When The Guardians of the Galaxy first hit theaters in 2014, the film took the box-office by storm. Despite the rag-tag group of space scavengers being less well-known than groups like the Avengers, audiences flocked to see the fun and enjoyable sci-fi movie. Writer and director James Gunn created a lovable family of scoundrels that audience immediately fell in love with.
While The Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t exist until the 1960s, let’s take a look at the team through a different lens. What would classic Hollywood’s take on The Guardians of the Galaxy look like?
Tony Curtis made his feature film debut in 1949, but it wasn’t until the second half of the 1950s that he truly came to stardom. In 1957 Curtis landed the role of Sidney Falco in the well received film noir Sweet Smell of Success. The next year, he appeared opposite Sidney Poitier in the critical darling The Defiant Ones. From that point, Curtis’ career caught fire. Throughout the late 1950s, and much of the 1960s he was a go-to leading man for the evolving studio system.
Curtis defined his career playing lovable scoundrels. It is this winking, wise-guy behavior which ties him to the character of Starlord, especially as portrayed by Chris Pratt. While actors like Cary Grant oozed an air of sophistication, Curtis never strayed far from his Bronx, New York upbringing. In some of his best known roles, Curtis portrayed very similar characters. He plays local boys, doing everything they can to separate themselves from their upbringing. However, despite everything he is still Bernard Schwartz (Curtis’ real name). Peter Quill personifies this as well. With everything extra-terrestrial going on around him, he’s still half human and an earthling.
A go to dancer during the golden age of Hollywood musicals, Cyd Charisse made her screen debut in 1941. However, her climb to fame and stardom was a lengthy one. For a number of years, she remained in largely dance heavy, and uncredited roles. Even though the parts were small, her career could be seen taking shape as she danced with screen legends like Gene Kelly, Gower Champion and Fred Astaire. In 1952, Charisse featured opposite Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. While her character is unnamed, and the part is an unspeaking one, it represented a take-off for Charisse. The next year, Charisse landed her first starring role in The Band Wagon, which partnered her with the legendary Fred Astaire. From that point, Charisse remained in starring roles, locking down such films as Brigadoon, It’s Always Fair Weather and Silk Stockings.
Cyd Charisse leapt out as a shoe-in for the role of Gamora. While Charisse worked primarily as a dancer (which we know Gamora isn’t), she brings the statuesque physicality necessary for the role of resident assassin Gamora. While a number of her contemporaries (Jane Powell, Judy Garland, Mitzi Gaynor) were all dancers, they each conveyed a sense of innocence in their roles. Charisse possessed more power and physicality, making her a stellar partner for powerful dancers like Kelly and Astaire. In a different world, and a lot of green make-up, she would be a stellar choice to play Gamora.
Actor Phil Silvers made his screen debut in 1931. The New York City born actor spent 10 years working his way through various roles and genres before hitting stardom in 1944’s Cover Girl. However, his rise to fame truly became complete in 1955 when The Phil Silvers Show debuted on CBS. Silvers starred in the self-titled show as the now iconic Master Sergeant Ernest Bilko. The show became an immediate success and ran for 143 episodes before ending in 1959. The popular character came to define Silvers’ star persona, forever endearing him in the hearts of television viewers. Silvers continued to work steadily, his last credit coming on the television show CHiPs, shortly before his death in 1985.
Silvers seems a shoe-in for the forever scheming and conniving Rocket Raccoon. After his success as Sgt. Bilko, Silvers often found himself typecast in similar parts. He was a salesman, a schemer and always able to make more than he lost on a deal. His quick-witted mastery of this particular character makes him a perfect choice to play the little raccoon with an attitude.
Ernest Borgnine enjoyed a lengthy and successful career, which in actuality started much later than a number of his contemporaries. An Oscar winning veteran of film and television, Ernest Borgnine made his screen debut in a small 1951 film entitled China Corsair. He worked steadily over the following years in popular movies like Johnny Guitar and Bad Day at Black Rock. However, his break came in 1955 when he was cast in the film Marty. The Delbert Mann drama follows the unlikely romantic pairing of a middle aged butcher and a school teacher, who find themselves falling in love. The sweet story won critical acclaim, and secured Borgnine an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Borgnine went on to take the leading role in the popular television series McHale’s Navy. He worked prolifically, appearing in over 200 roles at the time of his death in 2012.
Throughout his career, Borgnine conjured an occasionally gruff, but always lovable screen persona. He brings an earnest and emotional realism to his performances. Between the vocal performance of actor Vin Diesel as well as stellar graphic work, the creative team behind The Guardians of the Galaxy managed to create a genuinely likable character, and establishing Groot as the emotional center of the narrative. In a previous era, an actor like Ernest Borgnine would thrive in a role like this.
Casting the role of Drax initially seemed like a challenging one. Not only is he densely layered and complex in tone, but there is also a required physicality to the part. Throughout his sixty year career, Kirk Douglas’ work spanned the genres taking him from melodrama to sword and sandal pictures, and even comedy with relative ease. At his peak, Douglas’ star shone brightly as a roguish (though still likable) action hero. With his physicality, as well as Douglas’ versatility, he seems a perfect choice to play Drax.
Kirk Douglas featured as a leading man in Hollywood, with a career lasting sixty years. While many of the actors on our list saw a extended rise to stardom, Douglas started at the top. His feature film debut came in a melodramatic film-noir entitled The Strange Love of Martha Ivers opposite silver screen legend Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin. He rose quickly through the Hollywood ranks, reaching definite A-List status by the 1950s. In 1950 he received his first of four Academy Award nominations for Champion. Throughout the following years, his star continued to rise with roles in films like: Spartacus, Paths of Glory and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He last appeared on screen in 2008. The legendary actor will turn 101 in December.
Ginger Rogers initially found fame as half of classic Hollywood’s greatest dance duo. Together with Fred Astaire, she helped to define and advance the musical film in the early years of “talking” pictures.
Rogers made her screen debut in 1929, and spent the early years of her career working to find her niche. She criss-crossed genres, working in everything from musicals to crime pictures. However, her career took off in 1933 when she landed a role in the now classic musical 42nd Street. From that point, she found herself an established name in the budding musical genre. Not only did she feature prominently in a number of the popular Busby Berkeley films, but her pairing with Fred Astaire began the same year with Flying Down to Rio. The partnership would span 10 films over 16 years. Her film career continued steadily on her own into the 1950s, before largely transitioning to television work. Ginger Rogers passed away in 1995.
Ginger Rogers stands out as a choice for the role of Nebula due to the flexibility she demonstrates throughout her acting career. While she often plays the polished leading lady opposite dapper male leads like Fred Astaire, Rogers demonstrated an ability to throw herself into versatile supporting roles as well. Films like 42nd Street and Monkey Business show the actress in a different light. Combine this versatility with her well honed physicality, Rogers would be a perfect candidate to play Nebula.
Phil Harris made his screen debut in 1929. However, the actor truly made his name in the thriving medium of radio. In 1936, Harris debuted as a regular on Jack Benny’s popular radio series. He appeared as Benny’s hard living, but charismatic band-leader. The role suited Harris well, and he remained a part of Benny’s team until 1952. While Harris found prominence on radio as well as a recording artist, contemporary audiences will recognize the performer as the voice of Baloo the Bear in Disney’s animated version of The Jungle Book.
Throughout most of his career, Harris easily portrayed a southern scoundrel. His characters lived hard, and drank hard. However, as his career continued, his charisma became increasingly apparent. Wether audiences knew his happy relationship with his wife Alice Faye through their radio show, or through his later ties to the Disney universe, Harris felt like the slightly dysfunctional father figure we all wanted.
Well, that’s our Recasting Couch take on The Guardians of the Galaxy. Are there choices you don’t agree with? Who would you have cast in the Golden Age take on popular Marvel franchise? Shout them out in the comments.