These aren’t earth-breaking facts coming to light, but I got a small thrill out of discovering some little-known trivia.
We all know Frank Morgan and his most famous role as the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz. We also all know that The Wizard of Oz was filmed in 1939. What you may not know:
1) In 1935, before MGM even had a script for The Wizard of Oz and had not begun casting, Frank Morgan was in a screwball comedy called The Good Fairy. In this film, he asks a young woman, “If I were a wizard and could grant you any wish, what would it be?” Do you have goosebumps yet? Wait, there’s more.
2) In 1933, Frank Morgan was in a musical starring Al Jolson, called Hallelujah, I’m a Bum. In this film, Morgan had the line, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place…so lonely.”
The inside joke I just discovered concerns the film The More the Merrier, a romantic comedy for which Charles Coburn won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. There is a funny scene toward the beginning, when Charles Coburn and Joel McCrea meet. McCrea introduces himself as Carter. “Bill Carter?” Coburn asks. “Joe Carter,” McCrea says. Coburn says, “I used to know a fellow named Bill Carter.” McCrea says, “It wasn’t me.” Coburn says, “Don’t you suppose I know that?” “What’d you ask for then?” says McCrea. “I guess I know what Bill Carter looked like,” says Coburn. McCrea says, “Not like me.” Coburn says, “Oh, then you know Bill Carter.” McCrea says, “No, I don’t. But he sounds like a great guy.”
The film is set in Washington, DC during WWII, and Joel McCrea is carrying an airplane propeller. He claims to work for a baby carriage factory. Coburn quickly catches on that he is doing war work and isn’t allowed to talk about it. He makes a remark acknowledging this, and then says, “Probably your name isn’t even Bill Carter.” McCrea says, “Probably not. It’s probably Joe Carter.” It’s a delightfully silly exchange that helps set the mood of the film.
In the TCM guide this week, I spotted a film in which Charles Coburn starred, a comedy released the very same month as The More the Merrier, called My Kingdom for a Cook. His costar? An actor named Bill Carter.