Fantasy Casting: The Shadow

So about the only description given of The Shadow–the nameless, potentially literally faceless dark avenger and master of stealth–is that of a tall, thin man with a hatchet nose and burning eyes (sometimes, rather distractingly referred to as “optics”); his features are often noted as being creepily immobile, “almost masklike.” With time, he can take on any disguise, such as the one he most often wears: that of Lamont Cranston; he can pass with ease in any layer of society. Incidentally, he does not wear a red scarf, or leave his nose poking out over it. Sheesh.

6000870_135233599219Walter B. Gibson, considering the question, apparently thought that John Wayne would be able to physically pull off The Shadow–but not Lamont Cranston. (Which is fine, they could cast him as Shiwan Khan instead.) Similarly, he dismissed Orson Welles as a fine voice actor but…not so much an actioneer. Victor Jory donned the cape and hat  for the 1940s serial and has a decently Shadowy look about him, but apparently didn’t make the cut at all. In the 1990s, of course, Alec Baldwin did a decent enough job in The Shadow movie, but he was honestly far more Bruce Wayne than Lamont Cranston…or The Shadow. 

In fact, Gibson considered that (wait for it) Ronald Reagan would be the perfect actor for the job.

The Shadow isn’t some useless playboy; he’s a mature man, and even his borrowed identity is that of a world traveller (and this was back in the days when travelling was hardcore) and big-game hunter. He’s as comfortable exchanging barbs with the Police Commissioner in the Cobalt Club as he is gliding through a darkened alleyway with armed thugs waiting for him. He’s taken on this war with a steady, meaningful purpose not motivated by emotion; he’s not despairing the loss of his parents, or grieving a love interest, or lashing out for a slight or a wrong. HE’S A HELL OF A LOT MORE STABLE THAN BRUCE WAYNE IS WHAT I’M SAYING, BASICALLY.

114ce89e1854ab3a295addAnother actor whose description fits the bill (he was also 6’3) is Michael Rennie, possibly best known for The Day The Earth Stood Still, but also serving a marvelous turn in the deathlessly wonderful Princess of the Nile (1954, Debra Paget sword-fights bad guys in a bikini after dancing for them. You’re welcome.) and not to forget The Wicked Lady. On the other hand, although he might have the right look and the height, Rennie’s screen persona tended to be easy-going and kindly. He might not have been able to pull off the intensity required.

For the modern day, Raz0rfist via his Shadowcastknows twitter, suggests Tobias Menzies. All I can say is that he doesn’t know how to wear a hat properly. 

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