Thursday, August 11, 2011


Cary Grant defined dashing and debonaire for over three decades in Hollywood, melting the hearts of women everywhere with his stoicism, elegance, and distinct maculinity. He was born Archibald Alexander Leach on January 18th, 1904, in Bristol, England. Although he was raised an only child, his parents had previously suffered the death of their first child, which sent Grant’s mother into a deep depression. The depression worsened throughout Grant’s childhood. At 9, Grant’s father institutionalized his wife, telling Grant that his mother was on a “long holiday.” Grant’s mother remained at the psychiatric ward for the rest of her life. Only at 31 did Grant discover his mother’s whereabouts, and that she still lived.

Grant’s unhappy home life translated into inappropriate behavior at school. He was expelled before reaching high school. After his expulsion, Grant decided to join a touring theater troupe instead of enrolling in a different school. He performed as a stilt walker, travelling with the company of actors all over Europe. At 16, the troupe toured through the United States. Grant made the decision to stay in New York to pursue a career on Broadway.

In New York Grant organized a Vaudeville troupe called Parker, Rand, and Leach. The group performed in various comedic shows in whatever theater would allow them admission. After eleven years on Broadway, Grant moved to Hollywood.

Upon his arrival in Hollywood, Grant was well-received by studio executives and was immediately issued a contract with Paramount Pictures. Grant suggested the stage name: Cary Lockwood, after a character he’d played in a previous Broadway show. Although the studio accepted Cary as a first name, they rejected Lockwood, saying it had been overused. Grant’s next suggestion was Cary Grant, stating that the initials “C, G” had already proven successful in such actors as Gary Cooper and Clark Gable. After agreeing to his new name, Grant began working in small Hollywood features. It wasn’t until Mae West cast him opposite herself in She Done Him Wrong that Grant was recognized as a star in his own right. The film was nominated for an Oscar, therefore affording Grant wide exposure.

Over the following 30 years, Grant continued to top the box office. He worked with some of the most iconic actresses and directors of all time. He was a favorite choice of Alfred Hitchcock, who said that Grant was “the only actor [he] ever loved in [his] life.” Grant appeared in a number of Hitchcock’s films, including: Notorious, North by Northwest, Suspicion, and To Catch a Thief. He was nominated for two Academy Awards in the 1940s, but did not win for either. In 1970 he was offered a lifetime achievement award by the Academy.

In the 1950s Grant started his own production company, Granart Productions. Not only was he the first actor in history to reject the studio system and effectively, “go independent” by not renewing his contract, but he also started his own independent production company, which was uncommon at the time.

Grant was married five times, first to Virginia Cherill, who accused him of abuse, then to Barbara Hutton, the wealthiest woman in the world. He subsequently married Betsy Drake, Dyan Cannon (with whom he had his first and only child, Jennifer Grant), and Barbara Harris.

Grant retired from the screen in his old age, but continued to work in and around the industry. His final tour was a one man show entitled, A Conversation with Cary Grant, where audiences had the opportunity to ask him questions. It was while he prepared for one of these performances when he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died at 82.

In 2004, Grant was named the 2nd Greatest Movie Star of All Time. His public and on screen persona charmed audiences around the globe, but Grant always remained level headed. He said “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be and I finally became that person. Or he became me. Or we met at some point.” Grant was universally loved in Hollywood and his legacy will continue in his terrific breadth of work.

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