William Castle's surprising first choice for Barbara Stanwyck's role in The Night Walker
Find out which Hollywood legend almost starred as Irene Trent!
Barbara Stanwyck is an icon, and she can never be replaced. Her regal presence elevated every project she was in. Picture anyone else as the Barkley matriarch on The Big Valley... Suddenly the show doesn't have the same prestige. Her film roles, like Double Indemnity or Stella Dallas, wouldn't have been nearly as illustrious with another lead actress.
However, one of her great movie roles almost went to someone else.
The Night Walker was William Castle's bid for mainstream Hollywood acceptance. He renounced his normal gimmicky marketing tactics. Gone were the Emergo, or Tingler that Castle used to pack audiences in the past. Instead, he paired with Robert Bloch, author of Psycho, to capitalize on the popularity of that novel's hit adaptation.
However, Castle's original plan for the film didn't involve its eventual star, Barbara Stanwyck. According to The Concluding Chapter of Crawford, Castle intended to reunite with his Strait-Jacket star Joan Crawford for their second 1964 collaboration.
"Joan was William Castle's first choice for the role of the female lead in The Dream Killer (later retitled The Night Walker). The film's screenplay was written by Strait-Jacket writer Robert Bloch. Castle offered Joan the role in December 1963, however, Joan declined."
Despite the hard "no," it appears as though the material wasn't at fault. Instead, Joan Crawford's busy Hollywood schedule paved the way for Barbara Stanwyck to star in The Night Walker.
"Joan may have passed on the film due to time scheduling conflicts with her Pepsi-Cola schedule in the early months of 1964 and to Joan's prior discussions with Robert Aldrich to star in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte. Joan signed on for Charlotte on December 20th, at approximately the time William Castle offered Joan the role of 'Irene Trent' in The Night Walker."