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Cary Grant

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Cary Grant

Grant in 1973, by Allan Warren
Born Archibald Alexander Leach
18 January 1904(1904-01-18)
Bristol, England
Died 29 November 1986(1986-11-29) (aged 82)
Davenport, Iowa, United States
Other names Archie Leach
Occupation Actor
Years active 1932–1966
Spouse Virginia Cherrill (1934–1935)
Barbara Hutton (1942–1945)
Betsy Drake (1949–1962)
Dyan Cannon (1965–1967)
Barbara Harris (1981–1986)
Partner Maureen Donaldson (1973–1977)[1]
Children Jennifer Grant, born on 26 February 1966 (1966-02-26) (age 44)
Relatives Cary Benjamin Grant, born on 12 August 2008 (2008-08-12) (age 2)
Awards Academy Honorary Award
1970 For his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues.

Archibald Alexander Leach[2] (January 18, 1904 – November 29, 1986), better known by his stage name Cary Grant, was an English-American actor.[3] With his distinctive yet not quite placeable 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 by the American Film Institute. His popular classic films include The Awful Truth (1937), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Gunga Din (1939), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Suspicion (1941), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Notorious (1946), To Catch A Thief (1955), An Affair to Remember (1957), North by Northwest (1959), and Charade (1963).

At the 42nd Academy Awards the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored him with an Honorary Award "for his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues".

Early life and career

Archibald Alexander Leach was born in Horfield, Bristol, to Elsie Maria Kingdon (1877–1973) and Elias James Leach (1873–1935).[4][5] An only child, he had an unhappy childhood, attending Bishop Road Primary School. His mother had suffered from depression since the death of a previous child. His father placed her in a mental institution, and told his nine-year-old son only that she had gone away on a "long holiday"; it was not until he was in his thirties that Grant discovered her alive, 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 travelled with the group to the United States as a stilt walker in 1920 at the age of 16, on a two-year tour of the country. He was processed at Ellis Island on July 28, 1920.[6] When the troupe returned to the UK, he decided to stay in the U.S. and continue his stage career. During this time, he became a part of the vaudeville world and toured with Parker, Rand and Leach. (After departing the troupe, he was to be replaced by a young James Cagney for a brief time.) Still using 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 went 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 acceptable, 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 biggest movie stars.

Already having appeared as leading man opposite Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus (1932), 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).[7] 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. Paramount put Grant in a series of unsuccessful films until 1936, when he signed with Columbia Pictures. His first major comedy hit was when he was loaned to Hal Roach's studio for the 1937 Topper (which was distributed by MGM).

Grant starred in some of the classic screwball comedies, including Bringing Up Baby (1938) with Katharine Hepburn, His Girl Friday (1940) with Rosalind Russell, Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) featuring Priscilla Lane, and Monkey Business (1952) opposite Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe. Under the tutelage of director Leo McCarey, his role in The Awful Truth (1937) with Irene Dunne was the pivotal film in the establishment of Grant's screen persona. These performances solidified his appeal, but it was The Philadelphia Story (1940), with Hepburn and James Stewart, that made him a star.

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 such as Gunga Din (1939) 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".[8]

as John Robie in Alfred Hitchcock's
To Catch a Thief (1955)

Grant was a favorite of Alfred Hitchcock, who said that Grant was "the only actor I ever loved in my whole life".[9] Grant appeared in the Hitchcock classics Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959). 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, opposite Julie Andrews.[10]

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 (1959), Indiscreet (1958), That Touch of Mink (co-starring with Doris Day, 1962), and Father Goose (1964). In 1963, he appeared opposite Audrey Hepburn in Charade (1963). His last feature film was Walk, Don't Run (1966) with Samantha Eggar and Jim Hutton.

Grant was the first actor to "go independent" by not renewing his studio contract, 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, at the risk of not working because no particular studio had an interest in his career long term. He decided which movies he was going to appear in, he often had personal choice of the directors and his co-stars and at times even negotiated a share of the gross, something uncommon at the time.

Grant was nominated for two Academy Awards in the 1940s. Grant received a special Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1970. In 1981, he was accorded the Kennedy Center Honors.

In 1962, a few years before retiring, Time reported that he had once received a telegram from a magazine editor asking him "HOW OLD CARY GRANT?" Grant was reported to have responded with "OLD CARY GRANT FINE. HOW YOU?"[11]

Never self absorbed, he even poked fun at himself with statements such as, "Everyone wants to be Cary Grant—even I want to be Cary Grant".[12]

Retirement and death

Statue of Cary Grant in Millennium Square, Bristol, England

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, Grant regularly attended meetings and his mere appearance at a product launch would almost certainly guarantee its success. 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. He later joined the boards of Hollywood Park, Western Airlines (now Delta Air Lines), and MGM.[13]

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 29 November 1986 when he sustained a cerebral hemorrhage. He had previously suffered a stroke in October 1984. He died at 11:22 pm [13] in St. Luke's Hospital.

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.[14] Richard Schickel, the film critic, said about Grant: "He's the best star actor there ever was in the movies."[15]

Personal life

Grant w married five times, and was dogged by rumors that he was bisexual. He wed Virginia Cherrill on February 10, 1934. She divorced him on March 26, 1935, following charges that Grant had hit her. He married Barbara Hutton, one of the wealthiest women in the world, and became a father figure to her son, Lance Reventlow. 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. After divorcing in 1945, they remained lifelong friends. Grant always bristled at the accusation that he married for money: "I may not have married for very sound reasons, but money was never one of them."

On December 25, 1949, Grant married Betsy Drake. He appeared with her in two films. This would prove to be his longest marriage, ending on August 14, 1962. Drake introduced Grant to LSD, and in the early 1960s he related how treatment with the hallucinogenic drug—legal at the time—at a prestigious California clinic had finally brought him inner peace after yoga, hypnotism, and mysticism had proved ineffective.[16][17][18] The couple divorced in 1962.

He eloped with Dyan Cannon on July 22, 1965 in Las Vegas. Their daughter, Jennifer Grant, was born prematurely on February 26, 1966. He frequently called her his "best production", and regretted that he had not 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 nearly ten years.

On April 11, 1981, Grant married long-time companion, British hotel public relations agent Barbara Harris, who was 47 years his junior. They renewed their vows on their fifth wedding anniversary. Fifteen years after Grant's death, Harris married former All-American quarterback David Jaynes in 2001.[19]

Grant allegedly was involved with costume designer Orry-Kelly when he first moved to Manhattan,[20] and lived with Randolph Scott off and on for twelve years. Richard Blackwell wrote that Grant and Scott were "deeply, madly in love",[21] and alleged eyewitness accounts of their physical affection have been published.[20] Hedda Hopper [22] and screenwriter Arthur Laurents also have alleged that Grant was bisexual, the latter writing that Grant "told me he threw pebbles at my window one night but was luckless".[23] Alexander D'Arcy, who appeared with Grant in The Awful Truth, said he knew that he and Scott "lived together as a gay couple", adding: "I think Cary knew that people were saying things about him. I don't think he tried to hide it."[20] The two men frequently accompanied each other to parties and premieres and were unconcerned when photographs of them cozily preparing dinner together at home were published in fan magazines.[20]

Barbara, Grant's widow, has disputed that there was a relationship with Scott.[13] When Chevy Chase joked about Grant being gay in a television interview, he sued him for slander; they settled out of court.[24] However, Grant did admit in an interview that his first two wives had accused him of being homosexual.[24] Betsy Drake commented: "Why would I believe that Cary was homosexual when we were busy fucking? Maybe he was bisexual. He lived 43 years before he met me. I don't know what he did."[13]


Grant was a Republican, but did not think movie stars should publicly make political declarations.[25] Grant described his politics and his reticence about them this way:

I'm opposed to actors taking sides in public and spouting spontaneously about love, religion, or politics. We aren't experts on these subjects. Personally I'm a mass of inconsistencies when it comes to politics. My opinions are constantly changing. That's why I don't ever take a public stand on issues.[26]

Throughout his life, Grant maintained personal friendships with colleagues of varying political stripes and his few political activities seemed to be shaped by personal friendships. Repulsed by the human costs to many in Hollywood, Grant publicly condemned McCarthyism in 1953 and vocally defended his friend Charlie Chaplin when the latter was blacklisted, insisting that Chaplin's artistic value outweighed political concerns.[26] Grant was also a friend of the Kennedy brothers and made one of his rare statements on public issues following the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, calling for gun control.[26] In 1976, after his retirement from movies, Grant made his one overtly partisan appearance, introducing his friend Betty Ford, the First Lady, at the Republican National Convention,[25] but even in this he maintained some distance from partisanship, speaking of "your" party, rather than "ours" in his remarks.[26] In 1958 Grant himself was criticized by right-wing columnist Hedda Hopper for vacationing in the Soviet Union after filming Indiscreet (1958). He appeared to inflame the controversy by remarking to an interviewer "I don't care what kind of government they have over there, I never had such a good time in my life".[24]


Year Film Role Notes
1932 This Is the Night Stephen
Sinners in the Sun Ridgeway
Singapore Sue First Sailor
Merrily We Go to Hell Charlie Baxter UK title: Merrily We Go to _____
Devil and the Deep Lieutenant Jaeckel
Blonde Venus Nick Townsend
Hot Saturday Romer Sheffield
Madame Butterfly Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton
1933 She Done Him Wrong Capt. Cummings
The Woman Accused Jeffrey Baxter
The Eagle and the Hawk Henry Crocker
Gambling Ship Ace Corbin
I'm No Angel Jack Clayton
Alice in Wonderland The Mock Turtle
1934 Thirty Day Princess Porter Madison III
Born to Be Bad Malcolm Trevor
Kiss and Make-Up Dr. Maurice Lamar
Ladies Should Listen Julian De Lussac
1935 Enter Madame Gerald Fitzgerald
Wings in the Dark Ken Gordon
The Last Outpost Michael Andrews
Sylvia Scarlett Jimmy Monkley Directed by George Cukor
1936 Big Brown Eyes Det. Sgt. Danny Barr
Suzy Andre
The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss Ernest Bliss US title: Romance and Riches

Alt title: The Amazing Adventure

Wedding Present Charlie
1937 When You're in Love Jimmy Hudson UK title: For You Alone
Topper George Kerby
The Toast of New York Nicholas "Nick" Boyd
The Awful Truth Jerry Warriner
1938 Bringing up Baby Dr. David Huxley Directed by Howard Hawks
Holiday John "Johnny" Case Directed by George Cukor
UK title: Free to Live
1939 Gunga Din Sgt. Archibald Cutter
Only Angels Have Wings Geoff Carter
In Name Only Alec Walker
1940 His Girl Friday Walter Burns
My Favorite Wife Nick
The Howards of Virginia Matt Howard UK title: The Tree of Liberty
The Philadelphia Story C.K. Dexter Haven
1941 Penny Serenade Roger Adams Nominated - Academy Award for Best Actor
Suspicion Johnnie Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
1942 The Talk of the Town Leopold Dilg aka Joseph
Once Upon a Honeymoon Patrick "Pat" O'Toole
1943 Mr. Lucky Joe Adams/Joe Bascopolous
Destination Tokyo Capt. Cassidy
1944 Once Upon a Time Jerry Flynn
Arsenic and Old Lace Mortimer Brewster
None But the Lonely Heart Ernie Mott Nominated - Academy Award for Best Actor
1946 Without Reservations Himself (cameo)
Night and Day Cole Porter
Notorious T.R. Devlin Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
1947 The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer Dick UK title: Bachelor Knight
The Bishop's Wife Dudley
1948 Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House Jim Blandings
Every Girl Should Be Married Dr. Madison W. Brown
1949 I Was a Male War Bride Capt. Henri Rochard UK title: You Can't Sleep Here
1950 Crisis Dr. Eugene Norland Ferguson
1951 People Will Talk Dr. Noah Praetorius
1952 Room for One More George "Poppy" Rose
Monkey Business Dr. Barnaby Fulton
1953 Dream Wife Clemson Reade
1955 To Catch a Thief John Robie Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
1957 The Pride and the Passion Anthony
An Affair to Remember Nickie Ferrante A same-script remake of Love Affair (1939 film), both directed by Leo McCarey
Kiss Them for Me Cmdr. Andy Crewson
1958 Indiscreet Philip Adams Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Houseboat Tom Winters
1959 North by Northwest Roger O. Thornhill Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Operation Petticoat Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1960 The Grass Is Greener Victor Rhyall, Earl Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1962 That Touch of Mink Philip Shayne Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1963 Charade Peter Joshua / Carson Dyle / Alexander Dyle / Adam Canfield / Brian Cruikshank Nominated - BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1964 Father Goose Walter Christopher Eckland
1966 Walk, Don't Run Sir William Rutland

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