**This is my contribution to The Great Recasting Blogathon hosted by In the Mood and Frankly My Dear. I highly encourage you to check out the other contributions by going to In the Mood or Frankly My Dear.**
I was incredibly excited to join in on this blogathon as the idea is so creative. Here’s the rules as listed by Natalie and Rianna of In the Mood and Frankly My Dear:
1. Pick a movie that was made in between 1966 and today 2. Change the year of production 3. Choose new leads from Classic Hollywood 4. Choose a new director from Classic Hollywood 5. Explain why you think it would work
With that I had grandiose plans to remake Batman Returns but just wasn’t feeling it (I also had ambitions to do a mock poster but my Photoshop skills aren’t up to snuff yet) so I decided to change it to the film I first thought of: John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles.
Sixteen Candles is a rite of passage movie for most girls and to this day I still watch it on my birthday and pine for a guy as gorgeous as Michael Schoeffling‘s Jake Ryan. In case you don’t know the plot (and that obviously makes you a person who hates movies), Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald) has just turned sixteen and expects it to be a turning point in her life. Unfortunately it coincides with the wedding of her ditzy sister and her family completely forget about it. To complicate matters, a geeky freshman known only as “The Geek” (Anthony Michael Hall) annoyingly pursues Samantha complicating her efforts to ensnare the love of senior Jake Ryan (Schoeffling).
Before I get into the actual recasting let me explain why I think Sixteen Candles could have been made earlier. Despite being made in 1984 the film is timeless. Yes the fashions are out-of-date but there’s no abundance of technology to date the film and the dialogue is relatively free of slang terms (I didn’t say completely). The story’s theme, that of a sixteen year old girl expecting to wake up one morning and have everything fall into place has been felt by every girl, hell every boy as well, about to embark on the verge of adulthood. Movies themselves have given many teenagers the idea of what to expect once they turn 16 (now I’d go so far as to say those expectations are becoming even more unrealistic) so it’d be fun to see what teens of a bygone era would hope for when they turned 16. There’s also a grand romance between an awkward girl and a gorgeous guy, feelings of being an outcast, fun parties, comedy, and a tinge of drama.
With all that, let’s recast this thing. For the actors I want I’m taking this all the way back to 1939! Yes, the greatest year in cinema that produced works like Gone with the Wind and Wuthering Heights! I don’t think this remake of Sixteen Candles would be on par with those two cinematic wonders but it could easily have broken barriers for teens in America well before Nicholas Ray and James Dean did it in Rebel Without a Cause! The director I’m looking at is Jack Conway. Conway isn’t a director whose name would immediately spring to mind but I’m choosing him solely on the direction of the 1936 Libeled Lady, a film that I love to bits. Libeled Lady features the story of a young woman torn between an annoying nuisance of a man who is good to her, and the man she truly wants. For me I think Conway could flesh out the romance equally with the comedy, creating a love triangle that is a further defined than in the Hughes film. Not to mention, I’m not considering this version of Sixteen Candles to be an awards contender so let’s cut down on costs and get a director whose quality outweighs name recognition.
Considering the 1939 time period obviously changes would be made but they’re relatively minor. There is a lot of non-Hays Code friendly cursing that could easily be taken out. Also, there one nude scene (that I still have no idea why it’s in this movie and yet the film was only recently re-rated from its original PG rating) that doesn’t have any bearing on the plot and could be taken out. The romance is chaste and the plot isn’t controversial.
For the acting I’ve decided to cast our key players: Samantha, The Geek, Jake Ryan, and Jake’s girlfriend Caroline (played originally by Haviland Morris) just because I had a great idea for her. Starting with our leading lady I’ve decided to go with the beautiful
Judy Garland to be our Samantha. If this happened Garland would be making her third film of 1939 right on the heels of her breakout role in The Wizard of Oz. I think playing Samantha right after being Dorothy Gale would show Garland’s range as an actress. She wouldn’t be relying on her singing voice and she could simply be a normal teenager being only seventeen in 1939. Ringwald’s portrayal of Samantha in the 1984 original is awkward but natural. She gets mad at her family for forgetting her birthday, but holds no grudge against them when they apologize. Garland could easily play the sad girl whose birthday has been forgotten, her tears are legendary, but can perk up just as easily. And who wouldn’t love Garland in a bridesmaid’s dress pointing to herself at the end when the man of her dreams shows up at the end?
Next is the nuisance that is The Geek. Who else to play opposite Ms. Judy but her better half in film
I haven’t seen the nine films Rooney and Garland made together but the sheer fact they made so many shows they’d be comfortable with each other. Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall would make two movies together so Rooney and Garland would be in good company. This would be their tenth if this actually happened! Rooney’s boy next door quality would work well as The Geek and considering the various roles Rooney played in the Andy Hardy series I don’t think annoying Judy would be a stretch. Keeping up on the age issue, Rooney would be stretching disbelief being 19 and playing a freshman but (no offense Mickey) but his short stature and youthful appearance would easily mask age issues.
Now on to our Jake Ryan. Something to bear in mind, I really couldn’t think of anyone who had the qualities I was looking for in Jake Ryan. Not just the personality of a lovesick high schooler stereotyped as a Lothario but I also wanted height and the look of an All-American boy. I’m sure someone could think of someone better but I rely on my old fallback
William Holden. Don’t get me wrong, I think Holden would do a phenomenal job but he wasn’t my first choice. Were this a real film this would be his fourth film in 1939. Holden was 21 in 1939 so he’d be stretching the age but based on the photos I’ve seen he didn’t look older than high school. Considering Holden’s earlier films he wouldn’t be the Lothario you’d expect by looking at his later work but a high school boy looking for the love of girl who doesn’t know how to tell him her feelings. Can you imagine Holden opposite Judy Garland?
I love the character of Caroline Mulmford in this film so I had to include her in the recasting. Caroline is Jake’s girlfriend, a girl you’d expect to be stuck-up and rude but from the film’s introduction of her (and her unnecessary nude scene) she’s described as “very sweet.” Even at the dance, the big crux of the film, she’s not mean to Samantha at all. Sure she is rude, trashing Jake’s house during a party but she’s expected to be that way and when she realizes she doesn’t remember the night before, in a touching scene with The Geek of all people, she considers changing. Caroline is a character far more than “bitchy girlfriend.” As for who I’d cast as our new Caroline, none other than my girl
Veronica Lake! Veronica Lake herself had the reputation of being a difficult woman to work with so I’d love to see her address that image by playing a woman you think would be a rival (and ends up with Mickey Rooney at the end…think of that). Lake was only 17 in 1939 and hadn’t actually been credited in the four films she’d done that year so this would mark her first credited appearance (in my mind). Not to mention she’d be starring opposite Bill Holden, two years before they worked together on I Wanted Wings!
That’s my dream cast for a 1939, Jack Conway directed version of Sixteen Candles. Starring Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, William Holden, and “introducing” Veronica Lake! Coming soon to a theater near you…in my head!
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.