Sunday, March 9, 2008

Cary Grant

In anticipation of my mini-Cary Grant film festival, I thought I'd post some reading info on one of my favorite actors. (Information courtesy of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Archibald Alec Leach (January 18, 1904November 29, 1986), better known by his stage name, Cary Grant, was an iconic English-born actor known for mostly American films. With his distinctive Mid-Atlantic accent, he was noted as perhaps the foremost exemplar of the debonair leading man, handsome, virile, charismatic and charming. He was named the second Greatest Male Star of All Time of American cinema, after Humphrey Bogart, by the American Film Institute. He was well known for starring in classic films such as The Philadelphia Story, North By Northwest, Notorious, To Catch A Thief, Bringing Up Baby and The Bishop's Wife.


Early life and career

Archibald Alec Leach was born in Horfield, Bristol, England in 1904. He attended Bishop Road Primary School. An only child, he had a confused and unhappy childhood. His mother Elsie was placed by his father in a mental institution when Archie was ten. She never overcame her depression after the death of a previous infant child. His father, who subsequently had a son with another woman, told him that his mother had gone away on a "long holiday". It was not until he was in his thirties that Leach discovered her still alive, living in an institutionalized care facility.

He was expelled from the Fairfield Grammar School in Bristol in 1918. He subsequently joined the "Bob Pender stage troupe" and traveled with the group to the United States as a stilt walker in 1920, on a two-year tour of the country. When the troupe returned to England, he decided to stay in the US and continue his stage career.

Still under his birth name, he performed on the stage at The Muny in St. Louis, Missouri, in such shows as Irene (1931); Music in May (1931); Nina Rosa (1931); Rio Rita (1931); Street Singer (1931); The Three Musketeers (1931); and Wonderful Night (1931).

Hollywood stardom

After some success in light Broadway comedies, he came to Hollywood in 1931, where he acquired the name Cary Lockwood. He chose the name Lockwood after the surname of his character in a recent play called Nikki. He signed with Paramount Pictures, but while studio bosses were impressed with him, they were less than impressed with his adopted stage name. They decided that the name Cary was OK, but Lockwood had to go due to a similarity with another actor's name. It was after browsing through a list of the studio's preferred surnames, that Cary Grant was born. Grant chose the name because the initials C and G, had already proved lucky for Clark Gable and Gary Cooper, two of Hollywood's then-biggest movie stars.

Having already appeared as leading man opposite Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus, his stardom was given a further boost by Mae West when she chose him for her leading man in two of her most successful films, She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel (both 1933). I'm No Angel was a tremendous financial success and, along with She Done Him Wrong, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, saved Paramount from bankruptcy.

Grant starred in some of the classic screwball comedies, including Bringing Up Baby with Katharine Hepburn, His Girl Friday with Rosalind Russell, Arsenic and Old Lace with Priscilla Lane, and Monkey Business with Ginger Rogers. His role in The Awful Truth with Irene DunneThe Philadelphia Story, with Hepburn and James Stewart, showcased his best-known screen persona: the charming if sometimes unreliable man, formerly married to an intelligent and strong-willed woman who first divorced him, then realized that he was—with all his faults—irresistible. was the pivotal film in the establishment of Grant's screen persona. These performances solidified his appeal, and

Grant was one of Hollywood's top box-office attractions for several decades. He was a versatile actor, who did demanding physical comedy in movies like Gunga Din with the skills he had learned on the stage. Howard Hawks said that Grant was "so far the best that there isn't anybody to be compared to him".

Grant was a favorite actor of Alfred Hitchcock, notorious for disliking actors, who said that Grant was "the only actor I ever loved in my whole life".Grant appeared in such Hitchcock classics as Suspicion, Notorious, To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest. Biographer Patrick McGilligan wrote that, in 1965, Hitchcock asked Grant to star in Torn Curtain (1966), only to learn that Grant had decided to retire after making one more film, Walk, Don't Run (1966); Paul Newman was cast instead in Torn Curtain, opposite Julie Andrews.

In the mid-1950s, Grant formed his own production company, Grantley Productions, and produced a number of movies distributed by Universal, such as Operation Petticoat, Indiscreet, That Touch of Mink (co-starring Doris Day), and Father Goose. In 1963, he appeared opposite Audrey Hepburn in Charade.

Grant was considered a maverick by virtue of the fact that he was the first actor to "go independent," effectively bucking the old studio system, which almost completely controlled what an actor could or could not do. In this way, Grant was able to control every aspect of his career. He decided which movies he was going to appear in, he had personal choice of the directors and his co-stars and at times, even negotiated a share of the gross, something unheard of at the time, but now common among A-list stars.

Grant was nominated for two Academy Awards in the 1940s. He was denied the Oscar throughout his active career because he was one of the first actors to be independent of the major studios. Grant received a special Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1970. In 1981, he was accorded the Kennedy Center Honors.


Although Grant had retired from the screen, he remained active in other areas. In the late 1960s, he accepted a position on the board of directors at Fabergé. By all accounts this position was not honorary as some had assumed, as Grant was regularly attending meetings and his mere appearance at a product launch would almost certainly guarantee its success.

In the last few years of his life, Grant undertook tours of the United States in a one man show. It was called "A Conversation with Cary Grant", in which he would show clips from his films and answer audience questions. Grant was preparing for a performance at the Adler Theater in Davenport, Iowa on the afternoon of November 29, 1986 when he suffered a massive stroke. He died later that night at St. Luke's Hospital at age 82.

Personal life in Hollywood

Grant's personal life was complicated, involving five marriages.


Grant's first wife, Virginia Cherrill, divorced him on March 26, 1935 following charges that Grant had hit her. They had wed on February 10, 1934.

Grant married the ultra-wealthy socialite Barbara Hutton and became a father figure and lifelong influence on her son, Lance Reventlow, who died in a plane crash. The couple were derisively nicknamed "Cash and Cary," although in an extensive prenuptial agreement Grant refused any financial settlement in the event of a divorce. After divorcing in 1945, they remained lifelong friends. Grant always bristled at the accusation that he married for money. He said with his typical wit, "I may not have married for very sound reasons, but money was never one of them."

Grant married his third wife, the actress Betsy Drake, on December 25, 1949. He appeared with her in two films. This would prove to be his longest marriage, ending on August 14, 1962.

His fourth marriage, to actress Dyan Cannon, who was thirty-three years his junior, took place on July 22, 1965 in Las Vegas. The marriage was followed by the premature birth of his only child, Jennifer Grant, on February 26, 1966 when Grant was sixty-two. He frequently called her his "best production", and regretted that he hadn't had children sooner. The marriage was troubled from the beginning and Cannon left him in December 1966, claiming that Grant flew into frequent rages and spanked her when she "disobeyed" him. The divorce, finalized in 1968, was bitter and public, and custody fights over their daughter went on for around ten years.

On April 11, 1981 Grant married his long-time companion, British hotel PR agent Barbara Harris, who was forty-seven years his junior. Harris was by his side when he died.

War years and US citizenship

Grant became a naturalized US citizen in 1942 in order to defuse the scandal resulting from his failure to return to Britain to serve in the military. One British movie reviewer once wrote that British actors who had remained in Hollywood should only be photographed in black and white, so the audience doesn't see the yellow streak across their spines. He had, in fact, volunteered for service in the Royal Navy as early as 1940, but at 36 was past the then-maximum enlistment age. This prompted Grant to declare that he wanted to go back to do his bit, even if it meant being a 'Fireman'. However, certain portions of the British Government thought Grant would be more use to the war effort if he remained in Hollywood. During the war years, Grant donated entire salaries of several movies to British war charities, and it is even rumored that Grant was working for British Intelligence, monitoring suspected Nazi sympathies among the Hollywood elite. This, however, has never been substantiated as records on the subject remain classified to this day. In 1946, King George VI awarded Grant with the King's Medal for his services to Britain during hostilities.


Statue of Cary Grant in Millennium Square, Bristol, England.
Statue of Cary Grant in Millennium Square, Bristol, England.

In 2001 a statue of Grant was erected in Millennium Square, a regenerated area next to the harbour in his city of birth, Bristol, England.

In November 2004 Grant was named "The Greatest Movie Star of All Time" by Premiere Magazine. Richard Schickel, the film critic, said about Grant: "He's the best star actor there ever was in the movies."

Ian Fleming stated that he partially had Cary Grant in mind when he created his suave super-spy, James Bond. Sean Connery was selected for the first James Bond movie because of his likeness to Grant. Likewise, the later Bond, Roger Moore, was also selected for sharing Grant's wry sense of humor.

John Cleese's character in the film A Fish Called Wanda was named Archie Leach, a reference to Grant's legal birth name.

Further reading

  • Bogdanovich, Peter. Who the Hell's in It: Portraits and Conversations. New York, New York: A.A. Knopf. 2004. ISBN 0375400109
  • Eliot, Marc. Cary Grant: The Biography New York, New York: Aurum Press. 2005. ISBN 1845130731
  • Higham, Charles, and Roy Moseley. Cary Grant: The Lonely Heart Thompson Learning, 1997, ISBN 0151157871
  • Kael, Pauline. "The Man from Dream City - Cary Grant" - The New Yorker - July 14, 1975 - (reprinted in: Pauline Kael: For Keeps - 30 Years at the Movies. Dutton, 1994.)
  • McCann, Graham. Cary Grant: A Class Apart Fourth Estate, 1997. ISBN 1857025741
  • Morecambe, Gary, and Martin Sterling, Cary Grant: In Name Alone Robson Books, 2001. ISBN 1861054661
  • Nelson, Nancy, and Cary Grant. Evenings With Cary Grant: Recollections In His Own Words and By Those Who Loved Him Best. Thorndike, Maine: Thorndike Press. 1992. ISBN 1560543426

No comments: