British-born Cary Grant, once merely a
master of the baggy-pants school of comedy, has come a long way
- far enough to pull down $400,000 for one picture, the highest
wage ever paid a movie actor.
A number of wry sayings flip around Hollywood
like spitballs flung by impish urchins. Largely they depend
upon exaggeration for their impact. But there is a hard core
of derisive truth in many of them. Some of them refer to the
floperoos, the unhatchable eggs the studios lay: "They had to
reshoot the last three reels before it was even good enough to leave
on the shelf." "It went over big in the cutting room, but
after all how many cutting rooms can you play?"
There's even an alibi-to-end-all-alibis:
"It was an A picture when it left here. Someone must have
loused it up in Albuquerque."
Of a sure-fire picture it is said: "They could
show it in tunnels and caves and it would gross a couple of
Still another Hollywood saying goes: "They'd but
the telephone book as a story for BIng Criosby or Ingrid Bergman if
they thought either of them would play in it."
RKO didn't buy a story based on the telephone
book for Cary Grant. But it did something else for him almost
Charlie Koerner, then RKO's general manager, was
aprowl for a story to use as bait in luring Grant into making a
picture for him. He was stirring up his story department with
a big stick. He was wooing those agents who had authors' wares
for sale. Busily he was reappraising the story properties RKO
had bought, but had never used.
Grant happened to speak favorably to someone of
a book called None But the Lonely Heart. Such things get
bruited around the film capital with the mysterious rapidity.
Koerner heard of it, rushed out and bought the story.
Selecting a phone from among the nest of those clustered on his
desk, he called producer David Hempstead.
"I want you to get set to make a picture, Dave,"
"What is this picture I'm to make?" Hempstead
Koerner replied enthusiastically, "None But the
Lonely Heart. Grant likes it. I've just paid sixty
thousand dollars for it."
Hempstead, a normally cautious man, inquired
with mild irony, 'I don't want to seem the prying type, but just
what is the story all about?"
Koerner confessed that he didn't know, that he
hadn't read it. He suggested that they get together, call
Grant and ask him to give them a quick takeout on the plot.
Once they had Grant on the phone, Koerner said,
"Well, Cary, we've bought that story for you, but I'm a little vague
about the story line and I want you to give Dave here a brief resume
"What story?" Grant asked.
"None But the Lonely Heart," Koerner replied.
"I haven't read it," Grant told him. "A
friend of mine told me he thought it good. That's all I know
So, as if to prove that Hollywood is - in fact
as well as in fiction - a blend of Aladdin's wonderful lamp and
Stephen Leacock's Nonsense Novels come true, Grant played in this
story, bought for him without anyone at RKO having read it. To
compound the miracle further, it scored a critical success.
One RKO employee said, "It just goes to show you
how far a studio will go to land a name that spells box office on a
Hollywood gives another story, also bought under
similar strange circumstances, credit for pulling RKO back from the
brink of bankruptcy. The yarn was purchased from a tennis pro
who had scribbled it down and had described it to Grant in the few
seconds it had taken that actor to climb into his car outside the
studio. Up to that time, the tennis pro had not been widely
acclaimed as an author. But with Hempstead once more at the
helm, the picture was made for $730,000. It grossed more than
It's hard to think of this movie, Mr. Lucky,
without concluding that Grant's own life story could easily bear the
It was a generous fairy godmother who hovered
over the cradle in Bristol, England, on January 18, 1904, when a
male child, afterward to be known as Cary Grant, was born to Elias
and Lillian Leach. The name the couple selected for the child
was Archibald Alexander Leach. Upon the red-faced infant, born
with a fuzz of jet-black hair upon his bullethead, she bestowed a
quality that was afterward to stand him in good stead in his chosen
profession. Now, in the midst of Hollywood's present panics
and alarums, it is a quality that bids fair to keep him from joining
those stars who are tumbling downward with a falling box office.
That quality is being able to climb down from
the screen, get inside of a fan's skin, walk out into the street
inside of him and stay there for a while after the lights have
flickered on in a palace of the cinema.
It is the same quality that sustains Bing Crosby
and serves as a very useful prop under Robert Montgomery and Clark
Gable. In the movies' diaper days it catapulted Douglas
Fairbanks, Senior, to dizzy heights and boosted Wally Reid to the
same lofty altitude. Many a man of middling age can remember
that after sitting through one of the films starring Doug, Senior,
he was, for hours afterward, none other than Doug himself.
Innumerable broken arms were suffered by lads who, still under the
Fairbanks spell, hurled themselves from tree branch to woodshed
roof. Their trouble was that while their spirits were willing
their flesh was still only small boys' flesh.
Those who work this special kind of screen magic
have a thing in common. They meet the frustrations,
misadventures and worriments of life as shown in the flickers,
jauntily and with an amusing air of superiority. They counter
the low blows the plot concocters deal them as if slapping away
For twenty-eight years this sort of thing has
been the heaviest shell in Ronald Colman's arsenal. The result
has been that whole coveys of moviegoers have departed from a Colman
picture wearing twisted Colman smiles and talking in South
Philadelphia or West Seattle approximations of Colman's clipped
British accent. A notable exception was Colman's Academy Award
picture of 1947, A Double Life, which found Colman neither jaunty
nor amusing and which broke no B.O. records.
But this merely proves that the trick behind the
aforementioned quality does not necessarily depend upon acting
ability or losing oneself in a role. Those who possess it are
usually first of all themselves. The character they portray
Cary Grant holds the all-time record for being
many times the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences'
bridesmaid, but never its blushing bride. In 1937, Leo McCarey
won an Academy Award for directing The Awful Truth. In 1940 an
award went to James Stewart for his part in The Philadelphia Story.
In 1941 Joan Fontaine was tapped for her portrait of the fear-ridden
girl in Suspicion. Ethel Barrymore took home an Oscar in 1944
as the mother in None But the Lonely Heart. In all these films
Grant was the big attraction. He was not the big prize winner.
In a Grant movie, everyone except the star seems
to grab off the awards. In 1947 Writer Sidney Sheldon ran off
with an Oscar for his work on Grant's picture The Bachelor and the
Bobby-soxer. Even the sound recorder, Gordon Sawyer, won
moviedom's varsity letter for his skill in The Bishop's Wife.
Being just himself in films, however, has given Grant no case of
box-office anemia. In the nationwide Box-Office poll of top
male stars for 1948, he ranked fourth. He was topped only by
the seemingly perpetual trio of Crosby, Cooper and Gable.
The premiere of The Bishop's Wife was accompanied by critical
hosannas. But when it accomplished nothing startling at the
box office, Sam Goldwyn, its producer, retitled it Cary and the
Bishop's Wife. Injecting Grant's first name into the billing
upped the film's business as much as 25 per cent.
It also proved that Grant belongs to the small
company of those human beings whose first names are readily
recognized by large chunks of the public without the help of any
Nor has being just himself in movies given Grant
atrophy of the pocketbook. His price tag for making a picture
hovers now between a healthy $250,000 and a sturdier $300,000.
As the earth-traipsing angel in The Bishop's Wife, he was paid
$400,000. Signed for $300,000, he was given another $100,000
when Goldwyn decided to scrap the first half of the picture and
begin all over again. This made Grant's fee for that one
picture - on a straight salary basis - the highest ever paid in
While his fairy godmother's gift is the keystone
of Grant's screen appeal, it is more complex than that gift alone
indicates. Queried about the Grant appeal, a studio messenger
girl offered this slant: "He's got finesse. And he's
sophisticated. His charm is boyish, only it's kind of mature.
Of course, the fact that he's tall, good-looking and has a cleft
chin doesn't hurt any."
The truth is that a large part of Grant's
success as a comedian is due to his ability to co-ordinate
physically. This ability was born of the fact that he was at
one tie a tumbler and stilt walker. Co-ordination breeds
timing, and timing is the most important element of comedy.
Grant's particular brand of light comedy amounts to a kind of
In essence, he has taken the baggy-pants comic's
slow burn and double take and has lifted them to a high plane.
It's the same brand of clowning, but it's done with tall, dark and
handsome overtones. He doesn't do his retarded smoldering as
the late Edgar Kennedy did, with broad mugging and fingers irritably
massaging his face to indicate the blowing of a temper fuse.
Raising his eyebrows and looking straight at his audience, Grant
seems to say, "Well, whaddaya know? I'm being bopped by Fate's
inflated pig bladder again!"
Mike Curtiz, the Hungarian director who talks in
such a surrealistic way that his conversation has been hailed as a
whole new language, once said of Grant, "Some actors squeeze a line
to death. Cary tickles it to life."
When most stars hit the heights they think
they're magic. They have a notion that anything they do is
right. Not Grant. It's his conviction that it's up to
him to find out what people like in Grant; what they expect of him.
Then do it. Many Hollywood stars don't see their own pictures.
If they do, it's usually in the plush-insulated solitude of a studio
projection room. Grant sees each of his films in the
regular-run movie houses. He studies the reactions of
different audiences. If one of his pieces of stage business or
one of his gestures rings the bell, it's apt to be in his next
picture two or three times.
He learned his first baggy-pants and big-shoes
comic routines when not too far removed from his mother's knee.
Elias Leach's trade was producing men's clothing, and he was able to
send his son to Fairfield Academy, in Somerset. Archie Leach
conceived the idea for a new theatrical lighting effect in the
electrical laboratory at Fairfield Academy. The British
Christmas Pantomimes are a venerable institution. Actually,
they aren't pantomimes at all, but musical comedies based on old
fairy tales, and are designed for juvenile consumption. In
them usually occurs at least one scene in which a slum is
transformed into a fairy queen's palace. When he was twelve,
Archie Leach figured out a way to hang lights back of a scrim
curtain and manipulate them in such a way that those transformations
could be made easier.
Striking up a friendship with the electrician at
the Princess Theater in Bristol, he was permitted to install and
operate his invention there. So impressed was the electrician
that he led young Leach over to the Bristol Hippodrome and
introduced him to the manager. Backstage there, Archie met
actors who had seen not only Bristol but much of the world's far-off
His youthful love affair with the theater was
born of a burning desire to travel. He reasoned it thus:
actors go places and see things; therefore, it would be pleasant to
be an actor. His notion met with objection at home. He
overcame that objection by running away and joining a group of
acrobats called the Pender Troupe. They specialized in
eccentric dancing, stilt walking, clowning and tumbling. Their
act was a roughneck affair in which the set fell down around the
tumblers' ears and the performers ran around whacking the seats of
one another's flapping pants with loose bed slats.
Four weeks later, Archie's father sent an
emissary to fetch him home. For the next year and a half he
resumed his studies halfheartedly. Then he ran away once more
to join the Penders. This time his father admitted defeat and
let him stay with the troupe.
Don Barclay, then a knockabout-comedy comedian,
but now a maker of ceramic caricatures in Hollywood, recalls this
part of Grant's career vividly. When Barclay first met Archie,
young Leach was thirteen. Fresh from the Ziegfeld Follies,
Barclay had gone to Ipswich, England, to try out a new routine.
He wanted to get the English reaction to American humor before
tackling the London theaters. Rustication for two weeks in the
sticks proving dull, Barclay was trying to brighten that dullness in
a pub when the youthful members of a troupe of stilt walkers who
were playing the same bill with him dropped in for fish and chips.
Archie Leach was the newest, youngest and
smallest member of the troupe. As such, he was fair bait for
the rest of the gang. That same day, as Barclay was passing a
room in the theater where the Pender Troupe was quartered, he
overheard the troupe's old-timers tormenting Archie. They were
teaching him "the art of make-up." Their teaching consisted of
painting his nose blue, his eye sockets green and his mouth white.
Barclay rescued the young stilt walker, who thereafter became his
"Just call me Don," Barclay told him. At
home Archie had been taught to call older gentlemen "mister" or
"sir." Yes, sir, Don," he said. And for the next few
months, while they were on the same bill together, Barclay remained
"Yes, sir, Don" to him.
The Pender company visited New York in 1920 to
do an act in a Fred Stone show. Archie Leach came with it.
When the telephone rang in Barclay's New York dressing room a
thrilled, reedy voice said, "Is that you, Don, sir? I'm in
America!" Archie had climbed higher in the world. He was
now end man in the stilt act. When Barclay met him at a
near-by restaurant, Archie's eyes were popping with enthusiasm for a
land where gobs of ice cream bloomed from the tops of cones on every
corner. He was a whole head taller than Barclay remembered
him, and was wearing a black leather bow tied attached to a rubber
"Pretty snappy, eh, sir?" he remarked, pulling
it out and letting it plop back.
When the Pender Troupe broke up, Archie Leach
stayed in America. HE took on a succession of odd jobs and
slept wherever he could find an empty bed. Applying for a job
at Coney Island, he was put on as a relief man. He "talked"
people into the Red Mill and the Tunnel of Love. While still
at Coney, he found himself once more with a stilt-walking job.
Occasionally people bumped into his stilts and sent him crashing
earthward. But his meals came easily. They were, for the
most part, donated by friendly concessionaires. To this day
even the smell of frankfurters gives him indigestion.
After two years of slamming the door a scant
second or two before the wolf bounded in, he went back to England
and joined a stock company. There he met an Arthur Hammerstein
talent scout who brought him back to America to appear in a musical
comedy called Golden Dawn. Hammerstein spent a year trying to
train his importation to sing. But his voice stubbornly
remained a fog-bound baritone. Grant describes himself as
"just a good shower-curtain singer."
Other musical-comedy engagements followed: Polly
with Fred Allen and Lady Inverclyde; The Street Singer with Queenie
Smith. He had a kind of niftiness. Most of his Broadway parts were
the dressy type. He wore a white tie beautifully bat-winged. Extra
long tails swished against his calves. In five years in musicals he
worked up from $350 a week to $550 a week. Worried by the knowledge
that he was no great shakes as an actor, he spent hours in front of
mirrors practicing how to light a cigarette, how to walk, how to
A motion-picture studio gave him a screen test. The report:
"Good-looking, neck too thick, no chance at all."
When the 1929 depression tidal wave swept both Grant and Barclay
from their feet, their tailor, Harold Dryer, came to their rescue.
He owned a beach cottage on Long Island next to the one occupied by
Walter Winchell, and he invited his two erstwhile customers down.
One morning on the beach Archie and Don put an act together. They
used Winchell's children as a try-out audience. It was a burlesque
mind-reading stunt. Archie was the straight man.
"It went something like this," Barclay told me. "'Gentlemen,' I
would say, while Archie clapped his hand to his forehead in deep
concentration, 'this is a serious test in thought transmission.
Professor Knowall Leach will endeavor to call anyone in the audience
by name.' As I went through the crowd, I'd put my hand on a
shoulder, then call to Archie, 'This gentleman is from Buffalo.'
"'Bill!' Archie would shout back.
"'now here's a stickler, professor: For the love of ____'
"'No, no, the other kind!'
And so the routine went. For the women in the audience, it assumed
some shape as: "This girl is an upper and lower, professor!"
"And here is one, not deaf but dumb."
"Dumber than that!"
"Right you are, professor .... Good people, I call your attention to
the fact that we use no signals, no code ----"
When they had it whipped into shape, Barclay took the train into New
York. He sauntered - no one can saunter quite so effectively as a
dead-broke baggy-pants - into an agent's office. "This being the
off-season," Barclay told him loftily, "I will accept a four weeks'
booking ... if the terms are right!" It happened that the agent had
a spot open in Toledo at $1250 a week, and when Barclay went back to
tell Archie, he road on a pink cloud instead of the Long Island
Railroad. There was only one drawback - the little matter of train
fare to Toledo. Archie took care of that. Even then he had deep
within him an instinct for practicality. In his trunk he had
squirreled away a cache of money for just such an emergency.
The Barclay-Leach act broke up in Newark when a manager insisted
that another straight man take Leach's place. It was five years
before Barclay saw him again. By that time his former straight man
was Cary Grant. Archie Leach's new name was blazoned on
twenty-four-sheet posters that sprouted from cornfields, along
highways, on the sides of buildings.
Although Cary himself denies it, it is Barclay's opinion that
subconsciously Cary likes movie roles that take him back to his
big-shoes-and-baggy-pants days. A dowager, watching a shooting of
the picnic scenes for The Bachelor and the Bobby-soxer, asked with
some heat, "Why do they do these things to Mr. Grant? Making him
carry a potato on a spoon, and doing those dreadful falls in the
"Madam," Barclay told her, "if you will watch the expression on Mr.
Grant's face, you will see that it is little short of beatific."
The metamorphosis of Leach into Grant was partly the result of
accident. But mostly it came of a good-Samaritan gesture. After some
time spent appearing at Forest Park in St. Louis in a new operetta
every week - among them such tried-and-true musical comfitures as
The Student Prince, Blossom Time, Countess Maritza - Archibald Leach
announced that he was taking off for California in a third-hand
phaeton for a vacation. It was one of the longest vacations on
record. To date it has lasted seventeen years.
In Hollywood, Leach met a director for whom he had worked in New
York. The director was preparing to screen-test his wife. Since Cary
had appeared with her in a Broadway play, the director asked him to
lessen her ordeal by appearing with her. It would be easier if she
wouldn't have to test with an actor she didn't know. The test was
made. The actress wasn't signed. Instead, the studio executives grew
excited about the young actor who appeared with her. Two weeks later
he was placed under contract by Paramount.
Archie Leach's movie debut was made in 1932 in This is the Night,
with Lily Damita and Charles Ruggles. His parts included everything
from the Mock Turtle in Alice in Wonderland to one of Mae West's
leading men who went "up to see her sometime."
It was during his stretch in the Paramount stock-company salt mines
that Archibald Alexander Leach became Cary Grant. The Paramount
brass didn't like his baptismal name. Nor did their new stock player
greatly blame them. To him, it sounded the kind of name an
expensively corseted pouter-pigeon hostess would invite to a high
tea. He had been in a play in which his name was Cary, and he
thought it convenient to choose a name he was used to. The Grant
part was hit upon by opening a phone book and jabbing a pin into it
Grant quit Paramount because he felt that "playing all the parts
Gary Cooper didn't want" was unsatisfactory. When Columbia signed
him for $75,000 a year, Hollywood thought that studio had taken
leave of its wits. Its opinion changed when Grant was cast in The
Awful Truth. In this, his first smash hit, a not-too-low comedy, he
was called upon to portray married devotion with a touch of humor.
It meant being gay, brave, and elegant in absurd situations. Then
getting out of those situations as neatly as a pin. In short, he
conducted himself in exactly the way all husbands feel that they
probably conduct themselves if only the truth were known.
The Awful Truth was followed by Topper, Bringing Up Baby and The
Philadelphia Story. Determined not to identify himself exclusively
with comedy roles, Grant has insisted upon making a number of
serious films. Mr. Lucky, Suspicion, Penny Serenade, Only Angels
Have Wings, Notorious and None But the Lonely Heart were more than
mere light comedy - much more.
Grant's reaction to the constant annoyances and abrasions that a
star must endure is explosive. He goes into smoldering rages when he
thinks about such matters. It is his conviction that hounding movie
stars for their autographs is ridiculous.
"Actors," he says with some justice, "should be judged by their
talent, not by their penmanship."
Grant has been known to tell the gangs who clot the doors of New
York hotels, ready to jump a star when he emerges and tongue-whip
him into giving them his autograph, that they are "morons." "I don't
mind autograph hounds, but I don't like rude ones," he says.
"Fifteen kids descend upon you. It would be nice if they just said,
'How are you?' or 'It's good to see you,' but they say, 'If you
don't sign our books we won't go to see your lousy pictures.' My
reaction is to say, 'Fine. Don't go!'"
He has even had women come up to him and say, "I've made a bet I can
kiss you." It may not be the best kind of public relations, but he
tells them gravely, "Madam, you've lost your bet!"
He thinks that most of the fan trouble suffered by men screen stars
stems from the fact that they look the same off the screen as they
do on. Women screen stars don't have so much of that trouble unless
they deliberately invite it. On the screen they wear unusual
hair-dos, elaborate make-ups, gowns and hats. The result is that, in
comparison, off-screen they're inclined to look much like any other
Occasionally Grant wants to take a stroll in New York, a harmless
privilege ordinary men take for granted. But if Grant does it, he
has to wait until dusk. If he doesn't, he's mobbed. If he wants to
go shopping, he has to sneak into a store manager's office through
back entrances. He says it would be more fun to select a piece of
luggage from a whole stock of luggage than from the few pieces
trundled in to him. He complains that merchandise brought to him in
that way just doesn't look good.
He is faced with another occupational hazard that faces all male
stars who set the hearts of their feminine followers aflutter. The
mere sight of such a star in a cocktail lounge or even at a social
cocktail party seems to imbue belligerent drunks with a desire to
throw punches in his direction. Grant stays away from such places as
much as possible. When he does go to a party he drinks little. He is
what is called a "carrier," or a drink stretcher. This means that he
lugs the same glass around with him for an hour or two without
having it refilled.
Sooner or later, every Hollywood star faces the problem of "the
people who knew him when." Their number multiplies in direct
proportion to the star's earning power and fame. There were as many
as seventy people in some of the Broadway musical shows in which
Grant appeared. Certainly not all seventy could have been his best
friends. Quite possibly he didn't even like some of them. Nor they
him. Then all at once he was one of the screen's Mister Bigs, and
suddenly they were all "his closest friends." Even so, if he
remembers them and has a minute to spare, he says, "Ask them to come
up and we'll have a visit."
During his days with the Pender stilt-walking troupe, he picked up a
few cockney tricks of speech. He still uses them. Occasionally he
gets off a "gor blimey!" In greeting friends, he may say, "How are
ye, me pal?" or "Dear ol' George. Bless ye, George; how are ye?" At
private parties, when in the mood, he sings racy cockney songs,
accompanying himself on the piano.
All the available evidence suggests that while early vicissitudes
may have taught him canniness, he is not stingy. When he hears that
a friend is dropping in at a vaudeville actors' club, he asks him to
find out if anybody there is broke, and when the friend reports
back, Grant gives him money for them. There is only one string
attached to such gifts. He insists that no one know where the dough
comes from. Prior to, and during, World War II he contributed
$200,000 to the British Red Cross. He gave an equal amount to the
American Red Cross. But he is inclined to belittle such
beneficences. When asked about them, he says, "There's nothing to
generosity ... if you can afford it."
Grant is non-communicative about his various love lives while they
are going on. He is even more clamlike concerning the death of such
affairs. Nevertheless, his heart attachments have been publicly
dissected for millions of avid readers by the syndicated gossip
pathologists of the press.
"I don't even tell my closest friends my inner secrets, so how can
columnists I've never even met know all about them?" he inquires.
From time to time his name has been romantically linked with those
of Betty Hensel, Phyllis Brooks and his present costar, Betsy Drake.
Palaver aplenty was once made about his friendship with Mary Brian,
Mary Carlisle and Ginger Rogers. It is a matter of public record
that his marriage to Virginia Cherrill in 1934 was followed by a
divorce, and that on July 8, 1942 he married Barbara (Haugwitz-Reventlow)
Hutton. The syndicated keyhole peerers and peeresses made much of
the fact that she was "the richest girl in the world." But before
marrying her, Grant, at his own insistence, signed a waiver to any
part of her fortune.
At the beginning of their marriage, Grant lived in Barbara's house
instead of his own. This kind of psychological handicap was scarcely
calculated help things work out. It proved impossible for Cary and
Barbara to appear in public together. Slavering for both their
signatures, the autograph hounds redoubled their onslaughts. This
marriage also ended in divorce on August 30, 1945.
When his marital affairs go off the trolley, Grant takes it hard.
Months after a trial separation from Virginia Cherrill, he was still
suffering from the resultant nervous and emotional upset. "I
saw him just after the Hutton marriage was washed up. He was
in one hell of a state. I never saw a man more bused up!"
This same friend explains the Grant-Hutton split by saying, "Cary's
friends were jealous of Barbara and her friends. Barbara's
friends were jealous of Cary and his friends. Between them,
they pulled them apart."
This past winter it was
the vogue to speculate on how soon Grant would marry Betsy Drake,
his costar in his latest movie, Every Girl Should be Married.
Writers engaged in researching in Grantiana are warned, "You'd
better put something in your story that will get you off the hook if
he marries her before your piece comes out." That Grant took
more than a casual interest in Miss Drake's welfare is evident by
the fact that in their film he was content to let her have the
lion's share of the footage. Such a concession on the part of
a major star is virtually unheard of.
Certainly a lack of neatness could have had
nothing to do with the failure of his first two marriages.
Grant is a man who folds newspapers after reading them, instead of
rug-scattering them. He is by nature an ardent ash-tray
emptier. He has a proper respect for the hang of a pair of trousers,
and refuses to load his pockets with odds and ends that might make
them sag. He carries three things only: a flat cigarette case,
his car keys, a folded fifty-dollar bill for cash requirements.
Grant has always been clothes-conscious. During his Shubert
days there were some who thought him a little too much on the
"sharp" side. But he outgrew that and, in the opinion of many,
now has a real flair for wearing clothes effectively. He has
given much thought to doing away with the bothersome annoyances of
male dress. The wattles of generations of men have grown
profanely purple when facing the problem of establishing a union
between dress shirts and studs. "I used to go crazy reaching
up under my shirt to pull the studs through . So I developed a
fly-front dress shirt," Grant says. "You put the studs
in. Then you button it."
He is a nongarter-wearer.
He buys socks that fit so snugly they stay in place and don't droop
down in accordion folds. He never wears undershirts. He
has solved the matter of doing away with belts of braces by having
his trousers tailored to fit his waist closely and held in place by
a built-in waistband of the same cloth. The waistband ends in
a flap of the material that hooks into place.
men's magazine once wanted him to write an article on his dress
ideas. When they heard his notions, they clutched their
foreheads, moaned, "Good grief, our advertisers!" and called the
whole project off.
Grant is a man of sudden and
overwhelming enthusiasms. He goes in for new enterprises with
the fervor of a fakir. It may be a real-estate project in
Death Valley or mining for fire opals in Mexico or a previously
untried sport. Whatever it is, he gives it everything he's
He once commissioned a ship broker to find a
freighter for him that he could buy. It was his notion that
the captain and crew could divvy up any profits the freighter made.
All he was interested in was getting away from people and things.
It was his hope that between pictures he could live aboard the
freighter. He was never able to buy such a ship, but he still
cherishes the idea.
"I would prefer a freighter
that plies a Mediterranean run," he says quite seriously.
Like many people who have had little formal schooling, he has
studied and read a lot on his own. He attaches much importance
to the audible and visible trappings of education. He is
constantly discovering and getting excited about new things that
other people, produced by universities and colleges, take pretty
much for granted. Some time after the public had pegged Thomas
Wolfe as one of American's promising novelists, Grant happened upon
him with loud whoops of enthusiasm.
friend, "When he found out about the joys of symphonic music and
good paintings, he was so hopped up about them you'd think he was
the only guy who'd ever enjoyed them."
some who think Grant contradictory. "He's moody and has an
inferiority complex that probably stems back to his stilt-walking
days," says one of Grant's friends. "I don't think he was ever
cast in a film that he didn't want to get of two days before the
"Just before the beginning, I
get qualms," Grant himself says. "I begin to wonder if it's
going to be all right."
Once the camera starts
turning, however, the picture on which he is working is the greatest
picture ever made, the director is the greatest director with whom
he has ever worked and the cast is the best cast ever got together.
By his own admission, Grant ranks in the higher brackets as a
taxpayer, yet he likes to tell how two Honolulu boys taught him "an
unforgettable lesson about how not to care for money."
"Years ago in Honolulu," he says, "I had two native boys working for
me. When I left I gave them each fifty dollars. They
turned up at the boat with presents of beautifully tailored shirts
and shorts for me. They had spent the whole hundred bucks on
them. When I asked them why they had done it, they said, 'We
don't need all that money. What can you do with money
Grant thinks that hidden somewhere in
their attitude is a profound lesson. Nevertheless, his new
contract with RKO - it calls for five pictures - is as lucrative as
his lawyer could browbeat that studio into making.
An analogy he has worked out between Hollywood and a streetcar
fascinates Grant. The analogy had its genesis in a Charlie
Chaplin comedy. In that comedy Chaplin was a part of a queue
waiting to board a streetcar. He got into the car first all
right, but there were so many in line that they pushed him on
through the car and he fell out the other end. Getting to his
feet, he ran around, climbed on again and hung on as best he could.
As Grant sees it, Hollywood is that streetcar. "The car just
goes around in circles, not going anywhere," he says. "There
is room on it for just so many and every once in a while, if you
look back, you'll see that someone has fallen off to let a new
passenger on. When Ty Power got on, it meant we left someone
sprawled out on the street; and somebody had to fall off to make
room for Greg Peck. Some fellows who get pushed off run around
and climb back on as character actors. Adolphe Menjou is one.
Ronald Colman sits up with the motorman. And Gary Cooper is smart.
He never gets up to give anybody his seat. After much
confusion and waiting, I finally got a seat. But I lost it
temporarily when I got up to make room for a young lady named Joan
Fontaine, who costarred with me in Suspicion and won an Oscar in
that movie. So there I am, just standing up, hanging onto a
strap, and being jostled around."