"Do you have children?" asks the soft-spoken man with snow-white
"Yes, a girl and a boy."
"You did it the right way," he says, returning to a shelf
the third portrait he has shown me of his one and only child.
She's 7 and beautiful; her papa is pushing 70 and handsome.
He is also the most celebrated personality on the board of
directors of Fabergé - a firm
dedicated to the pursuit of happy scents - as well as a top
executive of Western Airlines and a founding father of an
idyllic, get-away-from-it-all-if-you-can-afford-it community
that is being set up near Shannon, Ireland. And - he
insists - he is a former movie star.
"If I had known then what I know now ... if I had not been so
utterly stupid or selfish ... I would have had a hundred
children and I would have built a ranch to keep them on."
He could easily have afforded it, since his fortune is estimated
at a modest $25-million. But he never built that ranch,
perhaps because he was so busy building an indelible screen
image - the image of the passionate but poised lover, the man
among men and, above all, the suave funnyman who was nobody's
The elusive, inimitable Cary Grant style, a smoothly male style
which retained its unique grace under phenomenal female
pressure: from predatory Mae West purring "You can be had" to
him in "She Done Him Wrong," to madcap Katharine Hepburn - and
her wayward leopard - stalking him in "Bringing Up Baby," to
fledgling femme fatale Rita Hayworth bedeviling him in "Only
Angels Have Wings," to spunky ex-spouse Irene Dunne sabotaging
his honeymoon with Gail Patrick in "My Favorite Wife," to
naughty Ingrid Bergman nibbling his ear in "Notorious," to
bebopping Shirley Temple, bent on making him her best beau in
"The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer," to mischief-making Marilyn
Monroe taking him for a joy-ride in "Monkey Business," to
blue-blooded Grace Kelly burning a red-hot flame for him in "To
Catch a Thief," to super-virgin Doris Day smothering him with
candy kisses in "That Touch of Mink."
● ● ● ●
And it seems only yesterday that he smooched
and sparred with the likes of Dietrich, Bankhead, Harlow,
Lombard, Jean Arthur, Rosalind Russell, Sylvia Sydney and Myrna
Loy. Yet today, this bustling, smartly dressed
industrialist would prefer talking about a new movie, a
non-Cary Grant movie. He is settled down in his Manhattan
pad - a spacious suite at the Warwick, a hideaway once called
home by Marion Davies - to chat about "A Touch of Class," partly
because he feels the George Segal-Glenda Jackson comedy is a
delicious trifle in the sophisticated by screwball tradition of
such Grant goodies as "The Awful Truth," "Bringing Up Baby,"
"His Girl Friday," and "The Philadelphia Story," and partly
because "A Touch of Class" is a Brut production, and Brut is the
showbiz baby of father Fabergé.
● ● ● ●
If you've been reading the gossip columns
lately, however, or scanning the ads on the movie pages, you
probably think "A Touch of Class" was produced by Joe Levine, a
not excessively timid showman who is merely functioning as the
distributor of the film for Brut. "Despite what it says on
the billboards, Joe Levine did not produce the movie," Grant
says emphatically. "If anyone is responsible for 'A Touch
of Class,' it is Mel Frank, the man who wrote it and directed
it. I like Joe Levine, but I do believe it's a habit of
his to take credit when he really shouldn't, something that
applies even to 'The Graduate.'"
Be it Brut or be it Levine, "A Touch of Class"
has a touch of sass about sex that would have been strictly
taboo in the days when the Hays Office forced Grant to keep at
least one foot on the bedroom floor. Take, for example,
the scene in which cheating husband George Segal beds down in a
Spanish hotel room with liberated divorcee Glenda Jackson, only
to have his aching back go kaput at the crucial moment.
And a few scenes later - after the frantic couple has finally
succeeded in making it - Glenda gives George a not-so-gentle
appraisal of his sexual performance that would have brought a
blush to the cheeks of Mae West in "She Done Him Wrong."
"in the old days, we might have liked to
be that explicit," smiles Grant, "but I'm not so sure we would
have had the courage."
And who can be sure that such courageous sex
will scoot by small-town censors, now that the Supreme Court has
given them the power to decide what is and what is not obscene?
"I'm damned if I know where I stand on the Supreme Court
ruling," says Grant. "I mean, what makes one word for
something obscene, and another word for the very same act not
obscene? As for nudity and the visual depiction of sex ...
well, that's part of our anatomy, isn't it? It's the
method by which we are born, so it should be thought beautiful.
I just don't know what to make of it all.
● ● ● ●
"It does seem to me that if a man wants to see
a film that reveals everything, it should be up to him. I
myself have never seen a pornographic movie, except for 'Last
Tango in Paris.' They had a big charity screening in
Hollywood - $100, deductible - and everyone wore black
tie. I went with a very distinguished crowd, including
Norton Simon and his wife, Jennifer Jones. And I'll tell
you what I thought of 'Last Tango in Paris,' except that it did
seem crude to me. I really don't know why Marlon made it."
Grant would never dream of doing a new-fangled
"Tango," but he has been tempted, from time to time, to waltz
back into the limelight he left in 1966, soon after "Walk, Don't
Run" - a flat remake of "The More the Merrier" - caused
customers to run, not walk, away from the box office. "I
was asked to do the movie of 'Sleuth,' but in the end I decided
it would be too much work. I mean, I've done all
that - almost 70 times - and it's a tiresome and very strenuous
He was also Jack Warner's pick for the plum
part of Professor Henry Higgins in "My Fair Lady." "At
that time, I was considered more commercial than Rex Harrison,
but the thing that stopped me from taking the role was the fact
that I had seen the show on stage three times and I just didn't
think anyone could do it better than Rex. Jack Warner kept
pushing, though, so finally I said to him, 'Look, Rex does it;
use him.' Actually, I always thought the movie should have
been done with Julie Andrews, too, although I adore Audrey
Hepburn and had a great time with her in 'Charade.' I just think
that once something has been done to perfection, why interfere
● ● ● ●
But isn't there some role that Grant would like
to bring to cinematic perfection? "I don't wish to sound
ungrateful, but the truth is I have very little to do with
movies any more. I seldom go to the movies. I
realize 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 wheel chair.
At my age ..."
"Why are you so sensitive about your age?"
"I didn't say I was sensitive about my
"I don't want to misquote you."
"Go ahead, I give you permission to misquote
me. I improve in misquotation. But I'm not
sensitive about my age. The fact is, no one is delighted
about getting old, but you have no real choice but to go along
with it. If one is too eager to pursue his lost youth, it
becomes immediately evident."
● ● ● ●
Now that he has put his romantic movie past
behind him and become a big business man ...
"What makes you think I wasn't always a big
business man? Do you know of any other business where a
man can earn a million dollars in 10 weeks?"
"Can I ask you how much you make at
"Certainly you can ask, but I won't tell you."
He'd rather tell me about the astonishingly
lovely Jennifer, the daughter of his otherwise disastrous
marriage to actress Dyan Cannon. Newspaper accounts of the
custody dispute made for depressing reading, and it is hard to
imagine that any child could survive that sort of trauma without
"That's going to be all right," Grant says.
"Jennifer and I level with each other. She finds it
difficult to leave me, and she also finds it difficult to leave
her mother. Any court that can handle that situation has
to have the wisdom of Solomon. Her mother and I are trying
to handle it the best we can, and I think the love we feel for
Jennifer will be reflected. The press builds these things
up so, using words like battling and fighting. Nobody's
fighting; it's just that when you have a point of disagreement
which you cannot resolve, you must go to the man who will
arbitrate - the judge."
Miss Cannon went to the judge and told him that
her husband had been physically abusive to her in front of the
servants. Would Grant care to comment on his alleged
breach of domestic etiquette?
"Oh, I think these things speak for themselves,
don't you" So many unpleasant things come up in a divorce
● ● ● ●
One of the more unpleasant - and surprising - things pointed out
by Miss Cannon in court was the fact that Grant was uncommonly
keen on LSD. "My intention in taking LSD was to make
myself happy. A man would be a fool to take something that
didn't make him happy. I took it with a group of men, one
of whom was Aldous Huxley. We deceived ourselves by
calling it therapy, but we were truly interested in how this
chemical could help humanity. I found it a very
enlightening experience, but it's like alcohol in one respect: a
shot of brandy can save your life, but a bottle of brandy can
kill you. And that's what happened when a lot of young
people started taking LSD, which is why it became necessary to
make it illegal. I wouldn't dream of taking LSD now; I
don't need it now."
Not only are illicit drugs a thing of the past, but so -
apparently - is the bitterness between Grant and Miss Cannon.
In fact, he just returned from personally delivering Jennifer to
her mother in Canada, where she is now making a movie. But
then Grant has striven to maintain a good-neighbor policy with
his former wives, from Virginia Cherrill (1933-1935) to Barbara
Hutton (1942-1945) to Betsy Drake (1949-1962).
"Virginia is happily remarried," he says affectionately of Miss
Cherrill, the former actress who is best remembered as the
enchanting blind flower seller in Charlie Chaplin's "City
Lights." "She lives in Santa Barbara now, but every once
in a while she comes to Los Angeles and we have a long chat,
gabbing about one thing or another. During my last
divorce, Virginia called and said, 'If you need a character
witness, I'll come right down there and give you one.'"
● ● ● ●
Nor were there ever bad feelings between Grant and Barbara Hutton.
"Barbara and I talked often after the divorce. That's the
way it should be, don't you think? The difficulty in going
through any divorce is that the lawyers must do all the
But of all his ex-wives, the one who has remained closest is Betsy
Drake, Grant's vivacious leading lady in two slight but engaging
comedies, "Every Girl Should Be Married," and "Room for One
More." "I'll be talking to Betsy later today, as a matter
of fact. She's applying for her doctorate in psychology at
U.C.L.A. Betsy was a delightful comedienne, but I don't
think that Hollywood was ever really her milieu. She
wanted to help humanity, to help others help themselves."
● ● ● ●
Feminists might well applaud Grant's pride in his ex-wife's
pursuit of a meaningful career, but they would find troublesome
his assertion that the most natural thing a woman can do is to
marry when young and to have children just as soon as possible.
"As far as I know, most animal live behaves in that manner,"
Grant says. "They mate when they find they are
biologically able. But we've thrown the world out of
whack; we prevent young people from having children when they
are ready, which is when a boy is about 13 and a girl achieves
"In our competitive society, parents instill in children the need
to succeed. Since they're not permitted to get jobs when
they are 14, they can't support themselves or the children they
might have. So what are they to do? The religions
tell them that they shouldn't mate without getting married, that
anyone who does is bad. But it's not that way in the South
Seas; there is no need for status there, no need for the latest
bellbottoms. They go to bed when the animals do, they pick
leaves from the trees to protect their genital organs, they make
love when the mood strikes them, and the community takes care of
"You can't suppress young people. I know I felt the need of
a girl when I was 12 or 13 - I think every boy does. Yet
our society sets out to divorce boys and girls. They even
have bucket seats in cars now, so you can't neck in a drive-in.-
Just the same, I think our young people are getting it all
together. Not that I think you should be making love all
the time - who can do it all the time? Though I do try."
Does that mean that Grant has a steady girl, if that is not too
old-fashioned a way of putting it?
"That does sound a bit old-fashioned, but if you mean is there one
special girl that I see all the time, the answer is no.
Whatever comes my way, comes my way; whatever happens, happens."
● ● ● ●
In politics, as in sex, Grant does not go steady these days.
"I don't always vote on the same ticket; I vote for the man I
think will do the best job. I have supported President
Nixon in the past because I think he has done some wonderful
things. He stopped the war in Vietnam and he brought
550,000 men home smoothly. He has created friendship with
the Russians and with the Chinese, as compared with the fiasco
of the Bay of Pigs. I don't know what to think about
Watergate, except that I'm sorry about it and that I think the
press has blown it up out of proportion. Not that I think
bugging should be excused - I wouldn't want my phone
bugged - but bugging has been used in Washington for many
Without a doubt, Washington is situated this side of Paradise.
Does Grant ever feel an urge to pocket his $25-million and
trundle off to Tahiti? "This is my Tahiti. I
don't put a great deal of effort into my work for Faberge.
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," says the trim and tanned
superstar-turned-tycoon, "Well, I do what makes me