© www.carygrant.net


The Ultimate Cary Grant Pages - www.carygrant.net


Cary Grant

Chapter Thirteen

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Well, there you are. That was my trouble. Always trying to impress someone. Now wouldn’t you think that with a new, shiny, expensive open car, and an open-neck shirt, with a pipe in my mouth to create a carefully composed study of nonchalance, sportiveness, savoir-faire and sophistication, I would cut quite a swath amongst ladies? Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you? Nothing of the sort.

There’s no question about aesthetics being only surface deep. In all those years in the theater, on the road and in New York, surrounded by all sorts of attractive girls, I never seemed able to fully communicate with them.

Most of the young women with whom I formed attachments eventually made it evident that I was, from their point of view, impossible. And I was. I’m not too possible even now. But enough deserved kicks in the rear over the years finally caught my attention and, looking back upon the bruises — quite a contortion in itself — I’ve finally learned to appreciate the lessons they ought to have taught me at the times they were so painfully received. The trouble about my formative years is that the forming, or rather reforming, has been a slower process than it might have been had I paid attention.

And if I had paid attention I might have found contentment in marriage.

Looking back, it doesn’t seem possible that I was married and, alas, divorced, three times.

My first wife was Virginia Cherrill, the beautiful girl who made such an impression as the blind heroine in Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. We were married in 1934, at Caxton Hall, a London Registry Office, amidst a flurry of photographers, newsmen and serio-comic adventures; and 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 her brought about the very condition it feared; the loss of her.

My second wife was Barbara Hutton, grand-daughter of F. W. Woolworth and heiress to his fortune. We were married in 1942, at the Lake Arrowhead home of my manager, Frank Vincent, who, until he died, was one of the happiest influences on my life. It was a quiet ceremony attended only by those closest to Barbara and me; we separated two years later.

Our marriage had little foundation for a promising future. Our backgrounds — family, educational and cultural — were completely unalike. Perhaps that in itself was the initial attraction; but during war years and my absences from home on Army-camp, USO-entertainment and hospital tours, we had little opportunity to discuss, or to learn from and adjust to, each other’s divergent points of view; and, by that means, to close the wide gap between our individual beliefs and upbringings. It could have benefited us both.

I doubt if anyone ever understood Barbara. But then I doubt if Barbara ever understood herself. But I remain deeply obliged to her for a welcome education in the beauties of the arts and other evidences of man’s capability for gracious expression and graceful living.

My third wife was Betsy Drake. We were married in 1949, on Christmas Day, in a small, charming ranch house near Scottsdale, Arizona, to which we were flown by Howard Hughes, the best man: a man who may never know the fullness of my gratitude for his trouble and unquestioning expression of friendship. It was an extraordinary day. A day that would take chapters to relate; thoughtfully planned by an extraordinary mind.

Betsy and I separated 10 years later. Besty was good for me. Without imposition or demand, she patiently led me toward an appreciation for better books, better literature. Her cautious but steadily penetrative seeking in the labyrinths of the subconscious gradually provoked my interest. Just as she no doubt intended. The seeking is, of course, endless, but, I thankfully acknowledge of constantly growing benefit.

For more than 30 years of my life I had smoked with increasing habit. I was finally separated from the addiction by Betsy, who, after carefully studying hypnosis, practiced it, with my full permission and trust, as I was going off to sleep one night. She sat in a chair near the bed and, in a quiet, calm voice, rhythmically repeated what I inwardly knew to be true, the fact that smoking was not good for me; and, as my conscious mind relaxed and no longer cared to offer a negative thought, her words sank into my subconscious; and the following day, to my surprise I had no need or wish to smoke. Nor have I smoked since. Nor have I, as far as I know, replaced it with any other harmful habit.

Soon after that night, in proof of the adage that those who help others help themselves, which should especially apply in a marriage, my wife also found herself no longer attracted to smoking, and gave it up. The drone of her voice at that late hour, just as prayers said at such times, had evidently impressed itself upon her own subconscious as well.

I’ve 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, compatibly happier than most. I owe a lot to Betsy.

But only recently have I learned that love demands nothing and understands all without reproach. I could write a long book about any of my marriages. For that matter, I suppose a long book could be written about just one short moment of life. Or an apple. Or a pair of shoes.

Why do I write even this much? Is it in order to tell the truth as it seemed to be; because truth itself shifts in perspective and may be colored by the need to impress and affect; or is it with a wish to believe that circumstances were as I write rather than what they actually were?

No, I think I wrote this much because so many journalists have made it their profitable business to mind my business by writing what they think I believe, and how, according to them, I feel. Most interviewers are stimulating; I enjoy talking with them, though frequently wonder why they care to sit listening to my chatter. I’m a garrulous fellow. Yet, with the exception of Joe Hyams, of the New York Herald Tribune Syndicate, who arranged for this story to be printed, and Roderick Mann, of the London Sunday Express, a valued friend, I’ve shared no really intimate thoughts with any other interviewers.

I am not proud of my marriage record. It was not the fault of Hollywood, but my own inadequacies. Of my own inconstancy. My mistrust of constancy. I doubt if Hollywood lists any more divorces than most other tows of equal population in the English-speaking materialistic world. Nor do I know whether the right to divorce is right or wrong. It is probably both. Like everything else.

Since our separation and Betsy’s subsequent divorce from me, I’ve read about myself being “out with” all sorts of ladies: some I’ve never met, some whose names are unknown to me, and some who don’t even exist.

One eager reporter from a London rag, and believe me that have two or three ”beauts” over there, had merely seen me lunching with Mrs. Tom Montaque Meyer, a mature happily married woman whose face and talents as writer and painter under the name Fleur Cowles are recognized in most international circles, yet he chidingly began to question me about the different young girls with whom, according to his own unreliable paper mind you, I was “always,” that was his word, being seen; exactly, of course, what he himself would have loved to be doing; although how he was ever able to reconcile my friend Fleur and that word “always,” in him mind, was beyond me. Anyway, later, in the car, as I was letting off steam, my amused chauffeur, an adjusted home-loving man with three children, said, “Never mind, Mr. Grant. Just think. It would be much worse if they printed you were out with a different young boy every night.”

Last year a local party gossip sweetly snorted that I received letters from 15- and 16-year-old girls ... tsk, tsk ... as if, with some telepathically immoral intent, I’d induced them to write me. Certainly I receive letters from 15- and 16-year-old girls; and 10-year-old girls, and 20-, 30-, 40-, 50-, 60-, and 70-year-old girls, and what is wrong with that? Perhaps I should have a clairvoyant secretary divine which mail comes from 15- and 16-year-old girls and return all of it unopened to the puzzled young senders, just to please that honey-mouthed harridan.

I get hundreds and hundreds of letters; and I’m delighted to get them all. You can write too, fellows, if you wish. If it makes you feel better to pen a few thoughts to another human, then by all means direct them at me. It’s unlikely I’ll be able to write back. I haven’t enough time to acknowledge even all my present mail; but any reasoning person will understand and excuse my inability to answer. But write, if you care to write; all you wish. I welcome the thoughts of others. How else can I learn?

After that glorious summer season in the St. Louis open-air opera, I returned to New York to begin rehearsals, with a blessing and temporary contractual release from J. J. Shubert, for producer William Friedlander; and opened in Nikki on September 29, 1931, at the Longacre Theatre. Nikki was written by John Monk Saunders and starred his wife, a movie star of those days, Fay Wray; and still another well-known film player, Kent Douglas, with myself as the leading man. It was a story set to music, of flyers left to their own weary amusement and destruction, in Paris, after the First World War Prior to the play’s production, it had been made into an excellent film called The Last Flight, staring Richard Barthelmess playing my role of Cary Lockwood.

The show was clearly not a success and, although it was moved to the George M. Cohan Theatre in the hope of bolstering attendance, it closed within a few weeks.

After having worked steadily for more than three years I decided to take a vacation and, with a promise of employment from J. J. Shubert whenever I returned, a set of golf clubs, and a quiet, amusing companion, Phil Charig, a composer of music, I set out for California, the land of clear sunshine and palm trees I remembered so nostalgically.

Thanks to Billy “Square Deal” Grady of the William Morris New York office, and a good man if I ever knew one, who patted me encouragingly on the shoulder as I sat in the car, that same Packard, outside the Palace Theater on Broadway before starting the cross-country drive, and gave me the office address of his friend Walter Herzbrun in Hollywood at which I could receive mail; and thanks to Walter Herzbrun, who kindly took me in tow when I got there, and introduced me to Mr. Marion Gering, former Broadway stage director, who had successfully turned to films and was about to make a screen test of his actress wife; and thanks to Marion Gering, who took me to a small dinner party at the home of Mr. B. P. Shulberg, then head of Paramount studios; and thanks to Mr. B. P. Shulberg, who suggested that I make the test with Mrs. Gering. I was offered, after the test’s showing, a long-term contract. Which I accepted with alacrity. And a new name.

Y’see the Paramount hierarchy seemed quite unimpressed by my impressive real name, Archibald Alexander Leach, and asked me to consider changing it and coming up with a new one; as soon as possible. That night at dinner Fay Wray and John Monk Saunders said it might be nice to use the name by which I’d been known in their play, Cary Lockwood. Next morning at the studio I asked to be called Cary Lockwood, but one of the executives pointed out that there was already a Harold Lockwood in films which might cause confusion, and would I please pick another last name. A short one. I asked for suggestions and within a few minutes we were all craning over a quickly typed list of short names. It was the era of short-name popularity — Gable, Cooper, Tracy, Cagney, Bogart, Brent, Stewart — a pin went down the list and stopped at Grant. One man said, “Grant?” and turned to the next man. Next man repeated, “Grant!” and so did the next one. Next man turned to me and said “Grant?” I said, “Grant. Cary Grant! Hm!”

The following day the lawyers began preparing the contract. From my younger man’s viewpoint it promised fame and fulfillment, stardom and serenity. I couldn’t know then that, although I would gain the contemporary fame of an actor and the stardom, such as it is, I would still be seeking fulfillment and serenity 30 years later.

Regardless of a professed rationalization that I became an actor in order to travel, I probably chose my profession because I was seeking approval, adulation, admiration and affection: each a degree of love. Perhaps no child ever feels the recipient of enough love to satisfy him or her. Oh, how we secretly yearn for it, yet openly defend against it.

<= Chapter 12 | Chapter 14 =>

© www.carygrant.net 1997-2009
Debbie Dunlap