As we all know, "Nothing Sacred" starred an actress born on Oct. 6, and one of the supporting players was a noted character actor with a mustache.
Yet the project came relatively close to being the same, only different. What's this all about?
Film historian/producer/director John Gallagher writes monthly features, called "Between Action And Cut," on the Web site of the National Board of Review (http://www.nbrmp.org/features/baac.cfm). The board, in existence since 1909, produced a variety of outstanding publications, notably Films In Review from 1930 to 1996. (The magazine, which can be found in the reference sections of many libraries, is a wonderful reference for those researching film history.) In October 2004, Gallagher did a piece on director William Wellman, and uncovered some fascinating information about "Nothing Sacred": "On May 4, 1937, David O. Selznick announced that Ben Hecht was writing an original comedy for Fredric March and Janet Gaynor, to be directed by Wellman, as a follow-up to the tean's smash hit 'A Star is Born.' "
Gaynor, shown above in a scene from "A Star Is Born," was herself born on Oct. 6, 1907 -- precisely one year before Lombard. She was a major star in both silent and sound films in the late twenties, and "A Star Is Born" re-established her stature in the industry after a few fallow years.
However, the plans for a Gaynor-March-Wellman comedy lasted all of one day -- on May 5, Selznick announced Lombard would star instead of Gaynor. Gallagher doesn't provide a reason for the change; perhaps Carole was seen as more financially viable or better suited to comedy.
But that wasn't the only change. Initially, the role of newspaper editor Oliver Stone was to have been played by another "Star Is Born" alum, Adolphe Menjou. (Curiously, his character's name in "Star" was also Oliver, last name Niles; he was the studio boss. A still of him from the film is below.)
However, Menjou would up over at RKO's "Stage Door," replacing Douglas Fairbanks Jr., so Walter Connolly won the Stnne role.
One wonders what the film would have been like with Gaynor and Menjou instead of Lombard and Connolly. Gaynor's Hazel Flagg might have ended up more naive, less conniving, while Menjou lacked Connolly's touch for irascibility.
A final thought about "A Star Is Born": There's a scene where Gaynor's character is told she can be a big star, "like Harlow...Lombard." Jean was gone a few months after "Star" hit movie screens, and Carole left us less than five years later.