Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cary Grant (1904-1986)

"Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant."

Cary Grant - the famous lover and gentleman. Always sophisticated, sarcastic, well-mannered and upright with an accent hard to place (being born in England and living in America). Named the second greatest male star of all time by AFI (placed between number one Humphrey Bogart and third place James Stewart). Having starred in legendary films like The Philadelphia Story (1940), His Girl Friday (1940), Hitchcock's Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959).
It is now his time to appear in a post specifically dedicated to him.

Born Archibald Alexander Leach in Bristol, England 1904, Grant had a difficult childhood as an only child in a middle-class family. When he was nine his father placed his mother in a mental institution. The reason for her insanity began with a never overcome depression after having lost an earlier born child. Grant did however not know until he was in his late twenties that his mother was still alive and institutionalized, since being told as a child of nine that his mother had gone away on a "long holiday" at a seaside resort.

When Grant was 14 he was kicked out from school. He lied about his age and forged his father's signature to join the "Bob Pender stage troop", following the comedy troop on tour to the United States. In the group he was a stilt walker for two years. When the group was heading back to England, Grant stayed to perform on stage. He appeared in several stage shows, still under his birth name Archibald Leach.

After some success in light Broadway comedies he had chosen a stage name: Cary Lockwood, after a character he had recently played.
In 1931 he signed a contract with Paramount Pictures, but they wanted him to change hos stage name. "Cary" was alright, but "Lockwood" had to go. After having looked through a list of preferred surnames he decided on "Grant". The initials CG had worked fine for two other great movie stars, Clark Gable and Gary Cooper. Cary Grant was therefore born.

In 1932 he played opposite Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus, and the year after his career rose when playing opposite the curvy Mae West in She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel. The two West-Grant films from 1933 were successes - She Done Him Wrong was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award and I'm No Angel was a financial success - and saved Paramount Pictures from bancruptcy. The film studio was in other words more than delighted with Cary Grant, and cast him in several more pictures.

Cary Grant and Mae West in She Done Him Wrong (1933).

Cary Grant on a cigarette break in 1934.

Cary Grant was now on his way to become one of the box-office favourites of all time, leaning more and more toward screwball comedy:
In 1937 he starred in The Awful Truth opposite Irene Dunne (directed by Leo McCarey, director of Marx Brothers' Duck Soup from 1933)
In 1938 he was playing for the first time opposite Katharine Hepburn in the screwball classic Bringing Up Baby, and two years later once again in George Cukor's The Philadelphia Story, also with James Stewart.
1940 he played Rosalind Russell's ex-husband in His Girl Friday.
1942 in The Talk of the Town with Jean Arthur and Ronald Colman.
1944 in the Frank Capra morbid comedy Arsenic and Old Lace.
In 1952 he starred in Monkey Business with Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe.

Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday (1940).

Cary Grant, director George Cukor and Katharine Hepburn.

Scene: Cary Grant uses the word "gay", probably for the first time in film history when referring to a homosexual, in Bringing Up Baby (1938). It is said that Grant forgot his real line and improvised that line!

Even though Cary Grant is mostly connected with comedy, he got to show his acting talents being thriller film genius Alfred Hitchcock's favourite actor. Beginning with Suspicion (1941) opposite Joan Fontaine, he moved on making three more Hitchcock films:
Notorious (1946) with Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains.
To Catch a Thief (1955) with Grace Kelly (later Princess of Monaco).
North by Northwest (1959) with Eva Marie Saint and James Mason.

Cary Grant as Roger O. Thornhill in North by Northwest (1959).

The silhouettes of Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant.

By this time, at the height of his success, Grant began to tire of making movies. He made a romantic suspence-comedy with Audrey Hepburn in 1963, Charade, but that would be one of his last films. When he had his first daughter in 1966, aged 62, he stopped making movies and instead became a father full time. During the years to come he refused job offers from directors like Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder and Stanley Kubrick.

Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. Aren't Swedish women the greatest?

Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in later years.

Cary Grant was married five times between 1936 and the year of his death by cerebral hemorrhage in 1986. In 1970 he received an Honorary Academy Award for life time achievement.

Interesting trivia is that Cary Grant donated his entire fee for The Philadelphia Story (1940) to the British war effort, and his fee for Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) to the U.S. war relief fund. That was $150 000 respectively $100 000.

Film clip: Cary Grant's speech at the Academy Awards. What a great man he was.

Personal quotes:

I think making love is the best form of exercise.

I've often been accused by critics of being myself on-screen. But being oneself is more difficult than you'd suppose.

I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until finally I became that person. Or he became me.

My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can.

Divorce is a game played by lawyers.

I improve on misquotation.

To succeed with the opposite sex, tell her you are impotent; she can't wait to disprove it.

Cary Grant by caricaturist Al Hirshfeld.


Millie said...

Loverly post!

Cary Grant was the greatest. I have yet to see a film that he wasn't good in!

And to answer your question: Swedish women are the best. Ingrid's my absolute favorite actress.

Kate Gabrielle said...

Wonderful post! He is probably the only man in history who kept getting even more handsome as he grew older..

Lolita said...

Thanks! I agree - haven't ever seen him doing less than great!

Haha, of course I was a bit sarcastic since I'm Swedish myself, but both Ingrid and Greta Garbo are both simply divine.

Kate Gabrielle:
Thank you! But I have one more to nominate to the getting-more-and-more-handsome-part: Sean Connery. (But of course, few men can compete with Cary Grant!)