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Cary Grant: A Self-Made Man Of Wit And Charm
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FROM: The Los Angeles Times (December 1st 1986) ~
By Cathleen Decker, Staff Writer
Cary Grant was the personification of the self-made man: a one-time
child acrobat who had transformed himself into the sophisticated and
urbane ideal of men and women throughout the world.
He was 82 and had not made a film for two decades.
But the word that he had suffered a fatal stroke Saturday night in
Davenport, Iowa, while touring with his audience-participation show,
"A Conversation With Cary Grant," was flashed around the world within
moments and brought expressions of grief from admirers high and low .
. . many of whom knew him only as a shadow on a screen.
His body was returned to Los Angeles by air Sunday, but his attorney
and longtime spokesman, Stanley Fox, said the remains will be cremated
and no public or private memorial services are planned.
"It's what he wanted," Fox said.
But it was not the choice of his fans and friends, many of whom seemed
to hope that he would go on living -- and performing -- forever.
Witty and charming in semi-retirement as he had been throughout his
film career, Grant carried with him always a kind of radiant allure,
burnished by time. His face had broadened, his thick shock of black
hair turned gray and then white.
But he was still the tanned and refined leading man, always dapperly
attired, who with a crook of his elegant hand or a line of seductive
patter could charm men and women with equal ease.
He had turned down every lure that came his way since 1966, when he
filmed "Walk, Don't Run" and had run away from the demands of films,
settling instead for an easy retirement of occasional travel and light
duty as a director of several corporations.
"I'm a pretty ancient fellow, after all," he said demurely about 10
years after his last film. "If I were to make a movie, the audience
would spend the first 20 minutes saying to themselves, 'My God,
doesn't he look awful?' "
That seemed doubtful. Virtually from the beginning, when he proved a
straight foil for Mae West and then caught his stride in the light
comedies of the late 1930s, turning roles for Cary Grant into Cary
Grant roles, he magically plied his craft, entertaining his public
with interwoven reserve, humor and lightly smoldering charm.
Variety of Roles
From nasty con man in "Sylvia Scarlett" to absent-minded scientist in
"Bringing Up Baby," from rough-hewn city editor in "His Girl Friday"
to charming fortune hunter in "Suspicion," from cool counterspy in
"Notorious" to reformed cat burglar in "To Catch a Thief," he was the
enticing, civilized gentleman women dreamed of for five decades.
"Cary Grant must be the most publicly seduced male the world has
known," noted critic Pauline Kael, in an expansive New Yorker profile
published in 1975.
"He may not be able to do much, but what he can do no one else has
ever done so well. . . . We see ourselves idealized in him. He
appeared before us in his radiantly shallow perfection, and that was
all we wanted of him. We didn't want depth from him; we asked only
that he be handsome and silky and make us laugh."
But there was more to Cary Grant than that, a thoughtful side that
expressed itself in "None But the Lonely Heart," a somber 1944 film
reminiscent of his English childhood. But Grant, too, saw the limits
of what his audience wanted, and with few exceptions he gave them just
"I enjoyed making "None But the Lonely Heart," but it was accepted by
the critics, not the public," he later said. "They wanted me to make
"I remember this absolutely marvelous feeling when a great laugh went
up at something I had done or, even better, at something I had added
myself. I felt so good. All the people at that moment had forgotten
all their troubles. . . . Perhaps just a twist of my head sets them
But he rankled at criticism that he actually played only one role --
"I've often been accused by the critics of being myself on the
screen," he said. "But being one's self is more difficult than you'd
suppose. Anyway, who else would I be? Marlon Brando?"
The career that brought him two Oscar nominations ("Penny Serenade,"
1941, "None But the Lonely Heart," 1944) and finally a special Oscar
in 1970 for "sheer brilliance" began with one desperately simple
desire: to get out of Bristol, England.
He had been born Archibald Alexander Leach on Jan. 18, 1904, son of
pants-presser Elias James Leach and Elsie Kingdom Leach, a common
woman who aspired to greater things for her son: that he become a
piano player and a gentleman.
He would become both, although there was little to foretell that. When
he was 12, his parents split up, his father getting custody of young
Archie and his mother entering a mental hospital, where she would stay
for 20 years.
Archie was, one boyhood friend recalled, "rather small for his age and
somewhat untidy and disheveled in appearance," but within the grim
frame was grit -- and trouble. He tried to run away once, on a motor
scooter. That proving unsuccessful, he buried his fantasies until a
local science teacher who wired stages at the Bristol Hippodrome
introduced a starry-eyed Archie to the theater.
"I suddenly found my inarticulate self in a dazzling land of smiling,
jostling people wearing and not wearing all sorts of costumes and
doing all sorts of clever things. And that's when I knew! What other
life could there be but that of an actor?"
But he still had to get out of Bristol -- "I didn't like it where I
was, and I wanted to travel," he explained later -- and he seized upon
a troupe of acrobats as his route.
Boldly, he forged his father's name on an application for admittance
into the troupe, and when troupe leader Bob Pender wired him rail fare
he set off across England to Norwich. The adventure did not last long.
Elias Leach dragged his wandering son home, but a short time later,
when 14-year-old Archie was expelled from school for exploring the
girls' bathroom, Elias packed Archie off.
Tumbling, walking on stilts and carousing, the Pender acrobats played
their way through Britain's vaudeville houses and, that done, set off
in 1920 for the United States. When the tour ended two years later,
Archie Leach stayed in New York. He walked stilts on Coney Island,
traveled the vaudeville road through "practically every small town in
America" and hawked ties on New York street corners.
And along the way, he invented the speech that was to make him Cary
Grant, that vaguely cosmopolitan accent that began as a cover for
ignorance and became instinctive.
"It started because I was very conscious of my lack of education and
didn't want it to show, so I affected a sort of Oxford accent -- and
now, of course, it's completely natural to me," he said years later.
"I was an utter fake, a know-all who knew very little."
Shortly, a friend introduced him to Reggie Hammerstein, who in turn
took him to see his theater-producer uncle, Arthur. Archie Leach had
begun his transformation. In late 1927, he turned up on Broadway as
the second male lead in "Golden Dawn." Gaining popularity, he worked
operettas and took a screen test.
Neck too thick, legs too bowed, came the verdict. So Archie went back
to Broadway in the John Monk Saunders play "Nikki," opposite Fay Wray
(soon to be the object of King Kong's affections) and stayed with it
until it closed in late 1931. He traveled to Los Angeles in what he
billed as a vacation -- but which was actually another run at the
This time, Paramount Studios bit, offering the tall and lanky,
27-year-old Leach a five-year contract at $450 a week. He took it. It
was the last contract he would ever need.
But first, there was the name to change. He took "Cary" from his
character in "Nikki" and "Grant" from a list offered by a studio
executive. He set up housekeeping in Santa Monica with actor Randolph
Scott, with whom he would live, off and on, for years.
In 1932, the first year of his contract, he rushed through seven
films. He was the small-town ladies' man in "Hot Saturday," a javelin
thrower in "This Is the Night," rotten Ridgeway in "Sinners in the
Sun" and Lt. Pinkerton in "Madame Butterfly" opposite Sylvia Sidney.
Mae West, then casting "She Done Him Wrong," was told of the latter
role and took a look. As the story goes, she grabbed her producer,
went to the sound stage where Grant was working and pointed at him.
"If he can talk, I'll take him," she blurted. He could, she did, and
out came the movie, West as a lady saloon keeper and Grant as an
undercover cop, to whom she uttered the oft-misquoted line: "Why don't
you come up sometime and see me? Come on up. I'll tell your fortune."
The pair reprised their flirtatious chemistry the next year in "I'm No
Angel," with Grant as the playboy lawyer who tries to pull Mae away
from a friend only to fall into her clutches himself.
"When I'm good, I'm very good, but when I'm bad, I'm better," she
clucked to him.
By all accounts, his breakthrough, his transformation into "Cary
Grant" began with 1935's "Sylvia Scarlett." He was loudmouth con man
Jimmy Monkley who meets Katharine Hepburn on a boat crossing the
English Channel to London. With a touch of the dark side in his
portrayal, Grant the actor at last "felt the ground under his feet,"
said the film's director George Cukor.
Buoyed by good reviews, he let his contract with Paramount run out,
becoming one of the first stars to work independently. His decision
coincided with the rise of the screwball comedy, and rather than lose
momentum, Grant moved into the finest period of his career.
"Topper," with Grant as the ghostly George Kerby to Constance
Bennett's Marion, was followed quickly by "The Toast of New York"
opposite Frances Farmer. Then came "The Awful Truth," wherein Grant's
Jerry Warriner and Irene Dunne's Lucy Warriner, a battling divorcing
couple, share custody of their dog and comically plot to regain each
other's company. The reviews were raves. Archie Leach had arrived as
"His performances in screwball comedies, particularly "The Awful
Truth" . . . turned him into the comedian-hero that people think of as
Cary Grant," said critic Kael. "He became Cary Grant when he learned
to project his feelings of absurdity through his characters and to
make a style out of their feeling silly."
The string continued with "Bringing Up Baby," wherein a bespectacled,
daffy paleontologist David Huxley (Grant) spars with socialite
Katharine Hepburn in the second of their four pairings, and their next
film, "Holiday," again with Hepburn as a rich, socially prominent
woman who sides with Grant in his desire to marry her sister.
But the biggest of their joint roles was to come in 1941, after Grant
completed "Gunga Din" and "His Girl Friday." It was "The Philadelphia
Story." Hepburn, playing to type, was heiress Tracy Lord, torn between
first husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant), a stuffy fiance, and an
amorous newspaper reporter played by Jimmy Stewart. Grant won Hepburn
but Stewart won an Oscar for the bright comedy. Grant followed three
months later with "Penny Serenade," a mawkishly sad and sentimental
film for which he nevertheless won an Oscar nomination for best actor,
only to lose out to Gary Cooper's portrayal of "Sergeant York."
But with the onset of war, America's taste for screwball comedies
soured. Grant's career slowed -- and he took perhaps his most striking
professional chance, playing against the Cary Grant image in 1944's
"None But the Lonely Heart," which he brought to the screen with the
aid of writer-director Clifford Odets.
His Ernie Mott, a down-and-out Cockney restlessly living in poverty
but aspiring for something better, cut closer than any other role to
Grant's own beginnings. His scenes with Ethel Barrymore, who portrayed
his mother, were stunning and the film received critical praise, but
Grant himself seemed ironically miscast. He received another Oscar
nomination, lost out to Bing Crosby for "Going My Way" and never again
strayed so far from what he and his public deemed to be his domain.
His career stalled, Grant was rescued in 1946 by Alfred Hitchcock, in
whose gripping "Suspicion" he had starred five years earlier. This
time around, the film was the superb and suspenseful "Notorious."
Grant was Devlin the counterspy and Ingrid Bergman his amateur
accomplice, Alicia, who tries to seduce him and later falls into the
clutches of spy Claude Rains.
Several less prominent movies followed before Grant tired of the
business and set off with his third wife, Betsy Drake, intent on
tramping around the world by freighter.
But he was lured back by Hitchcock, who provided a tempting script:
"To Catch a Thief," and a tempting co-star, Grace Kelly, whom he later
would call his favorite leading lady.
His fourth film with Hitchcock, 1959's "North By Northwest," merged
comedy and thrills. Grant, playing businessman Roger Thornhill, who is
mistaken for a spy and then hunted because he knows too much, is
caught in the chase, hunted down in an empty field by a biplane and
clambering across Mt. Rushmore in the film's final scenes.
Grant found in his roles a similarity.
Formula for Stories
"It was a routine. There was a formula to most of the pictures -- you
take a fellow who looked fairly well and behaved fairly well and put
him in a series of untenable situations. And that was the plot, you
see," he said later.
Grant's later performances seemed refined, his movements and manners
reserved. His portrayals were "seamless," critic Kael said. His
actions, director Alan J. Pakula added, were "genius." But while he
had come together on-screen, it was another matter off-screen.
The man who was born Archie Leach had become, off-screen, Cary Grant,
a man silky and slick and problem-free. "I pretended to be a certain
kind of man on screen, and I became that man in life. I became me," he
But there was something amiss. By the early 1960s, his 13-year
marriage to Miss Drake was foundering and the seemingly blithe
character was bitterly unhappy. When Drake suggested that he join her
in controlled psychiatric experiments using the then-experimental drug
LSD, Grant agreed. He felt reborn.
"For the first time in my life I was ready to meet people
realistically," he said. "Each of us is dying for affection and we
don't know how to go about getting it. Everything we do is affected by
this longing. That's why I became an actor -- I wanted people to like
me. But I went about it the wrong way. Almost all of us do.
"I was hiding behind all kinds of defenses, hypocrisies and vanities.
I had to get rid of them layer by layer.
"It was an absolute release (the LSD experiment). You are still able
to feed yourself, of course, drive your car, that kind of thing, but
you've lost a lot of the tension. It releases inhibition."
Off-screen, he reconciled his twin personas, Archie and Cary.
On-screen, he remained the same Cary Grant. A classic, debonair
gentleman in 1964's "Charade," he rescued and charmed a needy Audrey
Hepburn, caught in a web of conspiracy.
"Won't you come in for a minute? I don't bite, you know, unless it's
called for," she implored, adding "you know what's wrong with you?
And nothing was.
And, in 1966, came "Walk, Don't Run" -- and for the first time, of his
own conniving, he didn't get the girl. A seemingly uncupidlike British
tycoon visiting Japan, he conspired to pull together his house mates,
Samantha Eggar and Jim Hutton, and got caught on the streets in his
pajamas as well.
"American teen-agers don't want to see me in the bedroom scenes with a
young leading lady," he said, explaining his role. "I am out of the
romantic age now."
He was 62. That same year, his daughter, Jennifer, was born from his
fourth marriage, to actress Dyan Cannon. The marriage later dissolved,
but Jennifer remained his delight. He quit, he said, in large part
because he wanted to spend time with her.
"She's the most winsome, captivating girl I've ever known, and I've
known quite a few girls," he said. "We level with each other. I know
when she's looking at me she's not thinking, 'I wonder if I can get
this old goat for a BMW.' "
And he had grown away from the movies. Always concerned with the
bottom line, he had strayed from his earlier interest in acting.
Having accumulated a fortune, he had little reason to work.
"I don't wish to sound ungrateful, but the truth is I have very little
to do with movies anymore," he said. "I seldom go to the movies. I
realized that they fill an enormous gap for many people, but not for
me. I am more attracted to the world of reality.
"I won't say that I'll never make another picture, because I can't
look into the future. I guess you can say that I'm retired from the
movies until some writer comes up with a character who is deaf and
dumb and sitting in a wheelchair. At my age. . . ."
Tenacious in Retirement
There were many attempts, all unsuccessful, to pull him out of
retirement. In the late 1960s, he was offered the role of Prof. Henry
Higgins, Eliza Doolittle's linguistics teacher, in the film "My Fair
Lady." He turned it down, he said, because Rex Harrison was perfect
for the part. And besides: "The way I talk now is the way Eliza talked
at the beginning."
Hollywood did get Grant back once, in April, 1970, when the
silver-haired actor was presented a special Academy Award, given for
"I shall cherish it until I die," he said.
He spent his retirement years as he wished, living on his four-acre
Beverly Hills estate, looking after his daughter -- whose custody he
shared with Cannon -- and visiting friends and his mother in England.
Elsie Kingdom Leach had left the mental hospital in the mid-1930s,
about 20 years after she entered. Son and mother repaired their
relationship, frequently talking and laughing together "until tears
come into our eyes," he said.
Like him, she lived a long life, dying in 1974 at the age of 95, her
He faithfully followed the Los Angeles Dodgers from his center box,
accompanied by his daughter or friends. He also traveled around the
country attending meetings of the several corporations on whose boards
he sat, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Faberge. On rare occasions,
he spoke to small audiences about his lengthy career -- appearances he
called "ego fodder."
Dies of Stroke
His last was to have been Saturday night in Davenport. Instead he was
rushed to St. Luke's Hospital where he died of a stroke.
He was asked once why he didn't just pack up his belongings and wander
off to a tropical isle.
"This is my Tahiti," he said. "I get up in the morning, go to bed at
night and occupy myself as best I can in between. I do what I want
when I want. Once, in St. Louis, I knew a fellow who ran a whorehouse,
simply because it made him happy. Well, I do what makes me happy."
He had no recipe for longevity, he said. "I just breathe in -- and
out. . . . I don't smoke. . . . Do everything in moderation. Except
In 1981, he married British publicist Barbara Harris, whom he had been
dating for several years. She was his fifth wife, after actress
Virginia Cherrill, whom he married in 1934 and divorced a short time
later; Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, whose 1942 marriage to Grant
lasted only a few years; Miss Drake, who divorced him in 1962, and
Miss Cannon, who divorced him in 1967.
He seemed to have regained that which had eluded him earlier. Freed of
his screen role as Cary Grant -- although he remained instantly
recognizable -- he fit comfortably into his off-screen self, and in
the end seemed a happy man.
"I'm filled with things I want to do and new things are coming along
every day," he said at his retirement. "Why, I've got to live to be
400 to do all the things I've got to do! But even if I don't live that
long -- even if I die soon -- it's been a wonderful life."
Cary Grant, Movies' Epitome Of Elegance, Dies Of A Stroke
FROM: The New York Times (December 1st 1986) ~
By Eric Pace
Cary Grant, the dashing former acrobat whose gift for sophisticated
comedy made him one of Hollywood's greatest stars, died of a stroke
late Saturday night in Davenport, Iowa, where he had been scheduled to
appear in a fund-raising event. He was 82 years old and lived in
Beverly Hills, Calif.
Devastatingly handsome, practically imperturbable and as elegant as a
Cole Porter lyric, Mr. Grant was a beloved figure in American film for
over 30 years. From his first leading role in ''She Done Him Wrong''
(1933) - it was to Mr. Grant that Mae West uttered the famous,
oft-misquoted line ''Why don't you come up sometime and see me?'' -
through his last film, ''Walk Don't Run'' (1966), he seemed an ageless
personification of debonair grace.
Mr. Grant made 72 films, including ''Sylvia Scarlett'' (1936),
''Topper'' (1937), ''Bringing Up Baby'' (1938), ''Holiday'' (1938),
''Gunga Din'' (1939), ''Only Angels Have Wings'' (1939), ''His Girl
Friday'' (1940), ''The Philadelphia Story'' (1941), ''Arsenic and Old
Lace'' (1944), ''Night and Day'' (1946), ''Notorious'' (1946), ''I Was
a Male War Bride'' (1949), ''To Catch a Thief'' (1955), ''An Affair to
Remember'' (1957), ''North by Northwest'' (1959), ''That Touch of
Mink'' (1962) and ''Charade'' (1963).
Although he was twice nominated for an Academy Award - for his
portrayal of a star-crossed newspaperman in ''Penny Serenade'' (1941)
and for his impersonation of a London street tough in the 1944 film
''None but the Lonely Heart'' - it was not until 1970, after his
career was over, that he received a special Oscar, inscribed ''to Cary
Grant, for his unique mastery of the art of film acting.''
On screen, Mr. Grant seemed a born aristocrat. In fact, he grew up as
plain Archie Leach, the only surviving child of a garment industry
employee in the noisy British port of Bristol. He broke into show
business as an acrobatic dancer with a troupe that toured vaudeville
houses in Britain's provinces. Stilt walking was one of his
specialties. Despite the cool reserve of Mr. Grant's film persona,
there remained an understated physicality to his comedic approach.
One reason for Mr. Grant's enduring stardom was his distinctive
presence, which The New York Times critic Vincent Canby once described
as ''slim, buoyant, and projecting humorous intelligence.''
His personal style had some endearingly quirky ingredients, including
a Cockney-flavored but cosmopolitan manner of speaking, a knack of
lifting his eyebrows to register comic disbelief and a flair for
managing to seem irresistible to the heroine while remaining rather
passive and indifferent to her at the same time.
His acting style was crisp, clipped, economical. ''He never wasted a
moment on the screen,'' the director Alan J. Pakula said in 1977.
''Every movement meant something to him.''
'A Delicious Personality'
''Cary Grant, I think, is a personality functioning, a delicious
personality who has learnt to do certain things marvellously well,''
Katharine Hepburn, who appeared opposite the actor in some of his
best-remembered films, once said.
In a New York Times Magazine profile in 1977, Warren Hoge observed:
''Nobody doesn't like Cary Grant. He's a Hollywood monument, and
nobody wants to tamper with that.''
In the profile, Mr. Hoge analyzed Mr. Grant's enduring appeal: ''While
he is of the moment in a very literal way because of his exposure on
late-night television movies and his resilient good looks, in another
sense he survives the end of his own career in a manner that will
probably never happen again. It will be different for the De Niros and
Unlike Mr. Grant, he wrote, ''they are not cultivating a distinctive
screen personality who will keep reappearing as the central figure in
their films. They would recoil at such typecasting. They expose
themselves artistically through intense portrayals of a variety of
characters across a broad range of behavior. They would never strut
their screen personae before the public eye the way stars of Grant's
era were obliged to. As a consequence, we will never know them the way
we think we know Grant; their dimensions in real life will be more
lifelike; they will never carry the epic freight that he does.''
'Grant Was Changeless'
''He was everyone's favorite uncle, brother, best friend and ideal
lover: more than most stars he belonged to the public,'' David Shipman
wrote in his book ''The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years.'' ''He
stayed young. We loved Gable, Crosby, Cooper as much, but they aged.
The appeal of many of them lay in familiarity: unlike us and the
world, Grant was changeless.''
Archibald Alexander Leach, who would attain world fame under the name
Cary Grant, was born on Jan. 18, 1904, the son of Elias and Elsie
Kingdom Leach. While still a schoolboy, he ran away from home and
joined the Bob Pender troupe, a group of knockabout acrobats and
pantomimists. With them he sang, danced, juggled and traveled to the
United States in 1920.
He liked it here and decided to stay, supporting himself with odd
jobs, such as selling painted neckties and working in a vaudeville
mind-reading act. ''I used to earn $5 a day, $10 Saturdays and
Sundays, as a stilt-walker at George Tilyou's Steeplechase Park in
Coney Island,'' he recalled.
He returned to Britain in 1923, where he played small parts in several
musical comedies. The producer Arthur Hammerstein saw him and brought
him back to New York to play the juvenile in ''Golden Dawn,'' a
musical with lyrics by Hammerstein's nephew Oscar Hammerstein 2d and
music by Otto Harbach.
He later appeared in ''Polly'' with Fred Allen, in ''Wonderful
Night,'' in ''Street Singer'' with Queenie Smith and in ''Boom-Boom''
with Jeanette MacDonald. Both Mr. Grant and Miss MacDonald were given
screen tests during their run in ''Boom-Boom'' but nothing immediately
came of it.
In the summer of 1931, he joined the St. Louis Repertory Company and
had leading roles in a dozen operettas before returning to Broadway to
play Cary Lockwood in ''Nikki,'' the musical comedy version of the
film ''The Last Flight.''
A Hollywood Contract
He then drove his second-hand Packard across the country to Hollywood.
B. P. Schulberg, the president of Paramount Studios, saw a new screen
test that Mr. Grant took and immediately offered him a contract.
It was at this point in his career that he abandoned the name Archie
Leach for the more euphonious Cary Grant, choosing ''Cary'' from his
most recent role and ''Grant'' from a list of surnames provided by the
studio. But Archie Leach did not disappear. The name showed up on a
headstone in ''Arsenic and Old Lace,'' and in ''His Girl Friday'' Mr.
Grant muttered that ''the last person who said that to me was Archie
Leach, just a week before he cut his throat.''
Mr. Grant based his screen persona largely on Noel Coward, spending
endless hours on practicing his walk, speaking voice and subtle facial
expressions. ''I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be and I finally
became that person,'' he once said. ''Or he became me. Or we met at
some point. It's a relationship.''
He made his first film, ''This is the Night,'' in 1932, appearing
opposite Charles Ruggles, Lily Damita and Roland Young. It was a good
part, and Mr. Grant achieved a modest success.
Chance to Play a Scoundrel
He appeared in several other films before ''She Done Him Wrong''
firmly established him as a star in 1933. In this film, Mr. Grant
played a lawman, disguised as a church missionary, who wins the heart
of Mae West's bawdy saloonkeeper. Because he was immediately cast in
several other films that called for a breezy, laconic, impeccably
well-bred young man, he welcomed the challenge of playing a scoundrel
in the RKO Radio Production ''Sylvia Scarlett'' (1936) with Katharine
Mr. Grant's reputation as Hollywood's leading exponent of
sophisticated comedy was solidified by a series of classic films in
the late 1930's -''Topper'' (1937), ''The Awful Truth'' (1937) and
''Bringing Up Baby'' (1938). The 1938 film, directed by Howard Hawks,
was particularly hilarious and teamed Mr. Grant with both a
troublesome leopard and a wonderfully dizzy Miss Hepburn.
Now firmly established as one of Hollywood's reigning stars, Mr. Grant
played in a succession of films, including ''Holiday'' (1938), ''Gunga
Din'' (1939), ''Only Angels Have Wings'' (1939), ''His Girl Friday''
(1940) - a remake of ''The Front Page'' - ''My Favorite Wife'' (1940)
and ''The Philadelphia Story'' (1941). Mr. Grant donated the $125,000
he received for his part in ''The Philadelphia Story'' to British War
Relief. After the United States entered World War II, he was among the
Hollywood stars who entertained the armed forces; he became an
American citizen in 1942.
In 1941 Mr. Grant also appeared in ''Suspicion,'' the first of four
suspense films he starred in under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock.
The others, all top box-office money makers, were ''Notorious''
(1946), ''To Catch a Thief'' (1955) and ''North by Northwest' (1959).
A Challenging Dramatic Role
One of his most challenging dramatic roles was that of Ernie Mott, a
Cockney drifter, in ''None but The Lonely Heart'' (1944), based on a
novel by Richard Llewellyn. Clifford Odets wrote and directed the
screen version, which depicted the slums of London with a vivid
realism that some found oppressive, but Mr. Grant's performance was
considered by many to be his finest in a dramatic role.
Mr. Grant was one of the first actors to declare personal independence
from the studio system; he was a free agent by the early 1940's. By
1950, his price for a film had gone up to $300,000 and, as a result,
he made fewer appearances. Although not all of his later films were
critical successes, very few lost money. In his later life, Mr. Grant
received 10 percent of the gross profits of any film he appeared in
and reportedly owned his films outright after seven years. He chose
roles sparingly and usually timed his releases to reach Radio City
Music Hall for the holiday season.
One of the best of his last films was ''Charade'' (1963), a
tongue-in-cheek thriller with Audrey Hepburn that poked gentle fun at
the mystery film while remaining an excellent example of the genre.
''Father Goose'' (1964) called for a complete turnabout from his usual
image. Mr. Grant played an unshaven hermit stranded on a South Pacific
island. The film won an Academy Award for the best screenplay of 1964;
in accepting the award, Peter Stone, one of the writers, specifically
thanked Mr. Grant, who, he said, ''keeps winning these things for
'Hollywood's Most Glorious Era'
Mr. Grant's final film was ''Walk Don't Run'' with Samantha Eggar. He
then retired from the screen, and in the years that followed turned
down repeated inducements to return. ''I have been privileged to be
part of Hollywood's most glorious era,'' he said in 1970 upon
receiving his Academy Award. ''I think there is an even more glorious
era right around the corner.''
He remained a star even in retirement, because television reruns of
his films kept his face before the public, and he capitalized on his
continuing celebrity by making promotional appearances on behalf of
Faberge, the cosmetics company of which he was a director. He also
served on the boards of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Western Airlines.
Mr. Grant's private life was more turbulent than his professional
career: four marriages ended in divorce. But in his later years he
took great joy in his loving relationship with his only child - his
daughter, Jennifer - whose mother was his fourth wife, the actress
Dyan Cannon. ''She's my best production,'' he used to say.
Bouts of Depression
In private, Mr. Grant seemed to casual acquaintances to be much the
same jaunty figure they had come to know on the screen. But he
suffered bouts of depression, and he pursued strong and serious
interests that had nothing to do with his film career: he was a
political conservative and a passionate opponent of smoking, which he
himself quit through hypnotism. In his efforts to understand himself
better, he underwent psychotherapy and was treated with the
hallucinogenic drug LSD, about which he once lectured to a group at
the University of California at Los Angeles. Still, he retained his
sense of humor off-screen.
Like other Hollywood idols, Mr. Grant was the subject of rumors, some
of which he used to enjoy dismissing with a shrug of his well-tailored
One was that he was worth $25 million, to which he would say without
elaborating: ''That's nonsense - too much, by far.'' Another was that
he was a tightwad, to which he used to say ''Well, you could start by
looking at my charity donations.''
Mr. Grant stood 6 feet 1 inch tall, weighed about 180 pounds, had
silver-gray hair, brown eyes and a cleft chin that became a trademark.
He never wore stage makeup but stayed sun-tanned all year round,
maintaining his athletic build by regular exercise.
In his earlier days, he won some local renown as one of Hollywood's
best tennis players but later preferred riding and swimming. He had a
small but choice collection of French Impressionist paintings. He was
polite, gracious and genial offstage but disliked publicity and was
considered somewhat reclusive in his later years. When the Regency
Theater in New York held a Cary Grant film festival recently, Mr.
Grant declined to make an appearance but called the theater's manager
to thank him personally and to compliment him on the selection of
Plans for Weekend Appearance
Mr. Grant had been scheduled to appear at the Adler Theater in
Davenport on Saturday night in what was billed as ''A Conversation
With Cary Grant,'' which was suppposed to be part of a ''Festival of
Trees'' celebration the town was sponsoring. He seemed healthy during
rehearsals but then complained of headaches and nausea and was taken
to St. Luke's Hospital.
At 7, the gala audience was told that Mr. Grant's performance would be
delayed. About half an hour later the performance was canceled. ''We
really didn't know the specifics,'' said Diane Suig, the chairman of
the festival. ''We just told them the very sad news that Mr. Grant was
''There was nothing that could be done,'' Dr. James Gilson, a
cardiologist who treated the actor, said yesterday. ''There's no
intervention when something like this happens.'' Mr. Grant's body was
flown back to California on Sunday morning; there were no immediate
President Reagan expressed his regret in a statement issued on Air
Force One as the President was flying back to Washington from a
four-day stay at his California ranch. ''Nancy and I are very saddened
by the death of our very dear and longtime friend Cary Grant,'' the
statement read. ''He was one of the brightest stars in Hollywood and
his elegance, wit and charm will endure forever on film and in our
hearts. We will always cherish the memory of his warmth, his loyalty
and his friendship and we will miss him deeply.''
In 1977 Mr. Grant spoke with Mr. Hoge about death. ''Of course I think
about it,'' he said. ''But I don't want to dwell on it. I must say, I
don't want to attract it too soon.''
''You know,'' he went on, ''when I was young I thought they'd have the
thing licked by the time I got to this age. 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.''
Mr. Grant's first and third wives, Virginia Cherrill and Betsy Drake,
were also actresses. His second wife was the heiress Barbara Hutton.
He is survived by his fifth wife, Barbara Harris, whom he married in
1981, and his daughter.
The Real Cary Grant
A Revealing Weekend With Archibald Leach
FROM: The Chicago Tribune (December 7th 1986) ~
By Gene Siskel, Movie Columnist.
The call came early one morning in January, 1976. "Hello, Gene," said
the voice that sounded exactly like Cary Grant. "I enjoyed our chat
day, and I was wondering if you and perhaps a guest would like to join
Maureen Donaldson for a weekend in Palm Springs? Or do you already
for the weekend?"
The call had awakened me in an apartment near the Sunset Strip in Los
Angeles. I had interviewed Grant for more than four hours earlier in
at his white, Moorish-style home. "I got the idea for the design after
'Gunga Din,' " he had said.
It had been his first interview in many years, and we did seem to hit
off. But naturally, like so many people Grant must have called over
I couldn't believe my ears. Still, this wasn't a time to risk an
"No," I said in the understatement of my life, "I don't have any plans
I can't break." It happened to be the weekend of my 30th birthday.
"Good," said the voice cheerily. "We'll take the Faberge (corporate)
jet. We'll be staying at a friend's house. Meet me tomorrow morning at
private jet terminal at the (Los Angeles International) airport."
And thus began my weekend with Cary Grant, a weekend that would
more than one "Night to Remember," as a friend and I would spend 72
hours with Cary--that's what he said to call him--horseback riding,
to him play the piano, as he did when he played Cole Porter in "Night
Day," matching wits in assorted games, swimming, dining in and out,
getting sloshed in his favorite Mexican restaurant in Palm Springs.
There was also an extended break late one afternoon for questioning
everything from his reason for retirement ("After 'Father Goose' I
the audience wouldn't believe I could still get the girl") to his
experiments with LSD during the late '60s ("One time I imagined myself
giant penis launching off from Earth like a space ship. I think the
space program is based on a deep psychological recognition that this
ending, and that we had better conquer new worlds soon.").
Yes, it was quite a weekend, more revealing than the carefully groomed
image that Grant--born Alexander Archibald Leach--successfully
until his death last weekend at 82.
Before some excerpts from that 1976 interview, a few general comments
about what it was like to be around him.
He was so graceful and funny, even when drunk and leaning on me for
support, that I couldn't help but feel I was costarring in a Cary
myself, in this case a movie about games and music and conversation
Sitting next to him in a public place, a 30-year-old reporter felt
David Niven, even if the reporter talked like a kid from the North
Chicago. You couldn't help but try to be graceful, so at least not to
Major facts that I learned:
-- Grant was as penurious as his image. He confessed that the
reason he was on the board of Faberge, Inc., was that he got
use of the company plane. He also had the use of a company car.
He insisted the interview be taken in hand-written notes and not tape
recorded "because I don't want to end up having it sold on Japanese
He insisted my editors pay a good buck for the pictures taken by his
And of course we were staying in a rich businessman's house when Grant
obviously could have afforded a place of his own.
-- Grant was a very proud man when it came to his craft, which he
as very specific work and not, as he so often made it seem to be, just
stroll through scenery.
"They always think actors are stupid," he said. "But how stupid can we
be if we can make a million dollars for one movie?
"You know why I'm worth it? Because if I'm in a scene with Grace
and it's costing the film company thousands of dollars an hour to
shoot us, I
know how to properly pick up a drinking glass in, let's say, a dinner
"First I wrap my hand around the glass so that when I lift it, the key
light shining on it doesn't cause a glare. Then I know how to speak my
properly on the first take, while quietly taking a drink from the
placing it down on the table on one edge of its base first and then
so that the noise doesn't make the sound man go crazy, all the while
keeping my eyes on Grace Kelly."
The great love in his life, one filled with five marriages? Well, yes,
admitted, he was infatuated with the young Sophia Loren. But when the
turned to great female beauties, he recalled a New York cocktail party
attended with Ingrid Bergman. It had been raining while they went
shopping before the party, and when they arrived at the party, she was
wringing wet. "But none of the men could keep their eyes off her," he
"They kept pestering me for an introduction."
And, now, back we go to January 1976 and to Southern California.
It's a pleasure to report that Cary Grant is in great shape. He looks
acts as if he were 52, not 72. He remains outrageously handsome--and
told him that, he interrupted me.
"Oh, people always say that," he snorted as he lounged in a cream-
colored shirt and white trousers above the pool at his Benedict Canyon
"I think it has become a thing to say to me how good I look. Sometimes
wonder if what's really behind it all is that people are amazed I'm
around. You know, when I was just getting started in the business,
an actress named Claire Windsor, and it became a regular thing to say
that she looked so young for her age. The papers picked it up, and
repeated it. Well, I think people are doing the same thing with me. I
think it's that I look so young; it's that other people let themselves
I asked if he had had a facelift.
He looked me dead in the eye. "You can see that I haven't. Look at
wrinkles. They're all over the place." And that got him started.
"And I've never used a sun lamp. Actually, I don't even lie in the sun
anymore to get a tan. I used to when I began making pictures. I
dirty green skin from my beautiful mother, so it was necessary for me
makeup. But I hated it. I always felt like I was wearing a mask. So,
I used to get a deep tan. Now, when you're making a picture you have
the same look throughout, so I was forced to keep my tan all year
Today, I just spend a lot of time outdoors."
So much for the face. When he laughs, as he does quite often, he's all
dark crinkly eyes, richly tanned skin, and white hair.
What about the voice? Does he actually talk like Cary Grant in person?
After we'd shared a couple of sombrero-sized margaritas in a Palm
Mexican restaurant, Grant laughingly confessed one of his biggest
that, yes, secretaries actually do hang up on him when he makes
calls. "They don't believe it's me."
At Las Casasuelas, his favorite Mexican restaurant, Grant had
instinctively moved into the one seat at the table that faced the
order to avoid autograph seekers. But naturally there was commotion.
A waitress walked over and asked, on behalf of a diner, "Are you
. . . ?"
He cut her off good-naturedly, saying, "Actually, no, I haven't been
feeling like myself all day."
After the meal, in the darkness of the parking lot, an intoxicated man
greeted Grant loudly, bellowing, "Hiya, Cary, ya' look great." Grant
the boorish moment into a typical Cary Grant comedy, by saying, "Yes,
shadows are rather becoming, aren't they."
On the ride back home, asked to choose which one of his movies he
watch in its entirety, he reluctantly said he'd choose "Gunga Din"
it was "such good fun." He remembers that, during a break in filming,
had been running on and giving everyone bladder problems, he and
Fairbanks Jr. relieved themselves on Victor McLaglen's leg while Vic
engrossed in conversation with director George Stevens.
Clearly, Grant was feeling the effect of the margaritas.
As for his acting style, Grant positioned his debonair manner as a
midpoint between the grandiloquent style of early 20th-Century English
actors and the gritty realism of today's screen stars.
"It used to be a more graceful world," he said. "When I was born,
actors proclaimed their words to the audience. They actually turned
the actresses and talked to the audience. I remember a marvelous actor
Denis Keegan who used to greet a woman on stage by jumping three feet
air, bowing, and saying, 'My dear lady!' Why, if you did that today,
throw a net over you.
"When I was a young man, the actors who impressed me were people like
Noel Coward and A.E. Matthews. They always kept their hands in their
and spoke normally. I tried to emulate them. But because I wasn't very
it at first, I was always fidgeting. Sometimes I was so nervous I
my hands out of my pockets."
He said the film character he played who was most like his real self
the crusty, unshaven, and irascible hero of "Father Goose" (1964, his
He attributed the appeal of his many comedies to the mass audience's
unquenchable desire to see the rich made fun of. "It all goes back to
delightful scene of the little boy throwing a snowball and knocking
banker's top hat."
The following day, Grant sat down for an interview, and seized on the
opportunity to debunk his image within the Hollywood community as a
"I think it got started years ago with an incident at the Plaza Hotel.
One day I ordered English muffins for breakfast, and when they were
I found there were three halves in the basket. So I called room
asked them where my other half a muffin was. The menu said 'English
but they'd sent me only a muffin and a half."
It turned out, he said, that the cooks were using the extra half a
for the Eggs Benedict in the hotel's Oak Room restaurant. But
legend was born.
During our last day together, Grant told a story that he believed
up his attitude toward his years as a Hollywood star. He said it was
a scene from a Charlie Chaplin film.
"Chaplin is waiting a long time at a trolley car stop. He's the first
line of what turns out to be a huge crowd. The trolley finally
the first one on, but then the crowd behind him surges through the
pushes him right through the door on the other side.
"And that's a lot like what Hollywood is like," Grant said.
"When you're a young man, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. is driving. Wally
is the conductor, and Chaplin's got a front row seat. You take your
back behind you is Gary Cooper. He has got his long feet stuck out in
one of the exit doors, and people keep tripping over him and onto the
Suddenly a young man named Ty Power gets on. He asks you to move over.
make a picture with Joan Fontaine. You think you do a good job, but
the Oscar, and you get nothing. And pretty soon more and more people
it's getting very crowded, and then you decide to get off."
Told that there would always be a place for Cary Grant on the trolley
car, he gave an instantaneous response: "I forgot to tell you. When
off the trolley, you notice that it's been doing nothing but going
circles. It doesn't go anywhere. You see the same things over and
over. So you
might as well get off."
Deep in the afternoon, Grant talked about one of the more highly
publicized and incongruous aspects of his private life: his
LSD. He used it "100 or 150 times," he said, but stopped when it
illegal. "I'm conservative. I'm not recommending anyone else try it,
it certainly was helpful for me."
He was first exposed to the drug through his third wife, actress Betsy
Drake. "She used it with a doctor, and then suggested I try it. I took
doses under the supervision of a physician, both here and in England."
Grant said, enabled him to confront and vanquish many fears.
"The whole point is to get pure again," he said. "To be born again, to
be as pure as when we were little babies, to drop off all the
misconceptions we've built up."
His use of LSD did not, however, rid him of the fear of dying.
so much I still want to live for, to enter into. You know, I once did
close to dying," he said, referring to a 1968 car accident in which he
suffered broken ribs and shock.
"As I was passing out, I thought, 'This is it.' I thought of my
Jennifer, that I loved her very much. I thought of my friends. But
then I woke
up in the hospital and thought, 'Oh, my God, I'm back here again.' I
I was rather disappointed."
The weekend ended. I went home to Chicago, "East by Northeast." We
spoke twice shortly after the interview. Then years passed in silence.
During the last four years Grant gave a series of lectures around the
country, including one in September in Joliet. At each he simply
Grant one more night, for a crowd that wanted to see precisely that in
I thought about going to the recent lecture and renewing our
acquaintance. But I passed, because I realized he would have little to
had all my questions answered a decade ago, and, as it seemed to be
so much of his career, Cary Grant simply did not change.
When you are a beginning newspaper reporter one of the first rules you
are told is to never, ever, use the word "unique." There always will
been something like it. Everything has happened at least once before,
editors tell you, and some reader, somewhere, will remember it.
But now that Cary Grant is dead, I'd like to write his epitaph with
Cary Grant. Unique.
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Cary Grant in art: