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The Ultimate Cary Grant Pages - www.carygrant.net


Click here to order your copy of "Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style"  CaryGrant.net was privileged with the opportunity to interview Richard
  Torregrossa, author of one of the most informative, respectful biographies
  written about Cary Grant to date:

Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style

  Visit Richard Torregrossa on the web:  www.richardtorregrossa.com

August 7, 2007

From Nancy Bruce
Cary Grant Trivia Queen for www.carygrant.net

First -- thank you for offering to do an interview for the www.carygrant.net website, and my heartfelt appreciation for your well researched and delightfully written book. My compliments also to your publisher for making it such an attractive book. On a selfish note, I hope my review stays up near the top on the Amazon site, it gives me great pleasure.

RT: So do I! It's an insightful and very flattering review. It's great to be here and thank you all for your interest and support. I give you all a great big cyberhug.

I confessed to another Warbride that coming up with questions would be difficult because I felt like you covered your subject so completely. Without going through the book again, I only had one for myself and 2 for www.carygrant.net trivia information.

1) I wondered what you might have discovered in your research that you found interesting, but didn't use in the book either because of space or irrelevance to the subject of style.

RT: I actually keep on finding more and more evidence to support what I wrote in the book - that he was a consummate professional and a really extraordinary human being - not perfect, not a saint, but a human being who tried very hard to evolve into a better person - someone who really cared about others.

For example, I met cousins of his ex-wife, Betsy Drake, on the plane when I was flying to New York City in September to attend the book launch party that was hosted by Giorgio Armani and Town & Country magazine. Betsy's cousins were talking on their cell phone, so I had to wait until they finished before I could sit down; their belongings were in my seat. As it turned out, guess who they were talking to? Betsy Drake. It was her birthday. Isn't fate strange?

They told me many things that corroborate what's in the book, but one story really moved me, which I'll share, which of course is not in the book. Betsy and Cary took a break from Hollywood and traveled around the world in the early 1950s. Whenever they could, they visited Korean War veterans in hospitals, many of whom were badly wounded, maimed, or even close to death. Betsy and Cary would sit and talk and joke and try to comfort them for up to ten hours a day. It was such a heart-wrenching experience that when they returned to their hotel they would both cry and cry. But the next day, Cary insisted that they return to the hospital to do what they could to boost the morale of the wounded and suffering soldiers.

And this was no photo op, no publicity stunt, no media circus. He really did have a big heart as well as a great wardrobe : )

2) I'm regularly asked about whether or not he dyed his hair. You state that he did not, and I agree, but a number of people insist that he dyed his hair in the end of his career. Could you share your source?

RT: I find their insistence very odd. All you have to do is look at his movies and photographs of him to see how his hair grayed with age and by the time of Charade (1964) he was almost completely gray. If you look at the photos in my book from The Pride and the Passion (pg. 87), Charade (pg. 101, 130), Father Goose (pg.166), or Walk, Don't Run (pg.171), his hair is clearly gray or graying. On pgs. 156, 158, and 177 he's completely or very nearly gray. Or better yet, just watch the movies themselves for evidence that he did not dye his hair.

He told GQ magazine jokingly that he didn't dye his hair because when his gray hairs fell out they matched his gray suit. I put that in the book but some readers took him literally - that he really didn't dye his hair for this reason. But he meant it as a joke.

3) I've also been asked about the maker of his eye-glasses and have been unable to find a source, although I'm probably just missing it somewhere. Do you happen to know the answer?

RT: I did hold in my hand a pair of his fold-up tortoise shell reading glasses that were made by Pierre Cardin.

So -- after a re-reading, I found myself curious about the following, and I apologize if the answer was there in the book and I didn't find it:

4) Shoulder pads in CGs suits were rather extreme in the early days. In your opinion, did he and his studios use them to advantage in the earlier films or were you glad he minimized them? What size appeared ideal to you? (I did note the broad shoulders in the Brooks Brothers shirt that was in North by Northwest. I'd always thought it was an off the rack shirt because the Feds were supplying him w/ fresh clothes in the hospital.)

RT: The shoulder pads might seem extreme in CG's early days, but that was the style then and they were balanced with the wider lapels. I like his look in the 1930s and 1940s. One of his Savile Row tailors said that he had quite a large head, so the shoulders had to be of a proportion to make him look symmetrical.

He was also a more muscular man in his early days, so the suits had to accommodate that. By the time of North by Northwest he was very lean and trim, and the slim-cut style of that time looked great on him and he took advantage of it, keeping his wardrobe very simple and pared down. For me, regardless of the decade, he always manages to express his Cary Grantness.

But I think my favorite look is his slim-cut look of the '50s and '60s in movies like "North by Northwest."

5) CG preferred soft clothing, or at least soft collars according to your findings, which is interesting. It makes me curious about starch he preferred in his shirts, and brought to mind the age old question of whether or not he wore undershirts?

RT: Yes, he sometimes wore undershirts.

The fabric of the shirts were soft, but the underpinning could be firm so that the collars wouldn't sag. He liked clothes with a high thread count and quality cotton, like Sea Island Cotton, as many of us do today. Many of the stars preferred stiffer or starchier fabrics. For instance, Frank Sinatra's shirts were lined with a material that was almost as sturdy as bamboo because he didn't like any wrinkles. A matter of taste, really.

6) You say that CG was not a metrosexual, for reasons including having a toughness along with his elegance. From your comments in your book and other places, you place today's stars as lacking in those qualities, although they might be close. Since publication, have you changed your opinion on any of the new guys? Who do you think comes the closest to achieving that level of grace & style?

RT: I haven't really changed my mind about that, but I like George Clooney a lot now but for different reasons. He's made some interesting films, some commercial (like Ocean's 13) and some artistic (The Good German, Good Night and Good Luck). I think he looks great in Ocean's 13. Very CG in his simple but elegant Armani suits. I think the sartorial style of major Hollywood stars like Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt has matured and the golden-era influence is obvious. I call them "The New Gentleman." In fact, I wrote an article about that very subject that appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle in February; if you're interested in more detail check it out on www.sfgate.com

Here's the link: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/02/25/LVGI7O9JSP1.DTL

I also appeared on E! News with Ryan Seacrest and Giuliani DePandi and talked about how today's stars make old Hollywood new again.

Ultimately, though, I don't think anybody will replace CG. And maybe that's how it should be.

George Clooney is his own man, does his own thing, and although he seems to be influenced by CG, he seems to have his own ideas about filmmaking. In a way, he's a bit braver than CG in terms of filmmaking because he takes risks. CG was always very concerned about making "Cary Grant films." George Clooney does not seem to be imprisoned by a single persona. And I admire him for that.

7) You quote Eva Marie Saint as saying that Hitchcock wanted the cast of To Catch a Thief to wear classic styles so that the movie wouldn't become dated. I supposed I had assumed that it was just that plots that weren't dated in films that hold up well, but it hadn't occurred to me that the clothing also adds to that sense. After you learned about that wardrobe tactic, have any other films stood out to you as examples of this?

RT: The film, by the way, was North by Northwest, not To Catch a Thief. But this is a question that fascinates me because if you dress in a classic style you never look dated. On the other hand, it's fun to play around with trends. After all, it would be pretty boring if you wore the same clothes all the time. But just last night I happened to be watching Humphrey Bogart in DEAD RECKONING with Lizabeth Scott and that exact issue presented itself.

Bogart's suit would be right in style today, even thought the movie was filmed in 1946 (released in 1947). However, the women's costumes are extremely dated-even laughable in places. The bird-nest hats, the over accessorizing, the bizarre frills. Of course that was the style of the day, so I'm sure they looked chic at the time but watching them today they sure look dated.

8) From page 130, "In real life he preferred younger women, pursued them almost exclusively…." It begs the question: Almost?

RT: Well, he did date a lot of women between marriages. Some were his own age, some older. But as you can see by the women he married, he preferred younger women for the most part.

9) CG gave clothing advice to both Ralph Lauren and Audrey Hepburn suggesting the double breasted tuxedo as design for Lauren to make and suggesting that Hepburn dress neatly and cleanly. I found that fascinating in any context. Did you perceive CG with a certain amount of arrogance in regard to attire, or was it merely completion, or something else entirely?

RT: Arrogance? No, nothing in his personality was arrogant in that regard. Confident and knowledgeable, yes. And I don't recall him giving Ralph Lauren advice. I just recall him asking RL to make a particular tuxedo that he liked. Ralph was a kid when they met. I'm sure CG knew a lot more about clothes at that time than he did and I'm sure Ralph would be the first to admit it. They had a friendship and shared ideas on lots of things. Same with Audrey. She adored him. And as he was an older established star by the time they met, it would be natural for her to ask him his opinion about such things.

10) You quote David Thomson as saying that "Only Fred Astaire ever moved as well as Cary Grant, but Grant moved with more dramatic eloquence while Astaire cherished the purity of movement. Grant could look as elegant as Astaire, but he could manage to look clumsy without actually sacrificing balance or style." A particularly astute observation described clearly and cleverly.
Also,George Cukor's observation of a stiff CG on the set of Sylvia Scarlett evolving in to something smoother, you quote him as saying that CG "suddenly burst in to bloom."

These descriptions remind me of a discussion that some of us have had on the Cary Grant Warbrides list. The topic is the evolution of CG going from an awkwardly stiff actor unsure of his movements to a much smoother CG. At some point, every movement became a dance. Most frequently, as the character called for it, there was a glide to his motion (clearly seen when guiding a woman through a crowded room) and sometimes the dance became very different (Mr. Lucky and Father Goose are good examples of those times).

My question to you about this is whether or not you'd agree that such a change occurred, and if so, at what point do you think CG had achieved that smoothness?

RT: Yes, I agree completely. I think that's a very good point that speaks to CG's appeal. It was not only the way he dressed that made him so watchable. A big part of his style is the way he moved. He moved with physical grace. A lot of handsome or beautiful stars, although visually appealing, fall short because they don't move well. I think the turning point for CG was after he left Paramount in 1936. The films that followed after that - Sylvia Scarlett, Holiday, etc. - show him much more relaxed, confident, and expressive. The reason, I think, is that he not only matured as an actor and got better roles, but by that time he was working with better directors too-some of the best in Hollywood.

In appreciation for your work and the time you're spending on this internet interview, I want to share my reactions to a few of the things you included in the book.

First, a couple of things that amuse me greatly. There are great examples of his attention/addiction to detail with the letter from Barbara Harris Grant regarding returning shirts for collar corrections on a trip to London and with the anecdote of his returning shirts to a tailor in Hong Kong with detailed (1/8 inch) corrections. It occurs to me that one of the reasons that I don't find it ridiculous is because of the results he obtained. This also speaks to CG spending his money and time on things that matter to him. He certainly wasn't a miser, he was happy to spend on what he valued, as long as he was getting his money's worth.

RT: I agree. He said that it takes "500 details to make one favorable impression." And when you're onscreen, you're magnified 100 times, so the slightest imperfection might seem glaring. In his own life, he was, as you point out, very meticulous.

I explain it this way. He loved clothes. And for people with any kind of passion, they just don't let things slide, whether they're big things or little things. They care. Most people don't, so they find it finicky or laughable.

And the interesting thing about him requesting that the tailor adjust his shirt 1/8 of an inch, one Savile Row tailor told me, it's not uncommon to adjust things 1/16 of an inch. So he really was not as fussy as he's often made out to be.

However, when you mentioned him in western gear, with as much of his attention to the details -- it really tickles me. He really did look divine, but somehow flawed. The proverbial drugstore cowboy, but out of a really great drugstore! I've seen beautiful pictures of him in a variety of western wear and I get that Tracy Lord in Philadelphia Story reaction to George in his new riding duds. I just want to knock him down & rub dirt on him to fix the image. My apologies to all.

RT: Oh, I don't think you should apologize for your opinion. It's a very valid and insightful point.

You found that vaudevillian Archie Leach mixed up his own hair goo (that's the technical term for me), a combination of brilliantine and Dixie Peach pomade to achieve the beautiful blue-black sheen and perfect placement. In "Brother, Where Art Thou," George Clooney's character is lost without his Dapper Dan hair pomade. Clooney's homage to Grant? Maybe not, but I'll never look at it the same way again.

RT: I talked about that on E! News-the trend of stars like Clooney and Pitt slicking their hair back in the manner of CG and other stars of the golden era, so I think you're on the right track. I like to think that when George Clooney gave copies of my book to Brad and Matt Damon with a pair of cuff links, it had some influence : )

Seriously, I wanted to thank you for a few choice quotes that you selected. I think they represent CG particularly well -

The H.D. Thoreau quote you used when discussing CG's minimalist, but sumptuous style: A man is rich in proportion to the things he can afford to let alone.

Art critic Stephen Bayley on style: Style is the feather that makes the arrow fly, not the one you put in your hat.

The discussion with Betsy Drake, his advice to her when headed to a preview of a movie: If you show that you're vulnerable, and you show your feelings are hurt, they'll use it against you, and you'll be destroyed, and you mustn't; so keep smiling.

Additionally, when I think of the word "gentleman" or of "manners," I can't help but think of a scene from the movie Blast from the Past. A friend is discussing manners with the leading "lady." He comments that the out of date character Adam told him that good manners are just a way of showing people that we have respect for them. And when he tells her that Adam thinks that they are a lady and a gentleman, he says Adam's "short & sweet definition of a lady or a gentleman is: someone who always tries to make sure that the people around him or her are as comfortable as possible."

This, to me, is indeed a wonderful definition, and I thought that each of the Robert Wolders' stories that you included were the best additions to show CG as a true gentleman outside of his appearance. I'm so glad that you were able to include these glimpses of CG's character. They were the most personal and meaningful I've seen.

RT: I am so very happy that you mentioned the Rob Wolders stories and appreciated them for what they are. They're my favorites because they show that he was so much more than a man who wore nice clothes. Reviewers and critics missed that point for the most part. The book is not only about his sartorial style; it's also about the kindness, intelligence, and sensitivity of the man - qualities most biographers seemed to have ignored in favor of salacious details.

From Dorothy Glennon
Edinburgh, Scotland

1 - I would like to ask Richard a question concerning the monogrammed cufflinks Cary is wearing in the first full page photograph of the book. I remember reading somewhere that Cary and Clark Gable would contact each other after Christmas to discuss and possibly exchange monogrammed gifts they had each received. When researching for his book, did he come across this story and if so, evidence of whether it was true or just another 'Hollywood Tale'.

RT: Yes, it IS true from the research I found.

2 - According to Richard's book (page 168) Cary had six identical suits for NBNW. This movie is one my favourites and I have watched it over and over for years. That particular suit has never in my opinion looked out of fashion over the decades to date. Can Richard give his opinion as to why this is so and does he know the background of this suit, e.g. who designed it? who made it? Did Cary have input on the design? type of cloth?

RT: I've written an article on exactly that subject that will be published in September. I'll let you know when and where it will be published. Good question.

3 - The following is an excerpt from a Timesonline article dated November 19, 2006 by Director Michael Winner who is now a restaurant critic.

My guest, Roderick Mann, arrived with his "last living relative", Antoinette. Roddy was a fantastic show business writer from the 1950s to the 1980s, when he moved to California and wrote for the Los Angeles Times. His articles were witty. Not as witty as mine, of course. He was knowledgeable. He was engaged to Kim Novak.

His best friend was Cary Grant who left him all his clothes. Since Cary kept every outfit he wore in every film, that collection is worth well in excess of a million dollars at auction. Roddy seemed reluctant. "It wouldn't be nice," he said. What can you do with someone like that?'

My question to Richard is purely hypothetical. If he was in Roderick Mann's position of being left some of Cary's marvellous clothes - what would he do with them?

RT: First, I'd look at the labels. All the tailors put their own names usually under the inside jacket pocket. So did the studios. So it would explain a lot of information that is currently being debated.

Then I'd give them to the costume institute of The MET in NYC or some other museum, where they belong, where they'll be taken care of, where they'll be presented with proper historical significance.

I did contact Mr. Mann but he declined an interview. I would love to talk with him about these matters someday.

From Anonymous

I was wondering if you could comment briefly on your opinion of Dean Martin's style if you have any thoughts on the matter.

In my opinion, the apparent dichotomy of their projected personas gives way to similarities when one looks at the men behind the images. I would have loved to have known CG's opinion of Dino as an entertainer, as a person, and as a gentleman. You wouldn't happen to have any insight or be willing to hazard a guess, would you?

Thank you

RT: There was no one cooler than Dean Martin imho. CG was great pals with Frank Sinatra and liked Dean Martin very much. CG thought Dean was very funny in his TV show and in those roasts.

From Mark Mohr

Was Cary Grant a sports fan? Given Mr. Grant's obvious devotion to style, I'd be interesting in knowing if that translated into any kind of passion for sports and/or athletics.

RT: Yes, he was a huge baseball fan and had season tickets to the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball games. He also loved horse racing and was on the board of the Hollywood Park Racetrack and spent lots of time at Santa Anita and Del Mar - but never bet more than two dollars on a horse. He was often asked why a rich man like himself bet so little. He knew what they were implying-that he was cheap. CG responded with classic wit: Because they won't let me bet $1.50.

From Pamela Keogh

1 - Is there anyone today who can POSSIBLY take CG's place (personally, I don't think so).

RT: I don't think so either. George Clooney comes close but he's going his own way, which is as it should be.

2 - And also, what was the most surprising thing the author learned in his research about Mr. Grant?

RT: The incredible adversity he managed to overcome without bitterness. For instance, the disappearance of his mother when he was 9 and her 'reappearance' twenty years later. It was a trauma that did not embitter him. If anything, I think it made him more kind and compassionate to others who were suffering.

By the way, if you have read any of Ms. Keogh's books, I highly recommend them. Her book, Audrey Style, was a great inspiration to me and I greatly admire her other books, Jackie Style and Elvis Presley: The Man, The Life, The Legend.

From Ernie Dunlevie

Would you know where Betsy Drake is now, I was curious if she was still alive and in the US. I sold Cary & Betsy a home in the Palm Springs area while they were married and was trying to track down information on her.

RT: Don't know. Sorry.

From Helen Fabian
Irvine Studios, Irvine CA

Hi, I understand that Cary was also a great businessman and was involved in producing a number of movies. Do you know anything about that part of his life. Who did he produce for and did he head-up a production company? It's always interesting to see how actors move on to become producers or directors, moving from in front of the camera to behind the camera.

RT: It's in the book.

From Lisa

I guess I would like to know if there was anything new he found out about Cary ( while researching the book ) that really surprised him......and of course, was he a fan of CG or classic movies when he was younger? And please, thank him for a very classy book.

RT: No, I wasn't a fan of CG when I was younger. I thought Clint Eastwood was the epitome of cool. What surprised me about CG was the arc of his life - he came from very humble not aristocratic beginnings, and completely transformed himself, overcoming serious adversity, which I admire, a very relevant journey in this era of makeover mania and reinvention.

From Kingsley Horne

I would like to know who Cary's tailor was. His clothes were always so immaculate, especially when he played opposite Grace Kelly. His shoes seemed to be of the highest quality.
A most handsome man who had style.

RT: It's detailed in the book.

From Karen Bezman

1 - Do you think that Cary had this sense of style on his own, or did the studios help him? In other words, if he just up and got dressed just to hang around, do you think he would have looked so great?

RT: He did it all on his own. He was hired because he looked great. The studios might've created their female stars, but the men did not have big wardrobe departments then - it was all up to them. CG dressed like the man he wanted to become - an elegant movie star.

2 - How long did it take you to write the book and what part of the research for the book did you find to be the biggest challenge? Was there anything that you did want to include that you either were not able to find or not able to validate?

RT: Since there have been many negative biographies about Cary Grant, it was difficult to convince people I wanted to interview that I wasn't planning to write another salacious book with a lot of nasty rumors.

It was also a challenge to find rare and never-before-published photos of CG. I didn't want to include the same old photos we've all seen over and over again (unless of course they were illuminating a fresh insight I was making about him).

If I couldn't validate it, I didn't put it in. Of course, the point of view is my own, but it's backed up with facts that, as I said, I validated.

3 - If Cary were to buy, say a pair of khaki's, off the rack, what would his waist and inseam be? Also, if, at the same store, he bought a long sleeve dress shirt what would the sleeve length be. I believe he had a 17.5 in. neck.

RT: I don't know. Obviously he would be different sizes at different points in his life.

4 - Did anyone refuse to speak with you with regard to your research? It does not matter who it was, but was there anyone?

RT: Yes, lots of people.

5 - Who decided on the cover design?

RT: I created a draft but the elegant design of the cover and the inside of the book was created by Joel Avirom who did a beautiful job. I was very lucky to have him assigned to the project.

From Carol Roccia

Hi - where and how did you glean all the information you have on Cary Grant, since you are much younger than he. Also, was he always your fashion idol? Great book, thanks.

RT: I'm trained as an historian, so I used the methodology of the historian - reading primary and secondary sources, books, biographies and old magazine articles about him and interviewing people who knew him well.

Debbie Dunlap

Richard, what a refreshing perspective! Thank you for publishing the most honest, comprehensive and respectful book written about Cary Grant to date. It is a one-of-a-kind celebration of his lifetime achievement … transforming Archie Leach into Cary Grant.

RT: Thank you Debbie. That's quite a compliment coming from the High Priestess of Cary Grant : )

1) When did you first become interested in all things sartorial? For instance, were you voted "Best Dressed" in high school?

RT: At a very young age because of my father. My father was very much a well-dressed man and he taught me how to dress-how to pull my shirt down through your zipper hole so that the shirt doesn't bunch up around the waist, how to get the dimple in your tie, things like that. He was a huge Cary Grant fan and loved clothes. But by the time I was in high school, I was a jock and all that fine dressing business went out the window. Now, though, I remember what he taught me with fondness and gratitude. Too bad he's no longer around for me to thank him - or to see the book.

2) Giorgio Armani's menswear collection, inspired by Cary Grant, was your inspiration for the book. What was the process from "When Armani says something, you listen …" to your decision to write a book?

RT: After Armani made that remark about CG's timeless elegance the first thing I did was go back and watch all of his old movies - thank you Turner Classic Movies. And that's when I developed a true appreciation of the man. But I think what really got me interested in him was how he dealt with his tragic childhood - how he overcame the adversity in his life. That's the true lesson for me regarding Cary Grant. You can transform yourself regardless of the obstacles in your path and style is one of the tools you can use to do that.

3) Before the book was published, did you realize you'd hitched your wagon to such a bright star? Are you amazed at the doors that have been opened, the people you've had the privilege to speak to, or the level of celebrity you've achieved simply because your book is written about Cary Grant?

RT: Yes. Absolutely. I never dreamed that Giorgio Armani would host the book launch party and transform his Madison Avenue store with 15 ft. enlargements of photos from the book that literally transformed the store into Cary Grant land.

Also, it's wonderful to find people on this site who share my interests and are so knowledgeable and intelligent on the subject of CG.

4) You interviewed an impressive number of people and collected some wonderful quotes. If you could have interviewed Cary Grant, what list of questions would you have prepared for him? What question would top the list?

RT: I think I would ask him about the people who inspired him. I don't think he liked talking about himself much but he did enjoy telling stories. Then I would ask him about how he triumphed over the adversity in his life so I could learn from that. Then I would ask him little nagging questions about where he got his cuff links in the '30s and why he didn't wear a pocket square in "North by Northwest" when the pocket handkerchief seemed to be one of his wardrobe staples.

5) To paraphrase Jane Austen: It is a truth universally acknowledged that gossip, if repeated often enough, must be accepted as truth. Did you have any difficulty sifting through the mound of muck that's accumulated since Cary's death? Did any of it make you angry?

RT: Oh, yes, absolutely. The stuff about him being a spy and speculations about his sexuality seemed to have been written purely to sell books and the information is wildly speculative and at times inaccurate and even downright fictional.

I also found that many incidents recounted by biographers sorely lack the bigger picture. For instance, it is well known that Frank Sinatra walked off the set of "The Pride and the Passion," leaving CG talking to a clothes hanger in close ups. Since CG produced as well as acted in that movie, they must've had quite a row. Biographers sort of leave it at that. But CG years later was Sinatra's 'best man' at his wedding to Barbara, so even though they might've had a spat, they were lifelong friends. But if you read some biographies, you think they had this terrible row and never talked to each other again, which is obviously just not true.

6) Thank you for introducing the term, "The New Gentleman." Where did this idea come from?

RT: It came to me when I noticed that today's stars are really trying to dress better. Since CG was the ultimate gentleman, I thought these lads are The New Gentleman.

7) Riding on the coat-tails of question #6: We frequently hear about "the next Cary Grant," the honoree of the enviable comparison invariably shown dressed in CG's timeless style. Cary Grant fans know that simply comparing a sharp-dressed, Hollywood A-list actor to Cary Grant falls far short of capturing the man behind the suit. If you closed your eyes and picked "the next Cary Grant" based solely on what's behind and beneath the suit, who would that be?

RT: I see no one anywhere in sight : )

8) What were Grant's "less flattering attributes?"

RT: Well, they're pretty well detailed in the book-he was rejected by Paramount when he took his first screen test because he had a thick neck. Doug Hayward, a famous Savile Row tailor, said he had a large head that had to be balanced with the cut of his suits-one reason they built up the shoulders. He was also bow-legged but he walked with such grace and confidence you never really noticed or even cared.

9) I have a new favorite word - adumbrated. You went into great detail about the importance of military uniforms in the fashion industry. Do you think breeches will ever come back in style? (Question asked with tongue firmly planted in cheek!)

RT: I doubt it, but anything is possible in the fashion industry. But I won't be wearing them : )

As one stands before a painting and studies its nuances, I've always appreciated Cary Grant for his artistry. Quite simply, I find him a masterpiece: from his physical beauty to his physical abilities; from his stark beginnings to his dignified end. With Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style, you've created a guide to understanding the brushstrokes Archie used to create Cary.
Thank you, Richard Torregrossa!

RT: And thank you for being so appreciative, intelligent, and thoughtful. I've enjoyed it and hope I've answered your questions to your satisfaction.


By the way, I'd be curious to know what your favorite chapter in the book is. Mine is the last chapter because I think it shows CG as a fully rounded human being and not just a movie star.

Debbie Dunlap:  Rather than a favorite chapter, Richard, I'm more inclined to have favorite snippets. 

Foremost was your introductory paragraph in Chapter Two.  “Cary Grant was not bisexual.  Cary Grant was not a homosexual.  Cary Grant was a man of style.”  Your three-sentence paragraph is a profound rebuttal of nearly everything that has been written about Cary Grant in the past twenty years.  I applaud your bravery and audacity, your brevity and clarity.  If you heard a rousing cheer last fall coming from the direction of the Atlantic Coast, that was me. 

I suppose the reason that I find it difficult to pick just one chapter is because your respect for Cary Grant is woven throughout the book.  I truly cherish your respect and integrity.

Chapter Seven was fun for me.  The exploration of the relationships between three of his leading ladies made me smile.  A favorite paragraph states, “Portraying the relationship between Grant and Hepburn with a naughty suggestiveness proved far more erotic than straightforward up-against-the-wall sexual roughhousing ever could.”  That’s exactly why I can watch the old classics over and over again.  And always with a wistful sigh. 

One of the most moving parts of the book and something I’d never seen or read about before was the meditation poem/prayer in Chapter Eight.  I’ve never delved deeply into Cary Grant’s personal life on my website, preferring to allow him that bit of privacy, even in death.  His own words, in his autobiographical three-part article from the Ladies Home Journal, are sufficient and allow Cary Grant to speak on his own behalf.  This poem, however, sparks my curiosity.  Makes me wish I could sit down to tea with him one sunny, quiet afternoon.  

Mr. Torregrossa's abundance of verifiable sources, dry humor, and refreshing lack of gossip make for quite enjoyable reading.  Here are two of his most recent articles from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style
Campaign Hope
Richard Torregrossa, Special to The Chronicle
Sunday, July 22, 2007
The audacity of hope -- and a good suit

The New Gentleman
Richard Torregrossa, Special to The Chronicle
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Step aside, Mr. Metrosexual. Another sharp dresser is here, and he takes his cues from a higher authority -- the Golden Age of Hollywood.


Encounters with Cary
By Richard Torregrossa - April 2010

Although it’s been a few years since the publication of my biography, “Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style,” I still receive emails and letters from people eager to share their encounters with Cary. For this I am grateful because all the stories so far confirm what I’ve written about the man—that he was kind, considerate, and curious, as most intelligent people are, as engaged in life in his seventies as he was when he was an excited teenager newly arrived in New York City to perform with the Pender Troupe, a Vaudeville act.

Arnold Grayson of Savile Row, Cary Grant's tailor from 1979 until his death in 1986Recently, I received a letter and a photograph from Arnold Grayson of Savile Row, Cary Grant’s tailor from 1979 until his death in 1986. The photo shows Cary proudly modeling a smart new mohair suit Grayson had just made for him. Grant is in his late seventies, white-haired, wearing his trademark (at least at that time) black thick-rimmed glasses, and revealing a beaming movie-star smile that clearly had not dimmed with age.

“I saw him a number of times,” says Grayson, who now works out of a Holland & Sherry showroom by appointment at 9/10 Savile Row, “when he made visits to London and he was always very amiable. At that time I had a concession in Selfridges in Oxford Street.

I was introduced to Cary by Norman Waterman, the UK managing director of Faberge, who had been a client of mine for a number of years. Cary also worked for Faberge. He was their spokesperson. When Cary asked Norman who his tailor was he told him about me and that’s how it began.”

Grant, a lifelong clotheshorse, could not resist the workmanship of a fine tailor. For him, clothes were something more than mere accoutrements. They were his passion. He collected them the way some men collect classic cars.

“He was very knowledgeable about tailoring,” says Grayson. “He came from that background, you know. His father was in the business, I think, so he learned about quality at a very early age. He knew what looked good on him and he was very precise about the details. Even though it was the late seventies, when styles were very flamboyant, he went with something classic, a fitted three-button suit with slim lapels that is similar to the suit he wore in 1959’s North by Northwest.”

Grayson sent me all the documentation to prove his story, a cache he clearly cherishes. When I talked to him on the telephone, he told me about some of his other famous clients—a diverse group that range form Mick Jagger to Godfrey Binaisa, the President of Uganda after Idi Amin—but none seemed to capture his admiration more than Grant. And why is that, I wondered?

“He was everything you thought he would be—gracious, elegant. A real gentleman, the last of a breed.”

Foster & Sons and Maxwell made Grant's loafers.Richard Edgecliffe-Johnson, the chairman of Foster & Sons and Maxwell's, a bespoke shoe and bootmaker in London, was also kind enough to share a CG encounter with me. He agrees that Grant was a gentleman, but he adds, "he was no snob. He was friendly with everybody. Our last maker Terry worked with him during his time at Peal & Co. He said Grant would drop by in the morning for a fitting or to pick up a pair of custom-made shoes but he would linger, often going into the workroom, chatting with the men who were doing the actual work on his shoes. He was very at ease with them. No airs, just very down-to-earth and curious as well as appreciative of the craftsmanship that went into our shoes that were made by hand, by artisans."

Peals made Grant's loafers, like the pair he's wearing in the photo [attached] of him at the Hollywood Racetrack with his then-girlfriend, Maureen Donaldson. Notice the part of the shoe that rises up the instep; it's shorter than it is on the typical loafer. And that's just the way Grant wanted it. Such details were important to him for a number of reasons. In this case, the modified loafer allowed more sock to show, an elegant look that provides a contrasting transition from his dark shoes to his dark trousers.

"He liked that part of the shoe very low," says Edgecliffe-Johnson. "And it was very difficult to do because loafers by their very nature don't have a lot of structure or support, but they got them just right, just the way he liked them, and they look great. You could wear them today and still be fashionable."

Although menswear enthusiasts frequently remark about Grant’s penchant for classicism, this photo reveals that he did follow the trends, though not slavishly. Here he’s wearing a recognizably seventies suit. The pattern, a large check, is perhaps “loud” by Cary Grant standards. The tie is uncharacteristically thick and in proportion to some equally uncharacteristic wide lapels. The pants are flared and if they’re not bell-bottoms then they are close to it.

But somehow the suit is his own; it is infused with Cary Grantness from top to bottom—the perfect dimple in the tie, the visible sliver of French cuffs, the careful accessorizing with the aforementioned cashmere socks, and most of all, the ease with which he wears the suit, a transcending factor. He seems more comfortable in it than most men would be in sweats.

Not all of the stories and anecdotes that people have sent me depict him as some kind of movie-star saint. He could at times be gruff, even rude, to autograph seekers, and I’ve heard this from more than one person. A woman told me that she encountered him alighting from a limousine with his wife, Betsy Drake, in the late 1940s and asked for his autograph. He brusquely refused. Many years later that woman taught an adult-education course in Long Beach, California, and for whatever reason the topic came up. A woman in the class just happened to be the wife of Cary Grant’s pilot and she relayed the incident to him. He, in turn, told it to Cary. Cary wrote a little note of apology saying that he was sorry that it had taken her so long to acquire his autograph. Perhaps the movie star had mellowed. Perhaps he was lessCary Grant: A Celebration of Style by Richard Torregrossa pestered in his old age by the paparazzi and fans and could afford to be more kindly disposed to autograph seekers. Whatever the reason, he realized that it was never too late to make amends, and that perhaps is the mark of a true gentleman.

— Richard Torregrossa