Marvel comics used to have a very fun little set of short stories, called “What if …?” where parallel universes were explored, what might have happened if certain circumstances were different, like “What if the Fantastic Four got different powers?” or “What if someone else besides Spider-Man had been bitten by the radioactive spider?” or “What if Dr. Doom had become a hero?”
Well here at the Nugent bullpen, today we’re going to examine:
“What if … the Marvel Universe had been cast during Golden Age Hollywood?”
Captain America – the superhumanly graceful agility, all-American broad-shoudered looks and calm-voiced leadership of Burt Lancaster.
Iron Man – the insouciant charm and bravado of Errol Flynn (and for maximum electricity we’ll have the wonderful Olivia de Havilland as Pepper Potts) – can’t you imagine Flynn and Lancaster arguing?
Wasp – the petite uptown elegance of feisty Audrey Hepburn.
The Hulk – utilizing two sides of the Method coin, the sweaty nervous intelligence of Montgomery Clift for Bruce Banner and the glorious id of Marlon Brando for the Hulk!
Hawkeye – the heavy past and small man’s bolshiness of Alan Ladd.
Thor – the blood-and-thunder muscles and imperious self-regard of Charlton Heston.
Black Widow – the smoky bad-news mystery of Lauren Bacall.
Black Panther – the kingly gentleness and revolutionary zeal of Sidney Poitier.
Scarlet Witch – the shy, hurt yet forceful majesty of Ingrid Bergman.
Nick Fury – the snarling experienced weariness of Humphrey Bogart (wouldn’t he look great in an eye-patch?)
Captain Marvel – the devil-may-care ballsy confidence of Carole Lombard.
Medusa – the no-nonsense spiritedness (and terrific hair) of Rita Hayworth.
For villains, we’ll have the German mania of Peter Lorre as Red Skull; for the Enchantress, the slow-motion shallow gorgeousness of Veronica Lake …
… and delighted to be playing a villain, the undeniable old-world charm and fun of Cary Grant as Loki! And since we’ll probably need Thanos, the otherworldly voice and brutal danger of Anthony Quinn.
The Fantastic Four
Reed Richards – the cool thoughtful gaze, careful voice and patrician looks of Henry Fonda.
Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman – the airily mysterious beauty of Grace Kelly.
Human Torch – the hothead urgency yet integrity of a young Robert Redford.
The Thing/Ben Grimm – the grouchy urban charm of Spencer Tracy.
For villains, Doctor Doom – the rage and ambition barely bound down by intelligence and manners of Basil Rathbone, and the godly might of Orson Welles is the only man for Galactus.
And for additional fun, let’s throw in Namor – with the husky manliness and rotten temper of Robert Mitchum.
Professor X – the inscrutable distance (and gorgeous baldness) of Yul Brynner.
Wolverine – the barely repressed boozy anger of Richard Burton.
Cyclops and Jean Grey – the schoolboy diligence and good soul of Paul Newman (sorry to hide those blue eyes) and the edgy womanly smarts of Katherine Hepburn.
Storm – the hard-won respect and queenly power of Dorothy Dandridge.
Rogue – the uneasy mind (and excellent Southern accent) of Vivien Leigh.
Kitty Pryde – the bullish immaturity and air of doom of Natalie Wood.
Magneto – the majestic performative arrogance of Laurence Olivier. (Just think of Olivier twisting Burton into knots!)
Mystique – the terrifying glare and high-necked militance of Joan Crawford.
And riding solo around Manhattan:
Doctor Strange – the worldly amusement and relaxed manliness of Clark Gable.
Daredevil – the integrous guilt and man-about-town elegance (and top-notch lawyering) of Gregory Peck, plus:
the aristocratic fierceness and lush seductiveness of Elizabeth Taylor as Elektra, the snarling danger of a young Clint Eastwood as Bullseye, and for the The Kingpin, the villanous fat-man string-pulling of Sydney Greenstreet …
… and we’ll throw in the jaunty clumsiness of Mickey Rooney as Foggy Nelson and the brittle attractiveness of Susan Hayward as Karen Page.
Spider-Man – me!!! (I did say it was a parallel universe … and I’d be such great casting for Peter Parker) … oh, allright, the deep-twisted worry and snappy wit of James Dean.
Mary-Jane – the fresh-talking scarlet gorgeousness of Maureen O’Hara; Gwen Stacy – the spotless innocence of Sandra Dee; and The Black Cat – the voluptuous mischief and dangerous neediness of Marilyn Monroe.
The Green Goblin – the very New York maniacal energy of Jimmy Cagney.
And finally, a slight cheat but perfection in casting: Aunt May – the prim knowingness of Jessica Tandy.
Great article. Would love to see it expanded now that Avengers Endgame has capped off the first big block of the MCU.
I’d posit the following adds/adjusts:
Better for Elektra would’ve been Sophia Loren… thinking Mae West for Black Cat. That frees Liz Taylor to play Peggy Carter and Monroe to be Jane Foster. Also left out Bucky, who I’d cast with Mickey Rooney.
Thanks Kevin — those are some great suggestions. Rooney is the perfect Bucky, while Sophia Loren definitely a more suitable Euro-exotic choice than Liz Taylor for Elektra, good spot! … Yes, might be a few to add now that Endgame is done: all the Guardians, Nebula, Falcon, War Machine … hmmm!