Cary Grant left the world in
the same fashion as he lived -- quietly. Within 48 hours of
the 82-year-old actor's death on November 29th from a massive
stroke in Davenport, Iowa, his remains had been flown to
California and cremated. No funeral, no memorial service:
That's how Grant wanted it. Outside of his illustrious movie
career, spanning 72 films, Grant shunned the spotlight, seldom
Born Archibald Leach in
Bristol, England, in 1904, Grant came to the United States in his
early teens as a performer in a traveling acrobatic troupe.
His talents led him to the Broadway stage, where he performed in
musicals. A movie contract with MGM soon followed. To
many critics, the debonair Grant was the greatest comedian in the
history of cinema. Along with Howard Hawks, George Cukor and
Frank Capra, he helped invent the "screwball
comedy." With his sweeping charm, clipped accent and
impeccable timing, he lit up some of Hollywood's greatest
comedies, including Bringing Up Baby, Topper, The Awful Truth and
The Philadelphia Story. In these films, he costarred with
many of Hollywood's leading ladies: Katharine Hepburn, Marilyn
Monroe, Mae West, Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly. But
probably Grant's most important collaborator was Alfred Hitchcock,
with whom he made North by Northwest, Notorious and To Catch a
Retiring from the cinema in
1966, Grant spent the rest of his days in business, on the board
of Directors at MGM and Fabergé Cosmetics. He enjoyed his
privacy, but his marriages -- to Virginia Cherrill, Barbara
Hutton, Betsy Drake, Dyan Cannon and Barbara Harris -- and his
four divorces, brought him unwanted and unflattering publicity. In
spite of such controversies, the public always loved Cary Grant.
This interview with Mr.
Grant was done four months before his death. He did the
interview in connection with a film tribute in his honor at the
University of Iowa in Iowa City. This is one of the last
public conversations with a legend.
KENT SCHUELKE: What was your
CARY GRANT: My earliest? I
don't know, just to keep breathing in and out, I guess. I
had no definite ambition. One has to go through one's
education before forming thoughts about what one wants to
do. Unless you've got some mad ideas about being a fireman
or a great boxer or a football player. But I had none of
KS: What about acting?
CG: I had no ambition toward acting.
KS: I understand that as a boy you dreamed of traveling on the
high seas. Did you want to be a sailor?
CG: Yes. I had an ambition to
travel. I was born in a city -- Bristol -- from which there
was a great deal of travel. It was a very old city, and in
those days the ships came and left all the time from the
port. I was constantly interested in what was going on down
there and in those ships that took people all over the world.
KS: How did you get started in acting?
CG: Because of my wish to travel, I
joined a small troupe of ground acrobats. I first came to
New York with the troupe. When the troupe went back to
England, I remained here. I liked this country very much,
and gradually I got into musicals. In those days, a musical
generally only lasted a year, so there weren't very
many. But I was in musicals before I came to film.
KS: Young people who weren't even born when you made your last
film are now discovering you in your classics. What do you
think about that?
CG: I think they have a long life
ahead of them. They will make their own choices. I
hope for the best for the coming generation, but it doesn't seem
to promise too much. But in every century people complain
how the world is going. I don't know what the young people
think or do; I only hear the emanation of their thoughts -- rock
groups and similar noises. But if that's what makes them
happy, fine -- as long as they don't do it next to me.
KS: How do you see yourself?
CG: How can I see myself?
We are what we are in the opinion of others. It's up to them
to make up their minds as to what we are. I can only see
myself as a man of 82 who keeps on functioning. I do the
best I can under the circumstances in which I've placed myself.
KS: How would you like history to remember you?
CG: As ... "A congenial fellow
who didn't rock the boat," I suppose.
KS: Is your life relatively quiet these days?
CG: I live pretty quietly -- but what
does one expect a man my age to do?
KS: Is that how you want to live out the rest of your life,
quietly in Beverly Hills?
CG: I don't know how long that's
going to be -- "the rest of my life" -- but I enjoy what
I am doing and, of course, I shall live out my life here unless
some extraordinary change suddenly occurs. If I didn't enjoy
living in Beverly Hills, then I would move -- I can afford to do
KS: What is the most difficult thing about being Cary Grant,
the movie star?
CG: I don't consider it difficult
being me. The only thing that I wish -- that we all wish --
is that our faces were no longer part of our appearance in
public. There's a constant repetition of people approaching
me -- either for those idiotic things known as autographs or for
something else. That's the only thing I deplore about this
KS: Do fans still approach you today?
CG: It happens, but not as much as it
might to a Robert Redford or some younger, more popular star of
today. It gets to be a bore.
KS: Have there been many interesting encounters with your
CG: The people I'd most like to meet
are the people who are the least likely to come up to me.
KS: Are you accessible to your fans? Do you interact with
CG: I do not care or like to talk to
[my fans]. I'm not rude. I try to be as gracious as I
can when someone next to me at dinner wants to know how I feel
about a leading lady. But I don't answer any letters.
I couldn't possibly answer everybody. I can't even attend to
my own legal matters. I must receive two sacks of mail every
day. So you can't answer the people. You feel rather
sorry you can't, especially when there are children concerned, but
it can't be done.
KS: Is is true that President Kennedy once telephoned you from
the White House just to hear the sound of your voice?
CG: We all knew each other, just as
we know our current President, who is a very dear and very
friendly man. We [Reagan and Grant] are old friends.
KS: Film students break your films apart and analyze
them. Do you think scholars place too much emphasis on films
that were made strictly for entertainment?
CG: Oh, yes. A film's a
film. As Hitch would say when someone would get all upset on
the set, "Come on, fellas, relax -- it's only a
movie." Now, if you want to bisect it and tri-sect it
and cut it up into little pieces, well, that's up to you. We
made them. We didn't know their intentions half the time,
except to amuse and attract people to the box office.
KS: What are your memories of working with Alfred Hitchcock?
CG: I have only happy ones.
They're all vivid because they're all interesting. It was a
great joy to work with Hitch. He was an extraordinary
man. I deplore these idiotic books written about him when
the man can't defend himself. Even if you defend yourself
against that kind of literature, it gets you nowhere.
KS: You worked with some of the most beloved leading ladies in
film history. Who was the best actress with whom you worked?
CG: I've worked with many fine
actresses. But in my opinion, the best actress I ever worked
with was Grace Kelly. Ingrid [Berman], Audrey [Hepburn], and
Deborah Kerr were splendid, splendid actresses, but Grace was
utterly relaxed -- the most extraordinary actress ever. Her
mind was razor-keen, but she was relaxed while she was doing
it. I appreciated that. It's not an easy profession,
despite what most people think.
KS: Was it disappointing to you that Kelly gave up acting to
marry Prince Rainier?
CG: As far as we were concerned, she
as a lady, number one, which is rare in our business.
Mostly, we have manufactured ladies -- with the exception of
Ingrid, Deborah and Audrey. Grace was of that ilk. She
was incredibly good, a remarkable woman in every way. And
when she quit, she quit because she wanted to.
KS: How was working with Katharine Hepburn?
CG: Marvelous. I worked with
her about five times. One doesn't do a thing more than once
-- unless you're an idiot -- that one doesn't like.
KS: In the 1950s, you announced that you were retiring
from films. The retirement was short-lived, but what made
you want to give up films at the height of your career?
CG: I was tired of making films.
KS: How did your friends and colleagues react to your
CG: People say all sorts of
things. I gave it up because I got tired of doing it at that
point in my life; I had no idea then whether I would resume my
career or not. The last time I left, I knew I wouldn't
return to it. I enjoyed the profession very much, but I
don't miss it a bit.
KS: Has anyone in the movie industry ever told you that your
work has influenced the films they've done?
CG: Everybody copies everybody else,
if they think you're doing something better than they.
Athletes do that; that's evident in baseball scores and the
improvement of the hitter today.
KS: How do you respond to the criticism that you never
portrayed anyone but yourself in your films?
CG: Well, who else could I
portray? I can't portray Bing Crosby; I'm Cary Grant.
I'm myself in that role. The most difficult thing is to be yourself
-- especially when you know it's going to be seen immediately by
300 million people.
KS: What about the people who say you should have expanded
your repertoire to include more "character" roles?
CG: I don't care what people
say. I don't take into consideration anything anyone says,
including the critics. There's no point: You've made the
film, it's done and if they want to criticize it, that's up to
them. I don't pay attention to what anybody says -- except
perhaps the director, the producer and my fellow actors. But
I'm not making films; I haven't made a film in 20 years.
KS: Do you think these people misinterpret what you were
trying to do?
CG: I have no concern with what
anyone else is thinking -- I can't affect it -- or with what
anybody else is saying anywhere in the world at any dinner table
tonight. They may be discussing me or somebody else; I don't
care. I've nothing to do with it, and I can't control it, so
it doesn't matter what people say.
KS: Do you have a favorite film?
CG: Not really. I did them all
for a purpose. Sometimes I hoped for better results;
sometimes I was surprised by the results.
KS: Why did you leave acting for the business world
in the '60s?
CG: Acting became tiresome for
me. I had done it. I don't know how much further I
might have gone in it. I have no knowledge of that, of
course. But I enjoyed going from where I started on to a
different world, equally interesting -- perhaps more so.