The DC Extended Universe finds itself a continual topic of discussion in pop culture circles. Whether it be good or bad, the adventures of Batman, Superman and the Justice League continue to captivate fans decades after the character first graced the inside of a comic book.
While some of DC’s heroes and villains have roots going back to the 1920s and 1930s, the characters have yet to appear on the big screen together. What would this Justice League look like in the Golden Age of Hollywood? It’s time to jump on the recasting couch…
RELATED: Check out our other Recasting Couch entries, here.
Bruce Wayne/ Batman
Fans of film noir will undoubtably recognize actor Dana Andrews. A standard and reliable go to performer during the dark years of Post WWII cinema, Andrews enjoyed a quick rise to fame. His cinema debut came in 1940, and by 1942 he secured his first starring role in Berlin Correspondent.
As World War II came to an end in 1945, Andrew’s career seemed to shift. While he spent much of his time during the war playing in westerns and war pictures, Hollywood evolved in the years following World War II. Andrews became an A-lister in the rapidly developing film noir genre.
Film noir settled into popular culture in the years following the war, and provides an interesting counter culture to the bright, idealistic and white-washed image of America during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Films like Laura, Boomerang!, and Fallen Angel are strong examples of Andrews’ role in this dark genre.
Dana Andrews thrived when he could play an anti-hero. The actor was at his best when he played the dark and complicated leading men of the noir genre. His specialty with this character makes him seem like a perfect choice to play Batman and Bruce Wayne. Andrews’ characters aren’t perfect. They are flawed, and he’s perfectly believable moving through the underbelly of Gotham City.
Very few actors had more box office clout than Rock Husdon during the 1950s and early 1960s. The ruggedly handsome and physically impressive actor debuted in 1948. He spend a number of years paying his dues in war movies, westerns and action films. However, his big break came in 1954 when he joined the cast of the Douglas Sirk melodrama Magnificent Obsession.
From there, the hits came fast for the versatile Hudson, who quickly found his footing in melodramas, comedies and even action films. He’s probably best known to contemporary audiences for his series of films with actress Doris Day including: Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back, and Send Me No Flowers.
Not only does Hudson have the physicality and the physical presence to play a dynamic character like Superman, but he also brings the duality necessary to play a role like Clark Kent. In his most famous role in Pillow Talk, Hudson essentially plays dual roles. Not only does he play the suave and urbane songwriter Brad Allen, but he also pretends to be Rex Stetson an innocent and homespun cowboy. Roles like this demonstrate that Hudson brings not only the necessary skill to play Superman, but also the more restrained talent to play Clark Kent.
Johnny Weissmuller didn’t start out as an actor. The physically imposing Weismuller started career as a dominating professional swimmer. Essentially the Michael Phelps of his day, Weismuller won 5 gold medals during the 1924 and 1928 Summer Olympics. He also set a staggering 28 World Records while at his competitive peak.
Hollywood came calling not long after. His big break came in 1932 when MGM cast Weissmuller in the title role of Tarzan the Ape Man. The Tarzan franchise lasted for twelve films and sixteen years. After wrapping Tarzan and the Mermaids in 1948, Weismuller moved into the long-running Jungle Jim franchise. The series lasted for six years, and saw Weismuller appear as “Jungle Jim” a staggering thirteen times. At this point, Weismuller’s career cooled. He only appeared in a few more roles (including a “Jungle Jim” television series) before his death in 1984.
Who better to portray Aquaman than Hollywood’s very own resident swimmer. With Johnny Weismuller’s action movie background, he brings the physical power and presence needed for a role like this. Furthermore, as his career progressed, Weismuller played both sides of the character spectrum from the more wild and exotic Tarzan, to the more traditionally civilized Jungle Jim.
Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Actress Hedy Lamarr is herself Wonder Woman. While the Austrian born actress initially rose to fame in the German film industry, her big break came in 1938. Her Hollywood film debut came when she appeared opposite French actor Charles Boyer in Algiers. Her popularity skyrocketed with her debut; and before long, Lamarr found herself working steadily in Hollywood. A talented actress, equally blessed with exotic good looks, Lamarr found a home in the escapist, exotic thriller cinema of the 1930s and early 1940s.
Interestingly, Lamarr is also credited with being an inventor when she wasn’t on camera. In fact, Lamarr is reported to have invented what NPR describes as “spread-spectrum radio”. The invention is said to be a precursor to wireless technologies, developed to assist allied efforts during WWII. The techonology is said to be a precursor to “frequency hopping” in order to avoid radio signal jammers.
In thinking through the various candidates capable of playing Wonder Woman, Lamarr seems like a fascinating choice. Not only does the actress bring the looks and exoticism (studios called her “The Most Beautiful Woman in Films”), but she brings the fierce intelligence and independence of her personality to the part.
Barry Allen/ The Flash
Donald O’Connor is best known to contemporary audiences thanks to his portrayal of Cosmo Brown in the landmark musical, Singing in the Rain. In actuality, O’Connor was a seasoned performer, with roots going back to the popular days of vaudeville.
O’Connor started in Hollywood as a child actor in the late 1930s. He worked steadily throughout his teen years. His career evolved in the early 1940s when he appeared in Private Buckaroo opposite Peggy Ryan. The movie led to a series of five teen musicals in which he starred opposite Ryan. However, O’Connor’s career truly hit his stride in the 1950s. Not only did he appear in a number of MGM’s popular musicals, but he also starred in the popular Francis The Talking Mule series. The franchise (which partnered O’Connor with a talking mule voiced by actor Chill Wills) lasted for six films and spanned five films.
O’Connor continued working working steadily throughout the 1960s and 1970s. His last film credit occurred in 1997, shortly before his death in 2003.
Throughout his roles, Donald O’Connor showed a talent for quippy, almost rapid-fire dialogue. Combine this with his unbelievable physicality as a dancer, Donald O’Connor is a stellar choice to play The Flash. It is not hard to visualize the slightly nerdy O’Connor harnessing his super-speed.
Hal Jordan/ Green Lantern
Gene Kelly’s explosion to A-list stardom in Hollywood was almost instantaneous. The talented singer and dancer made his film debut in For Me and My Gal in 1942 opposite legendary performer Judy Garland. Garland, fresh from her success opposite Mickey Rooney, was riding a massive wave of popularity.
Kelly parlayed the success into a career of his own. By the middle of the 1940s, he hit his stride in the musical factory of MGM. His roles in Anchors Away, On the Town and Cover Girl solidified him as a popular and extremely talented dancer. By the 1950s, his work reached the legendary status still remembered with his roles in films like Singing in the Rain. Kelly worked steadily until the 1960s when he gradually moved behind the camera. He passed away in 1996.
Throughout his film roles, Kelly showed the undeniable physicality that makes him one of the greatest dancers to grace the silver screen. Furthermore, he showed a flair for witty and occasionally quippy dialogue as he developed as an actor. His self-assured behavior, which occasionally borders on cocky makes him the perfect choice to play the military test pilot, turned fantastical superhero: Green Lantern.
Oliver Queen/ Green Arrow
Tyrone Power hit Hollywood hard and fast in the early 1930s. It took a mere six roles for the classically good-looking, matinee idol to land his first starring role in Lloyd’s of London. Power quickly established himself as a go-to leading man during the 1930s and 1940s. His versatile skill allowed him to jump into everything from melodrama to musicals and even action films. Power amassed a staggering 52 credits before his death in 1958 at age 44.
Throughout his career, Power made a living playing aristocratic, often sword wielding action heroes. The aristocratic air he brings to his roles in The Mark of Zorro and The Black Swan would serve him well in playing the trust fund kid turned superhero Oliver Queen.
Peter Sellers is best known to audiences as one of the greatest comedians working in cinema during the middle of the twentieth century. His career began on British movie screens in the early 1950s. However, his career truly took off in 1955 when he joined the cast of Alexander Mackendrick’s classic comedy The Ladykillers. From there, Sellers’ career skyrocketed. Before long, the chameleon found himself playing such legendary characters as Inspector Clouseau and Dr. Strangelove. The actor worked steadily until his pre-mature death 1980.
When contemplating the best actor to play the iconic Batman villain “The Joker”, Sellers stood out as a fascinating choice for the part. In his work, Seller thrived working in comedy. However, he was also a complicated person off-screen, and this persona brings a hint of the darkness needed for a role like The Joker.
Actor Yul Brynner’s career is surprisingly short, but he was blessed with well-remembered roles. Brynner made his screen debut in the late 1940s. He worked primarily in television until 1956 when joined the cast of The King and I. Brynner played The King of Siam, reprising the role he originated on Broadway.
His role in the successful musical proved everything Brynner needed to hit the big time. He worked hard throughout the 1950s, taking on some of his most memorable roles in film like Ten Commandments and The Magnificent Seven. He continued working into the 1970s. The actor passed away in 1985.
When thinking of intense and respected bald actors in classic Hollywood, Yul Brynner is the one and only choice. He brought an air of mystery and authority to each of his roles. This characterization makes Brynner a perfect choice to play Superman’s ultimate super-villain Lex Luthor.
Who would you cast if classic Hollywood tackled the Justice League? Shout your choices out in the comments!