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The Ultimate Cary Grant Pages - www.carygrant.net


Modern Screen - May 1967; p. 52

The Tragic Love Story of the World's Most Attractive Man

by Carole Robbins


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 seen."

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 time.

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 Grant."

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 about."

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 Dump."

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 Grant.

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 have depth.

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.


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