too young.

Lilith: Irene Dunne
Also played with Grant in My Favorite Wife and The Awful Truth. I think she can do sophisticated and caustic. Vivian Leigh (Ken’s choice) has too much raw sexual energy to be Lilith in my opinion.

Rashad Khan said...

Cary Grant as Sam "Mayday" Malone? For some reason, I can't see him portraying a retired professional baseball player convincingly. You'd have to go with Spencer Tracy.

Anonymous said...

Thought you might find it interesting - John Gorman, the man who made WMMS WMMS is in internet radio now.

Tudor Queen said...

Jonny - I love your ideas, especially James Mason as Frasier because, A) you're right, he can do comedy and he can be wonderfully, ruthlessly arrogant with ease and B) I would have seen James Mason in absolutely anything (and with no shame, pretty much have)

McAlvie said...

Oh, fun! I'm seeing William Powell and Myrna Loy as Sam and Diane. Yes, kind of like their Thin Man roles. Nick was a popular regular guy with a lot of friends in many circles, so he kind of was a "Sam." And that side eye "I see what you did there" smug glance that Nora often gave Nick is so very "Diane." Which means you need young Jimmy Stewart doing Woody. And there are so many great character actors to choose from for Coach, I don't know where to start. Lucille Ball for Carla. Or maybe Ruth Hussey. Either of them could have done Carla-esque zingers, but Lucy would have brought more physical comedy to it.

Norm is such an every guy character, that I see Jack Lemon in that role, not as Cliff. I bet Matthau could have done Cliff. It would have been a slightly different Cliff, but I can see him as the bar know-it-all. And Bob Hope as Fraser. Oooh, so Dorothy Lamour for Lilith, of course!

Barry Sands said...

The question asked about classics, not crappy black and white garbage from a hundred years ago. My pick... Vin Diesel as Sam and Amy Schumer as Diane.

JonCow said...

Sam: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr
Diane: Margaret Sullavan
Coach: Henry Travers
Norm: Victor McLaglen
Cliff: Jack Carson
Carla: Patsy Kelly
Lilith: Barbara Stanwyck
Frasier: have to agree with David Niven

Bill said...

Sam... "I am groot"
Diane ... "La di da, la di da, La did da"

Anonymous said...

Apologies for those under the age of 40 and/or not Turner Classic Movies fans.

I understand Grant-Hepburn as Sam and Diane but I never thought they had any chemistry. I'd cast June Arthur instead: similar acting chops and better chemistry with Grant. The only problem with Thelma Ritter as Carla is she would steal the show. An occupational hazard I supposed.

William Powell could certainly pull off playing Frasier but the audience might find him too sympathetic. Charles Coburn and Wallace Beery are way off-base. Coburn would be too intelligent to play "Coach" and Wallace Beery has a menacing air: he'd be scary even if you didn't think he killed Ted Healy.

Here's how I'd cast it with contracted studio as no object.

Sam: Cary Grant
Diane: Jean Arthur
Coach: William Frawley
Carla: Thelma Ritter
Cliff: Eric Blore
Norm: Dooley Wilson*
Woody: Eddie Bracken
Rebecca: Rita Hayworth
Frasier: Joel McCrea
Lilith: Veronica Lake

* Yes, I know the studio wouldn't go for this but he'd be great in the part.

But it wouldn't matter who was cast from the "golden age" of movies since, in the end, Ed Gardner would sue the pants off the producers. For extra credit: cast Cheers between 1935-1945 using only contracted players from their studios. Grant and Hepburn are easy: both were independent during that era. But, for example, in my case it would be hard to get Thelma Ritter (20th Century Fox) and Jean Arthur (Columbia) in the same show.

Bryce said...

You want to see Diane Chambers? Watch Shirley Jones in "The Music Man."

Griff said...

"The young 'No Time For Sergeants' Paul Newman would make a good Woody. Note: This was the live TV play version of 'No Time For Sergeants,' and yes, it was Paul Newman not Andy Griffith who starred."

Ken, you're a great writer, raconteur and blogger, but the other day I watched the kinescope of the 1955 U.S. Steel Hour live presentation of NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS, and Mr. Newman was nowhere to be found in the cast. Andy Griffith did indeed star as Will Stockdale in the Ira Levin teleplay (based on Mac Hyman's best-selling comic novel). The show (still pretty hilarious today, by the way) was such a sensation that Levin swiftly expanded his script into a play -- which successfully opened on Broadway that fall. Griffith repeated his Stockdale role in the hit play (he was nominated for a Tony), and a few years later starred in the Warners film adaptation.

[Paul Newman did appear on a number of live TV dramas. He played Henry "Author" Wiggen in the U.S. Steel Hour's BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY, starred in Playhouse 90's THE EIGHTY-YARD RUN, Producers' Showcase's famous musical production of OUR TOWN, Armstrong Circle Theater's THE CONTENDER and appeared on other top dramatic anthology shows in the '50s. But Newman wasn't in NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS.]

By Ken Levine said...

Then I'm crazy (which I very well may BE)but I remember a version with Paul Newman and thinking at the time how bizarre this casting is and how surprised I was at how well he played the role. Or it was the experimental drugs.

CRL said...

Sam would be Groucho Marx, and Rebecca would be Margaret Dumont.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Sam: Robert Cummings
Diane: Marjorie Reynolds
Coach: James Gleason
Carla: Thelma Ritter
Cliff: William Bendix
Norm: Eugene Pallette
Woody: Mickey Rooney
Rebecca: Claire Trevor
Frasier: Ray Milland
Lilith: Betty Davis

I'd watch that.

Jonny M. said...

Rashad Khan - I also thought about Spencer Tracy, but I think Sam has to be so good looking and magnetic in his visual appeal that it has to be someone like Cary Grant, even if he doesn't come across as an ex-jock philistine.

lillispad - I'm going to disagree with the lack of chemistry between Hepburn and Grant. I think they're chemistry is very much in the vein of Sam and Diane, particularly The Philadelphia Story where they really can't stand each other.

Anonymous said...

Paul Newman wasn't nearly as effective as Henry Wiggin as Michael Moriarty but Albert Salmi, an underrated actor, was better than Robert DeNiro as Piney.

ADmin said...

I like your picks - especially Powell. But I might go Debbie Reynolds for Diane?

ADmin said...

George Kennedy as Norm?

Anonymous said...

I also did not think the Paul Newman in No Tome for Sergeants was correct. One connection I found that you might have conflated was that apparently in 1981 some network broadcast an 8-week Golden Age of Television that included the Griffith "No Time for Sergeants" together with the television production of "Bang the Drum Slowly" which starred Newman as the pitcher - the Michael Moriaraty role in the movie with Robert de Niro. I would have loved to see Newman in that as I enjoyed the book but never did much like the movie - great actors they may be but I never bought Moriarty and de Niro as baseball players.
Love the blog

Cap'n Bob said...

Jean Arthur, not June.

Gary said...

How about young Dick Van Dyke as Sam and Mary Tyler Moore as Diane? (And you could throw in Morey Amsterdam as Norm.)

Peter said...

As an addendum, my Frasier picks:

Niles - Anthony Perkins

Martin - Jack Warden

Daphne - Young Julie Walters

Roz - Young Cathy Moriarty

D. McEwan said...

Ted Healy for Cliff.

DBenson said...

Sam: Pepe Le Pew / Casey (from Disney's "Casey at the Bat")
Diane: Daisy Duck / Nell Fenwick
Carla: Olive Oyl / Gertie ("Tom Slick")
Coach: Bullwinkle J. Moose / Goofy
Norm: Wimpy / Sam the Sheepdog (the one who punched a time clock in the Warner toons)
Cliff: Phineas J. Whoopee (from "Tennessee Tuxedo") / Ludwig Von Drake
Woody: Baby Bear (from the Chuck Jones "Three Bears" shorts) / Stimpy
Frasier: Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius (from the Bugs Bunny cartoons where he talked) / Daffy Duck (Chuck Jones version)
Lilith: Natasha Fatale / Jessica Rabbit (from the short subjects)
Rebecca: Rebecca (from "Tale Spin") / Alice (from "The Honeymooners")
Martin: Poopdeck Pappy / Fred Flintstone
Niles: Droopy / Pink Panther (slapsticky Saturday morning version)
Daphne: Mrs. Hudson (from anime "Sherlock Hound") / Ursula (Jay Ward's "George of the Jungle")
Roz: Jessica Rabbit / Poison Ivy (from "Batman")

Astroboy said...

A lot of excellent choices by you and the commenters. My only addition is to get Clifton Webb in here somewhere! On Frasier, he's my Niles, on Cheers, he's Frasier, or if in any incarnation of the show Frasier is gay, then Clifton Webb is Lilith!

Astroboy said...

Oh and transplant Margaret Sullavan and Jimmy Stewart out of "The Shop Around the Corner" and in to Cheers as Sam and Diane.

JohnP said...

Dustin Hoffman as Cliff.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

Jimmy Cagney could be Cliff.

Ken said...

Allen Hale Sr. as Norm or William Bendix
Bob Newhart as Cliff
Dan Dailey as Sam or Glenn Ford
Lou Costello as Coach is great
William Powell as Frasier
Lillith, staying with Dancers, Gwen Verdon
Diana = young Kate Hepburn ( re Bringing up Baby)

Ken said...

Ps forgat Thelma Ritter as Carla because it just seemed so right.

JAC said...

This is the IMDb page with the credits for that early TV "No Time for Sergeants" with Andy Griffith.

I've been loving your blog for years, but we all make mistakes on occasion.

Greg Ehrbar said...

If "Cheers" were a 1969 Disney comedy (I kid because I dearly love):

Sam: Dean Jones
Diane: Suzanne Pleshette
Norm: Joe Flynn
Cliff: Jim Backus
Coach: Dub Taylor
Woody: Kurt Russell
Carla: Iris Adrian
Frasier: Alan Hewitt
Andy Andy: Clu Gulager
Lilith: Elsa Lanchester
Niles: Roddy McDowall
Nick Tortelli: Vito Scotti
Invisible Dog Played by Scruffy