Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cary Grant: Never to Be Forgotten

"I pretended to be somebody until I finally became him. Or he became me."
--Cary Grant
Cary: The Epitome of Sophistication
Photo Courtesy of
http://www.cassagram.com/
     Cary Grant, Hollywood's favorite leading man, the world's favorite leading man, came into my life quietly and inconspicuously. I cannot, if I were asked, tell you what the first Cary Grant picture I ever saw was, simply because I cannot remember. But how is that so, you might be thinking, if Cary Grant is her favorite actor, how can she not remember? I cannot remember because like a long lost friend that I knew I had had, but had completely forgotten about, he all of a sudden was just in my life. It was as though he had stood before me, with his hand stretched out, and said in that voice of his, "Hello. Do you remember me?"
    And on this day, Tuesday, November 29, I do remember him, as I am sure so many of us do. When I first "discovered" the classics a couple of years back, I had been in search of a safe haven. While Cary wasn't the first actor I knew from the classics, for I have been raised on John Wayne all my life, he was the first one that I became aware of on my own. He and the classics became that safe haven I had been in search for. For that, I will always love, respect, and admire him.

"My family name is Leach. To which was added at my christening, Archibald Alexander, with no oppurtunity for me to protest. For more than half my fifty-eight years I have cautiously peered from behind the facade as a man known as Cary Grant."
--Cary Grant


Little Archie. He looks so sad to me.
Photo Courtesy of http://www.carygrant.net/
     Archibald Alexander Leach was born approxiametly at 1:00 on Monday, January 18, 1904 to Elias and Elsie Leach. He was an only child, a child having been born and died before him, and his mother had since then suffered from clinical depression. When he was nine, his father told him that his mother had gone on a "long holiday." For months he waited for his mother to return, and it wasn't until he was told by a family member that his mother had died, did he stop. It wouldn't be until he was thirty-one that he would be told by his father that his mother hadn't died, but, had in fact, been placed in a mental institution.
     He was expelled from Fairfield Grammar School in 1918. Having forged his father's signiture, he ran away and joined The Bob Pender Stage Troupe. His father, however, found him and brought him back. Despite this, he was able to convince his father to let him to return. Archie performed as a stilt walker, and travelled with the Troupe to the United States at the age of sixteen in 1920 on a two-year tour of the country. It was while he was with the Troupe that he learned and mastered the grace and comedic timing as a stilt walker, acrobat, juggler, and mime that he would later become so known for on the screen.
     When the Troupe was ready to return to England, he decided to stay on and continue with his stage career. Still using his given name, he played in Irene, Music in May, Nina Rosa, Rio Rita, Street Singers, The Three Musketeers, and Wonderful Night all in 1931.

Archie Leach, say hello to Cary Grant.
Photo Courtesy of
http://www.vintageprecious.tumblr.com/
     After appearing in several musical plays on Broadway, Hollywood came knock-knocking on his door, and whisked him away. (Strangely enough, Cary never appeared in a stage play again.) The name Archie Leach, however, was not acceptable. Suggesting the name Cary Lockwood, which was the name for his character in the play Nikki, he got a yes on the Cary and a no on the Lockwood, which apparently was too similar to that of another actor's last name. Given a list of last names, he chose the name Grant, apparently because the C.G. had been lucky for actors Gary Cooper and Clark Gable.
     Cary's first picture was This is the Night as the husband, Stephen, of Thelma Todd. The film did not make him an overnight success, and Cary hated it so much, not believing that any man would accept his wife's infidelity so easily and welcome her back with open arms. After seeing the picture, he decided to quit Hollywood, but his friend Orry-Kelly, whom he had roomed with in New York when he had first started out, talked him out of it. Interestingly enough, twenty-eight years later, Cary would play a similar character in that his wife, this time being Deborah Kerr, cheats on him with another man, this one being Robert Mitchum, and in the end, accepts her back as well.
     After three films and a short subject later, Cary appeared opposite Marlene Dietrich in their only film together in Blonde Venus. It wasn't, however, until Mae West had him star as her leading man in two of her own biggest hits, She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel (both 1933) that he was really put on the map. The two films helped save Paramount from bankruptcy. She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel were really Mae West vehicles only, and didn't require much more of Cary other than to be a sounding board for West and her sharp (and still very much effective) innuendos, and to stand there and be handsome. Paramount for the next several years put Cary in a series of unsuccessful pictures. In 1935, he starred with for the first time, Katharine Hepburn in Syliva Scarlett. Today, though still forgotten mostly, it is when seen, recognized as the gem that it is. It was considered taboo back then for the storyline--Katharine being in drag for more than half the film, the hint at lesbianism--and for the simple fact that at the time Hepburn was on her way to be considered as "box-office poison." Cary incorporated a Cockney accent as Jimmy Monkley, and the film remains widely considered as the first time that his famous personality began to register on screen; he was the only one to receive praise from the critics.

Cary used a Cockney accent, and
Katharine dressed as a man in
Sylvia Scarlett.
Photo Courtesy of
http://www.mediastorehouse.com/
Sylvia Scarlett Quotes:

Sylivia Scarlett: You've got the mind of a pig.
Jimmy Monkley: It's a pig's world.

Jimmy Monkley: Little friend of all the world, nobody's enemy but me own.
Slyvia Scarlett: Yeah, I can tell that by the look of you.
Cary, Ronald Young, and Constance Bennett.
Photo Courtesy of
http://www.constancebenettbyethehost14.com/

     It was not until Topper in which he starred with Constance Bennett in 1937 in which he and Bennett played the fun-loving Kirby's who, after driving too fast and turn a sharp curve, die in a car crash, and come back as ghosts that as their good deed that will get them to Heaven, decide that they have to teach the uptight Topper how to have fun, that he truly had his first hit.
     His next hit, and the biggest between the two, was The Awful Truth, which paired him for the first of three times, with Irene Dunne. The Awful Truth finally brought Cary to the front of everyone's mind. It established him as a screen persona of sophisticated light comedies, which in my opinion he became the King of. As writer/director Peter Bogdonavich said, "After The Awful Truth, when it came to light comedy, there was Cary Grant, and then everyone else was an also-ran."
    In over the next four years, Cary would star in some of the greatest classics ever to be produced: Holiday--a forgotten gem (1938), Bringing Up Baby--a box-office failure when it first came out, now considered to be the greatest slapstick comedy ever made (1939), and The Philadelphia Story--Cary's last film with Katharine Hepburn, and his first and only film with James Stewart (1940). He also starred in Gunga Din (1939) the best action-adventure yarn ever made, and Only Angels Have Wings (1939) with Jean Arthur (!), an essential that one must see (and no, I'm not being biased).
The Three Musketeers.
Photo Courtesy of http://www.blog.sfgate.com
     Also in 1940 he starred in his second film with Irene Dunne, My Favorite Wife, and, for the one and only time, he starred with Rosalind Russell in the classic His Girl Friday. Here's a funny little ad-lib by Cary in His Girl Friday:

Walter Burns: [describing Bruce, Hildy's fiancee] He looks like that fellow in the movies--Ralph Bellamy.

Jean, Jean, Jean.
Photo Courtesy of http://www.wyatts-classics.blogspot.com
FYI: Just in case you haven't seen the film, Ralph Bellamy is the fiancee Bruce.

     1941 was a big year for Cary, one, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for Penny Serenade (the third and final film he did with co-star, Irene Dunne), and he starred in Suspicion with Joan Fontiane, directed by Alfred Hitchcock which would be the first of four collaborations. Cary was, in the words of Hitchcock, who was known not to be too terribly fond of actors, "the only actor I ever loved in my whole life."
    
     Penny Serenade is a true heart-breaker, and Cary rightfully deserved the nomination, but 1941 was a tough year, and he was up against some serious stiff competiton: Walter Houston for All That Money Can Buy, Robert Montgomery for Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Orson Welles for Citizen Kane, and the winner of the Fourteenth Academy Award Ceremony, Gary Cooper for Sergeant York.
Cary and Irene Dunne in Penny Serenade.
The scene in which Cary pleads with the judge to
let them keep their daughter is one of the most heart
rendering scenes in any film I've ever watched.
Photo Courtesy of
 http://www.dawnschickflicks.blogspot.com/

     I'm not a critic, all I know is if I like it, then I like it, and if I don't, I don't. Apparently, Times didn't like it, having said, "Grant and Dunne cannot overcome the ten-little-fingers-and-ten-little-toes plot. Written by Morrie Ryskind, produced and directed by George Stevens (Alice Adams), it is too often a moving picture which does not move. Skillful direction saves it from turning maudlin." I highly disagree with this review, and I highly recommend anyone to watch this film, so in the very least you can watch Cary's moving portrayal.
Mother and son: Ethel Barrymore
and Cary in None But the Lonely Heart
Photo Courtesy of
http://www.moriasthread.blogspot.com/

      It wasn't until three years later that Cary was, for the second and final time, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in None But the Lonely Heart. None But the Lonely Heart was based on Richard Llewelleyn's, author of How Green Was My Valley, novel of the same name. Cary portraying Ernie Mott was quite a stretch considering that Cary was forty-years-old when he made the film, and in the novel, the character Ernie Mott was about twenty. Once again, however, he was marvelous. This is one of Cary's "grittier" films. Ernie Mott is a restless wanderer whom wants to have a better life than what he's always known, but he doesn't want to settle down and work for it. He becomes involved with a gangster's ex-wife, played by June Duprez, though Aggie Hunter, a musician played by Jane Wyatt, truly cares for him. He doesn't have a good relationship with his mother, played by the extraordinary Ethel Barrymore, but when he learns that his mother has cancer, decides to settle down and be there for her. Through a series of unfortunate events, he learns that "life is a queer little man" to use the words of Barry Fitzgerald's character in the film, Henry Twite.  Cary was finally awarded an Honorary Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1970, presented by friend, Frank Sinatra, for his "sheer brilliance in the acting business."
The camera angle Hitchcock used in
this scene is one of my favorites of all time.
It adds even more mysteriousness to Cary's
T.R. Devlin. Photo Courtesy of
http://www.mothgirlwings.tumblr.com/
     In 1946, for their second collaboration together, Cary starred as his most cynical character, T.R. Devlin in Notorious, with Ingrid Bergman which would be the first of two films that they would star in together. Cary was very helpful toward Ingrid, which apparently was unusual of him. By doing this, however, the two began a lifelong friendship, and in 1956 when Ingrid won her second Academy Award for Best Actress for Anastasia, Cary accepted the award on her behalf.
     One of the film's signature scene is the kissing scene, which also, to me, is one of the most erotic kisses, only to be bested by another Cary kiss in the film North by Northwest that he shared with Eva Marie Saint on the train (Wow!), was one that made Cary and Ingrid a little uncomfortable. Hitchcock had them kiss, break it up because of The Code which only allowed screen kisses to last as long as three seconds, have them nuzzle, walk around a bit, and start kissing once more. When Ingrid told Hitchcock how awkward it was, he replied, "Don't worry. It'll look right on screen." He was right.
     After Notorious, Cary made ten more films some of which were the hilarious The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer and The Bishop's Wife (both from 1947), the crazy-funny "If you ain't eatin' Wham, you ain't eatin' ham" Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), and Room For One More (1952). He made one film in 1953, Dream Wife, when he decided that he was going to retire . . . and so he stayed that way for two years, until Alfred Hitchcock showed him the script to To Catch a Thief.
    The third of their four collaborations, this time Hitchcock had Grace Kelly, one his "blondes", for Cary to star with. The film was shot in the beautiful Monaco, which is, to me, the third star in the film. It was Grace's last film for Hitchcock, and as Cary and Ingrid had become lifelong friends in Notorious, Cary and Grace became lifelong friends during the making of To Catch a Thief. Hitchcock was so at ease working with Cary and Grace that he allowed them to improvise on-camera. They both had a knack for coming up with dialogue while still getting the key plot points across. The most significant of these scenes is the one in which they end up getting covered with chicken feathers while driving along the Riviera.     
Cary is a father of three, but knows nothing
about how to actually be a father.
Photo Courtesy of http://www.sharingcentre.net/
     In 1958, he starred in Indiscreet, the second of the two films that he did with Ingrid Bergman. He also, starred in the second of the two films that he did with Sophia Loren, Houseboat. During their first film together, The Pride and the Passion, in which Frank Sinatra also starred, they had had an affair, and Cary had worked it so that they could do Houseboat together, which was a project that his third wife, Betsy Drake, had come up with, and in which she and Cary were going to be in together at first. However, they changed so much about the script that Betsy decided not even to ask for any writing credit. Also, by the time the project started, Cary and Sophia were no longer, and both wanted out, but too much money had already been put into it, and they were both told: No. It was uncomfortable for both, but being the actors that they were, they pulled through it and a delightful film was made. Perhaps, the only scene in which you can clearly tell that there is any tension, is when they are at a party and they are dancing together, but it works for that scene very well because it's the scene where both of them know that they are attracted to the other, and both of them knows that the other one knows that they are.

This is the kissing scene I was talking
about. Talk about steamy.
Photo Courtesy of http://www.waysofseeing.org/
      And finally, in 1959, he made his fourth and final picture with Hitchcock, which also ended up being Cary's most highest grossing picture ever: North By Northwest. This, in my opinion, is the best of all the four films that they did together. Cary is Roger Thornhill, an advertising man, uncannily fitting the description of a made-up spy, whom triggers a deadly cross-country chase. Two of the greatest chase scenes are in this film: the dust-cropping scene, and the chase across Mt. Rushmore. The music score is divine. It's really mysterious and fast and dangerous. It was scored by Bernard Herrmann.
Cary and Audrey Hepburn. In this scene
Cary kisses the back of Audrey's neck, and
the way he does it . . . makes me want to melt.
Photo Courtesy of
http://www.finestrasulcortile.tumblr.com/
     He finished up 1959 with Operation Petticoat, co-starring Tony Curtis. In the next six years Cary starred in only five more pictures, Charade, with Audrey Hepburn being among one of the five. He and Audrey starred in only this one picture together, though ten years previous, he had the chance to work with her in what was her first film role as an "American" actress, Roman Holiday. Gregory Peck ended up with the part that Cary would've played, but he said once in an interview, "Whenever I got a script, I had a feeling that Cary Grant's paw prints had been all over it." Charade is considered as "the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made." It's about a woman who is caught in a web of intrigue involving her murdered husband and his missing fortune. Pursued by the police and a trio of gangsters, she accepts the protection of a suave stranger. Can this charming stranger, however, be trusted?
    
     Charade Quotes:

     Reggie Lambert: Do you know what's wrong with you?
     Peter Joshua: No, what?
     Reggie Lambert: Nothing!

     Alexander Dyle: There's an old riddle about two Indian tribes. The Whitefeet always tell the truth, and the Blackfeet always lie. So one day you meet an Indian. You say, 'Hey, Indain, what are you? A truthful Whitefoot, or a lying Blackfoot?' He says, 'I'm a truthful Whitefoot.' So which is he?

     In 1966, due to the birth of his only child, a girl named Jennifer, whom was born prematurely on February, 26, 1966, Cary decided to retire and focus his attentions on his daughter. His last feature film was Walk, Don't Run; a remake of the 1943 film The More the Merrier starring Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur.
     Having read many things about Cary, I think it is safe to say that above all else, he enjoyed being a father the most. When I read Good Stuff: A Reminiscence Of My Father, Cary Grant, and Dear Cary by Dyan Cannon, I know that is what he considered to be the best thing that had ever happened to him. More than anything, I'm glad that he was able to experience fatherhood.
     Cary Grant, Archibald Alexander Leach, the Golden Age of Hollywood's favorite leading man, the little kid who made himself into the man that he wanted to be, or the man became him, has been gone now for twenty-five years. Through his pictures, he lives on. Through the memories of the people that knew him best, he lives on. Through his daughter, and his grandson, he breathes. He touched--touches--so many lives throughout his life with his work, with his kindness, that he will never leave us. Cary Grant lives on, and I should say, "that's good stuff!"
    

Cary and his "greatest production ever", Jennifer.
Photo Courtesy of
http://www.mattybing1025.tumblr.com/

4 comments:

StanwyckFan said...

That was wonderful. I mean wonderfully written, because I don't adore Cary Grant (PLEASE FORGIVE ME), but this was just SO readable. And I can tell through what you've written how much he means to you, I think that's the best part. :)

moviechick9620 said...

ohhh DARLIN'! this is just wonderful! just perfectly wonderful! ohhh i'm so glad you did this!!! ahhh i love it so so much...its just so touching and great... i'm hoping mine will come out at least half-as-good as this!!!! :D
love, Briggitte<3

Bailey said...

I absolutely loved the entire article. The way she focused on dear Cary's early stages and then you smoothly switched to his career. It was wonderful--just wonderful.

Lydia said...

What a marvelous article, R.C.!