One of my favorite leading male actors when I was growing up was Cary Grant (1904 – 1986). Why did I like him? He reminded me of my father. No he didn’t look like my dad at all. But he dressed like my father. Always neat, well groomed, and very dapper! Grant was much like my father in that the suits he wore fit him perfectly. He was always well-dressed, even when his clothing was supposed to be “casual”, i.e. not a suit and necktie.
Admirers or fans have described Cary Grant as “debonaire”, “sophisticated” and “funny”! But before being described that way, when he was an unknown, he must have had enough confidence in himself to believe that he would be a “survivor”. Born and raised in Bristol, England, he did not have a very happy home life as a child. He was expelled from school at the age of 14, and so he had to go to work and fend for himself. His mother had been committed to a mental hospital and he and his father did not have much of a relationship. He went to work in a theater in his hometown. That introduced him to the world of entertainment and that put him on the path to Hollywood stardom.
He came to America at the age of 16. He was traveling with a group of entertainers from England. His first stop in the USA? New York City. When the people he came with went back home, he decided to stay in New York. When he grew into manhood he was quite a dashing figure. His handsomeness was attention-grabbing! Yet he did not get his first Hollywood acting contract until he was age 27; using the name Cary Grant.
He established himself as a comedic actor. His humor was really clean too! You don’t mind watching all of his movies, where he played comedy roles, with young children around. It was said that he only accepted roles that he thought portrayed him as a good moral character. He wanted anybody including children to be able to watch him on screen. That was the public image he always wanted to maintain and he did. The movies he starred in for the first half of his career were wholesome clean comedy. But when he teamed up with the great director Alfred Hitchcock, he proved that he could also play dramatic roles quite convincingly. Whether comedy or drama, he maintained that image of being a decent and upstanding gentleman.
Grant became an American citizen in 1942 and the naturalization process allowed him to legally change his name from Archibald Alexander Leach to “Cary Grant”. He made 70+ films over three (3) decades (1930s – 1960s), but it was easy for me to narrow down my 3 favorite films (listed below) because, in addition to being a huge Cary Grant fan during my youth, I was also a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan. Hitchcock is known as the “Master of Suspense”; and his films and his television show were extremely popular back in my day. One may wonder however since comedy was not really Hitchcock’s specialty, why he would even approach a comedic actor to star in his films. But isn’t the answer obvious? Cary Grant made a very attractive leading man and if you paired him with an equally attractive leading lady, how could your movie not be a hit? Of course, I don’t know if that was in Mr. Hitchcock’s mind, but that’s what I would have been my thinking.
- Notorious (1946), leading lady, Ingrid Bergman
- To Catch a Thief (1955), leading lady, Grace Kelly
- North by Northwest (1959), leading lady, Eva Marie Saint
All of the women chosen to star in the films with Mr. Grant were just as popular as he was; and onscreen they made the perfect pair.
Notorious (1946), leading lady, Ingrid Bergman
This movie is a Hitchcock classic that will not disappoint anyone who loves old movies about espionage. Most of the action in this film takes place in Brazil, but the opening scene is Miami, Florida, the city where I was born and raised. For that reason only, the movie instantly captured my attention. Ingrid Bergman plays the daughter of a man who was convicted as a Nazi spy. She is as American as apple pie and there is no reason why she should be punished for the sins of her father. Cary Grant works for the United States government as an agent and he persuades Ingrid Bergman to accept an assignment because it is her patriotic duty. They caught her father and convicted him but they need to catch another bad guy. Grant and Bergman fall in love almost immediately and that makes her carrying out the assigment “complicated”.
To Catch a Thief (1955), leading lady, Grace Kelly
Cary Grant was a professional thief and he was a very good one known as “The Cat”. But he retired to the quiet life of a bachelor in a gorgeous villa where he grew beautiful flowers. Unfortunately, there is a copycat cat going around committing burglaries and stealing people’s jewels. Naturally, he becomes the prime suspect. He needs to catch the real thief to prove his innocence. While trying to find the victims, i.e. jewelry owners, that the copycat thief is likely to rob, he meets Grace Kelly, the daughter of one of the victims, and falls in love. She helps him catch the thief and she steals his heart as well.
North by Northwest (1959), leading lady, Eva Marie Saint
I have often heard people say that everybody in the world has a “twin”. I don’t really know if that it’s true, but in my own life experience, I have had people mistake me for being someone else. The person’s name was Julie. I never met her but people have approached me or waved at me from a distance calling out the name Julie. That’s not my name! Nevertheless being mistaken for someone else didn’t really disrupt or interrupt my life. In this movie, Cary Grant is mistaken for someone else and his life is turned upside down! There’s a lot of spying going and one of the spies is a woman. No worries. She’s one of the good guys. He’s no experienced secret agent but he decides to help her accomplish her mission. The two most memorable scenes in this movie? The one where the couple is on Mount Rushmore and the scene where Grant is running, and trying to avoid being run over by an airplane!
♦ These are my top 3 picks for favorite Cary Grant movies. My favorite leading lady was Ingrid Bergman. Agree or Disagree.