Back in September, I wrote a blog post called Just like the prince and in the pauper about actors who have an uncanny resemblance. I realized I left out a few actors who look like they could be relatives.
This post, like the other, is named after another famous mix up of identities. In the “The Prisoner of Zenda” (1937), commoner Ronald Colman looks exactly like prince Ronald Colman and is asked to impersonate him for the prince’s safety. There was a 1954 remake with Stewart Granger as well, but I like Colman better.
Nelson Eddy and Gene Raymond: These two men have an uncanny resemblance and I can’t believe I forgot to add them in my last look-a-likes post. I only remembered when I was telling my grandmother about the post and she mentioned that she always thought they looked similar. The odd thing about these two men’s similar appearance is that they both had strong connections to actress and opera singer Jeanette MacDonald.
•Gene Raymond and Jeanette MacDonald were married from 1937 until her death in 1965. They were paired in “Smilin’ Through” (1941) together. They seemed to have a long and happy marriage, both gushing about the other in quotes. Gene seemed to love Jeanette very much. In 1972, seven years after her death he said, “”We had 28 glorious years. Jeanette and I respected and loved each other, very deeply. We put one another before anyone or anything. I am blessed to have known her, loved her and been loved by her – absolutely, an incredible lady!”
Jeanette seemed equally enthralled with her husband. In 1943, Jeanette said, “I can’t believe how blessed I am! I’m married to the most wonderful man, Gene Raymond, whom I’m deeply in love with, and, my career is right where I want it to be. I can live like this forever!” And again in 1947 she gushed, “Gene, is the most wonderful man I’ve ever known. He’s warm, sensitive, loving, funny and very handsome. Being Mrs. Gene Raymond, I admit I’m biased!”
•However, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald had a curious and rumored connection. I’ve heard that they hated each other and would eat garlic when they had to sing to each other. I’ve also heard that they had a secret love affair. I’m really on the fence about both, because I’ve seen a lot of conflicting information. Supposedly during the 1950s, Jeanette MacDonald was asked by her friend Samuel Griffin why she married Gene instead of Nelson and she said, “I must have had rock in my head.” I still really don’t think they had an affair though, especially when in 1957, Nelson said, “I don’t know why people still want to believe that Jeanette MacDonald and I were a couple off the set. There’s no truth to that rumor, at all. She’s happily married to Gene Raymond and I’m happily married to Anne. I guess people want to believe that what they see on the screen is reality while in actuality, it’s just a movie!”
Regardless of romantic involvement with Jeanette MacDonald, both men looked startlingly similar.
Harve Presnell and Howard Keel: Not only do these men look very similar, they also have the same deep and bellowing baritone singing voice. Howard Keel broke into the MGM musical extravaganza in the early 1950s with his rich, vibrating voice. He stared in big budget musicals like “Annie Get Your Gun” (1951) and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954).
Similarly, Harve Presnell has the same semi-operatic, rumbling voice and physique, but was about five or 10 years too late for the musical game. His first big musical was “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” in 1964, which was toward the end of the golden age of musicals and a major turn in films. He was in other musicals like “Paint Your Wagon” (1968) and acted until his death in 2009, but one can only wonder what his career could have been like in the 1950s. You can really see the resemblance if you compare Presnell in “Paint Your Wagon” and Keel in “Kiss Me Kate.”
Dick Powell and Kenny Baker: Dick Powell was the ultimate crooner and Kenny Baker was a singer on Jack Benny’s radio show. Both singers look very similar, sing the same crooning style, but Baker was never the same star caliber as Powell.
Powell was every woman’s heartthrob as he cuddled Ruby Keeler and sang about June and the moon. He was clean cut, attractive, always grinning and the sweet young all-American guy who won the girl. His career rocketed in “42nd Street” and never looked back as he went on to do film noir movies like “Murder, My Sweet” and even direct films.
The first time I saw Baker in “Goldwyn Follies” (1938), I thought “This must be Sam Goldwyn’s answer to Dick Powell.” Baker looks like Powell’s twin brother, who is slightly less attractive. Baker started his film career two years later than Powell, but ended it earlier as well. His film appearances in low budget movies like “Goldwyn Follies” and “52nd Street” (1937) are forgettable. He was in the larger budget “The Harvey Girls” (1948) as Cyd Charisse’s love interest, but does not have a substantial role. One could wonder if his lack of fame is because of Powell’s and Baker’s similar mugs.
Andrea Leeds and Olivia deHavilland: Olivia deHavilland was compared to Anne Shirley in the last look-a-like post, but one cannot over look the similarities of Leeds and deHavilland’s film demeanor and appearance. Both have delicate features, soft eyes and soothing voices. Leeds and deHavilland were both Warner players, so I often wonder if Leeds was groomed to be a deHavilland replacement. Her first substantial role was in “Stage Door” in 1937, which is when deHavilland was in the midst of court battles with Warner Brothers.
However, there probably wasn’t a motive, they just happen to look nearly the same with the same mild mannerisms. Interestingly enough, Leeds was strongly considered for the role of Melanie Hamilton in “Gone with the Wind,” the role deHavilland made famous and was nominated for.