Cary Grant Profile
Cary Grant was an excellent idea. But he didn't exist--someone had to create him. Archibald Alexander Leach looked in the dressing room mirror and reinvented himself for the Hollywood screen. "I pretended to be someone that I wanted to be and I finally became that person. Or he became me." But Archie Leach didn't cease to exist. "Cary Grant" was just a name, like a title it represented a set of idealized qualities. He was suave, debonair, stylish, self-assured...with a hint of disorder lurking below the manicured facade.
Cary Grant more than any other actor came to symbolize the glamour of a Movie Star. To begin with, he was a master of timing. Grant had the knack to be in the right place at the right time. It was Cary Grant that Mae West delivered her historic come-on line to in She Done Him Wrong (1933). It was beside Cary Grant that James Stewart won his first and only Oscar® in The Philadelphia Story (1940). It was Cary Grant ducking for cover below a swooping airplane in North by Northwest (1959) that would become Alfred Hitchcock's most iconic moment. That same year, It was Tony Curtis' impersonation of Hollywood's suavest star that seduced Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot (1959).
Grant was born less glamorously into a working class family in Bristol England in 1904. At 14 he left home to seek his fortune as an acrobat with a traveling troupe. The nonchalance of a high wire walker is evident in his every performance. Like the man on the flying trapeze Cary Grant made a career out of "making it look so easy." Occasionally he got the chance to show off his physical skill too--as in Gunga Din (1939). But in every picture his comic timing is precise.
When he hit Hollywood, the struggling actor was almost immediately chosen to support the sexiest women in town. From Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus (1932) to Mae West in I'm No Angel (1933) and She Done Him Wrong (1933) and Jean Harlow in Suzy (1936). Grant kept company with the strongest and most sought after women all through his career--Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn, Myrna Loy, Claudette Colbert, Sophia Loren, Eva Marie Saint, Shirley Temple and Katharine Hepburn among them. Cary Grant was the man all men wanted to be and the man that all women wanted.
After only five years in the studio stables, Grant broke with his contract in 1937 to become a free agent. He chose his own films, directors and scripts. Again his timing was impeccable--his next dozen films--made in only four years--defined the Cary Grant persona. He mastered the screwball genre with Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby (1939). In pursuit of a leopard and a madcap millionairess, Grant's rapid fire comic delivery was unequaled. In Only Angels Have Wings (1939) he played the perfect stoic action hero. Then he returned to the screwball in His Girl Friday (1940). The following year Grant appeared in his first film for Alfred Hitchcock. Suspicion (1941) crystallized the "Cary Grant mystique." For an actor who could only play at being himself, Grant proved to be amazingly versatile--shady, slapstick and serious.
Grant continued successfully honing his character in Mr. Lucky (1943), The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) and I Was a Male War Bride (1949) while experimenting in new directions. He played a cockney drifter in None But the Lonely Heart (1944), a navy officer in Destination Tokyo (1944) and songwriter Cole Porter in Night and Day (1946). As he aged Cary Grant became, with Jimmy Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock's quintessential main man in classics like Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959).
Cary Grant had become a box office blue chip. But then in 1966 after completing his 74th feature film - Walk, Don't Run, Grant did the unimaginable. He retired from the screen. Once again proving that he was a master of timing--Grant's departure coincided with the end of Hollywood's Golden Era. As the films of the 1960s moved toward violence and anarchy it became clear that Cary Grant had personified the elegance of a bygone time.
He remains the most perfect of Hollywood's leading men. His secret of success was simple: "it takes 500 small details to add up to one favorable impression."
by Jeremy Geltzer