Aug 27, 2009

Classic Hollywood Screen Tests, Part I

This great clip from a James Dean and Paul Newman screen test that Nicole posted on Classic Hollywood Nerd last week inspired me to search for more interesting tests from classic Hollywood. Here are some of my favorites:

I’ve seen this Audrey Hepburn test for Roman Holiday (1953) dozens of times and I never get tired of it. Her tone is sober, but she is utterly charming:

Vivien Leigh proved that she was not fit for the role of the second Mrs. DeWinter in this test for Rebecca (1939). She lacked the necessary shyness and insecurity and you can’t help but laugh when she says the line about being “dull and quiet”; it simply isn’t in Leigh’s make-up to be less than fascinating. Her dark beauty would have made her a shoo-in for the role of Rebecca. Too bad the first Mrs. DeWinter is gone before the story begins:

This is one of three silent tests that Greta Garbo shot with James Wong Howe in 1949 in anticipation of her return to the screen. It is bittersweet to see how mesmerizing she still was, in simple make-up and costume and with no script. The failure of this production is one of the big “what ifs” of classic Hollywood:

Many times in this screen test for the original German version of The Blue Angel (1930), Marlene Dietrich looks like she could care less if she won the role. According to director Josef von Sternberg, that is precisely why she was cast:

Though Olivia de Havilland was still in her teens when she made this test, she was already a confident performer, with evident star power:

I found more great clips, but to avoid screen test overload, I’ll save those for a future post. Have you run across a great test from classic Hollywood? Let me know if you have; I’d love to see it.

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