You ever hear or read something like this: "if they re-made Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), the Bogart role should go to..." Stop right there, fella. I'll not entertain such blasphemers. No one will ever be able to play Fred C. Dobbs again, just like Cagney's performance as in White Heat (1949) can't be replicated, nor Cary Grant's in His Girl Friday (1940) nor Barbara Stanwyck's in The Lady Eve (1941). Full stop.
We've had enough re-makes of beloved classics with consistently awful results (think Greg Kinnear playing William Holden's role in Sabrina -- insanity!). What I'd like to do is flip the discussion. What if actors from the past could have be transported to recent times (via time machines -- duh!) and take over certain parts. It might initially be difficult to envision stars of the Thirties and Forties in color, playing opposite special effects, free to curse, and engage in realistic violence and sex, but it is by no means impossible. Yes they were stars in their time but they were actors first and I'm certain they could be just as good today. If someone could get cracking on a time machine I'd prove it.
Here now is a look at what stars from the past could have easily slipped into roles played by the likes of Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and Brad Pitt. This will require a bit of imagination on the part of readers. I may have gotten some all wrong but I've tried to fit past actors into roles they'd be well suited for. I'm not offering any explanations or elaboration for my selections. Either they are self evident, become clear once imaginations are activated or I'm all wet. I'm also not suggesting that the past actor would be an improvement but they would always be worthy replacements. I invite you to offer your own suggestions in the comments section.
In all cases the now deceased actor would, in addition to being very much alive, would be the same age as the actor he or she is replacing.
Clark Gable (pictured above) taking over George Clooney in Up in the Air (2009).
Humphrey Bogart replacing Viggo Mortensen in The Road (2009).
Bette Davis instead of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada (2006).
Ginger Rogers substituting for Charlize Theron in North Country (2005).
James Cagney taking over Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds (2009).
Henry Fonda replacing Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan (1998).
Ann Sheridan and William Bendix taking over for Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen in Knocked Up (2007).
Robert Montgomery instead of Sean Penn in Milk. (2008).
Judy Garland for Renee Zellweger in Chicago (2002).
Walter Huston replacing Tom Wilkinson in Michael Clayton (2007).
Joan Fontaine and Cary Grant filling in for Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in Revolutionary Road (2008).
Errol Flynn replacing Tom Cruise in Minority Report (2002).
Lana Turner and William Powell in for Scarlett Johansson and Billy Murray in Lost in Translation (2003).
Joel McCrea and Barbara Stanwyck subbing for Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening in American Beauty (1999).
Claudette Colbert for Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich (2000).
Vivian Leigh and Dame May Whitty instead of Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal (2006).
Jimmy Stewart for Jake Gllyenhaal in Zodiac (2007).