ROLES THAT COULDA, SHOULDA BEEN: CAROL LYNLEY
1958: Is wooed by MGM to sign a multi-picture deal, beginning with playing The Reluctant Debutante. Lynley opts instead for Walt Disney and The Light in the Forest. Sandra Dee is loaned to MGM from Universal to co-star in their comedy with Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall.
1960: She rejects the role of a coed in the Bing Crosby comedy High Time, directed by Blake Edwards, because she doesn’t want to work with Fabian again. (They co-starred the previous year in Hound-Dog Man.) She explains it is nothing against the young singer, but she wants better roles. Tuesday Weld happily takes her place.
1961: Lynley’s ex-husband, Mike Selsman, revealed in his autobiography that due to her pregnancy, she has to turn down starring opposite Tony Curtis in the comedy 40 Pounds of Trouble, which she really wanted to do because of director Norman Jewison, and the role of Olivia de Havilland’s mentally-disturbed daughter in MGM’s lush The Light in the Piazza, filmed in Italy. Suzanne Pleshette and Yvette Mimieux, respectively, step in.
1962: Loving sleek blondes, it is no surprise that Alfred Hitchcock considers her for the female lead in The Birds, but deems her too young. Newcomer and TV model Tippi Hedren gets pecked instead.
June 25, 1962: Is scheduled to appear with Ann-Margret, Diane Baker, and Barbara Eden in Jerry Wald’s production of All the Beautiful Girls from a script by Gavin Lambert for 20th Century-Fox. It never happens.
June 21, 1963: She is red hot after filming Under the Yum Yum Tree and The Cardinal. MGM courts her to star in either the comedy His and Hers, or the romantic college drama The Young Lovers. Garson Kanin wants her for his comedy The Pink Stuff originally penned for Natalie Wood. She does none of them. His and Hers becomes Honeymoon Hotel with Nancy Kwan in the female lead opposite Robert Morse and Robert Goulet. Sharon Hugueny takes the coed role opposite Peter Fonda in The Young Lovers, while The Pink Stuff never comes to fruition.
September 2, 1963: The bosses at Columbia Pictures were so delighted with the performances of Lynley and Dean Jones in Under the Yum Yum Tree that each was signed to a picture deal. There was talk to reteam them in a remake of the musical Cover Girl starring Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly. Thankfully, some would undoubtedly say, it did not come to pass.
1964: Lynley tests for director George Axelrod for the role of a dead playboy who comes back to inhabit the body of a beautiful blonde in Goodbye Charlie, co-starring Tony Curtis and Pat Boone. Debbie Reynolds is cast instead. The film is panned by the critics, but is a big hit with the public.
November, 1964: It is announced that she and Jeffrey Hunter are to begin filming the Warner Bros. thriller My Blood Runs Cold with Troy Donahue as a psychotic young man. For unreported reasons, they drop out at last second and are replaced by Joey Heatherton and Nicholas Coster.
September 30, 1965: It is reported by Hedda Hopper that after she helps Otto Preminger promote Bunny Lake Is Missing, she goes right into production of End of a Wild, Wild Summer opposite Alain Delon. After that she is scheduled to work for Preminger again in the comedy Genius by Patrick Dennis about an egocentric movie director who terrorizes everyone who works with him. Sounds like the Otto Preminger story. Neither comes to pass for Lynley—too bad, as she and Delon would have made one sexy couple.
1966: Lynley is legendary director John Ford’s first choice to play the innocent, young missionary to China in Seven Women, but MGM pushes contract player Sue Lyon on him. He relents.
1966: According to Vanity Fair’s Tales of Hollywood, she is #9 (after Suzanne Pleshette, but before Elizabeth Ashley) on producer Larry Turman’s wish list to play Mrs. Robinson’s daughter in The Graduate. Katherine Ross is cast and gets an Academy Award nomination.
July 8, 1966: Alex Freeman reports that she is wanted for the role of the nineteen-year-old babysitter opposite Burt Lancaster as The Swimmer, but is deemed, at age twenty-four, too old for the part. Newcomer Janet Landgard gets the role.
July 22, 1966: Mike Connolly writes that she signed a contract to star opposite James Mason as a drunken barrister in producer Anatole de Grunwald’s Stranger in the House. She was to play his teenage daughter who begs his help in defending her boyfriend, falsely accused of murder. The movie is made as Cop-Out with Geraldine Chaplin in the role meant for Lynley.
September 13, 1966: Director/writer Noel Coward announces that Carol Lynley will be his Pretty Polly for Universal Pictures. They worked previously on Bunny Lake Is Missing and became fast friends. The film, based on his short story “Pretty Polly Barlow,” is about a shy, young girl who accompanies her wealthy spinster aunt to Singapore. When the older woman unexpectedly dies, Polly is free to grow from a girl to woman when she falls for a local boy. Coward was replaced by director Guy Green and his script tossed, though he did get a story credit. With Coward out so was Lynley, and Hayley Mills got the part in the re-titled movie, A Matter of Innocence.
1967: Warren Beatty seriously considers her for the role of Bonnie opposite him in Bonnie and Clyde after he sees photos of her from Harlow and likes her Thirties-era look. But that is as far as it goes. Per Carol, “For the record, I never met with Warren Beatty to discuss Bonnie and Clyde, nor did I ever see the script.”
May 12, 1967: Director Victorio de Sica reveals that Carol Lynley would be seen “parading semi-nude downRome’s Via Veneto” in Carlo Ponti’s new film. Unfortunately, it never came to pass, but what a stunning sight it would have been.
1969: Producer Tony Tigon offers Lynley the opportunity to star opposite Frankie Avalon as partying college kids in his British thriller, The Haunted House of Horror. Her rejection surprises Tigon, who touts working with the fading pop singer like he was Paul Newman or something. Fresh off her successful run on Broadway in Cabaret, Jill Haworth takes the bait, I mean part.
1970: Carol admits to turning down the role of Jack Nicholson’s sister-in-law in Five Easy Pieces (Susan Anspach steps in), yet she does Weekend of Terror and Beware! The Blob around the same time. Huh? She explains, “I really wanted to play the waitress role, but it was already cast with Karen Black. Since the producers were only paying scale, I passed on the other role—big mistake!” You, think? The movie received almost unanimous critical acclaim and earned a number of Academy Award nominations, including Best Motion Picture.
December 17, 1972: Lynley reveals in the Chicago Tribune that the producers of Play It As It Lays sent her the script, but she did not pursue the part (Tuesday Weld played the neurotic actress) because she needed a commercial success. Soon after, she landed The Poseidon Adventure. It became more of a hit that she probably could have ever imagined. She also says she is being considered for the female leads in the western The Man Who Loves Cat Dancing opposite Burt Reynolds and The Great Gatsby. She loses out to Sarah Miles and Mia Farrow, respectively.
1974: Lynley reveals in a few interviews that she will be reprising her role of Nonnie in the official sequel to The Poseidon Adventure. Producer Irwin Allen has promised her 3 costume changes as the survivors trek via train to a hearing about the ship’s sinking and crash under a mountain range with terrorists on board. This never came to fruition. Instead, Allen gave us one of the worst sequels of all-time, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure in 1979—piece of crap.