Actor; born January 28, 1904, Bristol, England
Perhaps the most
dashing of all Hollywood film stars, Cary Grant stole the hearts of
millions of audience members during his 40 years of acting. From
President John F. Kennedy to the gangster, Lucky Luciano, many men have
said that they would want Cary Grant to play them if their life stories
were ever put on film.
Grant was born
Archibald Alex Leach to Elias and Elsie Leach. While growing up in
Bristol, Grant was drawn to movies at an early age. Every Saturday
afternoon, he would wait in line with a crowd of other children to see
the matinee. Later, Grant won a scholarship to Bristol's Fairfield
Academy, where he worked behind the scenes on school drama productions.
A visit to the Bristol Hippodrome with the school's electrician made
such an impression on Grant that he thought, "what other life could
there be but that of an actor?"
In these same
years, during World War I, Grant spent one summer acting as a junior air
raid warden in Bristol. As he watched the soldiers leave Southampton, he
decided that he wanted to travel around the world. He combined his two
dreams and ran away from home to join Bob Pender's troupe of
vaudevillians. After ten days with the troupe, Grant's father found him
and hauled him back home. A year and a half later, he rejoined the
Penders for good.
In 1920, when he
was only 16, Grant sailed with the Penders from Southampton to New York.
Also on board were Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Mary Pickford. Fairbanks
later recalled Grant as "a splendidly trained athlete and acrobat,
affable and warmed by success and well-being; a gentleman in the true
sense of the word."
Grant's New York
debut was in an elaborate stage show with a cast of more than a thousand
at the New York Hippodrome. During the next seven years, he toured with
several vaudeville troupes as his unusual talents continue to develop.
For instance, in the summer of 1922, he worked as a stiltwalker at New
York's Coney Island, and, in the same year, he worked as an audience
plant in a mind-reading act in Duluth, Minnesota.
The late 1920s
brought a change to Grant's career, as he began to regularly appear in
Broadway productions. In 1928, he played Reggie Phipps in the musical, Boom-Boom,
and in October of 1929, he played the lead in Wonderful Night at
the Majestic Theater. The show was forced to close after only two days,
however, by the stock market crash.
Pictures' short film, Singapore Sue, introduced Grant to his
first film role, where he played one of four sailors visiting a cafe.
The following year, Grant discovered that Hollywood studio head, B.P.
Schulberg, had liked Singapore Sue enough to offer him a
contract. Grant drove across the country to sign and to adopt a new
name, since Archibald Leach was apparently not "box office."
Fay Wray suggested the name Cary Lockwood, but the last name was too
long. As a studio assistant read the name, Grant, from a list of
acceptable names, Grant nodded, and a star was born.
in his first feature film on April 8, 1932, in This Is the Night.
The same year, he also made seven more films, including Blonde Venus,
with Marlene Dietrich, and The Devil and the Deep, with Tallulah
Bankhead and Gary Cooper. The following year, Mae West remarked, after
spotting Grant, "If that tall, dark, and handsome man can talk, I
want him for my new co-star." Grant showed that he could talk quite
well by playing a mission church minister who keeps an eye on West's
character, Lady Lou, the mistress of a dance hall proprietor, in She
Done Him Wrong. Also, in 1933, he played the Mick Turtle in a film
version of Alice in Wonderland and earned top billing for the
first time in Gambling Ship.
sophisticated sense of humor charmed audiences everywhere when he first
teamed up with Katharine Hepburn in George Cukor's 1935 film, Sylvia
Scarlett. The duo would star together in later hits such as, Bringing
Up Baby (1938) and The Philadelphia Story (1941). In 1936,
Grant played opposite Jean Harlow in Suzy and widened his
reputation as a sophisticated comedian in 1937 with Topper.
In 1938, Grant
starred with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Victor McLaglen as British
soldiers in India in George Stevens's epic, Gunga Din, shot
entirely in a California desert and a Hollywood studio. He played a
tough-talking newspaper editor, who keeps reporter Rosalind Russell in
line, in 1941's His Girl Friday.
Grant tried a new
type of role in November of 1941 when he played the villain in his first
Alfred Hitchcock thriller, Suspicion. He would later star in
other Hitchcock films, including Notorious, with Ingrid Bergman,
and North by Northwest. In 1942, he played Mortimer Brewster, a
character who slowly realizes that his eccentric aunts are filling their
cellar with corpses, in Frank Capra's Arsenic and Old Lace.
comic wits with Marilyn Monroe in 1952 with Monkey Business, and
in 1955, he played a reformed jewel thief who is tracked down by Grace
Kelly, in To Catch a Thief. Grant appeared in his last film, Walk,
Don't Run, in 1966.
During his 34
years of stardom, Grant received two Academy Award nominations for best
actor: one in 1941 for Penny Serenade, and another in 1944 for None
But the Lonely Heart. In 1963-64, he headed the list of Hollywood's
top money-making stars, and a survey of American teenagers, in 1964,
revealed that Grant was their favorite movie star. On April 7, 1970, at
the 42nd annual Academy Awards, Frank Sinatra presented Grant with a
special Oscar for his "unique mastery of the art of screen acting
with respect and affection of his colleagues."
retiring from movie-making, Grant became an executive for Faberge,
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Hollywood Park. The years leading up to his
death were spent traveling the world. Grant was making plans to appear
at a tribute when he died of a stroke in 1986 at the age of 82