A long time ago Cary Grant said, "I
pretended to become a certain type of man on screen and I became
that man in life. I became Cary Grant . . . an athlete . . .
a dream man . . . one who sails on yachts and gives expensive
presents." But the truth is that Cary Grant never
completely became that person, and all his long life the women who
have loved him have - perhaps - loved only an image, an image of
the world's most attractive man, an image he himself created and
one which has possibly destroyed his hope for love.
It was never anyone's fault . . . not his
wives, not his ill-fated loves, not even his own miscalculations .
. . it was only a mistake born first of intent and then later of
habit. They say, for example, that Dyan Cannon and Cary
might still be together now if he had taken her out more often, if
he had spent more time on her, if he had paid more attention to
the things she needed and wanted. But by the time he married
Dyan a pattern of some fifty years of living had been established
too solidly to break.
The blueprint for his heartbreaking love
affairs started back in 1934 when he married a tall, beautiful,
blonde actress named Virginia Cherrill. He had fallen so
hard for Virginia the first time he ever met her that he never,
for a moment, considered that the love was wrong or that she
wasn't the girl he should marry. That first time- at a party
he and fellow bachelor Randolph Scott gave at their beach house -
he declared her to be "the most beautiful woman I have ever
With Cary the mere sight of Virginia kindled
such an infatuation that he secured her phone number and began
calling her the moment she left his party. She didn't get
back home, which she shared with her mother, for two hours, and
then she learned he had called her every ten minutes during that
They made a date, and from that date on he
practically never let Virginia out of his sight. She had
been married and divorced before, and she had always been
tremendously popular all her life, but Cary's campaign was
overwhelming. Almost at once, she was as infatuated as he,
but they did not marry for more than a year (a pattern he followed
in all his marriages). Then they stayed married only seven
months, and even during that short time, they parted and
reconciled, parted and reconciled.
Cary's explanation was, "We were married
February 9th, 1934 at Caxton Hall, a London registry office, amid
a flurry of photographers, newsmen and serio-comic
adventures. We separated seven months later. I doubt
if either of us was capable of relaxing sufficiently to trust the
happiness we might have had. My possessiveness and fear of
losing Virginia brought about the very condition I feared: the
loss of her."
Virginia was more specific. She charged
he drank excessively - that he became a different person once he
was her husband - that he refused to pay her bills and ridiculed
her acting. On October 1st that year, they had their most
violent quarrel. Once again, Virginia went home to
mother. The distinguishing difference of that quarrel was
that this time Cary couldn't get her on the telephone.
Virginia got her divorce, and went on to marry
the Earl of Jersey . . . but Cary was depressed. His career
began to move quickly and successfully, yet Cary remained
withdrawn. When he did start dating again, it was another
tall blonde beauty named Phyllis Brooks . . . but in the end they
didn't marry. He said he would never marry again, and for
eight years he didn't. Then at a party given by the Countess
de Frasso in 1941 he met Barbara Hutton.
De Frasso was then the social leader of
Hollywood, and Barbara Hutton, the fabulous heiress to the
Woolworth dime-store chain, was her guest of honor.
Barbara's first husband had cost her over $2 million . . . her
second husband, Count Reventlow, had also cost her a huge sum to
divorce . . . and it was right after this second divorce that she
met Cary. Or more exactly, remet him. They had met
aboard a luxury liner one time crossing from England.
As with Virginia, when Cary was with Barbara
Hutton he knew he was instantly in love. She was different
from the other girls he'd always fallen for . . . they had been
gay, laughing types . . . Barbara was mostly solemn and Cary
devoted himself to making her happy.
He was forever taking her dancing, and he
protected her as she wished to be protected. She drove with
the curtains pulled down on her cars. When they went to the
movies or out nightclubbing Cary made it clear to theatre managers
or headwaiters that the way was to be cleared for them. They
would separate on leaving night spots, exiting through kitchens or
even windows when no other exits were available. Once their
romance began they saw one another continually.
His zest for life was particularly vivid
during his courtship of Barbara. He talked
incessantly. He loved to talk in Cockney dialect and sing
ribald songs to his own piano accompaniment. Barbara was
amused, but she was naturally quiet. They were married on
July 8th, 1942 at Lake Arrowhead, Cary's buddy, Howard Hughes
having flown them up there. All Barbara's friends were
delighted. Of all her marriages, they felt this one had the
best chance. Cary signed a pre-marital agreement that he
wanted no claim on her fortune. His love was visibly very
tender toward her. He wanted only her love and happiness.
It lasted four years. And they were four
years of partings and reconciliations. Once Barbara flew to
San Francisco and announced there was no chance of their getting
back together. Cary had bought them a very beautiful house
in Bel-Air, but by Barbara's standards it was simply a very little
place. She moved in with ten servants who had been with her
for years, and most of whom spoke only French - which Cary didn't
speak. She threw money away like mad; and it drove Cary
frantic that she ordered double sets of newspapers, his and hers
in effect. Waste, extravagance - both things that Cary was
never able to tolerate.
But whenever she left him, he pursued
her. The time she went to San Francisco, he finally got her
on the phone . . . "Go dancing with me just once," he
begged. She agreed and he drove up there furiously.
The next day they gave out a statement to the papers: "We are
reconciled. The truth of our misunderstanding and reunion is
known only to us." It was signed "Barbara and Cary
Still, their marriage could not work.
Barbara didn't like Hollywood and its gossip. She was
not interested in Cary's career. When they finally agreed
upon their divorce they never said a harsh world about one
another. Cary said "Barbara is a fine woman. I
blame myself entirely for the split-up with her. People did
not know her, the fine person underneath, because of the publicity
about her money."
Barbara said, "Cary is a dear. But
he isn't interested in anything but his career and after all, when
you are married to a man you must have something to talk
What Barbara did once she was free of Cary was
to move to the Ritz in Paris - and proceed to one unhappy marriage
after another without pausing very long between husbands. But Cary
did not snap back so quickly. He went into periods of dark
silence and many times he passed his friends, at the studios or in
cafes, without recognizing them.
Then he met Betsy Drake on shipboard.
She was tall and blonde, and wham, he knew he was in love
again. He knew in one glace she was THE one.
Betsy, except physically, was totally unlike
Virginia, and completely different from Barbara. She came
from an excellent family, yet she wanted so much to be an actress,
she had subsisted on almost no money. She had been appearing
in a play in London, which had just closed, and she was sailing
back home again.
Cary took over. He danced with
her. He talked to her. When they returned to America,
he did what he has never done for any other love (and particularly
not for Dyan). He sponsored her career. He was under
contract to RKO at that time and since he was even then on e of
the top names at the box-office, he could get anything he
asked. So he asked RKO to put Betsy under contract, which
they did. He prophesized stardom for her and apparently he
believed she would attain it. He made her his leading lady
in Every Girl Should Get Married, and then in Room For One
More. They even did a television show together. But
career-wise, they didn't click well together. (Perhaps
that's why he has never done anything to help Dyan in her career -
in effect, he has seemed to hold it back.)
Again with Betsy, as with Virginia and Barbara
and later Dyan, Cary had a long courtship of eighteen months
before they finally married on Christmas day of 1949. He
had, by that time, moved into a very small house which he and
Betsy now shared. They also spent some time at a tiny place
in Palm Springs which Cary used to refer to as "The
Betsy had many interests to which she could
devote her time - she took up photography, and developed a
curiosity about the occult and hypnotism. When she stopped
acting, she began writing. She had, it seemed, adjusted to
Cary's way of life. But Hollywood still wondered. And
as time went by, Hollywood began to ask why no ever saw Betsy
Later, it was told that Betsy's secluded life
was the way Cary wanted it to be . . . that he would put a sign on
his den saying "Do Not Disturb," and that she ever
violated that request, even though sometimes days would go by
without her seeing him. Betsy was able to do what no other
woman he had known could do - devote so much of herself to his
needs. But finally the separation announcements and then the
reconciliations were news items. It was the exact same
pattern as his past unhappy, unlucky love life.
And then, the inevitable divorce. When
Cary wrote his own memoirs he said, "My third wife was Betsy
Drake. We married in 1949 and were divorced 14 years
later. Betsy was good for me. Without imposition or
demand she patiently led me toward an appreciation for better
books, better literature . . . I never clearly resolved why Betsy
and I parted. We lived together, not as easily and
contentedly as some perhaps; yet it seemed to me as far as one
marriage can be compared with any other, ours was comparatively
happier than most. I owe a lot to Betsy.
When anyone in Hollywood asked him directly
about Betsy, Cary always called her "the dear wife who
recently divorced me." Betsy said nothing, but a blind
man could have seen how crushed she was.
Cary didn't bounce back - but his depression
wasn't as intense as it had been after the break-up of his first
and second marriages. And after seeing Dyan Cannon on a
television show one night his romance with her began. It
started slowly at first, not like the other times - though Cary
knew he loved her - and his courtship lasted a couple of years
until, in July, 1965 he married her, a beautiful light-haired girl
of 28. Then, the joyous news of her pregnancy, and Cary's
statement: "I think I've been searching for her all my
life." And his joy was complete when baby Jennifer was
born - the baby he had waited through four marriages to have.
Nevertheless, despite his giving out many
statements about having found himself able to understand and to
give and receive love, the pattern of his fourth marriage is now
emerging just like all his others.
Practically speaking, few people have seen
much of Dyan since she became Mrs. Grant. They have gone out
rarely, and almost always with his older friends. They have
traveled only a bit - to Bristol, England to visit his
mother. (In fact, they spent part of their honeymoon with
the elderly Mrs. Leach - something which Virginia Cherrill found
herself doing also.)
The house Cary rented for himself and his
small family is a large mansion set well off the road. It's
a house difficult to find and surrounded by orange groves.
But it can be seen from the estates which are built high above
it. One morning some women neighbors, curious, as women have
always been about Cary, peered down from the above estates and saw
Mr. Grant out among the orange trees playing with his baby
daughter. As they watched, it became apparent that Dyan
Grant was not at home . . . not that day, or the next, or even the
day after that.
And then word that they had separated reached
all the papers. And, as of this writing, they have not yet
reconciled. Yet the very fact that Dyan has been sending
little Jennifer and her nurse to visit Cary shows she can't be
feeling that harshly toward him. And probably, she is still
in love with him, as Betsy Drake says quite openly that she still
is even after these years.
Maybe Dyan, like Betsy, and Barbara, and
Virginia, is really only in love with the image of a man. He
is the dream man of such physical attractiveness, and suave
manners - the man with the right thing for the right time - the
man who tried in almost every way to become like his screen
image. Trouble is, an image is only screen-deep; a man must
Often called the most attractive man in the
world, Cary Grant is continually asked how he maintains his
impeccable good form. He told a French interviewer that he
eats little, stands straight, participates in sports, doesn't let
the sun or the rain keep him from walking, works hard, has friends
. . . and, "I never do the extra-ordinary. I see, but
never too much."
Is it a full-time job being the world's most
attractive man? And is it really too late to break the
habits of a lifetime? Maybe for a man without an incentive
such change would be impossible. But Dyan and Jennifer are
very large incentive indeed . . . and perhaps Cary Grant will know
it's time to give up the image for the man and devote his life to
his two loves.