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.
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.”
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
“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.
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
stars who spoke out in her defense.)
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
studying how to be happy in this life. Right now she’s at see on
the SS Universe, on her way to
. 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
has found its way into several
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.
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.”
conversation, there have been pauses while Grant munches on
“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.”
Grant rude? Unthinkable. Had he kept on, I probably would have
apologized for talking while he was eating.