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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
We can all name movies that we're convinced should never have been made ("Even Cowgirls Get the Blues," anyone?), but we who are not industry insiders rarely hear of those intriguing cinematic projects that reach the planning stages but somehow don't get made.
Luckily we have Chris Gore, who founded Film Threat magazine in 1985, to clue us in. His new book, self-descriptively titled The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made, examines several dozen masterpieces that never were.
Who knew, for example, that, in the early 1960s, Billy Wilder and the Marx Brothers considered teaming up on a film that would have been a comeback for Groucho, Harpo, and Chico, their first film as a team in more than a decade. Wilder, who had previously — though unsuccessfully — attempted to reunite Laurel and Hardy, thought that the United Nations would be the perfect setting for the Marxes to revive their madcap brand of film comedy.
Alas, the aging brothers were unable to hold up their end of the bargain; Harpo suffered a heart attack while working on a television project, and though he recovered, he was thenceforth considered uninsurable. Before long, Chico breathed his last, and the Marxes as a threesome were silenced forever.
Whereas Wilder tried to use the Marxes in their dotage, Harve Bennett hoped to revisit the original "Star Trek" crew in their youth. He pitched (and very nearly sold) "Starfleet Academy," a film that would have portrayed Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Spock when they were, as Gore puts it, "naive, wide-eyed students."
Many's the sequel that went unproduced,too.In 1982, producer Bert Schneider hired former "Saturday Night Live" writer Michael O'Donahue to pen the script for "Biker Heaven," a darkly comic (what else from the pen of Mr. Mike?) sequel to "Easy Rider." And in 1978, Neil Simon was said to be putting the finishing touches on "Bogart Slept Here," a sequel to his huge hit "The Goodbye Girl," which would have boasted the earlier film's stars, Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason.
Speaking of Bogart, any number of sequels to the Hollywood classic "Casablanca" were suggested over the years, including "Brazzaville," a 1943 project that was to have starred Bogie, Sydney Greenstreet, and Geraldine Fitzgerald as a Red Cross nurse. That film, had it been made, might have stood the test of time, but it's probably just as well that we were never subjected to either of the two musical versions of "Casablanca" that were floated in the early '50s.
There are many more, from a gangster film about a Godfather made of ice cream to "Destino," a collaboration between — wait for it — Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí. Gore offers enough info on each near miss to send any movie buff into a reverie of what-ifs, if-onlys, and phew-that-was-closes. For movie buffs, The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made is like an alternate cinematic universe in book form.