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The New York Times Encyclopedia of Film - August 22, 1965

The Good Gray Grant

by Eugene Archer
(submitted by Barry Martin - Thanks Barry!)

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 72nd.

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 girl back.

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."

Smooth Clickers

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 Cary Grant.

Artful Dodger

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.

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