(born Archibald Alec Leach; January 18, 1904 – November
29, 1986) was an English-American actor, known as one of classic
Hollywood's definitive leading men. He began a career in Hollywood in
the early 1930s, and became known for his transatlantic accent,
debonair demeanor, and light-hearted approach to acting and sense of
comic timing. He became an American citizen in 1942.
Born in Horfield, Bristol, Grant became attracted to theatre at a
young age, and began performing with a troupe known as "The Penders"
from the age of six. After attending
Bishop Road Primary School
Bishop Road Primary School
Fairfield Grammar School
Fairfield Grammar School
in Bristol, he toured the country as a stage
performer, and decided to stay in New York City after a performance
there. He established a name for himself in vaudeville in the 1920s
and toured the United States before moving to Hollywood in the early
1930s. He initially appeared in crime films or dramas such as Blonde
Venus (1932) and
She Done Him Wrong
She Done Him Wrong
(1933), but later gained renown
for his appearances in romantic comedy and screwball comedy films such
The Awful Truth
The Awful Truth
Bringing Up Baby
Bringing Up Baby
(1938), His Girl Friday
(1940) and The Philadelphia Story (1940). Along with the later Arsenic
and Old Lace (1944) and
I Was a Male War Bride
I Was a Male War Bride
(1949); these films are
frequently cited as among the all-time great comedy films. Having
established himself as a major Hollywood star, he was nominated twice
for the Academy Award for Best Actor, for
None but the Lonely Heart (1944).
In the 1940s and 1950s, Grant forged a working relationship with the
director Alfred Hitchcock, appearing in films such as Suspicion
(1941), Notorious (1946),
To Catch a Thief
To Catch a Thief
(1955) and North by
Northwest (1959). Hitchcock admired Grant and considered him to have
been the only actor that he had ever loved working with. Towards the
end of his film career, Grant was praised by critics as a romantic
leading man, and received five Golden Globe Award for Best Actor
nominations, including Indiscreet (1958) with Ingrid Bergman, That
Touch of Mink (1962) with Doris Day, and Charade (1963) with Audrey
Hepburn. He is remembered by critics for his unusually broad appeal,
as a handsome, suave actor who did not take himself too seriously,
possessing the ability to play with his own dignity in comedies
without sacrificing it entirely. His comic timing and delivery made
Grant what Premiere magazine considers to have been "quite simply, the
funniest actor cinema has ever produced".
Grant was married five times; three of his marriages were elopements
(1934–1935), Betsy Drake
(1965–1968). He has one daughter with
(born 1966). After his retirement from film
acting in 1966, Grant pursued numerous business interests,
representing cosmetics firm Fabergé, and sitting on the board of MGM
and others. He was presented with an Honorary Oscar by his friend
42nd Academy Awards
42nd Academy Awards
in 1970, and in 1981, he was
accorded the Kennedy Center Honors. In 1999, the American Film
Institute named Grant the second greatest male star of Golden Age
Hollywood cinema, after Humphrey Bogart.
1 Early life and education
Vaudeville and performing career
3 Film career
3.1 Early roles (1932–1936)
3.2 Hollywood stardom and Oscar recognition (1937–1944)
3.3 Post-War success and slump (1946–1954)
3.4 A romantic leading man and final roles (1955–1966)
4 Later years
5 Business interests
6 Personal life
7 Screen persona
9 Filmography and stage work
13 External links
Early life and education
Grant was born Archibald Alec Leach[a] on January 18, 1904 at 15
Hughenden Road in the northern
Bristol suburb of Horfield. He
was the second child of Elias James Leach (1873–1935) and Elsie
Maria Leach (née Kingdon; 1877–1973). Elias worked as a tailor's
presser at a clothes factory while Elsie worked as a seamstress.
Grant's elder brother, John William Elias Leach (1899–1900), died of
tuberculous meningitis. Grant considered himself to have been
partly Jewish.[b] He had an unhappy upbringing; his father was an
alcoholic, and his mother suffered from clinical depression.
He had such a traumatic childhood, it was horrible. I work with a lot
of kids on the street and I've heard a lot of stories about what
happens when a family breaks down — but his was just
Dyan Cannon on his childhood.
Wanting the best for her son, Elsie taught Grant song and dance when
he was four, and was keen on him having piano lessons. She would
occasionally take him to the cinema where he enjoyed the performances
of Charlie Chaplin, Chester Conklin, Fatty Arbuckle, Ford Sterling,
Mack Swain and Broncho Billy Anderson. Grant entered education
when he was four-and-a-half and was sent to the Bishop Road Primary
Graham McCann mentions that Maureen Donaldson, a
lover of Grant in the 1970s, claimed in her book that his mother "did
not know how to give affection and did not know how to receive it
either." Another biographer, Geoffrey Wansell, notes that Elsie
blamed herself bitterly for the death of Grant's older brother John,
and never recovered from it.[c] Grant later acknowledged that his
negative experiences with his fiercely independent mother affected his
relationships with women later in life. She frowned on alcohol and
tobacco, and would reduce pocket money for minor mishaps. Grant
later attributed her behaviour towards him as down to her being
overprotective, fearing that she would lose him as she did John.
When Grant was nine years old, his father placed his mother in
Glenside Hospital (a mental institution), and told him that she had
gone away on a "long holiday", later declaring that she had
died. Grant grew up resenting his mother, particularly after she
left the family. After Elsie was gone, Grant and his father moved into
the home of his grandmother in Bristol. When Grant was 10, his
father remarried and started a new family that did not include his
son. Grant did not learn that his mother was still alive until he
was 31, when his father confessed to the lie, shortly before his
own death. Grant made arrangements for his mother to leave the
institution in June 1935, shortly after he learned of her
whereabouts. He visited her during a break to England in October
1938, after filming for Gunga Din was completed.
Due to alienation from his parents, he found it difficult to socialize
and had a nervous disposition. He enjoyed the theatre, particularly
pantomimes at Christmas which he would attend with his father.
Grant befriended a troupe of acrobatic dancers, known as "The Penders"
or the "Bob Pender Stage Troupe". He subsequently trained as a
stilt walker and began touring with them. During a two-week stint
at the Wintergarten theatre in Berlin circa 1914 he was noticed by
Jesse Lasky, who was a Broadway producer at the time.
Fairfield Grammar School, which Grant attended between 1915 and 1918
In 1915, Grant won a scholarship to attend
Fairfield Grammar School
Fairfield Grammar School in
Bristol, although his father could barely afford to pay for the
uniform. With his good looks and acrobatic talents Grant became a
popular figure among both girls and boys. Able at most
academic subjects,[d] he excelled at sports, particularly fives; he
developed a reputation for mischief, and frequently refused to do his
homework. A former classmate referred to him as a "scruffy little
boy", while an old teacher remembered "the naughty little boy who was
always making a noise in the back row and would never do his
homework". His evenings were spent working backstage in Bristol
theatres, and in 1917, at the age of 13, he was responsible for the
lighting for the magician
David Devant at the Hippodrome. Grant
began hanging around backstage at the theatre at every
opportunity. In the summer he volunteered for work as a messenger
boy and guide at the military docks in Southampton, to escape the
unhappiness of his home life. The time spent at Southampton
strengthened his desire to travel; he was eager to leave
tried to sign on as a ship's cabin boy, but learned he was too
On March 13, 1918, Grant was expelled from Fairfield. Several
explanations were given, including being discovered in the girls'
lavatory, and assisting two other classmates with theft in the
nearby town of Almondsbury. Wansell claims that Grant had set out
intentionally to get himself expelled from school to pursue a career
in entertainment with the troupe.
Grant rejoined Pender's troupe three days after being expelled from
Fairfield. Elias now had a better paying job in Southampton; Grant's
expulsion from the school brought local authorities to his door with
questions about why his son was living in
Bristol and not with his
father in Southampton. Upon learning that his son was once again with
the Pender troupe, Elias co-signed a three-year contract between his
son and Pender. The contract stipulated Grant's weekly salary along
with room and board, as well as dancing lessons and other training for
his profession until the age of 18. There was also a provision in the
contract for salary rises based on job performance.
Vaudeville and performing career
The New York Hippodrome, where Grant was a performer
Without school to attend, Grant rejoined the Pender Troupe, and
accepted a salary of 10 shillings a week from Pender. The group
began touring the county, and Grant developed the ability in pantomime
to broaden his physical acting skills. On July 21, 1920, at the
age of 16, Grant travelled with the group on the RMS Olympic to
conduct a tour of the United States, arriving a week later.
Richard Schickel claims that
Douglas Fairbanks and Mary
Pickford were aboard the same ship, returning from their honeymoon,
and that Grant played shuffleboard with him. He was so impressed with
Fairbanks that the actor became an important role model. After
arriving in New York, the group performed at the New York
Hippodrome—the largest theatre in the world at the time with a
capacity of 5,697—for nine months, putting on twelve shows a
week; their production of Good Times was successful.
Doing stand-up comedy is extremely difficult. Your timing has to
change from show to show and from town to town. You're always
adjusting to the size of the audience and the size of the theatre.
—Grant on stand-up comedy.
Grant became a part of the vaudeville circuit and began touring. After
performing in places such as St. Louis, Missouri,
Milwaukee, he made the decision to stay in the US with several of
the other members, while the rest of the troupe returned to
Britain. He remembered becoming fond of the performances of the
Marx Brothers during this period and
Zeppo Marx was an early role
model for him. In July 1922, Grant performed in a group with seven
others, the "Knockabout Comedians", at the Palace Theatre on
Broadway. He formed a group that summer, "The Walking Stanleys",
with several of the former members of the Pender Troupe, and starred
in a variety show named "Better Times" at the Hippodrome towards the
end of the year. After meeting George C. Tilyou, the owner of the
Steeplechase Park racecourse on
Coney Island at a party, Grant was
hired to appear there on stilts and attracted large crowds, wearing a
bright-great coat and a sandwich board which advertised the
The Casino Theatre on Broadway and 39th Street, where Grant appeared
in Shubert's "Boom-Boom"
Grant spent the next couple of years touring the United States with
"The Walking Stanleys". He visited Los Angeles for the first time in
1924, which left a lasting impression upon him. After the group
split up he returned to New York, where he began living and performing
at the National
Vaudeville Artists Club on West 46th Street, juggling,
performing acrobatics and comic sketches and having a short spell as a
unicycle rider known as "Rubber Legs". The experience was a
particularly demanding one, but gave Grant the opportunity to improve
his comic technique and develop skills which would benefit him later
Grant became a leading man alongside Jean Dalrymple, and decided to
form the "Jack Janis Company", which began touring vaudeville. He
was sometimes mistaken for an Australian during this period, and was
nicknamed "Kangaroo" or "Boomerang". Grant's accent seemed to have
changed as a result of moving to London with the Pender troupe and
working in many music halls in the UK and the US, eventually becoming
what some term a transatlantic or mid-Atlantic accent.[e] In 1927,
he was cast as an Australian in Reggie Hammerstein's musical, Golden
Dawn, for which he earned $75 a week. Although the show was not
well received, it lasted for 184 performances, and several critics
started to notice the "pleasant new juvenile" or "competent young
newcomer". The following year he joined the William Morris Agency
and was offered another juvenile part by Hammerstein, in his play
Polly, an unsuccessful production. One critic wrote that Grant
"has a strong masculine manner, but unfortunately fails to bring out
the beauty of the score." Wansell notes that the pressure of a
failing production began to make him fret, and he was eventually
dropped from the run after six weeks of poor reviews. Despite the
set back, Hammerstein's rival
Florenz Ziegfeld made an attempt to buy
Grant's contract, but Hammerstein sold it to the Shubert Brothers
J. J. Shubert cast him in a small role as a Spaniard
Jeanette MacDonald in the French risqué comedy production of
Boom-Boom at the Casino Theatre on Broadway, which premiered on
January 28, 1929. MacDonald later admitted that he was "absolutely
terrible in the role", but exhibited a charm which endeared him to
people and effectively saved the show from failure. The play ran
for 72 shows, and Grant earned $350 a week before moving to
Detroit, then Chicago.[f]
Grant in 1930
To console himself, Grant bought a 1927
Packard sport phaeton. He
visited his half-brother, Eric, in England, and upon returning to New
York later in the year, he played the role of Max Grunewald in a
Shubert production of A Wonderful Night. It premiered at the
Majestic Theatre on October 31, 1929, two days after the Wall Street
Crash, and lasted for 125 shows until February 1930. The play
received mixed reviews; one critic criticized his acting, likening it
to a "mixture of
John Barrymore and cockney", while another announced
that he had brought a "breath of elfin Broadway" to the role.
Though he began to gain recognition, Grant still found it difficult
forming relationships with women, remarking that "In all those years
in the theatre, on the road and in New York, surrounded by all sorts
of attractive girls, I never seemed able to fully communicate with
In 1930, Grant toured for nine months in a production of the musical,
The Street Singer. After the production came to end in early 1931,
the Shuberts invited him to spend the summer performing on the stage
The Muny in St. Louis, Missouri; he appeared in twelve different
productions, putting on 87 shows.[g] He received praise from local
newspapers for these performances, gaining a reputation as a romantic
leading man. Significant influences on his acting in this period
were Sir Gerald du Maurier, A. E. Matthews,
Jack Buchanan and Ronald
Squire. He later admitted that he was drawn to acting because of a
"great need to be liked and admired". Grant was eventually fired by
the Shuberts at the end of the summer season when he refused to accept
a pay cut because of financial difficulties caused by the
Depression. His unemployment was short lived; impresario William
B. Friedlander offered him the lead romantic part in his new musical,
Nikki, in which Grant starred opposite
Fay Wray as a soldier in
post-World War I France. The production opened on September 29, 1931
in New York, but was stopped after just 39 performances due to the
effects of the Depression.
Cary Grant on stage, radio and screen
Early roles (1932–1936)
Roland Young (right),
Lili Damita (center), and Charlie Ruggles
(far left) in his debut film This is the Night (1932)
Grant's role in Nikki was praised by
Ed Sullivan of The New York Daily
News, who noted that the "young lad from England" had "a big future in
the movies". The review led to another screen test by Paramount
Publix, resulting in appearance as a sailor in
Singapore Sue (1932), a
ten-minute short film by Casey Robinson. Grant delivers his lines
"without any conviction" according to McCann.[h] Through Robinson,
Grant met with
Jesse L. Lasky
Jesse L. Lasky and B. P. Schulberg, the co-founder and
general manager of
Paramount Pictures respectively. After a
successful screen-test directed by Marion Gering.[i] Schulberg signed
a contract with the 27-year-old Grant on December 7, 1931 for five
years, at a starting salary of $450 a week. Schulberg demanded
that he change his name to "something that sounded more all-American
like Gary Cooper", and they eventually agreed on Cary Grant.[j]
Grant set out to establish himself as what McCann calls the "epitome
of masculine glamour", and made
Douglas Fairbanks his first role
model. McCann notes that Grant's career in Hollywood immediately
took off because he exhibited a "genuine charm", which made him stand
out among the other good looking actors at the time, making it
"remarkably easy to find people who were willing to support his
embryonic career". He made his feature film debut with the Frank
Tuttle-directed comedy This is the Night (1932), playing an Olympic
javelin thrower opposite
Thelma Todd and Lili Damita. Grant
disliked his role and threatened to leave Hollywood, but to his
surprise a critic from Variety praised his performance, and thought
that he looked like a "potential femme rave".
In 1932, Grant played a wealthy playboy opposite
Marlene Dietrich in
Blonde Venus, directed by Josef von Sternberg. Grant's role is
described by William Rothman as projecting the "distinctive kind of
nonmacho masculinity that was to enable him to incarnate a man capable
of being a romantic hero". Grant found that he conflicted with the
director during the filming and the two often argued in German. He
played a suave playboy type in a number of films: Merrily We Go to
Frederic March and Sylvia Sidney, Devil and the Deep
alongside Gary Cooper,
Charles Laughton and Tallulah Bankhead, Hot
Nancy Carroll and Randolph Scott, and Madame
Butterfly with Sidney. According to biographer Marc Eliot,
while these films did not make Grant a star, they did well enough to
establish him as one of Hollywood's "new crop of fast-rising
Mae West in
I'm No Angel
I'm No Angel (1933)
In 1933, Grant gained attention for appearing in the pre-Code films
She Done Him Wrong[k] and
I'm No Angel
I'm No Angel opposite Mae West. West would
later claim that she had discovered Cary Grant.[l] Pauline Kael
noted that Grant did not appear confident in his role as a Salvation
Army director in She Done Him Wrong, which made it all the more
charming. The film was a box office hit, earning more than $2
million in the United States, and has since won much acclaim.[m]
For I'm No Angel, Grant's salary was increased from $450 to $750 a
week. The film was even more successful than She Done Him Wrong,
and saved Paramount from bankruptcy; Vermilye cites it as one of
the best comedy films of the 1930s.
After a string of financially unsuccessful films, which included roles
as a president of a company who is sued for knocking down a boy in an
accident in Born to Be Bad (1934) for 20th Century Fox,[n] a cosmetic
Kiss and Make-Up
Kiss and Make-Up (1934), and a blinded pilot opposite
Myrna Loy in
Wings in the Dark
Wings in the Dark (1935), successive poor box office
takings and press reports of his fledging marriage to Cherrill,[o] led
Paramount to form the conclusion that Grant was now
Grant's prospects picked up in the latter half of 1935 when he was
loaned to RKO Pictures. Producer
Pandro Berman agreed to take him
on in the face of failure because "I'd seen him do things which were
excellent, and [Katharine] Hepburn wanted him too." For his first
venture with RKO, playing a raffish cockney swindler in George Cukor's
Sylvia Scarlett (1935), he began the first of four collaborations with
Hepburn.[q] Though a commercial failure, his dominating
performance was praised by critics, and Grant always considered
the film to have been the breakthrough for his career. When his
contract with Paramount ended in 1936 with the release of Wedding
Present, Grant decided not to renew it and wished to work freelance.
Grant claimed to be the first freelance actor in Hollywood and the
lack of central contract helped increase his salary to $300,000 per
picture. His first venture as a freelance actor was The Amazing
Quest of Ernest Bliss (1936), which was shot in England. The film
was a box office bomb and prompted Grant to reconsider his decision.
Critical and commercial success with Suzy later that year in which he
played a French airman opposite
Jean Harlow and Franchot Tone, led to
him signing joint contracts with RKO and Columbia Pictures, enabling
him to choose the stories that he felt suited his acting style.
His Columbia contract was a four-film deal over two years,
guaranteeing him $50,000 each for the first two and $75,000 each for
Hollywood stardom and Oscar recognition (1937–1944)
In 1937, Grant began the first film under his contract with Columbia
Pictures, When You're in Love, portraying a wealthy American artist
who eventually woos a famous opera singer (Grace Moore). His
performance received positive feedback from critics, with Mae Tinee of
The Chicago Daily Tribune describing it as the "best thing he's done
in a long time". After a commercial failure in his first RKO
venture The Toast of New York, Grant was loaned to Hal
Roach's studio for Topper, a screwball comedy film distributed by MGM,
which became his first major comedy success. Grant played one
half of a wealthy, freewheeling married couple with Constance
Bennett, who wreak havoc on the world as ghosts after dying in a
car accident. Topper became one of the most popular movies of the
year, with a critic from Variety noting that both Grant and Bennett
"do their assignments with great skill". Vermilye described the
film's success as "a logical springboard" for Grant to star in The
Awful Truth that year, his first film made with
Irene Dunne and
Ralph Bellamy. Though director
Leo McCarey reportedly disliked
Grant, who had mocked the director by enacting his mannerisms in
the film, he recognized Grant's comic talents and encouraged him
to improvize his lines and draw upon his skills developed in
vaudeville. The film was a critical and commercial success and
made Grant a top Hollywood star, establishing a screen persona
for him as a sophisticated light comedy leading man in screwball
Hepburn and Grant in
Bringing Up Baby
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
The Awful Truth
The Awful Truth began what film critic Benjamin Schwarz of The
Atlantic later called "the most spectacular run ever for an actor in
American pictures" for Grant. In 1938, he starred opposite
Katharine Hepburn in the screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby, featuring
a leopard and frequent bickering and verbal jousting between Grant and
Hepburn. He was initially uncertain how to play his character,
but was told by director
Howard Hawks to think of Harold Lloyd.
Grant was given more leeway in the comic scenes, the editing of the
film and in educating Hepburn in the art of comedy. Despite
losing over $350,000 for RKO, the film earned rave reviews from
critics. He again appeared with Hepburn in the romantic comedy
Holiday later that year, which did not fare well commercially, to the
point that Hepburn was considered to be "box office poison" at the
Despite a series of commercial failures, Grant was now more popular
than ever and in high demand. According to Vermilye, in 1939,
Grant played roles that were more dramatic, albeit with comical
undertones. He played a British army sergeant opposite Douglas
Fairbanks, Jr. in the George Stevens-directed adventure film Gunga
Din, set at a military station in India.[r] Roles as a pilot
Jean Arthur and
Rita Hayworth in Hawks's Only Angels Have
Wings, and a wealthy landowner alongside
Carole Lombard in In
Name Only followed.
In 1940, Grant played a callous newspaper editor who learns that his
ex-wife and former journalist, played by Rosalind Russell, is to marry
an insurance officer in the comedy His Girl Friday, which was
praised for its strong chemistry and "great verbal athleticism"
between Grant and Russell.[s] Grant reunited with Irene
Dunne in My Favorite Wife, a "first rate comedy" according to Life
magazine, which became RKO's second biggest picture of the year,
with profits of $505,000.[t] After playing a Virginian
backwoodsman in the American Revolution-set The Howards of Virginia,
which McCann considers to have been Grant's worst film and
performance, his last film of the year was in the critically
lauded romantic comedy The Philadelphia Story, in which he played the
ex-husband of Hepburn's character. Grant felt his
performance was so strong that he was bitterly disappointed not to
have received an Oscar nomination, and joked "I'd have to blacken my
teeth first before the Academy will take me seriously".
Joan Fontaine in a publicity photo for Suspicion (1941)
The following year Grant was considered for the Academy Award for Best
Actor for Penny Serenade—his first nomination from the academy.
Wansell claims that Grant found the film to be an emotional
experience, because he and wife-to-be
Barbara Hutton had started to
discuss having their own children. Later that year he appeared in
the romantic psychological thriller Suspicion, the first of Grant's
four collaborations with director Alfred Hitchcock. Grant did not warm
to co-star Joan Fontaine, finding her to be temperamental and
unprofessional. Film critic
Bosley Crowther of The New York Times
considered that Grant was "provokingly irresponsible, boyishly gay and
also oddly mysterious, as the role properly demands". Hitchcock
later stated that he thought the ending of the film in which Grant is
sent to jail instead of committing suicide "a complete mistake because
of making that story with Cary Grant. Unless you have a cynical ending
it makes the story too simple".
Geoff Andrew of Time Out believes
Suspicion served as "a supreme example of Grant's ability to be
simultaneously charming and sinister".
In 1942 Grant participated in a three-week tour of the United States
as part of a group to help the war effort and was photographed
visiting wounded marines in hospital. He appeared in several routines
of his own during these shows and often played the straight-man
opposite Bert Lahr. In May 1942, the ten-minute propaganda short
Road to Victory was released, in which he appeared alongside Bing
Frank Sinatra and Charles Ruggles. On film, Grant played
Leopold Dilg, a convict on the run in The
Talk of the Town (1942), who
escapes after being wrongly convicted of arson and murder. He hides in
a house with characters played by
Jean Arthur and Ronald Colman, and
gradually plots to secure his freedom. Crowther praised the script,
and noted that Grant played Dilg with a "casualness which is slightly
disturbing". After a role as a foreign correspondent opposite
Ginger Rogers and
Walter Slezak in the off-beat comedy Once Upon a
Honeymoon, in which he was praised for his scenes with
Rogers, he appeared in Mr. Lucky the following year, playing a
gambler in a casino aboard a ship. The commercially successful
submarine war film
Destination Tokyo (1943) was shot in just six weeks
in the September and October, which left him exhausted; the
Newsweek thought it was one of the finest performances
of his career.
In 1944, Grant starred alongside Priscilla Lane,
Raymond Massey and
Peter Lorre, in Frank Capra's dark comedy Arsenic and Old Lace,
playing the manic Mortimer Brewster, who belongs to a bizarre family
which includes two murderous aunts and an uncle claiming to be
President Teddy Roosevelt. Grant took up the role after it was
originally offered to Bob Hope, who turned it down owing to schedule
conflicts. Grant found the macabre subject matter of the
film difficult to contend with and believed that it was the worst
performance of his career. That year he received his second Oscar
nomination for a role, opposite
Ethel Barrymore and Barry Fitzgerald
in the Clifford Odets-directed film None but the Lonely Heart, set in
London during the Depression. Late in the year he featured in the
CBS Radio series Suspense, playing a tormented character who
hysterically discovers that his amnesia has affected masculine order
in society in "The Black Curtain".
Post-War success and slump (1946–1954)
Ingrid Bergman in Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious (1946)
After making a brief cameo appearance opposite
Claudette Colbert in
Without Reservations, Grant portrayed
Cole Porter in the musical
Night and Day (1946). The production proved to be problematic,
with scenes often requiring multiple takes, frustrating the cast and
crew. Grant next appeared with
Ingrid Bergman and
Claude Rains in
the Hitchcock-directed film Notorious (1946), playing a government
agent who recruits the American daughter of a convicted Nazi spy
(Bergman) to infiltrate a Nazi organization in Brazil after World War
II. During the course of the film Grant and Bergman's characters
fall in love and share one of the longest kisses in film history at
around two-and-a-half minutes. Wansell notes how Grant's
performance "underlined how far his unique qualities as a screen actor
had matured in the years since The Awful Truth".
In 1947, Grant played an artist who becomes involved in a court case
when charged with assault in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer,
Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple. The film was praised
by the critics, who admired the picture's slapstick qualities and
chemistry between Grant and Loy; it became one of the
biggest-selling films at the box office that year. Later that
year he starred opposite
David Niven and
Loretta Young in the comedy
The Bishop's Wife, playing an angel who is sent down from heaven to
straighten out the relationship between the bishop (Niven) and his
wife (Loretta Young). The film was a major commercial and
critical success, and was nominated for five Academy Awards. Life
magazine called it "intelligently written and competently acted".
The following year, Grant played neurotic Jim Blandings, the
title-sake in the comedy Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, again
with Loy. Though the film picture lost a lot of money for RKO,
Philip T. Hartung of Commonweal thought that Grant's role as the
"frustrated advertising man" was one of his best screen
portrayals. In Every Girl Should Be Married, an "airy comedy", he
Betsy Drake and Franchot Tone, playing a bachelor who is
trapped into marriage by Drake's conniving character. He finished
the year as the fourth most popular film star at the box office.
Grant dressed as a woman with
Ann Sheridan in I Was a Male War Bride
In 1949, Grant starred alongside
Ann Sheridan in the comedy I Was a
Male War Bride in which he appeared in scenes dressed as a woman,
wearing a skirt and a wig. During the filming he was taken ill
with infectious hepatitis and lost weight, affecting the way he looked
in the picture. The film proved to be successful, becoming the
highest-grossing film for
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox that year with over $4.5
million in takings and being likened to Hawks's screwball comedies of
the late 1930s. By this point he was one of the highest paid
Hollywood stars, commanding $300,000 per picture.
The early 1950s marked the beginning of a slump in Grant's
career. His roles as a top brain surgeon who is caught in
the middle of a bitter revolution in a Latin American country in
Crisis, and as a medical-school professor and orchestra conductor
Jeanne Crain in People Will Talk were poorly
received.  Grant had become tired of being
Cary Grant after
twenty years, being successful, wealthy and popular, and remarked: "To
play yourself, your true self, is the hardest thing in the
world". In 1952, Grant starred in the comedy Room for One More,
playing an engineer husband who with his wife (Betsy Drake) adopt two
children from an orphanage. He reunited with
Howard Hawks to
film the off-beat comedy Monkey Business, co-starring Ginger Rogers
and Marilyn Monroe. Though the critic from Motion Picture Herald
wrote gushingly that Grant had given a career's best with an
"extraordinary and agile performance", which was matched by
Rogers, it received a mixed reception overall.[u] Grant had hoped
that starring opposite
Deborah Kerr in the romantic comedy Dream Wife
would salvage his career, but it was a critical and financial
failure upon release in July 1953. Though he was considered for the
leading part in A Star is Born, Grant believed that his film career
was over, and briefly left the industry.
A romantic leading man and final roles (1955–1966)
Grace Kelly in
To Catch a Thief
To Catch a Thief (1955)
In 1955, Grant agreed to star opposite
Grace Kelly in To Catch a
Thief, playing a retired jewel thief nicknamed "The Cat", living in
the French Riviera. Grant and Kelly worked well together during
the production, which was one of the most enjoyable experiences of
Grant's career. He found Hitchcock and Kelly to be very
professional, and later stated that Kelly was "possibly the
finest actress I've ever worked with".[v] Grant was one of the
first actors to go independent by not renewing his studio
contract, effectively leaving the studio system, which almost
completely controlled all aspects of an actor's life. He decided
which films he was going to appear in, often had personal choice of
directors and co-stars, and at times negotiated a share of the gross
revenue, something uncommon at the time. Grant received more than
$700,000 for his 10% of the gross of the successful To Catch a Thief,
while Hitchcock received less than $50,000 for directing and producing
it. Though critical reception to the overall film was mixed,
Grant received high praise for his performance, with critics
commenting on his suave, handsome appearance in the film.
Promotional still of Grant for Indiscreet (1958)
In 1957, Grant starred opposite Kerr in the romance An Affair to
Remember, playing an international playboy who becomes the object of
her affections. Schickel sees the film as one of the definitive
romantic pictures of the period, but remarks that Grant was not
entirely successful in trying to supersede the film's "gushing
sentimentality". That year, Grant also appeared opposite Sophia
Loren in The Pride and the Passion. He had expressed an interest in
playing William Holden's character in
The Bridge on the River Kwai
The Bridge on the River Kwai at
the time, but found that it was not possible because of his commitment
to The Pride and the Passion. The film was shot on location in
Spain and was problematic, with co-star
Frank Sinatra irritating his
colleagues and leaving the production after just a few weeks.
Grant's attempts to woo Loren during the production proved
fruitless,[w] which led to him expressing anger when Paramount cast
her opposite him in Houseboat (1958) as part of her contract. The
sexual tension between the two was so great during the making of
Houseboat that the producers found it almost impossible to make.
Later in 1958, Grant starred opposite Bergman in the romantic comedy
Indiscreet, playing a successful financier who has an affair with a
famous actress (Bergman) while pretending to be a married man.
During the filming he formed a closer friendship and gained new
respect for her as an actress. Schickel stated that he thought
the film was possibly the finest romantic comedy film of the era, and
that Grant himself had professed that it was one of his personal
favorites. Grant received his first of five Golden Globe Award
for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy nominations
for his performance and finished the year as the most popular film
star at the box office.
Grant in the crop duster chase in
North by Northwest
North by Northwest (1959)
In 1959, Grant starred in the Hitchcock-directed film North by
Northwest, playing an advertising executive who becomes embroiled in a
case of mistaken identity. Like Indiscreet, it was warmly
received by the critics and was a major commercial success, and
is now often listed as one of the greatest films of all time.[x]
Weiler, writing in The New York Times, praised Grant's performance,
remarking that the actor "was never more at home than in this role of
the advertising-man-on-the-lam" and handled the role "with
professional aplomb and grace". Grant wore one of his most iconic
suits in the film which became very popular, a fourteen-gauge,
mid-gray, worsted wool one custom-made on Savile Row. Grant
finished the year playing a U. S. Navy Rear Admiral aboard a submarine
Tony Curtis in the comedy Operation Petticoat. The
reviewer from Daily Variety saw Grant's comic portrayal as a classic
example of how to attract the laughter of the audience without lines,
remarking that "In this film, most of the gags play off him. It is his
reaction, blank, startled, etc., always underplayed, that creates or
releases the humor". The film was major box office success, and
in 1973, Deschner ranked the film as the highest earning film of
Grant's career at the US box office, with takings of $9.5
In 1960, Grant appeared opposite Robert Mitchum,
Jean Simmons and
Deborah Kerr in The Grass Is Greener, which was shot in England at
Osterley Park and Shepperton Studios. McCann notes that Grant
took great relish in "mocking his aristocratic character's
over-refined tastes and mannerisms", though the film was panned
and was seen as his worst since Dream Wife. In 1962, Grant
starred in the romantic comedy That Touch of Mink, playing suave,
wealthy businessman Philip Shayne romantically involved with an office
worker, played by Doris Day. He invites her to his apartment in
Bermuda, but her guilty conscience begins to take hold. The
picture was praised by critics, and it received three Academy Award
nominations, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Comedy
Picture, in addition to another Golden Globe Award for Best Actor
nomination. Deschner ranked the film as the second highest
grossing of Grant's career.
Audrey Hepburn in Charade (1963)
Albert R. Broccoli
Albert R. Broccoli and
Harry Saltzman originally sought
Grant for the role of James Bond in Dr. No (1962) but discarded the
idea as Grant would be committed to only one feature film; therefore,
the producers decided to go after someone who could be part of a
franchise. In 1963, Grant appeared in his last typically suave,
romantic role opposite
Audrey Hepburn in Charade. Grant found the
experience of working with Hepburn "wonderful" and believed that their
close relationship was clear on camera, though according to
Hepburn, he was particularly worried during the filming that he would
be criticized for being far too old for her and seen as a "cradle
snatcher". Author Chris Barsanti writes: "It's the film's canny
flirtatiousness that makes it such ingenious entertainment. Grant and
Hepburn play off each other like the pros that they are". The
film, well received by the critics, is often called "the best
Hitchcock film Hitchcock never made".
In 1964, Grant changed from his typically suave, distinguished screen
persona to play a grizzled beachcomber Walter Eckland who is hired by
a Commander (Trevor Howard) to serve as a lookout on Matalava Island
for invading Japanese planes in the World War II romantic comedy,
Father Goose. The film was a major commercial success, and upon
its release at Radio City at Christmas 1964 it took over $210,000 at
the box-office in the first week, breaking the record set by Charade
the previous year. Grant's final film,
Walk, Don't Run
Walk, Don't Run (1966), a
Jim Hutton and Samantha Eggar, was shot on location
in Tokyo, and is set amid the backdrop of the housing shortage of
the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Newsweek concluded: "Though Grant's
personal presence is indispensable, the character he plays is almost
wholly superfluous. Perhaps the inference to be taken is that a man in
his 50s or 60s has no place in romantic comedy except as a catalyst.
If so, the chemistry is wrong for everyone". Hitchcock had asked
Grant to star in
Torn Curtain that year only to learn that he had
decided to retire.
Grant in 1973 photographed by Allan Warren
Grant retired from the screen at 62, when his daughter Jennifer was
born, to focus on bringing her up and to provide a sense of permanency
and stability in her life. He had become increasingly
disillusioned with cinema in the 1960s, rarely finding a script that
he approved of. He remarked: "I could have gone on acting and playing
a grandfather or a bum, but I discovered more important things in
life". Grant knew after he had made Charade that the "Golden Age"
of Hollywood was now over. He expressed little interest in making
a career comeback, and continued to respond to invites or mention of
it with "fat chance". He did, however, briefly appear in the
video documentary for Elvis's 1970 Las Vegas concert Elvis: That's the
Way It Is, in the audience. When he was gifted with the negatives
from a number of his films in the 1970s, Grant sold them to television
for a sum of over two million dollars in 1975.
Morecambe and Stirling argue that Grant's abstinence from film after
1966 was "not the actions of a man who had irrevocably turned his back
on the film industry, but one who was caught between a decision made
and the temptation to a eat a bit of humble pie and re-announce
himself to the cinema-going public". In the 1970s,
MGM was keen
on remaking Grand Hotel (1932), and hoped to lure Grant into coming
out of retirement to star. Hitchcock had long wanted to make a film
based on the idea of Hamlet, with Grant in the lead role. Grant
Warren Beatty had made a big effort to try to get him to
play the role of Mr. Jordan in Heaven Can Wait (1978), which
eventually went to James Mason. Morecambe and Stirling claim that
Grant had also expressed an interest in appearing in A Touch of Class
The Verdict (1982) and a film adaptation of William Goldman's
1983 novel Adventures in the Screen Trade.
Grant in the 1980s
In the late 1970s and early 1980s Grant became troubled by the deaths
of so many of his close friends, including
Howard Hughes in 1976,
Howard Hawks in 1977, Lord Mountbatten and
Barbara Hutton in 1979,
Alfred Hitchcock in 1980,
Grace Kelly and
Ingrid Bergman in 1982, and
David Niven in 1983. At the funeral of Mountbatten he was quoted as
remarking to a friend: "I'm absolutely pooped, and I'm so goddamned
old...I'm going to quit all next year. I'm going to lie in bed...I
shall just close all doors, turn off the telephone, and enjoy my
life". Kelly's death was the hardest hitting on Grant, as the
death was unexpected, and the two remained close friends after filming
To Catch a Thief.[y] Grant visited Monaco three or four times each
year during his retirement, and showed his support for Kelly by
joining the board of the Princess Grace Foundation.
In 1980, the
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Los Angeles County Museum of Art put on a two-month
retrospective of over 40 of Grant's films. In 1982, he was
honored with the "Man of the Year" award by the New York Friars Club
at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. He turned 80 in 1984; Peter
Bogdanovich noticed that a "serenity" had come over the actor.
Grant was in good health until suffering a mild stroke in October that
year. In the last few years of his life, he undertook tours of
the United States in a one-man show, A Conversation with Cary Grant,
in which he would show clips from his films and answer audience
questions. He made some 36 public appearances in his last
four years, from New Jersey to Texas, and found his audiences changed
from elderly film buffs to enthusiastic college students discovering
his films for the first time. Grant admitted that he thought the
appearances were "ego-fodder", remarking that "I know who I am inside
and outside, but it's nice to have the outside, at least,
Grant in 1973
Stirling refers to Grant as "one of the shrewdest businessmen ever to
operate in Hollywood". His long-term friendship with Howard
Hughes from the 1930s onward saw him invited into the most glamorous
circles in Hollywood and their lavish parties. Biographers
Morecambe and Stirling state that Hughes played a major role in the
development of Grant's business interests, so that by 1939, he was
"already an astute operator with various commercial interests".
Scott also played a role, encouraging Grant to invest his money in
shares, making him a wealthy man by the end of the 1930s. In the
1940s, Grant and
Barbara Hutton invested heavily in real estate
Acapulco at a time when it was little more than a
fishing village, and teamed with Richard Widmark, Roy Rogers, and
Red Skelton to buy a hotel there. Behind his business interests
was a particularly intelligent mind, to the point that his friend
David Niven once said: "Before computers went into general release,
Cary had one in his brain". Film critic David Thomson believes
that Grant's intelligence came across on screen, and stated that "no
one else looked so good and so intelligent at the same time".
After Grant retired from the screen, he became more active in
business. He accepted a position on the board of directors at
Fabergé. This position was not honorary, as some had assumed;
Grant regularly attended meetings and travelled internationally to
support them. His pay was modest in comparison to the millions of
his film career, a salary of a reported $15,000 a year. Such was
Grant's influence on the company that
George Barrie once claimed that
Grant had played a role in the growth of the firm to annual revenues
of about $50 million in 1968, a growth of nearly 80% since the
inaugural year in 1964. The position also permitted use of a
private plane, which Grant could use to fly to see his daughter
wherever her mother, Dyan Cannon, was working.
In 1975, Grant was an appointed director of MGM. In 1980, he sat on
the board of
MGM Films and
MGM Grand Hotels following the division of
the parent company. He played an active role in the promotion of MGM
Grand Hotel in Las Vegas when opened in 1973, and he continued to
promote the city throughout the 1970s. When
Allan Warren met
Grant for a photo shoot that year he noticed how tired Grant looked,
and his "slightly melancholic air". Grant later joined the boards
of Hollywood Park, the Academy of Magical Arts (The Magic Castle,
Hollywood, California), and Western Airlines (acquired by Delta Air
Lines in 1987).
Grant in 1973
One of the wealthiest stars in Hollywood, Grant owned houses in
Beverly Hills, Malibu, and Palm Springs. He was immaculate in his
personal grooming, and Edith Head, the renowned Hollywood costume
designer, appreciated his "meticulous" attention to detail and
considered him to have had the greatest fashion sense of any actor she
had worked with. McCann attests his "almost obsessive
maintenance" with tanning, which deepened the older he got, to
Douglas Fairbanks, who also had a major influence on his refined sense
of dress. McCann notes that because Grant came from a
working-class background and was not well educated, he made a
particular effort over the course of his career to mix with high
society and absorb their knowledge, manners and etiquette to
compensate and cover it up. His image was meticulously crafted
from the early days in Hollywood, where he would frequently sunbathe
and avoid being photographed smoking, despite smoking two packs a day
at the time. Grant quit smoking in the early 1950s through
hypnotherapy. He remained health conscious, staying very trim and
athletic even into his late career, though Grant admitted he "never
crook[ed] a finger to keep fit". He confessed that he did
"everything in moderation. Except making love".
Grant's daughter Jennifer stated that her father made hundreds of
friends from all walks of life, and that their house was frequently
visited by the likes of Frank and Barbara Sinatra, Quincy Jones,
Gregory Peck and his wife Veronique,
Johnny Carson and his wife, Kirk
Kerkorian and Merv Griffin. She said that Grant and Sinatra were the
closest of friends and that both men were remarkably similar in that
they both shared a similar radiance and "indefinable incandescence of
charm", and were eternally "high on life". While raising
Jennifer, Grant archived artifacts of her childhood and adolescence in
a bank-quality, room-sized vault he had installed in the house.
Jennifer attributed this meticulous collection to the fact that
artifacts of his own childhood had been destroyed during the
Luftwaffe's bombing of
Bristol in the Second World War (an event that
also claimed the lives of his uncle, aunt, cousin, and the cousin's
husband and grandson), and he may have wanted to prevent her from
experiencing a similar loss.
Randolph Scott (left) in 1933 (from Modern Screen
promotional feature "The Modern Hostess")
Grant lived with actor
Randolph Scott off and on for 12 years, which
some claimed was a gay relationship. The two met early on in
Grant's career in 1932 at the Paramount studio when Scott was filming
Sky Bride while Grant was shooting Sinners in the Sun, and moved in
together soon afterwards. Scott's biographer Robert Nott states
that there is no evidence that Grant and Scott were homosexual, and
blames rumors on material written about them in other books.
Grant's daughter, Jennifer, also denied the claims. When Chevy
Chase joked on television in 1980 that Grant was a "homo. What a
gal!", Grant sued him for slander, and Chase was forced to retract his
words. Grant became a fan of
Morecambe and Wise
Morecambe and Wise in the 1960s, and
remained friends with
Eric Morecambe until his death in 1984.
Grant began experimenting with the drug LSD in the late 1950s,
before it became popular. His wife, Betsy Drake, displayed a keen
interest in psychotherapy, and through her Grant developed a
considerable knowledge of the field of psychoanalysis. Radiologist
Mortimer Hartman began treating him with LSD in the late 1950s, with
Grant optimistic that the treatment could make him feel better about
himself and rid of all of his inner turmoil stemming from his
childhood and his failed relationships. He had an estimated 100
sessions over several years. For a long time, Grant viewed the
drug positively, and stated that it was the solution after many years
of "searching for his peace of mind", and that for first time in his
life he was "truly, deeply and honestly happy". Cannon claimed
during a court hearing, in which she claimed he was an "apostle of
LSD", that he was still taking the drug in 1967 as part of a remedy to
save their relationship. Grant later admitted that "taking LSD
was an utterly foolish thing to do but I was a self-opinionated boor,
hiding all kinds of layers and defences, hypocrisy and vanity. I had
to get rid of them and wipe the slate clean".
Grant's second wife
Barbara Hutton in May 1931
Grant was married five times. He wed
Virginia Cherrill on
February 9, 1934, at the
Caxton Hall registry office in London.
She divorced him on March 26, 1935, following charges that Grant
had hit her. The two were involved in a bitter divorce case which
was widely reported in the press, with Cherrill demanding $1000 a week
from her husband in benefits from his Paramount earnings. After
the demise of the marriage, he dated actress
Phyllis Brooks from 1937.
They had considered marriage, and vacationed together in Europe in
mid-1939, visiting the Roman villa of Dorothy di Frasso in Italy,
before the relationship ended later that year.
Grant became a naturalized United States citizen on June 26, 1942, at
which time he also legally changed his name to "Cary Grant".
At the time of his naturalization, he listed his middle name as
"Alexander" rather than "Alec".
That year he married Barbara Hutton, one of the wealthiest women
in the world following a $50 million inheritance from her grandfather,
Frank Winfield Woolworth. The couple was derisively nicknamed
"Cash and Cary", although in an extensive prenuptial agreement
Grant refused any financial settlement in the event of a divorce,
to avoid the accusation that he married for money.[z] Towards the end
of their marriage they lived in a white mansion at 10615 Bellagio Road
in Bel Air. After divorcing in 1945, they remained the "fondest
of friends". After dating Betty Hensel for a period, on
December 25, 1949, Grant married Betsy Drake, the co-star of two of
his films. This would prove to be his longest marriage, ending on
August 14, 1962.
Betsy Drake and saxophonist
Dick Stabile (right) in 1955
Dyan Cannon on July 22, 1965, at friend Howard Hughes'
Desert Inn in Las Vegas. Their daughter, Jennifer, was born on
February 26, 1966. Jennifer is Grant's only child. He frequently
called Jennifer his "best production". He said of fatherhood: "My
life changed the day Jennifer was born. I've come to think that the
reason we're put on this earth is to procreate. To leave something
behind. Not films, because you know that I don't think my films will
last very long once I'm gone. But another human being. That's what's
important." Grant and Cannon divorced in March 1968. On
March 12 that month he was involved in a car accident on Long Island
when a truck struck the side of his limousine. Grant was hospitalized
for 17 days with three broken ribs and bruising.
Grant had a brief affair with self-proclaimed actress Cynthia Bouron
in the late 1960s. Grant, who had been at odds with the Academy
of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1958, was named as the
recipient of an
Academy Honorary Award in 1970. Grant announced
that he would attend the awards ceremony to accept his award, thus
ending his twelve-year boycott of the ceremony. Two days after this
announcement, Bouron filed a paternity suit against Grant and publicly
stated he was the father of her seven-week-old daughter.[aa]
Bouron named Grant as the father on the child's birth
certificate. Grant challenged her to a blood test and Bouron
failed to provide one, and the court ordered her to remove his name
from the certificate.[ab] Between 1973 and 1977 he dated
British photojournalist Maureen Donaldson, followed by the much
younger Victoria Morgan.
On April 11, 1981, Grant married Barbara Harris, a British hotel
public relations agent who was 47 years his junior. The two had
met at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London five years earlier where
Harris was working at the time and Grant attending a Fabergé
conference. The two became friends, but it was not until 1979 that she
moved to live with him in California. Friends of Grant considered her
to have had an extremely positive impact on Grant, and Prince Rainier
of Monaco remarked that he had "never been happier" than he was in his
last years with her.
Death? Of course I think of it. But I don't want to dwell on
it ... I think the thing you think about when you're my age is
how you're going to do it and whether you'll behave well.
—Grant on death, later in life.
Grant was at the Adler Theatre in Davenport, Iowa, on the afternoon of
November 29, 1986, preparing for his performance in A Conversation
Cary Grant when he was taken ill. Though his close friend
Roderick Mann recalled that he had met up with Grant at the Hollywood
Park Racetrack earlier that month and he had been in a jovial state
and in good health, Grant had been feeling unwell as he arrived at the
theatre. Basil Williams, who photographed him there, thought that
though Grant still looked his usual suave self, he noticed that he
seemed very tired and that he stumbled once in the auditorium.
Williams recalls that Grant rehearsed for half an hour before
"something seemed wrong" all of a sudden, and he disappeared
backstage. Grant was taken back to the Blackhawk Hotel where he and
his wife Barbara had checked in, and a doctor was called and
discovered that Grant was having a massive stroke, with a blood
pressure reading of 210 over 130. Grant refused to be taken to
hospital. The doctor recalled that "The stroke was getting worse. In
only fifteen minutes he deteriorated rapidly. It was terrible watching
him die and not being able to help. But he wouldn't let us". By
8:45 p.m. Grant had slipped into a coma and was taken to St.
Luke's Hospital. He spent 45 minutes in emergency before being
transferred to intensive care, where he was pronounced dead at
11:22 p.m. He was 82.
The New York Times reported: "
Cary Grant was not supposed to die. Cary
Grant was supposed to stick around. Our perpetual touchstone of charm
and elegance and youth". Grant's body was taken back to
California, where it was cremated and his ashes scattered in the
Pacific Ocean. He refused a funeral, which Roderick Mann remarked
was appropriate for "the private man who didn't want the nonsense of a
funeral". The bulk of his estate, worth in the region of 60 to 80
million dollars, went to his wife Barbara Harris and his daughter
To Catch a Thief
To Catch a Thief (1955)
McCann notes that one of the reasons that Grant was so successful with
his film career is that he was not conscious of how handsome he was on
screen, acting in a fashion which was most unexpected and unusual from
a Hollywood star of that period.
George Cukor once stated: "You
see, he didn't depend on his looks. He wasn't a narcissist, he acted
as though he were just an ordinary young man. And that made it all the
more appealing, that a handsome young man was funny; that was
especially unexpected and good because we think, 'Well, if he's a Beau
Brummel, he can't be either funny or intelligent', but he proved
Jennifer Grant acknowledged that her father neither
relied on his looks nor was a character actor, and said that he was
just the opposite of that, playing the "basic man".
Grant's appeal was unusually broad, among both men and women; Kael
remarked that men wanted to be him and women dreamed of dating him.
She noticed that Grant treated his female co-stars differently to most
of the leading players at the time, regarding them as subjects with
multiple qualities rather than "treating them as sex objects". For
writer David Shipman, he seemed to meet the requirement for every
figure to aspire to be, whether it was an uncle, best friend or lover,
and "more than most stars he belonged to the public". A number of
critics have argued that Grant had the rare star ability to turn a
mediocre picture into a good one. Philip T. Hartung of The Commonweal
in his review for Mr. Lucky (1943) stated that if it "weren't for Cary
Grant's persuasive personality the whole thing would melt away to
nothing at all". For McCann Hollywood had "found its ideal
gentleman, a gentleman for a democratic culture. He was an amalgam of
tradition and modernity, wealth and virtue, elite and mass, high and
low, great and good". He states that Grant's delivery should "not have
worked, but somehow it did", commenting: "As he sits and faces the
camera during that early scene in The Awful Truth, he looks at us with
an expression that suggests he knows as well as we do that the
audacious trick has, against all the odds, actually come off. He
smiles at us, sharing with us his extraordinary good fortune. He
smiles a smile like Gatsby's smile." Political theorist C. L. R.
James saw Grant as a "new and very important symbol", a new type of
Englishman who differed from the Leslie Howard and Ronald Coleman
gentleman types, who represented the "freedom, natural grace,
simplicity and directness which characterise such different American
types as Jimmy Stewart and Ronald Reagan", which ultimately symbolized
the growing relationship between Britain and America.
Once he realized that each movement could be stylized for humor, the
eyepopping, the cocked head, the forward lunge, and the slightly
ungainly stride became as certain as the pen strokes of a master
Pauline Kael on the development of Grant's comic acting
in the late 1930s.
McCann notes that Grant typically played "wealthy privileged
characters who never seemed to have any need to work in order to
maintain their glamorous and hedonistic lifestyle. He became a star
whose characters were good looking, quick witted, funny and athletic,
a star whose characters seemed to win the hearts of women without even
trying". Martin Stirling, commenting in the biography Cary Grant:
In Name Only, thought that Grant had an acting range which was
"greater than any of his contemporaries, but understood why a number
of critics underrated him as an actor. He believes that Grant was
always at his "physical and verbal best in situations that bordered on
farce". Charles Champlin, commenting in Donald Deschner's The
Complete Films of
Cary Grant (1973) similarly identifies a paradox in
Grant's screen persona, in his unusual ability to "mix polish and
pratfalls in successive scenes". He remarks that Grant was
"refreshingly able to play the near-fool, the fey idiot, without
compromising his masculinity or surrendering to camp for its own sake.
His ability to play off against his own image as the strong and
handsome romantic hero-figure is, as a matter of fact, probably unique
among superstars. Nobody else comes even close to mind who could
similarly toy with his own dignity without losing it". Wansell
further notes that Grant could, "with the arch of an eyebrow or the
merest hint of a smile, question his own image", managing to "blend
irony and romance in a way that few other stars have ever done, by
slyly never appearing to take himself too seriously, and mixing his
own unique mixture of naïveté and worldliness". Stanley Donen,
a director who had worked with Grant, stated that his real "magic"
came from his attention to minute details and always seeming real,
which came from "enormous amounts of work" rather than being
God-given. Grant remarked of his career: "I guess to a certain
extent I did eventually become the characters I was playing. I played
at being someone I wanted to be until I became that person, Or he
became me". He would later profess that the real
Cary Grant was
more like his scruffy, unshaven fisherman in Father Goose than the
"well-tailored charmer" of Charade.
Grant often poked fun at himself with statements such as, "Everyone
wants to be Cary Grant—even I want to be Cary Grant", and in
ad-lib lines—such as in the film
His Girl Friday
His Girl Friday (1940), saying,
"Listen, the last man who said that to me was Archie Leach, just a
week before he cut his throat." In Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), a
gravestone is seen bearing the name Archie Leach. According to a
famous story now believed to be fictional, after seeing a telegram
from a magazine editor to his agent asking, "How old Cary Grant?",
Grant reportedly responded, "Old
Cary Grant fine. How you?"
Despite his strong comedic qualities,
Alfred Hitchcock thought that
Grant was also very effective in playing darker roles, with a
mysterious, dangerous quality, remarking that "there is a frightening
side to Cary that no one can quite put their finger on". Wansell
notes that this darker, mysterious side extended to his personal life,
which he took great lengths to cover up to retain his debonair
No other man seemed so classless and self-assured ... at ease
with the romantic as the comic ... aged so well and with such
fine style ... in short, played the part so well:
Cary Grant made
men seem like a good idea.
Graham McCann on Cary Grant.
Biographers Morecambe and Stirling believe that
Cary Grant was the
"greatest leading man Hollywood had ever known". Schickel stated
that there are "very few stars who achieve the magnitude of Cary
Grant, art of a very high and subtle order", and thought that he was
the "best star actor there ever was in the movies". David
Thomson and directors
Stanley Donen and
Howard Hawks concurred that
Grant was the greatest and most important actor in the history of the
cinema. He was a favorite of Hitchcock, who admired him and
called him "the only actor I ever loved in my whole life", and
remained one of Hollywood's top box-office attractions for almost 30
years. Wansell wrote: "To millions of movie-goers around the
Cary Grant will forever epitomize the glamour, and the style,
of Hollywood in its golden years. With his dark hair, and even darker
eyes, mischievous smile and effortless elegance, he was, is, and
always will be indelibly one of the great movie stars. Since his death
in 1986, the incandescence of his screen image has not dimmed for a
single moment". Kael stated that the world still thinks of him
affectionately, because he "embodies what seems a happier time−a
time when we had a simpler relationship to a performer."
Cary Grant statue in Millennium Square, Bristol
Grant was nominated for two Academy Awards, for
Penny Serenade (1941)
and None But the Lonely Heart (1944), but never won a competitive
Oscar;[ac] he received a special Academy Award for Lifetime
Achievement in 1970. The inscription on his statuette read "To
Cary Grant, for his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with
respect and affection of his colleagues". On being presented with the
award, his friend
Frank Sinatra announced: "It was made for the sheer
brilliance of acting ... No one has brought more pleasure to more
people for so many years than Cary has, and nobody has done so many
things so well".
At the Straw Hat Awards in New York in May 1975, Grant was awarded a
special plaque which recognized the city's appreciation of him as a
"star and superstar in entertainment". The following August, he was
Betty Ford to give a speech at the Republican National
Kansas City and to attend the Bicentenary dinner for
Elizabeth II at the
White House that same year. He was later
invited in 1978 to attend a royal charity gala at the London
Palladium. In 1979, Grant hosted the American Film Institute's tribute
to Alfred Hitchcock, and presented
Laurence Olivier with his honorary
In 1981, Grant was accorded the Kennedy Center Honors. Three
years later, a theatre on the
MGM lot was renamed the "Cary Grant
Theatre". In 1995, when over a hundred leading film directors
were asked to reveal their favorite actor of all time in a Time Out
poll, Grant came second only to Marlon Brando. On December 7,
2001, a statue of Grant was unveiled in Millennium Square, a
regenerated area next to
Bristol Harbour, Bristol, in the city where
he was born. In November 2005, Grant again came first in Premiere
magazine's list of "The 50 Greatest Movie Stars of All Time".
According to McCann, ten years earlier they had declared that Grant
was "quite simply, the funniest actor cinema has ever produced".
Filmography and stage work
Cary Grant on screen, stage and radio
During his acting career, between 1932 and 1966, Grant acted in at
least 76 films. In 1999, the
American Film Institute
American Film Institute named Grant the
second greatest male star of Golden Age Hollywood cinema (after
Humphrey Bogart). He was nominated twice for the Academy Award as Best
Penny Serenade (1941) and None but the Lonely Heart (1944).
Widely recognized for comedic and dramatic roles, among his best-known
Bringing Up Baby
Bringing Up Baby (1938),
Only Angels Have Wings
Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His
Girl Friday (1940), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Arsenic and Old
An Affair to Remember
An Affair to Remember (1957),
North by Northwest
North by Northwest (1959),
and Charade (1963).
^ His middle name was recorded as "Alec" on birth records, although he
later used the more formal "Alexander" on his naturalization
application form in 1942.
^ Among the reasons Grant gave for believing so was because he was
circumcised, and circumcision was rare outside the Jewish community in
England at that time. In 1948, he donated a large sum of money to
help the newly established State of Israel, declaring that it was "in
the name of his dead Jewish mother". He also speculated that his
handsome appearance with brown curly hair could be due to his father's
partly Jewish descent. There is no genealogical evidence available
about his possible Jewish ancestry, however. Grant turned down the
leading role in
Gentleman's Agreement in the 1940s (a non-Jewish
character who pretends to be Jewish), because he believed he could not
effectively play the part, himself being of Jewish ancestry. He
donated considerable sums to Jewish causes over his lifetime. In 1939,
he gave the Jewish actor
Sam Jaffe $25,000.
^ Wansell states that John was a "sickly child" who frequently came
down with a fever. He had developed gangrene on his arms after a door
was slammed on his thumbnail while Elsie was holding him. Elsie stayed
up night after night nursing him and when he died one night that she
stopped watching over him upon the insistence of the doctor that she
get some rest, she eternally blamed herself for the death and never
recovered from it.
^ Wansell notes though that Grant hated mathematics and Latin and was
more interested in geography, because he "wanted to travel".
^ Grant likely made further changes to his accent after electing to
remain in the United States, in an effort to make himself more
employable. The blend of the slight Cockney accent Grant had
picked up during his time with the Pender troupe, in addition to his
efforts to sound American, resulted in his unique manner of
^ The play's success prompted a screen test for Grant and MacDonald by
Paramount Publix Pictures at Astoria Studios in New York, which
resulted in MacDonald being cast opposite
Maurice Chevalier in The
Love Parade (1929). Grant was rejected, and informed that his neck was
"too thick" and his legs were "too bowed".
^ The productions included Irene, Music in May, Nina Rosa, Rio Rita
and The Three Musketeers.
^ Grant was later so embarrassed by the scene and he requested that it
be omitted from his 1970 Academy Award footage.
^ Grant would later work with Gering in
Devil and the Deep
Devil and the Deep and Madame
Butterfly (both 1932)
^ Grant agreed that "Archie just doesn't sound right in America. It
doesn't sound particularly right in Britain either". While having
dinner with Fay Wray, she suggested that he choose "Cary Lockwood",
the name of his character in Nikki. Schulberg agreed the name "Cary"
was acceptable, but was less satisfied with "Lockwood" as it was too
similar to another actor's surname. Schulberg then gave Grant a list
of surnames compiled by Paramount's publicity department, out of which
he chose "Grant".
^ She Done Him Wrong—an adaptation of Mae West's own play Diamond
Lil (1928)—was nominated in the Academy Award for Best Picture
category, but lost to Cavalcade (1933).
^ According to biographer Jerry Vermilye, Grant had caught West's eye
in the studio and had queried about him to one of Paramount's office
boys. The boy replied, "Oh, that's Cary Grant. He's making [Madame]
Butterfly with Sylvia Sidney". West then retorted, "I don't care if
he's making Little Nell. If he can talk, I'll take him."
^ The film is ranked at 75 in
AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs list,
while West's line "Why don't you come up sometime and see me?" was
voted number 26 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes.
^ The New York Times called Born to Be Bad a "hopelessly unintelligent
hodgepodge", while Variety labelled his performance "colorless" and
^ In December 1934
Virginia Cherrill informed a jury in a Los Angeles
court that Grant "drank excessively, choked and beat her, and
threatened to kill her". The press continued to report on the
turbulent relationship which began to tarnish his image.
^ Though Grant's films in the 1934–1935 period were commercial
failures, he was still getting positive comments from the critics, who
thought that his acting was getting better. One reviewer from Daily
Variety wrote of Wings in the Dark: "
Cary Grant tops all his past
work. The part gave him a dimension to play with and he took it
headlong. He never flaws in the moving, pathetic, but inspiring
behavior of a man whose career seems ruined by an accident but comes
back through a mental hell, by virtue of love and the saving ruses of
friendship. His acting here lifts him definitely above his prior
standing." Graham Greene of The Spectator thought that he played
his role in The Last Outpost "extremely well".
^ The pair would later on feature in
Bringing Up Baby
Bringing Up Baby (1938), Holiday
(1938) and The Philadelphia Story (1940).
^ The film was actually shot at
Lone Pine, California
Lone Pine, California in one of the
largest sets ever assembled, with over 1,500 extras.
His Girl Friday
His Girl Friday is ranked number 19 on American Film Institute's 100
Years...100 Laughs and number 13 on The Guardian's list of the
greatest comedy films of all time, compiled in 2010.
^ Time claim that Grant himself earned $100,000 for the film.
^ Critical response to the film at the time was mixed. Bosley Crowther
wrote: "It is simply a concoction of crazy, fast, uninhibited farce.
This sort of thing, when done well—as it generally is, in this
case—can be insanely funny (if it hits right). It can also be a
^ Grant also continued to find the experience of working with
Hitchcock a positive one, remarking: "Hitch and I had a rapport and
understanding deeper than words. He was a very agreeable human being,
and we were very compatible ... Nothing ever went wrong. He was
so incredibly well prepared. I never know anyone as capable".
^ Loren later professed about rejecting Grant: "At the time I didn't
have any regrets, I was in love with my husband. I was very
affectionate with Cary, but I was 23 years old. I couldn't make up my
mind to marry a giant from another country and leave Carlo. I didn't
feel like making the big step."
North by Northwest
North by Northwest is placed at the 41st position on AFI's 100
Years...100 Movies, 7th on its 100 Years...100 Thrills list,
and was voted the 7th greatest mystery film in its 10 Top 10 mystery
^ Prince Rainier of Monaco, Kelly's widower, said: "Grace loved and
admired Cary. She valued his friendship".
^ Grant was quoted as saying: "I may not have married for very sound
reasons, but money was never one of them."
^ Grant had a reputation of filing lawsuits against the film industry
since the 1930s. The basis of these suits was that Grant had been
cheated by the respective company. Most were described as frivolous
and were settled out of court. A proposal was made to present Grant
Academy Honorary Award in 1969; it was vetoed by angry Academy
members. The proposal garnered enough votes to pass in 1970. It is
believed that Bouron's accusations regarding the paternity of her
daughter were part of a smear campaign organized by those in the film
^ In 1973, Bouron was found murdered in a San Fernando parking
Jennifer Grant states that her father was quite outspoken on the
discrimination that he felt against handsome men and comedians in
Hollywood. He questioned "are good looks their own reward, canceling
out the right to more"? She recalls that Grant once said of Robert
Redford: "It'll be tough for him to be awarded anything, he's just too
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^ Morecambe & Sterling 2001, pp. xvii, 174.
^ Deschner 1973, p. 3.
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"Archibald Leach's entry in the England/Wales Census".
Familysearch.org. 1911. Archived from the original on April 19, 2012.
Retrieved June 18, 2016.
"Archibald Leach's US immigration record". Familysearch.org. 1920.
Archived from the original on April 19, 2012. Retrieved June 18,
"Social Security Death index". Familysearch.org. 1986. Archived from
the original on April 19, 2012. Retrieved June 18, 2016.
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. "
Cary Grant papers".
Margaret Herrick Library. Retrieved June 18, 2016.
Academy Honorary Award
Warner Bros. /
Charlie Chaplin (1928)
Walt Disney (1932)
Shirley Temple (1934)
D. W. Griffith
D. W. Griffith (1935)
The March of Time
The March of Time /
W. Howard Greene and
Harold Rosson (1936)
Edgar Bergen /
W. Howard Greene /
Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art Film Library /
Mack Sennett (1937)
J. Arthur Ball /
Walt Disney /
Deanna Durbin and
Mickey Rooney /
Gordon Jennings, Jan Domela, Devereaux Jennings, Irmin Roberts, Art
Smith, Farciot Edouart, Loyal Griggs, Loren L. Ryder, Harry D. Mills,
Louis Mesenkop, Walter Oberst /
Oliver T. Marsh and Allen Davey /
Harry Warner (1938)
Douglas Fairbanks /
Judy Garland /
William Cameron Menzies / Motion
Picture Relief Fund (Jean Hersholt, Ralph Morgan, Ralph Block, Conrad
Nagel)/ Technicolor Company (1939)
Bob Hope /
Nathan Levinson (1940)
Walt Disney, William Garity, John N. A. Hawkins, and the RCA
Manufacturing Company /
Leopold Stokowski and his associates / Rey
Scott / British Ministry of Information (1941)
Charles Boyer /
Noël Coward /
George Pal (1943)
Bob Hope /
Margaret O'Brien (1944)
Republic Studio, Daniel J. Bloomberg, and the Republic Studio Sound
Walter Wanger / The House I Live In / Peggy Ann Garner
Harold Russell /
Laurence Olivier /
Ernst Lubitsch / Claude Jarman Jr.
James Baskett / Thomas Armat, William Nicholas Selig, Albert E. Smith,
George Kirke Spoor
George Kirke Spoor /
Bill and Coo / Shoeshine (1947)
Walter Wanger /
Monsieur Vincent /
Sid Grauman /
Adolph Zukor (1948)
Jean Hersholt /
Fred Astaire /
Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil B. DeMille / The Bicycle Thief
Louis B. Mayer
Louis B. Mayer /
George Murphy /
The Walls of Malapaga (1950)
Gene Kelly /
Merian C. Cooper
Merian C. Cooper /
Bob Hope /
Harold Lloyd / George Mitchell / Joseph
M. Schenck /
Forbidden Games (1952)
20th Century-Fox Film Corporation / Bell & Howell Company / Joseph
Breen / Pete Smith (1953)
Bausch & Lomb Optical Company /
Danny Kaye / Kemp Niver / Greta
Jon Whiteley /
Vincent Winter / Gate of Hell (1954)
Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1955)
Eddie Cantor (1956)
Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers
Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers / Gilbert M.
"Broncho Billy" Anderson /
Charles Brackett /
B. B. Kahane (1957)
Maurice Chevalier (1958)
Buster Keaton /
Lee de Forest
Lee de Forest (1959)
Gary Cooper /
Stan Laurel /
Hayley Mills (1960)
William L. Hendricks / Fred L. Metzler /
Jerome Robbins (1961)
William J. Tuttle
William J. Tuttle (1964)
Bob Hope (1965)
Yakima Canutt /
Y. Frank Freeman
Y. Frank Freeman (1966)
Arthur Freed (1967)
John Chambers /
Onna White (1968)
Cary Grant (1969)
Lillian Gish /
Orson Welles (1970)
Charlie Chaplin (1971)
Charles S. Boren /
Edward G. Robinson
Edward G. Robinson (1972)
Henri Langlois /
Groucho Marx (1973)
Howard Hawks /
Jean Renoir (1974)
Mary Pickford (1975)
Margaret Booth (1977)
Walter Lantz /
Laurence Olivier /
King Vidor / Museum of Modern Art
Department of Film (1978)
Hal Elias /
Alec Guinness (1979)
Henry Fonda (1980)
Barbara Stanwyck (1981)
Mickey Rooney (1982)
Hal Roach (1983)
James Stewart /
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Arts (1984)
Paul Newman /
Alex North (1985)
Ralph Bellamy (1986)
Kodak Company /
National Film Board of Canada
National Film Board of Canada (1988)
Akira Kurosawa (1989)
Sophia Loren /
Myrna Loy (1990)
Satyajit Ray (1991)
Federico Fellini (1992)
Deborah Kerr (1993)
Michelangelo Antonioni (1994)
Kirk Douglas /
Chuck Jones (1995)
Michael Kidd (1996)
Stanley Donen (1997)
Elia Kazan (1998)
Andrzej Wajda (1999)
Jack Cardiff /
Ernest Lehman (2000)
Sidney Poitier /
Robert Redford (2001)
Peter O'Toole (2002)
Blake Edwards (2003)
Sidney Lumet (2004)
Robert Altman (2005)
Ennio Morricone (2006)
Robert F. Boyle (2007)
Lauren Bacall /
Roger Corman /
Gordon Willis (2009)
Kevin Brownlow /
Jean-Luc Godard /
Eli Wallach (2010)
James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones / Dick Smith (2011)
D. A. Pennebaker
D. A. Pennebaker /
Hal Needham /
George Stevens Jr. (2012)
Angela Lansbury /
Steve Martin /
Piero Tosi (2013)
Jean-Claude Carrière /
Hayao Miyazaki /
Maureen O'Hara (2014)
Spike Lee /
Gena Rowlands (2015)
Jackie Chan /
Lynn Stalmaster /
Anne V. Coates / Frederick Wiseman
Charles Burnett /
Owen Roizman /
Donald Sutherland / Agnès Varda
David di Donatello
David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actor
Laurence Olivier (1957)
Marlon Brando /
Charles Laughton (1958)
Jean Gabin (1959)
Cary Grant (1960)
Charlton Heston (1961)
Anthony Perkins /
Spencer Tracy (1962)
Gregory Peck (1963)
Fredric March /
Peter O'Toole (1964)
Rex Harrison (1965)
Richard Burton (1966)
Richard Burton /
Peter O'Toole (1967)
Warren Beatty /
Spencer Tracy (1968)
Rod Steiger (1969)
Dustin Hoffman /
Peter O'Toole (1970)
Ryan O'Neal (1971)
Chaim Topol (1972)
Yves Montand /
Laurence Olivier (1973)
Al Pacino /
Robert Redford (1974)
Burt Lancaster /
Jack Lemmon /
Walter Matthau (1975)
Jack Nicholson /
Philippe Noiret (1976)
Dustin Hoffman /
Sylvester Stallone (1977)
Richard Dreyfuss (1978)
Richard Gere /
Michel Serrault (1979)
Dustin Hoffman /
Jack Lemmon (1980)
Burt Lancaster (1981)
Klaus Maria Brandauer
Klaus Maria Brandauer (1982)
Paul Newman (1983)
Woody Allen (1984)
Tom Hulce (1985)
William Hurt (1986)
Dexter Gordon (1987)
Michael Douglas (1988)
Dustin Hoffman (1989)
Philippe Noiret (1990)
Jeremy Irons (1991)
John Turturro (1992)
Daniel Auteuil (1993)
Anthony Hopkins (1994)
John Travolta (1995)
Harvey Keitel (1996)
Kennedy Center Honorees (1980s)
Agnes de Mille
Gian Carlo Menotti
Alan Jay Lerner
Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe
Hume Cronyn & Jessica Tandy
Sammy Davis Jr.
Roger L. Stevens
ISNI: 0000 0001 2148 7266
BNF: cb11946784x (data)