Interviewer: “Everybody would like to be Cary Grant.”
Cary Grant: “So would I.”
Archibald Alexander Leach (1904-1986) was born on January 18, 1904, in Bristol, Gloucestershire, England as the only child to impoverished parents. At age nine, Archie came home from school one day and was told his mother had gone off to a seaside resort. The real truth was that she had been placed in a mental institution, where she would remain for years, and he was never told about it (he wouldn’t see his mother again until he was in his late 20s). At age fourteen, Archie Leach ran away from home to join the Bob Pender Troupe of comedians and acrobats to perform as a juggler. While performing in the music halls of London, Archibald acquired a Cockney accent.
He moved to the United States in 1920 when the troupe toured America. A contract with Paramount Pictures developed for Archie in 1932 after appearing in stage musicals and comedies around the country. Studio executives did not like the name “Archie Leach” for a leading man and thus “Cary Grant” was born. Mr. Grant legally changed his name in 1941.
Cary became a star in 1933 when Mae West chose him for her leading man in both She Done Him Wrong and I’m No Angel. Widely regarded as one of the most handsome men in films, Cary established a screen persona of debonair charm and intelligence. His unique accent with leftover bits of his natural Cockney accent turned to be a much desired speaking pattern. After his Paramount contract expired in 1935, Mr. Grant became on of the few stars who was able to successfully freelance and chose scripts carefully.
Carey established himself in the screwball comedy and action-adventure genres during the late 1930s and early 1940s. He appeared with Katharine Hepburn in Sylvia Scarlett in 1935, Holiday and Bringing Up Baby in 1938, and The Philadelphia Story in 1940. With Irene Dunne, Cary made The Awful Truth in 1937, My Favorite Wife in 1940, and Penny Serenade in 1941. In 1939 in Only Angels Have Wings and Gunga Din, Cary proved that he could play the rugged action roles. In His Girl Friday in 1940, Cary played Walter Burns in one of the greatest comedy movies in history.
Alfred Hitchcock cast Mr. Grant in a number of his films including Suspicion in 1941, Notorious in 1946, To Catch a Thief in 1955, and my personal favorite, North by Northwest in 1959. Mr. Hitchcock said that he cast Cary as the prototype of the ideal man that Alfred would have like to have been. North by Northwest is regarded as “masterful blend of suspense and humor” and was a career high for both Mr. Grant and Mr. Hitchcock. Below is the famous scene in North by Northwest where Cary is chased by a plane!
Although being nominated for an Academy Award twice for Penny Serenade and None but the Lonely Heart, Cary was (along with Edward G. Robinson) Hollywood’s most regarded actor to never receive an Academy Award for Acting. His performances in such memorable films as Mr. Lucky (1943), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), I Was a Male War Bride (1949), Monkey Business (1952), and An Affair to Remember (1957) have nonetheless stood the test of time far better than the work of many of his award-winning contemporaries. In 1970, Frank Sinatra presented Cary with an Honorary Oscar, shown in the video clip below.
Mr. Grant’s screen career extended into the 1960s, when he appeared in That Touch of Mink in 1962 with Doris Day and the stylish caper Charade in 1963 with Audrey Hepburn. Walk Don’t Run (1966) inadvertently became his final film, as he was enmeshed in divorce from fourth wife Dyan Cannon and child-custody proceedings that dragged on until 1969 and consumed his attention. It is said that he lost much of his interest in filmmaking during that period. Cary died on November 29, 1986 in Davenport, Iowa from a cerebral hemorrhage. Cary Grant is of the few stars for whom the term “screen icon” is not mere hyperbole. Mr. Grant in 1999 ranked second (next to Humphrey Bogart) on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest film stars of all time. His legacy lives on as the dashing leading man with both intelligence and humor with looks to make movie watchers melt!
“I’ve often been accused by the critics of being myself
on the screen. But being oneself
is more difficult than you’d suppose.”