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Dallas Morning News - March 20, 1986

A Few Words with Cary Grant

by Philip Wuntch
(submitted by Barry Martin - Thanks Barry!)

82-year-old reflects on roles he’s had on screen and off

“I do it because I enjoy it,” the unmistakable voice on the other end of the line was saying. “That’s reason enough, isn’t it?”

Had someone else said tat, it might have sounded crisp, curt, even challenging. As spoken by Cary Grant, it sounds warm, cheerful, downright jovial.

The actor was referring to his appearance next Sunday afternoon at McFarlin Auditorium on the SMU campus. The 2 p.m. event, called “A Conversation With Cary Grant,” is being presented by the International Theatrical Arts Society.

Grant answers audience questions at several such appearances around the country each year. He enjoys it, he says in a phone interview, “because I’m just horrible at making speeches. When I’ve been forced to make a speech, I always gave to steal a look at my notes. And then I can ever come back to the proper place in my speech. I’m good at Q’s-and-A’s. It becomes like a conversation, and at least I know one person is interested in what I have to say.”

The only think he doesn’t like about question-and-answer sessions is the one inevitable query. “”Someone always asks ‘Who’s your favorite leading lady?’ as if he expects me to give an honest answer. I think what they really want to ask is, ‘Whom did you jump into bed with?’ I don’t even know who my favorite leading lady is. They were all hard-working people whom I basically enjoyed working with.”

But he acknowledges a special fondness for Grace Kelly (To Catch a Thief), Ingrid Bergman (Notorious, Indiscreet) and Katherine Hepburn (Sylvia Scarlett, Bringing up Baby, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story).

“The deaths of Grace and Ingrid hit me hard. Especially Grace’s because it was so horribly, horribly unexpected. And I think Grace was possibly the finest actress I ever worked with. Forgive me, Ingrid, Kate, Audrey (Hepburn) and all the others. But Grace had something extraordinary.

“She was so very, very relaxed in front of the camera. When we did To Catch A Thief, you know, she was quite young. I suppose everyone remembers that she met Prince Rainier when we were making that picture. And had someone else played it, her role in To Catch a Thief could have been unpleasant – a spoiled silly little girl sort of thing. But the way Grace played her; you liked the girl quite a lot. There was something extraordinary about the way Grace played her.

“Now, Ingrid was a splendid, splendid performer, but she wasn’t as relaxed in front of the camera as Grace was. She took acting so seriously. But I adored her,” he says. (When Bergman’s love affair with Roberto Rossellini temporarily ruined her career in the late ‘40’s, Grant was one of the few Hollywood stars who spoke out in her defense.)

“And Hitch adored her even more so. When we were making Notorious, Ingrid could do no wrong as far as Alfred Hitchcock was concerned. He simply adored her. I don’t mean that he ever slighted me al all, though. I always went to work whistling when I was working on a Hitchcock film because nothing ever went wrong. Hitch was so incredibly well prepared.”

Grant also worked with Marilyn Monroe early in her career. In 1952, she played a supporting part in Monkey Business, which cast Ginger Rogers opposite Grant.

“I had no idea she would become a big star. If she had something different from any other actress, it wasn’t apparent at that time. She just seemed very shy and quiet, and I remember that when the studio workers would whistle at her, it seemed to embarrass her a lot.

“People don’t realize how distressing that sort of thing is. I’m sure they don’t or they wouldn’t do it. I get stared at all the time, and it’s annoying. I don’t like to be ungracious, but I scowl at times. It goes on all day long. As soon as you get into an elevator, a silence falls, and you know everyone is looking at you.”

Grant says that he is “a private person only if you compare me with Joan Crawford. But a person like me is subject to certain indignities. I’ve had biographies written about me by people I’ve never met. One was a real hatchet job; I never read the one by Schickel (Richard Schickel, a Time movie critic). I heard it was a quality job, and it certainly had a good look to it.

“But I’ve read some of the other biographies of me and – whew! They all repeat the rumors that I’m a tightwad and that I’m homosexual. Now I don’t feel that either of those is an insult, but it’s all nonsense. And it’s only half-true. I am not gay, but I am tight with a dollar. And what’s wrong with that? When I was married to Barbara Hutton, my valet gave an interview saying that I was so cheap I would keep the buttons when I threw away my shirts. Well, I did do that, but it seemed like a sensible thing to do. After all, the buttons still were perfectly all right, and I would need them in case the buttons on my good shirts went bad.”

Grant has the longest and most impressive list of movie roles of any star. Aside from his films with Katharine Hepburn, Bergman and Kelly, he’s starred in Charade, North by Northwest, The Awful Truth, Topper, My Favorite Wife, Penny Serenade, Mr. Lucky, His Girl Friday, Arsenic and Old Lace, Suspicion, Night and Day, The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, The Bishop’s Wife, That Touch of Mink, The Talk of the Town, Only Angels Have Wings, Gunga Din, None But the Lonely Heart, Father Goose, Operation Petticoat, Houseboat and An Affair to Remember.

(Almost as impressive is the list of films he couldn’t do because of scheduling conflicts – The Bridge on the River Kwai, A Star is Born and Sabrina among them. He also turned down My Fair Lady and The Music Man because he couldn’t imagine anyone other than Rex Harrison and Robert Preston in the roles that they had created on Broadway.)

Grant made his last film 20 years ago, playing Cupid to Jim Hutton and Samantha Eggar in Walk, Don’t Run and acting them both off the screen.

He has a desire to return to movies. Warren (Beatty) was very anxious for me to do Heaven Can Wait, in the role that was played by James Mason. But James Mason became available, and I knew he would do it very well, and I just didn’t truly was to act again. I’m fascinated now by the economics of the movie business. I’m one of these people who can’t wait to see what will happen with Ted Turner and MGM. My wife selects all my movies, and we usually see them on cable at home. We saw Terms of Endearment jest recently, and I enjoyed it immensely.

“The actors today are so much better than the ones in our day. I’m amazed at what Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson can do. In my day, out work was incredibly confined because we were so hurt by censorship. We weren’t allowed to show any passion. Whether or not the freedom is used wisely is another matter.”

Had Grant accepted the part in Heaven Can Wait, he would have found himself in the same cast as Dyan Cannon, his fourth wide and his co-star in a headline-making divorce. Their daughter, Jennifer, is now a 20-year-old student at Stanford University and, as Grant says, “the apple of her doting father’s eyes.”

In 1981, Grant married his fifth wife, Barbara Harris. The actor is now 82 years old: his wife is 35. And he says that his “two greatest productions are Barbara and Jennifer.

“Jennifer is studying how to be happy in this life. Right now she’s at see on the SS Universe, on her way to Bombay . Then she’ll go back to Stanford. She’s well-adjusted, she doesn’t smoke or drink, and I think she’s absolutely perfect. I don’t know that I’m necessarily a better father because I had her when I was older than most men. I do know that, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten much more tolerant of my fellow man and I make less demands on people in general. Perhaps I’m more inclined to let Jennifer find her own way than a younger father would be.”

Grant’s name has found its way into several Hollywood legends. One is that when President Kennedy was having a rough day, he would call up the actor just to hear his voice because he found it soothing.

“Actually, it was Bobby who would do that, and frequently he would put the President on, which was quite a joy for me. Bobby and the President were young men with a young man’s enthusiasm for life. Those men were brought up watching out movies, and they felt friendliness toward movie stars of our generation.”

Another legend is that a magazine editor once cabled Grant regarding his age, “HOW OLD CARY GRANT?” To which Grant, according to the story, answered by return cable, “OLD CARY GRANT FINE. HOW YOU?”

“Oh no, that never happened, Grant said. “I love that story, though. It’s a delightful, witty answer – one of the things that I wish I had said. Oh, well, go ahead and print it, if you like. It makes such a nice story.”

During the conversation, there have been pauses while Grant munches on something.

“Oh, you see, my wife and I just got back early this morning from a cruise to Puerto Rico. We’re both still disoriented. Well, at least, I am. Barbara’s never disoriented. And she just brought me a toasted English muffin. Oh, it’s marvelous. I hope I haven’t been rude, chewing on an English muffin while we talk on the telephone. If so, I do apologize.”

Cary Grant rude? Unthinkable. Had he kept on, I probably would have apologized for talking while he was eating.

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