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Cary Grant (Archibald Alexander Leach)

Archibald Alexander Leach (January 18, 1904 – November 29, 1986), better known by his stage name Cary Grant, was an English actor. With his distinctive yet not quite placeable Mid-Atlantic accent, he was noted as perhaps the foremost exemplar of the debonair leading man: handsome, virile, charismatic, and charming.

He was named the second Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute. His popular classic films include She Done Him Wrong (1933), Topper (1937), The Awful Truth (1937), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Gunga Din (1939), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Suspicion (1941), The Talk of the Town (1942), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Notorious (1946), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), To Catch A Thief (1955), An Affair to Remember (1957), North by Northwest (1959), and Charade (1963).

Nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Actor and five times for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, he missed out every time until he was finally honored with an Honorary Award at the 42nd Academy Awards "for his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues".

Contents

Early life and career

Archibald Alexander Leach was born in Horfield, Bristol, to Elsie Maria Kingdon (1877–1973) and Elias James Leach (1873–1935). An only child, he had an unhappy childhood, attending Bishop Road Primary School. His mother had suffered from depression since the death of a previous child. Her husband placed her in a mental institution, and told his nine-year-old son only that she had gone away on a "long holiday"; it was not until he was 31 that Grant discovered her alive, in an institutionalized care facility. He was expelled from the Fairfield Grammar School in Bristol in 1918. After joining the "Bob Pender stage troupe", Leach performed as a stilt walker and travelled with the group to the United States in 1920 at the age of 16, on a two-year tour of the country. He was processed at Ellis Island on July 28, 1920. When the troupe returned to the UK, he decided to stay in the U.S. and continue his stage career. During this time, he became a part of the vaudeville world and toured with Parker, Rand and Leach. Still using his birth name, he performed on the stage at The Muny in St. Louis, Missouri, in such shows as Irene (1931); Music in May (1931); Nina Rosa (1931); Rio Rita (1931); Street Singer (1931); The Three Musketeers (1931); and Wonderful Night (1931). Leach's experience on stage as a stilt walker, acrobat, juggler, and mime taught him "phenomenal physical grace and exquisite comic timing" and the value of teamwork, skills which would benefit him in Hollywood.

Hollywood stardom

After the light Broadway comedies, Grant went to Hollywood in 1931, where he acquired the name Cary Lockwood. He chose the name Lockwood after the surname of his character in a recent play called Nikki. He signed with Paramount Pictures, but while studio bosses were impressed with him, they were less than impressed with his adopted stage name. They decided that the name Cary was acceptable, but Lockwood had to go due to a similarity with another actor's name. It was after browsing through a list of the studio's preferred surnames, that "Cary Grant" was born. Grant chose the name because the initials C and G had already proved lucky for Clark Gable and Gary Cooper, two of Hollywood's biggest movie stars.

Already having appeared as leading man opposite Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus (1932), his stardom was given a further boost by Mae West when she chose him for her leading man in two of her most successful films, She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel (both 1933). I'm No Angel was a tremendous financial success and, along with She Done Him Wrong, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, saved Paramount from bankruptcy. Paramount put Grant in a series of unsuccessful films until 1936, when he signed with Columbia Pictures. His first major comedy hit was when he was loaned to Hal Roach's studio for the 1937 Topper (which was distributed by MGM).

Under the tutelage of director Leo McCarey, his role in The Awful Truth (1937) with Irene Dunne was the pivotal film in the establishment of Grant's screen persona; as he later wrote, "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." The Awful Truth began "what would be the most spectacular run ever for an actor in American pictures"; during the next four years, Grant made the screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby and the romantic comedy Holiday (1938) with Katharine Hepburn; the adventures Gunga Din and Only Angels Have Wings (1939); His Girl Friday (1940) with Rosalind Russell; The Philadelphia Story (1940), with Hepburn and James Stewart; and Suspicion (1941), the first of four with Alfred Hitchcock.

Grant remained one of Hollywood's top box-office attractions for almost 30 years. Howard Hawks said that Grant was "so far the best that there isn't anybody to be compared to him". David Thomson called him "the best and most important actor in the history of the cinema".

Grant was a favorite of Hitchcock, who called him "the only actor I ever loved in my whole life". Besides Suspicion, Grant appeared in the Hitchcock classics Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959). Biographer Patrick McGilligan wrote that, in 1965, Hitchcock asked Grant to star in Torn Curtain (1966), only to learn that Grant had decided to retire after making one more film, Walk, Don't Run (1966); Paul Newman was cast instead, opposite Julie Andrews.

In the mid-1950s, Grant formed his own production company, Grantley Productions, and produced a number of movies distributed by Universal, such as Operation Petticoat (1959), Indiscreet (1958), That Touch of Mink (co-starring with Doris Day, 1962), and Father Goose (1964). In 1963, he appeared opposite Audrey Hepburn in Charade (1963). His last feature film was Walk, Don't Run with Samantha Eggar and Jim Hutton.

Grant was the first actor to "go independent" by not renewing his studio contract, effectively leaving the studio system, which almost completely controlled what an actor could or could not do. In this way, Grant was able to control every aspect of his career, at the risk of not working because no particular studio had an interest in his career long term. He decided which movies he was going to appear in, he often had personal choice of the directors and his co-stars and at times even negotiated a share of the gross, something uncommon at the time.

Grant was nominated for two Academy Awards in the 1940s, and received a special Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1970. In 1981, he was accorded the Kennedy Center Honors. Never self absorbed, Grant poked fun at himself with statements such as, "Everyone wants to be Cary Grant—even I want to be Cary Grant". After seeing a telegram from a magazine editor to his agent asking "HOW OLD CARY GRANT?", Grant reportedly responded with "OLD CARY GRANT FINE. HOW YOU?"

Retirement and death

Although Grant had retired from the screen, he remained active in other areas. In the late 1960s, he accepted a position on the board of directors at Fabergé. By all accounts this position was not honorary, as some had assumed, Grant regularly attended meetings and his mere appearance at a product launch would almost certainly guarantee its success. The position also permitted use of a private plane, which Grant could use to fly to see his daughter wherever her mother, Dyan Cannon, was working. He later joined the boards of Hollywood Park, The Academy of Magical Arts (The Magic Castle, Hollywood, CA) Western Airlines (now Delta Air Lines), and MGM.

In the last few years of his life, Grant undertook tours of the United States in a one-man show. It was called "A Conversation with Cary Grant", in which he would show clips from his films and answer audience questions. Grant was preparing for a performance at the Adler Theater in Davenport, Iowa on the afternoon of November 29, 1986 when he sustained a cerebral hemorrhage. He had previously suffered a stroke in October 1984. He died at 11:22 pm in St. Luke's Hospital.

In 2001 a statue of Grant was erected in Millennium Square, a regenerated area next to the harbour in his city of birth, Bristol, England.

In November 2004, Grant came in second in the "The Greatest Movie Star of All Time" list by Premiere Magazine. Richard Schickel, the film critic, said about Grant: "He's the best star actor there ever was in the movies."

Personal life

Grant was married five times, and was dogged by rumors that he was bisexual. He wed Virginia Cherrill on February 10, 1934. She divorced him on March 26, 1935, following charges that Grant had hit her. In 1942 he married Barbara Hutton, one of the wealthiest women in the world, and became a father figure to her son, Lance Reventlow. The couple was derisively nicknamed "Cash and Cary", although in an extensive prenuptial agreement Grant refused any financial settlement in the event of a divorce. After divorcing in 1945, they remained lifelong friends. Grant always bristled at the accusation that he married for money: "I may not have married for very sound reasons, but money was never one of them."

On December 25, 1949, Grant married Betsy Drake. He appeared with her in two films. This would prove to be his longest marriage, ending on August 14, 1962. Drake introduced Grant to LSD, and in the early 1960s he related how treatment with the hallucinogenic drug —legal at the time— at a prestigious California clinic had finally brought him inner peace after yoga, hypnotism, and mysticism had proved ineffective. The couple divorced in 1962.

He eloped with Dyan Cannon on July 22, 1965 in Las Vegas. Their daughter, Jennifer Grant, was born prematurely on February 26, 1966. He frequently called her his "best production" and regretted that he had not had children sooner. The marriage was troubled from the beginning and Cannon left him in December 1966, claiming that Grant flew into frequent rages and spanked her when she "disobeyed" him. The divorce, finalized in 1968, was bitter and public, and custody fights over their daughter went on for nearly ten years. On April 11, 1981, Grant married long-time companion Barbara Harris, a British hotel public relations agent, who was 47 years his junior. They renewed their vows on their fifth wedding anniversary. Fifteen years after Grant's death, Harris married former Kansas Jayhawks All-American quarterback David Jaynes in 2001. Grant allegedly was involved with costume designer Orry-Kelly when he first moved to Manhattan, and lived with Randolph Scott off and on for twelve years. Richard Blackwell wrote that Grant and Scott were "deeply, madly in love", and alleged eyewitness accounts of their physical affection have been published. Hedda Hopper and screenwriter Arthur Laurents also have alleged that Grant was bisexual, the latter writing that Grant "told me he threw pebbles at my window one night but was luckless". Alexander D'Arcy, who appeared with Grant in The Awful Truth, said he knew that he and Scott "lived together as a gay couple", adding: "I think Cary knew that people were saying things about him. I don't think he tried to hide it." The two men frequently accompanied each other to parties and premieres and were unconcerned when photographs of them cozily preparing dinner together at home were published in fan magazines.

Barbara, Grant's widow, has disputed that there was a relationship with Scott. When Chevy Chase joked about Grant being gay in a television interview Grant sued him for slander; they settled out of court. However, Grant did admit in an interview that his first two wives had accused him of being homosexual. Betsy Drake commented: "Why would I believe that Cary was homosexual when we were busy fucking? Maybe he was bisexual. He lived 43 years before he met me. I don't know what he did."

Politics

Grant did not think movie stars should publicly make political declarations. Grant described his politics and his reticence about them this way:

I'm opposed to actors taking sides in public and spouting spontaneously about love, religion, or politics. We aren't experts on these subjects. Personally I'm a mass of inconsistencies when it comes to politics. My opinions are constantly changing. That's why I don't ever take a public stand on issues.

Throughout his life, Grant maintained personal friendships with colleagues of varying political stripes and his few political activities seemed to be shaped by personal friendships. Repulsed by the human costs to many in Hollywood, Grant publicly condemned McCarthyism in 1953 and vocally defended his friend Charlie Chaplin when the latter was blacklisted, insisting that Chaplin's artistic value outweighed political concerns. Grant was also a friend of the Kennedy brothers and Robert Kennedy's Press Secretary Frank Mankiewicz. He hosted one of Robert Kennedy's first political fundraisers at his home. He made one of his rare statements on public issues following the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, calling for gun control. In 1976, after his retirement from movies, Grant made his one overtly partisan appearance, introducing his friend Betty Ford, the First Lady, at the Republican National Convention, but even in this he maintained some distance from partisanship, speaking of "your" party, rather than "ours" in his remarks.






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