HOW WAS THE CAST SELECTED IN A HOLLYWOOD MOVIE?

In Hollywood’s golden age, major studios were continually casting to supply their films with actors. RKO Pictures had neglected this task and when its star director Spencer Kuminsky became prolific overnight, producers found that they only had one actor and one actress on staff. (Joel McCrea and Irene Dunne had to play all the roles in every movie, which was detrimental to the intelligibility of the plots.) In 1940s, Hollywood studios began to hire casting agents, the most outstanding of which was Herbert Spansyck, who worked for Paramount. Spansyck had a natural talent for determining whether an actor was suitable for a role. The first thing he took into account was gender (as a general rule, he attributed male roles to actors and female ones to actresses, a criterion that would later be copied by the casting agents of all other studios). However, his colleagues accused Spansyck of being too picky with casting choice. Because Spansyck was a conscientious guy, little inclined to fixes. If the role to fill was that of a short man, he would choose a short actor (while in the other studies the preassigned actor simply would be forced to duck all the time). Spansyck would assign the role of wrongdoer to the candidate with the longest rap sheet; and if the role was that of a hero, he would subject the applicants to a test (not a screen test but a courage one, with wrestling an alligator with the head in a sack and both hands tied behind being his favorite). Unfortunately, Spansyck’s nitpicking would be his downfall when the studio delivered into his hands the choice for the lead role of “The snitch”. (He took the three candidates with him to rob a bank and, when arrested, awarded the whistleblower with the role.)

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