like him left. Gary
Cooper, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart – the giants who held us
spellbound as much with their persona as their talent (or maybe
their talent was their persona) are all gone.
But it would be
misleading to think of Cary Grant as the last leaf.
At 74 with his deep tan, thick thatch of silver hair and
magnificent physique, he could pass for a man in his 50s who is in
A regimen of
exercise, moderation in food and drink and a penchant for
enthusiasm (“Marvelous!” is his favorite response) add up to a
dynamic presence that still causes heads to turn.
His effect in a crowd is stunning.
“He’s the only actor,” writes a Hollywood
columnist, “whom other actors will turn around to see when he
enters a room.”
divides his time between
Hollywood, New York and London, looking after a multitude of business interests.
Home base is the rambling Beverly Hills home which once belonged to Howard Hughes and Katharine Hepburn.
From his sloping lawn you can see the old Harold Lloyd
villa; the Roman Polanski mansion, scene of the Manson family
murders; and beyond lie Rudolph Valentino’s estate and Charles
Boyer’s lovely Spanish-style manor.
The charm is all
there, the clipped British-tinged accent, the stiff-necked turn of
the head, the lithe, athletic grace.
“Women seem more attracted to me now than ever,” he
muses with a grin. Sure
he’s gorgeous. But
there’s something more. A
new ease with himself, with life and with women.
the screen’s most sophisticated and stylish leading man – the
fast-talking editor who wooed Rosalind Russell back to him in My
Girl Friday, a pace-setter comedy piece as delightful today as
it was in 1940; the sexily sulky federal agent who, as one critic
opined, compelled Ingrid Bergman to seduce him in the classic
thriller Notorious –
the list goes on and on – privately lived in fear of rejection
by the women he loved. And
it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Today Grant looks
back on his four unsuccessful marriages with a bittersweet regret:
“I never gave them enough of myself.”
were very different in temperament but amazingly alike in
appearance – cool, slim blondes with an aura of high society.
Virginia Cherrill, his first wife, was an ebullient actress
who fell in love with the Earl of Jersey.
The stormy marriage between Grant and Miss Cherrill lasted
one year. “No more
marriages for me,” said Grant.
“It’ll be at least five years before I’ll try it
Nearly six years
later Grant married the richest woman in the world, Barbara
Grant insisted on a prenuptial agreement that he would have no
claim on her fortune. Said
Grant, “If she wants to buy diamond over-shoes, that is her
privilege. But all
routine household items, such as rent and groceries, will be
strictly on me.” The
newlyweds moved into a huge house with the bride’s son Lance and
a staff of 11. Lance
later said that Grant was a wonderful father, warm and loving.
They saw each other often until Lance’s death in an
airplane crash in 1972.
alliance was doomed. “Her
friends didn’t like his friends,” said one of Grant’s
cronies, “and his friends didn’t like her friends.”
At the divorce hearing the heiress testified, “Well, Mr.
Grant and I did not have the same friends.
On more than one occasion when I gave dinner parties, he
would not come downstairs, but would have dinner in bed.
When he did come down, he was obviously not amused, and
naturally it was embarrassing.”
Later Miss Hutton
said, “Since our divorce, we’ve become very good friends.
He’s really very sweet and kind.”
There began a
long, solemn, introspective period in Grant’s life.
He took a small house in Brentwood where he spent little time. His
private existence was a marked contrast to the urbane, dashing and
witty life he led on the screen.
In 1946 Grant met
a fey young actress named Betsy Drake aboard the luxury liner Queen
Mary on a return voyage from England. Three years later
they were married at Howard Hughes’ ranch in Arizona. Cary was 45 and she was 26. In
the early ‘50s Grant stopped smoking with the help of a
hypnotist. He gave up
drinking and credited Betsy with influencing his new lifestyle.
“I believe 60 is the prime of life – it will be for me.
I’m learning to relax.
Everyone shapes himself.
If you decide that you are going to be youthful and fit for
the rest of your life, you will be.
It’s as simple as that.”
The couple bought
a home in Palm Springs, two Rolls-Royces (one for California
and one to be kept in London), but they seldom entertained and Grant became preoccupied with
yoga, astrology, reading. In
1958 Betsy moved out of their house.
“He’s going through a tremendous change.
I left Cary, but physically he’d left me long ago.”
It is more than
cocktail party psychology to suggest that the mysterious
disappearance of his mother caused Grant’s later insecurities
with women. He was
nine years old when he came home from school one day to find his
mother gone. She had
been committed to a mental institution, but this was never
explained to the boy. He
was told only that she was “away.”
It was to be more than 20 years before he would see her
again – and she never accepted the love or gifts he tried to
after two divorces and a third marriage in trouble, Grant tried
LSD therapy under the supervision of a psychiatrist – and it
turned his life around.
literally reborn. I
learned that I could control my life, that I am not a hapless
victim. I was making
the mistake of thinking each of my wives was my mother.”
recommend LSD therapy to everyone.
And he certainly doesn’t recommend what today is called
“dropping acid” as do-it-yourself therapy.
“I wouldn’t dream of trying this course of treatment
without competent supervision.”
In a recent
interview, Grant said, “I found myself turning and turning on
the couch, and I said to the doctor, ‘Why am I turning around on
this sofa?’ and he said, ‘Don’t you know why?’ and I said
I didn’t have the vaguest idea, but I wondered when it was going
to stop. ‘When you
stop it,’ he answered. Well,
it was like a revelation to me, taking complete responsibility for
one’s own actions. I
thought, ‘I’m unscrewing myself.’
That’s why people use the phrase, ‘all screwed
rebirth, taking responsibility for his own actions – all this
was not enough to save his fourth marriage to television and film
actress Dyan Cannon. They
separated a year later, shortly after the birth of their daughter,
complained, “Before I married him I knew he was a stay-at-home
but it didn’t bother me then, because I was working.
Later it became very difficult to stay at home all day and
watch TV all night.”
“The best part
of my marriage, the best part of my life is my daughter
beams when talking about his 12-year-old daughter.
There have been
numerous court battles over Jennifer – where she would live, her
education, whether she could leave the country, how long she could
stay with her father. Grant
now has custody of Jennifer 90 days out of every year.
He refused permission for Jennifer to go to London while Miss Cannon was making a film there.
But Grant flew her over for a visit himself when he found
she missed her mother.
If Grant has made
peace with himself and his past, Hollywood has not. He still
receives scripts in the mail from producers eager to woo him back
to the movies.
performance was in Walk, Don’t Run with Jim Hutton and Samantha Eggar.
For the first time Grant did not win the girl and audiences
found it difficult to accept him in the matchmaker role he chose.
He was much too charming and virile to take a back seat to
Perhaps the poor
reception this movie received influenced him to turn to a new
career – as a director on the boards of Fabergé, Inc., and
business acumen is probably almost on a par with the unmistakable
glamour quotient he can add to any business he enters.
One shopper murmurs in awe as Grant made his way to the
executive offices of a large department store in Boston. “It’s Cary
Grant. I can die happy now.”
Grant was the
first star to work for a percentage of the film’s profits rather
than a set fee and was the first major star to form his own
company and produce his own films.
He has always managed his own career, choosing his films.
It was not until he left Paramount Pictures and took
control of his career that the unmistakable Cary Grant character
began to emerge.
“The drama in a
Cary Grant movie,” wrote critic Richard Schickel, “always lies
in seeing if the star can be made to lose his wry, elegant and
habitual aplomb. The
joke lies in the fact that no matter what assaults and indignities
the writer and director visit upon his apparently ageless person,
he never does. His is
surely the most ungettable goat in the movie history, and to watch
this expert professional bob and weave his stylish way through one
of his carefully stylized comedies is a pleasure that never dulls
attention to detail became legendary.
He practiced hours to discover the funniest, most effective
way to light a cigarette, fasten a cuff link, straighten his tie.
No motion was too insignificant.
“I used to
stand in the back of movie houses and listen to the audience.
If they laughed at a certain piece of business I never
perfectionism and rumored miserliness became Hollywood bywords. He is thought
to have put one director in a hospital with a nervous breakdown,
and more than one star commented, “I’ll never work with him
beauty complained, “He never took me anyplace where he had to
spend money.” Said a
restaurant owner, “Sure he’s been in here a lot with friends,
but I’ve yet to see him pick up a check.”
criticism really angers Grant.
“So I don’t throw money around.
Has anybody looked into how much I give to charity?
I do turn off lights when I leave a room, but isn’t that
As an actor Grant
has always been the soul of generosity.
His leading ladies never look better than when they appear
with him. Time and
time again fellow actors, directors and writers won Oscars for
Cary Grant movies. Wrote
director Peter Bogdanovich, “By 1965 Grant had never won an
Academy Award. That
year, accepting the Oscar for co-wring a Grant vehicle called
Father Goose, Peter Stone was perfectly succinct: ‘My thanks to
Cary Grant,’ he said, ‘who keeps winning these things for
Five year later
the Academy recognized Grant with a special Oscar for “sheer
brilliance; no actor had ever made acting seem easer.”
Hitchcock, who directed Grant in Notorious, North by Northwest,
Suspicion and To Catch a Thief, “One doesn’t direct Cary
Grant; one just puts him in front of a camera.”
ladies have been equally enthusiastic about him.
Mae West: “After you’ve seen Cary Grant, what else is
there to say?” Doris
Day: “It isn’t just that Cary is so fine-looking; it’s also that he actually cares about
you.” The late Joan
Crawford: “He could
so ‘no’ so nicely. I
couldn’t help hoping one day he would say ‘yes.’”
Suzy Parker: “Who else goes to drive-in movies in a Rolls
and totes champagne for refreshment?”
charismatic public figure of Cary Grant has at last merged with
the private man. He
wisely knew when to switch careers and leave an adoring audience
wishing for more, never disillusioning the generations of women
who have loved and lusted for him.
After 72 successful movies made with the industry’s most
glamorous actresses and after amassing a fortune in the millions,
Grant has turned his attention to the greatest love of his long
and crowded life – Jennifer.
“I will advise Jennifer to love someone and to be loved.
Anything else she may get in her life is a bonus.