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Films and Filming - July 1961

What it Means to be a Star

by Cary Grant
(submitted by Amanda Spitler - Thanks Amanda!)

I've been called the longest lasting young man about town. It's ridiculous for a man in his 'fifties: but then until thirty-five a man is often a self-centered idiot. After 35, he should try to begin to make more sense. I know I was impossible before 35; I'm hardly possible now. Those who say it, mostly women, should know. At least I'm little less self-centered. I may be a boor but I feel I'm less of a boor. Sufficient kick in the rear over the years do make a difference and I think I learned from experience at least a little bit.

I who have enjoyed the sunlight of international acceptance for so long, might be tempted to pick up the chips and call it quits while I am still ahead. I did quit once for 18 months. I can't say I was bored, never have been. But I just wasn't as interest in life. During my retirement I had the time to indulge in some long, long thoughts about myself, my work, my marriages. Did I find any answers? I don't know. My life is very important to me. I want every moment to be as happy as possible. I've learned not to believe any longer in either high emotions or deep depressions. I would like to live below or above the line. I do whatever is the indication at the moment that doesn't offend someone else.

Living With Himself

I'm not a Peer-Gynt-like searcher but think if a man picks up knowledge, if he improves his tolerance, if he reduces his own impatience and irritability, if he can spare a listening ear to the other fellow - well, he can't help but find himself easier to live with. One's own creative springs could be replenished. I really don't like to speak about myself to tell about the many many pictures I have done, the many wonderful people I had the honor to appear with and neither do I want to bother with the many ridiculous rumors that have been told by columnists, placing me into close relations, even matrimony with the world's most beautiful women. You have seen me with Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman, Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn and wild stories are written in the fan magazines. I refuse to discuss my private life and my friendships and my family, present, past and future.

I'm no longer just the nice young man who knew how to put his hands in his pockets and smiles broadly. I know the entertainment industry requires hard work, studies, determination and the drive for perfection, which one never achieves. I have learned in all these years the story of humility if necessary and I have learned some of the devastating facts of life.

I was born as Archibald Alexander Leach in Bristol , England . I was sent to Fairfield Academy in Somerset and ran away from school to join the Bob Pender Acrobats. But my father, a clothing manufacturer, was not influenced by the fact that his own dad played Shakespearean roles with Forbes Robertson, and caught up with me within four weeks. So, I continued my education for another two years and at the age of 15, I ran away again. This time I stuck with the Pender group and for five years lived the hard life of an acrobatic comic trouper in training. I served as stilt walker, knockdown comic, clown eccentric dancer and carnival barker before I graduated to Broadway, Hollywood , London and Paris .

With the Pender Troupe I went to new York in 1921 to do an act in the Fred Stone show. Pender Acrobats then moved over to the Hippodrome Theatre and from there went back to England . I stayed. There were times I wished I hadn't. I played in honky­tonks, walked stilts in carnival shows on Coney Island and at one time I even painted neckties with Orry Kelly. After two years of not much better than this I returned to England , where without very much trouble I landed small parts in musical comedies.

One day an Arthur Hammerstein scout saw me perform and signed me to sing the juvenile lead in New York in Golden Dawn. After this came other parts and roles, in Polly, Boom Boom, the lead in Wonderful Night and a romantic role opposite Queenie Smith in Street Singer. I spent the summer of 1931 in St. Louis playing the lead in 12 operettas and in the fall I was back on Broadway. Then I set out for Hollywood in a second hand car, lived in cheap hotels and found myself a job in motion pictures and the name of Cary Grant.

Advice and Horror

Soon papers carried the news in their theatrical sections and I was besieged with congratulations, admonitions, advice and horror stories about Hollywood . Some of my colleagues were envious and many were justly skeptical. I was amazed at the number of people who suddenly came up with well ­meaning advice, oracled warnings and predicted catastrophic outcomes in Hollywood . But I knew only too well that I was not an actor who could last permanently on Broadway, I knew my limitations, I was not a singer capable of competing with notable former Metropolitan opera stars, hired for musicals and operettas.

Hollywood is confusing for a newcomer and an old timer. Much that is written about the Glamour City is correct, the eccentricities, the high pressure production, the endless parade of actors, directors, producers, cameramen, musicians, electricians, scenic designers, lighting experts, make-up men with the kids of magic, prop men. Each person seems to prate, in a haze of high dreams. I have never seen so many women. There were the tall thin models, cleverly sparkling entertainers; the big-eyed extras, protégés, wistful hat-check girls, scantily clothed cigarette girls, chorus girls, dance and a bounty of ambitious man hunters. My Hollywood debut was in This is The Night in 1932; other parts followed. One of these days I might make my hundredth picture. It is not easy to remember all the pictures I have made, but among my very first, and now forgotten were: Hot Saturday, Merrily We go to Hell, Blonde Venus with Marlene Dietrich, and She Done Him Wrong with Mae West. I learned everything from Mae West - well not quite everything, but almost everything. She knew so much. Her instinct was so true, her timing was perfect, her grasp of situations so right. They had many leading men at Paramount , good men with a set of teeth like mine and they couldn't be buying stories for each of us!

It took time to be accepted, it almost took twenty years until I got to be like a well-advertised brand of tea. Housewives bought that kind rather than take a chance on a brand they are not familiar with. The cinema goer is the same way. He'll see one of our pictures because he's pretty sure of getting a certain quality, while he might not take a chance on a new fellow across the street.  I wonder if audiences realize what is the hardest thing in the world - it is for every actor to be what you call "natural."  Whenever I hear people say that Crosby or Gary Cooper just play themselves in pictures, I have to laugh. There is no such thing. Remember how self-conscious most people become when they have their picture taken or some one breaks out an amateur movie camera.

Love At Nine O'Clock

Try to make love to someone you can hardly stand to say hello to and at nine o'clock in the morning in full dress with a  crowd of about one hundred hard-boiled men of the crew watching. If anyone is ever foolish enough to try this, I'll wager he will give the "natural" actors more credit. My first great chance came in 1936, when I was borrowed by RKO for Sylvia Scarlett playing opposite Katharine Hepburn. This picture did nothing to endear its female lead to the public, but it helped me to success. For once, the audiences and the critics did not see me as a nice young man, with regular features and a heart of gold. After this picture I made one after another, probably too many.

Years ago actors were not held in high repute. We were considered a sort of a band of troubadours or "odd Boheme." Then along came the successful movies which was a mechanical thing, something that reached the masses. Suddenly stage actors moved up the social ladder. They were suddenly considered artists. Suddenly it was Mister Laughton and Miss Fontane and Miss Loren, Madame Magnani, Miss Bergman and Miss Bardot. Up until that time mothers had to be warned "Don't put your daughter on the stage." Now they almost fight to put them there. It has practically become a social must. The pitfall of most young actors is that they never really listen to a scene. Instead, they worry about how they look listening to a scene. The pitfall of most young men is that they rarely listen to a conversation. Instead, they worry about what other people think of them listening to a conversation.

I learned that you appreciate work most while you're at leisure, and leisure while you're at work. It's like being married or single. You can't be both at the same time. What makes for success or failure in living? Many people think luck is the decisive factor. I don't think so. Everybody puts himself exactly where he finds himself in this world. Everyone has constant choices to make all day long. We put ourselves where we are by the choices we make. I know I'm sticking my neck out in saying this, and the ill-fortuned won't agree with me. But I do believe people can do practically anything they set out to do if they apply themselves diligently, and learn. Few people recognize opportunity because it comes disguised as hard work and application.

Happy Man

The fan magazines say I am a happy man. Columnists published that I received 125,000 dollars for The Philadelphia Story. They print a lot of things about me - even that Hollywood had given me a guarantee of 500,000 dollars in addition to a ten per cent share of the world-wide gross of the picture Guns of the Navarone. The columnists predicted I would marry Sophia Loren, after they had guessed on Ingrid Bergman first. Every reporter claims I'm happy. To all of this I say: Learn how to be unhappy. If you have never been unhappy, you cannot possibly know what happiness is. Happiness is a matter of degree. The greatest unhappiness in the world belongs to the rich boy who receives a yacht for Christmas when he expected a private airplane. The greatest happiness belongs to the poor man who learns that he does not have cancer after being told that cancer was suspected. I have my problems, too, and not only in personal matters. When I visited England , reporters asked me what I thought of my visit to Moscow , a very Edwardian place. So I said. "I don't care what kind of government they have, I never felt so free in my life . . ." I meant about not being recognized, but by the time the crack got out, people were saying I should have stayed there.

Questioned On Age

I'm sick and tired of being questioned about why I look young for my age and how I keep trim. I'm not at all sure I look young for my age, but even if I did why should the idiots make so much of it? Why don't they emulate it rather than gasp about it? Everyone wants to be fit; so what do they do? They poison themselves with wrong foods; they poison their lungs with smoking; they clog their pores with greasy make-up; they drink poison liquids. And the one thing they should be doing - making love - they are incapable of because their systems are poisoned. What really makes me furious is that people make fun of people who stay fit and trim . . poke fun at them because they don't smoke or drink. What else can they do to defend their own miserable condition? I refuse to give an analysis of my own acting career and it is hard to predict what the future will have in store for me or Hollywood , and the entire motion picture industry. Times have changed. Marilyn Monroe gets ten cents of every box office dollar for her picture Some Like it Hot. William Holden gets at least 750,000 dollars a piece plus 25 percent of the profits for each of them on The Horse Soldiers. I think it was Bill Holden who recently said, "The day when an actor was like a well­trained dog who barks on command is gone. An actor no longer just presents his body on the set and wonders what will happen next." The Hollywood studios want to make a successful picture, but in order to get the banks to finance it, they must have a big­name star. So then a studio - as told by the banks - goes to the star and insists on a deal. I have said, "Take it easy. This way I'll have to drive a hard bargain and you'll be sorry afterwards," but they insist anyway. Some producers believe the demands of the stars are forcing the motion picture industry into an impossible situation. I doubt if this is why I have asked for a half a million dollar guarantee and a cut of the world-wide gross - one day the picture can be sold to television and I'll have revenues in the future.

New Concept

A whole new concept in film entertainment is coming, out of experiments in the projection of movies. We haven't seen anything yet in audience participation experiences. It isn't possible to show what really can be accomplished because of the restrictive architecture of theatres. The new projection techniques will require new theatres, architecturally designed to accompany the picture. The change won't come suddenly. Everyone is desperately trying to protect the vast real estate interests as long as possible, but it is coming. The motion picture will give entertainment so vastly different from television in a few years, there won't be any question of competition. People say audiences want "realism." They say it has to be garbage cans and lousy two-bit violence. I don't see why it can't be laughs and the Plaza, too. That's part of life. High comedy and polished words, that's the hardest to write and to act but it's the best. And it lasts the longest, too. We're the ones who can go on for years.

Deal in Insults

These days comedy writers seem to deal in insults. Very few writers feel funny about life and therefore very little "light comedy" has been produced recently. Of course, I believe that comedy must have a certain grace and that involves living with a certain amount of grace which very few people ­- writers or anyone else -- have in these trying, fast-moving days of struggle.

I always personally loved shooting on location. One of the craziest things that ever hap­pened to me on location was in Germany . We were in the French zone shooting I Was a Male War Bride and I was made up as a French captain. The company was a good way down the road and I was sitting back in the jeep, waiting to drive up in splendor. That was a color film, and we had to wear off-white shirts. The only off-white shirt we could get for me wasn't only off-white, it was a little pink. So I sat there with the slightly pink shirt waiting for the action to start, and I noticed a Senegalese soldier staring at me. Pretty soon he came over and talked to me in French. Well, you know my French! I couldn't talk to the man. So he called the German cops and I couldn't talk to them either. It was hours before the unit found me and got me out of jail!

My present status in the motion picture industry is wonderful for my ego. But notice, I don't say it can't change. I do believe the only thing that would change my mind to make many more pictures would be the anxiety to do a particular piece of material that I could not resist.

I promised myself that I'll only play in another picture if the role is really worthwhile. There are many young actors who need a break and in my own little way I hope I have contributed something positive to the world of entertainment.

New Distinction

Just as the movies unwittingly did very much for the stage, so is television doing now for the movies. Movie stars who have not been keen on television have suddenly been given a distinction which we never had before. We are not just movie people any more but "motion picture actors and actresses." The age of television has just begun -­ much will still happen in your and my life, and you'll see it all on television. But I still want to go on making pictures until I'm dead . . . or longer.

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