Recasting Mad Men

March 26, 2012

It came to me in a dream: A final exam of some kind, where the only question was to recast Mad Men as if it were produced during the time period (the early sixties) in which the show is set.

Most dream-ideas seem kinda stupid when you wake up – but I thought this one was pretty cool.  Especially since I aced that dream-exam.  My subconscious remembered a whole lot of the characters by name (even Freddy Rumsen!) and came up with some good actors to match.  When I woke up, I added some conscious choices to fill out the list.  Take a look, imagine some Mad Men moments with these actors playing them, and see what you think . . . .

Ben Gazzara as Don Draper (Jon Hamm)

Gena Rowlands as Betty Draper (January Jones)

Gig Young as Roger Sterling (John Slattery)

Collin Wilcox as Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss)

James Franciscus as Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser)

Tina Louise as Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks)

William Daniels as Sal Romano (Bryan Batt)

Robert Morse as Harry Crane (Rich Sommer)

Linden Chiles as Paul Kinsey (Michael Gladis)

Roger Perry as Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton)

Patrick O’Neal as Duck Phillips (Mark Moses)

Roddy McDowall as Lane Pryce (Jared Harris)

Tim O’Connor as Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley)

John McGiver as Bert Cooper (Robert Morse)

Martin Balsam as Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray)

Susan Oliver as Midge Daniels (Rosemarie DeWitt)

Bethel Leslie as Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton)

Lee Grant as Rachel Menken (Maggie Siff)

Suzanne Pleshette as Trudy Campbell (Alison Brie)

Joyce Van Patten as Mona Sterling (Talia Balsam)

Claire Griswold as Jane Siegel (Peyton List)

Robert Culp as Archie Whitman (Joseph Culp)

Ruth McDevitt as Miss Blankenship (Randee Heller)

Shelley Berman as Jimmy Barrett (Patrick Fischler)

Pat Hingle as Conrad Hilton (Chelcie Ross)

You’ll notice that I’ve fudged the issue of whether our hypothetical Mad Men was filmed in New York or Los Angeles, a critical issue that would have influenced casting in the early sixties.  Gazzara and Rowlands – my pairing an indulgence in Cassavetesphilia; Cassavetes himself would have been a profound, if angry, Don Draper – were bicoastal, but probably more New York-centric in 1960; the ideal Los Angeles teaming might have been David Janssen and Inger Stevens as Don and Betty.

Having been immersed lately in the world of Marion Dougherty, the visionary New York-based casting director who discovered so many future stars on the Off-Broadway stage, I can picture a Mad Men cast by Dougherty and starring Gene Hackman as Don, Sandy Dennis as Betty, Robert Redford as Pete, Robert Duvall as Roger, Dustin Hoffman as Paul, Martin Sheen as Harry, James Caan as Ken, Robert Loggia as Sal, and Walter Matthau as Duck.  All of them were working on television and on Marion’s radar by 1961, at the latest; so it’s legit but still too much of a cheat, even for funsies.

Now it’s your turn to kibitz.  Come up with your own list, or “cast” even more of the minor characters than I did.  But I’m gonna be real strict about this.  Anyone you pick has to have been a viable candidate for a regular or recurring role on an American television series during the early sixties.  Do not annoy me by naming movie stars who didn’t do television during that time, or actors who died in 1958 or debuted in 1970, or actors who were unavailable because they were already starring in some other series for most of the time between 1960 and 1965.  (Sorry, you can’t have James Arness as Don Draper.)

Now: get to it!

Ben and Gena together in 1966 on Run For Your Life (screen grab stolen from this detailed Run For Your Life fansite).

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51 Responses to “Recasting Mad Men”

  1. Jonah Says:

    Gazzara maybe codes as too “ethnic” for Don?

    If it weren’t for Psycho and subsequent typecasting, I can imagine Tony Perkins as Pete.

  2. Larry Granberry Says:

    Leslie Nielsen as Don Draper
    Lois Nettleton as Betty Draper
    Ed Nelson as Roger Sterling
    Diane Baker as Peggy Olson
    Mark Goddard as Pete Campbell
    Carol Rossen as Joan Holloway
    George Maharis as Sal Romano
    Robert Drivas as Harry Crane
    Martin Milner as Paul Kinsey
    Roy Thinnes as Ken Cosgrove
    Richard Long as Duck Phillips
    Murray Matheson as Lane Pryce
    Robert Lansing as Henry Francis
    Robert Keith as Bert Cooper
    Jack Klugman as Freddy Rumsen
    Tuesday Weld as Midge Daniels
    Janice Rule as Anna Draper
    Diane Brewster as Rachel Menken
    Pamela Tiffin as Trudy Campbell
    Vera Miles as Mona Sterling
    Louise Sorel as Jane Siegel
    Andrew Prine as Archie Whitman
    Virginia Gregg as Miss Blankenship
    Peter Falk as Jimmy Barrett
    James Whitmore as Conrad Hilton

    Stephen – let me know what you think!

  3. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Ed Robertson couldn’t see Gazzara as Don Draper, either. But I think he’s one of the only leading men of that moment who has the same air of mystery as Jon Hamm. He seems like a guy with secrets, and he’s reserved in a way that exudes power.

    George C. Scott would’ve been a fascinating Don Draper, too — obviously more angry and expressive than Jon Hamm, but full of the same contempt/impatience for everything around him that Draper has. And Scott (again, unlike most of his contemporaries) was, on the screen, really good at seducing women on screen (a key Draper attribute) — he always seemed really interested in them, rather than just macho and entitled.

  4. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Larry,

    Yeah, some good work there; I can see most of those. I had thought of Nielsen as the kind of leading man who could play Don — he had the authority. But, you know, Robert Lansing is really perhaps a better choice — he had that icy quality, and his characters never seemed to be at peace with themselves.

    And George Maharis as Sal … Heh.

  5. Larry Granberry Says:

    Thought you’d like the Maharis casting (wink, wink, nod, nod).

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      And Maharis is a sharp guy. If you could’ve had a character like Sal in 1960, and if Maharis had the courage to play him, he’d have gotten it right.

  6. Larry Granberry Says:

    Great choice on your list with Tina Louise as Joan. I tried to think of another early 1960’s sex kitten for that role, but the only one I could think of was Joanna Moore. I just don’t think she’s a very good actress, though.

  7. Tom Says:

    Love this Stephen. Strongly agree with you on Tina Louise and Roddy McDowall. Less so with some of the others. LOL

    Here are my choices for the top 3 mad men and all the mod women (from my stable of starlets):

    Tom Tryon as Don
    Diane McBain as Betty
    Tony Franciosa as Roger
    Beverly Washburn as Peggy
    Sal Mineo as Pete
    Francine York as Joan
    Marianna Hill as Jane
    Janet Margolin as Trudy
    Sue Casey as Mona

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Hi, Tom! Glad you thought this was fun, too. You can say who you don’t like among my lineup if you want to!

      I can see most of these, too. Diane McBain and Sal Mineo are great, although putting Mineo opposite the closeted Tom Tryon creates an interesting … subtext! Janet Margolin actually would’ve been a good Peggy. Not too many leading ladies who could play “plain” from that period, and very few young male actors of prominence who were both smug and doughy like Rich Sommer and, uh, the other guy whose name I always forget.

      The other person nobody’s mentioned, to my surprise, is Robert Webber — the quintessential Mad Men type after playing one to hilarious perfection in 12 Angry Men. I kind of crossed him off as too obvious but I would’ve enjoyed seeing him play Don, or Roger, or even Sal (remember how effectively Webber played gay later on for Blake Edwards).

  8. Brian Says:

    Studio: Warner Brothers

    Producer/writer/director: Robert Altman

    Season: 1961-62

    Ray Danton as Don Draper

    Diane McBain as Betty Draper

    Jason Evers as Roger Sterling

    Rhonda Fleming as Joan Holloway

    Robert Vaughn as Pete Campbell

    James Coburn as Duck Phillips

    Andrew Duggan as Henry Francis

    Dean Jagger as Bert Cooper

    Keenan Wynn as Freddy Rumsen

    Sherry Jackson as Trudy Campbell

    Julie Adams as Mona Sterling

    Peter Breck as Sal Romano

    Adam West as Ken Cosgrove

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Wow, that is very specific — I love it! Altman’s contempt for that whole world would’ve been coruscating (and mildly hypocritical). Some of those actors are second-raters but that’s what you get if you go to Warner Bros. Jagger and Keenan Wynn are great ideas, Vaughn would’ve been scarily apt as Pete Campbell, and that’s two votes for Diane McBain! You need Ted Knight in there somewhere though — Altman’s TV-era mascot!

      Now, somebody cast it at Universal circa 1968, with all their borrrrrring young contract players….

  9. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Tom, you’re the expert … who should play the new wife, circa 1965-1966? I kind of blew her off but now she’s a major character, apparently. Yvonne Craig comes to mind but she’s not quite right. And don’t say Pamela Tiffin.

  10. Larry Granberry Says:

    Just had a second thought about someone for Henry Francis; in fact, in the right light they look eerily like separated at birth twins: Joe Maross.

  11. Luke Sacher Says:

    Cliff Robertson as Don Draper
    Dina Merrill as Betty Draper
    Natalie Wood as Megan Draper
    Suzy Parker as Joan Holloway
    Roddy McDowall as Pete Campbell
    Barbara Parkins as Trudy Campbell
    Lee Marvin as Roger Sterling
    All I have so far!

  12. Brian Says:

    Studio: Four Star

    Executive producer: Dick Powell

    Writer/producer: Richard Alan Simmons

    Director: Samuel Fuller

    Season: 1962-63

    Peter Falk as Don Draper

    Inger Stevens as Betty Draper

    Jackie Cooper as Roger Sterling

    Robert Redford as Pete Campbell

    Susan Kohner as Peggy

    Patricia Barry as Joan Holloway

    John Payne as Henry Francis

    Jack Carson as Freddy Rumsen

    Ed Begley as Bert Cooper

    Wayne Rogers as Ken Cosgrove

    Larry Blyden as Harry Crane

    David Niven as Lane Pryce

    Michael Parks as Father Gill

    Fabian as Sal Romano

    Telly Savalas as Duck Phillips

  13. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Brian, clearly you’re a fan of “Last of the Big Spenders,” as am I. Dick Simmons is a favorite (and was an acquaintance) of mine, and I’ll be writing more about him soon. Wayne Rogers is great; he would’ve been perfect to play one of those junior ad agency weasels.

    I dunno about Sam Fuller — that would’ve been a gonzo show — just as the Sam Peckinpah version would’ve been. Among the Four Star gang, probably Geller-Kowalski would’ve had the greatest affinity for Mad Men.

  14. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Now give me the Jack Webb version!

  15. Brian Says:

    Dick York as Don Draper

    Elizabeth Montgomery as Betty Draper

    David White as Roger Sterling

  16. Stephen Bowie Says:

    And Paul Lynde as Sal and Bernard Fox as Lane Pryce, of course. Funny … although Mad Men has kind of trumped that by working in its own Bewitched in-jokes.

    (And Elizabeth Montgomery was really more of a Joan type, although she wasn’t often cast that way.)

  17. Shaun Says:

    Nobody’s even suggested Clu Gulager yet?!

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      As who … Don? Oh, man: Clu is big with some of my friends in L.A., but I have such an aversion to his Method-monkey antics, I can’t even tell you.

  18. Joge Perez Says:

    Maybe Richard Egan -circa ‘Empire’- as Don Draper. But I find the idea of Ben Gazzara in that role absolutely fantastic… a man running to get away from his previous life, before Run For Your Life.

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Empire reunion: Ryan O’Neal as Pete Campbell!

      And don’t forget, the exec producer of Empire, Frank Pierson, actually worked on Mad Men for a while….

  19. Brian Says:

    A Daystar production

    Executive Producer: Leslie Stevens

    Writer: Harlan Ellison

    Director: Gerd Oswald

    Cinematography: Conrad Hall

    Season: 1963-64

    Jack Lord as Don Draper

    Introducing Rosemary Forsyth as Betty Draper

    Ralph Meeker as Roger Sterling

    Salome Jens as Joan Holloway

    Mariette Hartley as Peggy

    Bruce Dern as Pete Campbell

    Lloyd Nolan (without toupee) as Bert Cooper

    Richard Egan as Henry Francis

    Gary Merrill as Duck Phillips

    Donald Pleasance as Lane Pryce

    John Considine as Paul Kinsey

    Edward Asner as Freddy Rumsen

    Elizabeth Ashley as Trudy Campbell.

    I originally considered Diana Hyland for Betty. Diana guest starred on “Stoney Burke”, and she and Lord didn’ t get along. That could have led to interesting tension in the acting. But I eventually felt Diana didn’t quite have the right quality for Betty.

    Martin Landau and Shirley Knight could also have been a fine Don and Betty.

  20. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Brian — That’s really cool. Especially Pleasence. And I think Diana Hyland would’ve been perfect. Either way, I would’ve watched your show.

    Maybe Cedric Hardwicke as Bert Cooper, though….

  21. Jonah Says:

    My knowledge of early ’60s telefilm doesn’t hold a candle to any of the folks above, so I can only express my appreciation make piecemeal suggestions…. How about Ralph Bellamy as Duck? (Casting him as Bert Cooper seems a bit cruel, somehow, even though it could work.)

  22. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Duck is sort of the all-purpose, train-wreck, spineless Madison Avenue hack, so the possibilities are really endless for him. Kevin McCarthy? Murray Hamilton? Or, of course, Robert Webber.

  23. Brian Says:

    Studio: Universal

    An NBC Mini-Series

    Executive Producer: Roy Huggins

    Producer: Jo Swerling, Jr.

    Writer: Halstead Wells based on a story by John Thomas James

    Director: Michael Ritchie

    Music: Pete Rugolo

    Stuart Whitman as Don Draper

    Barbara Anderson as Betty Draper

    Darren McGavin (without toupee) as Roger Sterling

    Jill St. John as Joan Holloway

    James Farentino as Pete Campbell

    Burl Ives as Bert Cooper

    Lloyd Bochner as Lane Pryce

    Joseph Campanella as Duck Phillips

    Gene Barry as Henry Francis

    Ben Murphy as Ken Cosgrove

    Susan Saint James as Peggy

    Katherine Crawford as Trudy Campbell

    Jack Kelly as Connie Hilton

  24. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Oof, Huggins doesn’t leave you with many A-listers, does it?

    James Garner’s Don Draper would have been … actually, kind of interesting. Hard to see him as an ad man but he could’ve done Don’s fuck-it attitude beautifully, and sold the Dick Whitman backstory in a way that the actual show has (I think) never completely managed.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been watching Ironside lately, and boy, is Barbara Anderson a zero, looks notwithstanding. Maybe get Kathie Browne in there instead, for the McGavin package deal.

  25. Brian Says:

    John Cassavetes as Don Draper.

    Gena Rowlands as Betty Draper.

    Lee Marvin as Roger Sterling.

    Angie Dickinson as Joan Holloway

    Ronald Reagan as Henry Francis.

    Clu Gulager as Pete Campbell.

    Norman Fell as Freddy Rumsen.

  26. Brian Says:

    A Herbert B. Leonard/Screen Gems production

    Writers: Stirling Silliphant, Howard Rodman, and Frank Pierson

    Director: Ralph Senensky

    Season: 1961-62

    Filmed entirely on location

    Music: Nelson Riddle

    David Janssen as Don Draper

    Inger Stevens as Betty Draper

    George C. Scott as Roger Sterling

    Norma Crane as Peggy

    Burt Brinkerhoff as Pete Campbell

    Dorothy Malone as Joan Holloway

    Barry Morse as Lane Pryce

    George Grizzard as Henry Francis

    Chester Morris as Bert Cooper

    Robert Sterling as Duck Phillips

    Dan Duryea as Freddy Rumsen

    Constance Ford as Mona Sterling

    Sylvia Sidney as Miss Blankenship

    Richard Jordan as Ken Cosgrove

    Rip Torn might also have been good as Don.

    Rip Torn might have also been a good Don Draper.

  27. Craig Kanne Says:

    Well, I stand corrected on my first comment. Forgot how many great actors were hanging around waiting for the big break in the early 1960s. As for the casting in later time frames, Barbara Anderson was actually pretty good substituting for Lynda Day George during the last season of “Mission: Impossible”. So maybe not such a bad choice for Betty. But speaking of Ms. George, how about her and husband Christopher as Betty and Don in the early ’70s version from CBS.

  28. Brian Says:

    “The Richard Boone Show”

    Produced by Buck Houghton

    Written by Clifford Odetts

    Directed by Lamont Johnson

    Guy Stockwell as Don Draper

    Laura Devon as Betty Draper

    Richard Boone as Roger Sterling

    June Harding as Peggy

    Robert Blake as Pete Campbell

    Bethel Leslie as Joan Holloway

    Lloyd Bochner as Lane Pryce

    Warren Stevens as Henry Francis

    Jeanette Nolan as Miss Blankenship

    Ford Rainey as Bert Cooper

    Harry Morgan as Conrad Hilton, Jr.

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      That really fits, doesn’t it? Stockwell might not have had the chops for Don Draper but everyone else could’ve pulled off those characters beautifully.

  29. Tom Says:

    Here are my new choices if done by 20th Century-Fox ca. 1963-65. Again only the top 4 mad men and all the mod women.

    Gardner McKay as Don

    Carol Lynley as Betty

    Stuart Whitman as Roger

    Juliet Prowse as Peggy

    Barbara Eden as Joan

    Richard Beymer as Pete

    Millie Perkins as Trudy

    Roddy McDowall as Lane

    Jane Wald as Jane

    Dana Wynter as Mona

    Wende Wagner as Megan

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      As long as it’s Tiffin-free, Tom, your list is fine by me. I just can’t believe that it took you over a week to nominate Carol as Betty Draper!

  30. Brian Says:

    A Quinn Martin production

    Robert Lansing as Don Draper

    Tuesday Weld as Betty Draper

    Jack Cassidy as Roger Sterling

    Julie Sommars as Peggy

    Andrew Prine as Pete Campbell

    Sheree North as Joan Holloway

    Michael Rennie as Lane Pryce

    Steve Forrest as Henry Francis

    Dabney Coleman as Duck Phillips

    Ellen Corby as Miss Blankenship

    Joanne Linville as Mona Sterling.

    Melvyn Douglas as Bert Cooper

    Quinn Martin fired Robert Lansing after the first season for “creative differences”.

    Rip Torn was brought in as Don.

    Torn was fired after the second season for “creative differences.”

    Bradford Dillman was excellent as the third Don, but was eventually replaced by Christopher George.

    Burt Reynolds played Don for the last five seasons.

    Betty Draper was murdered in the second season by ………

    Gerald S. O’Loughlin was brought in as the cop on the case.

    .

  31. Jorge Perez Says:

    Nothing to do with Mad Men, but related to the concept: David Boreanaz would have been perfect as Ben Casey… he completely reproduces the mannerisms and surly looks of Vince Edwards.

  32. bobby J. Says:

    Great suggestions….not much to add – maybe Robert Culp and Don and Cliff Robertson as Roger.

  33. Brian Says:

    A Cayuga production.

    Writer: Rod Serling

    Director: Fielder Cook

    Music: Bernard Herrmann

    Lee Marvin as Don Draper

    Diana Hyland as Betty Draper

    Kevin McCarthy as Roger Sterling

    Collin Wilcox as Peggy

    Dennis Hopper as Pete Campbell

    Elizabeth Montgomery as Joan Holloway

    George Sanders as Lane Pryce

    Rod Taylor as Henry Francis

    Robert Cummings as Duck

    Roger Davis as Ken Cosgrove

    Ed Begley as Freddy Rumsen

    Everett Sloane as Betty’s father

    Burgess Meredith as Bert Cooper

    Agnes Moorehead as Miss Blankenship

    Hazel Court as Mona Sterling

    Mary Badham as Don and Betty’s daughter

    Billy Mummy as the kid trying to seduce Betty

  34. Brian Says:

    An ITC production.

    Producer/writer/director: Patrick McGoohan

    Music: Ron Gainer

    Patrick McGoohan as Don Draper

    Julie Christie as Betty Draper

    Roger Moore as Roger Sterling

    Jill Ireland as Peggy

    David McCallum as Pete Campbell

    Diana Rigg as Joan Holloway

    Donald Sutherland as Lane Pryce

    Donald Gray as Henry Francis

    Patrick McNee as Duck

    John Gielgud as Bert Cooper

    Shirley Eaton as Mona Sterling

    Pamela Franklin could have been a fine Peggy if she had been a few years older.

  35. Brian Says:

    Sean Connery could have been a good Don in an early 60’s English version with McGoohan as Roger.

    McGoohan, Connery, David McCallum, and jIll Ireland were in a 1957 movie called “Hell Drivers” with Stanley Baker.

  36. Therese Says:

    Just came across your site–Fantastic! And I had a similar dream several months back which inspired me to make this movie style poster for the site Basket of Kisses! Enjoy, Therese Bohn

    http://www.lippsisters.com/2011/11/03/fan-art-thursdays-all-star-mad-men-cast-in-the-60s/

  37. Mike Doran Says:

    Just went through all 49 comments …

    Am I the only one to notice that in your original essay, you gave Talia Balsam’s role to her real-life mother, Joyce Van Patten?

    (Do I get a gold star or what?)

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Well, you’re the only one to point it out … and while I don’t have any gold stars, there’s a no-prize in the mail for you.


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