Cary Grant is the actor actresses prefer. He makes a girl look
good just by being there. A lot of leading women have found that
out. One 27-year-old beauty just married him, his fourth
marriage. And stunning redhead, Samantha Eggar, jumped at the
chance to play opposite him in a new Tokyo-based comedy this
fall. It will be her second big movie for Hollywood, and his
He has style. He is handsome and gray and 61. He is elegant.
They don't come any smoother. You can see that style grow uptown
at the New Yorker Theater, where a month-long, 20-picture cycle
of his best started the other day.
At the beginning, he was different. In his first movie, "This Is
the Night," in 1932, and for a time thereafter, he was
boisterous, exhibitionistic, engaging, a little awkward. After
all, he was Archie Leach from England, not so far removed from
the same Cockney alums that produced those other
arch-sophisticates, Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence. But even
then, he had something. Mae West took one look at him and
extended her famous invitation to come up sometime. In "She Done
Him Wrong" he was the him.
The Other Man
In "Blonde Venus," he tempted Marlene Dietrich but at the end
she went back to her husband. When he tempted Tallulah in "The
Devil and the Deep," her evil husband, Charles Laughton,
arranged an untimely end for him. He was a dashing Cockney con
man in "Sylvia Scarlett" in 1935, but Katharine Hepburn still
preferred Brian Aherne. It was the last time that ever happened.
"The Awful Truth" was the breakthrough. In it he bathed in
ultra-violet to convince his wife, Irene Dunne, he really had
been in Florida. He battled in the divorce court for custody of
their dog, and hid noisily in his wife's bedroom while she
received her new fiancé. Leo McDarey won an Oscar for directing
it, and Grant and Miss Dunne personified the "modern marriage
can be fun" motif so prevalent in the Thirties.
Fun was important in those days. He had a ball editing a
newspaper in the mile-a-minute "His Girl Friday." War relief was
a big joke in "Mr. Lucky." In "Gunga Din," even war was fun. In
"Holiday," he was ready to throw up a Wll Street career to enjoy
himself while he was young - and since the year was 1938, who
could blame him? Not Katharine Hepburn, certainly.
Hepburn was his teammate in the classic duo that established the
Grant image of comic sophistication. In Howard Hawks's "Bringing
Up Baby," he played a horn-rimmed archaeologist who celebrated
man's evolution by recreating a full-scale dinosaur skeleton. It
was his life's work. Hepburn demolished it in an instant, fed a
dinosaur bone to her dog and soon had Grant down on all fours.
In "The Philadelphia Story," he was the sophisticate supreme. He
played a debonair socialite who almost lost his indomitable
ex-wife to a gangling reporter with ideals. Hepburn and James
Stewart both won awards, while Grant lounged in the background
in sartorial splendor, complementing their bravura performances
with flawless straight-man timing - and in the end, he got the
It could hardly have been otherwise. Who would dare try to take
a girl away from Cary grant? By the early Forties, he had all
the American males wishing they could wear clothes like him.
More impressively, he had acquired unmatchable deftness in that
ultra-demanding, most difficult, least appreciated field of high
comedy When he tried, he could be serious too. In "Talk of the
Town," he portrayed a fugitive anarchist befriended by a
distinguished judge, Ronald Colman. He even cried in "Penny
Serenade," begging a judge not to take away his adopted little
girl just because he had lost his job - one of those immortal
embarrassing moments few actors would have nerve enough to
attempt. It brought enough to attempt. It brought Grant his
first Oscar nomination. Some moviegoers cherish him in his most
nearly tragic role - Ethel Barrymore's unsettled Cockney son in
"None But the Lonely Heart."
His perfect director was Alfred Hitchcock. That sly British
gooseflesh peddler liked to play against the suave Grant
demeanor. In "Suspicion," he cast him as a charming scoundrel.
His inhibited wife, Joan Fontaine, suspects him of trying to
murder her. At the ambiguous finale, he suddenly avows his
innocence by claiming he is not at all as it seems to be. Grant
played it in a way that left the audience wondering.
In "Notorious," Hitchcock introduced him to Ingrid Bergman. They
were a memorable pair of lovers. He was an American agent who
recruited her for Mata Hari service against the Nazis in South
America, even forcing her to marry an enemy agent, Claude Rains.
"What a rat you are, " said Ingrid to Cary.
The beautiful Miss Bergman remained Grant's favorite leading
lady. When they met again years later in "Indiscreet," she
greeted him with blobs of cold cream on her face. For all that,
Ingrid was never quite so regal. Grant, of course, was far too
much of a gentleman to notice.
In 1955, Grant was 51 - an age at which most stars are in
decline - but Grant suddenly soared higher than ever in "To
Catch a Thief." Here was Grant in the modern mold, gray and
bronzed - and suddenly, everyone was talking about how great he
looked. He has scarcely changed since.
The Grant of the latter-day Hitchcock - capped by "North by
Northwest" - projects the image of a quiet, tired man with a
Past It isn't his fault if Grace Kelly follows him around with a
picnic lunch, asking his preference for a leg or a breast. This
just keep happening to him. They generally do, if you look like
The special thing about Grant, though, is not his looks. It's
the way he reacts. He can take a custard pie in the face and
keep his aplomb. He just sighs and accepts his fate. Now and
then he has threatened to retire - even when working, he makes
only one movie a year -- but Sophia and Audrey would never hear
of such a thing. There have been plenty of imitators and a few
"new Cary Grants" over the years, but he is the only one who
makes a girl feel secure. She knows he can take care of himself
- and her too. The trouble with Grant is, he's irreplaceable.
It's hard to dislodge the best high comedian in the business.