Archibald Alexander Leach (January 18, 1904 - November 29, 1986), better known by his stage name Cary Grant, was a British-American 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 The Awful Truth (1937), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Gunga Din (1939), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Notorious (1946), To Catch A Thief (1955), An Affair to Remember (1957), North by Northwest (1959), and Charade (1963).
At the 42nd Academy Awards the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored him with an Honorary Award "for his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues".
Early life and career
Archibald Alexander Leach was born in Horfield, Bristol, United Kingdom in 1904 to Elsie Maria Kingdon (1877-1973) and Elias James Leach (1873-1935). An only child, he had a confused and unhappy childhood, attending Bishop Road Primary School. His father placed his mother in a mental institution when he was nine and his mother never overcame her depression after the death of a previous child. His father had told him that she had gone away on a "long holiday" and it was not until he was in his thirties that Leach discovered her alive, in an institutionalized care facility.
He was expelled from the Fairfield Grammar School in Bristol in 1918. He subsequently joined the "Bob Pender stage troupe" and travelled with the group to the United States as a stilt walker 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 US and continue his stage career.
Still under 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).
After some success in light Broadway comedies, he 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 OK, 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 then-biggest movie stars.
Having already 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 indifferent 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).
Grant starred in some of the classic screwball comedies, including Bringing Up Baby (1938) with Katharine Hepburn, His Girl Friday (1940) with Rosalind Russell, Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) featuring Priscilla Lane, and Monkey Business (1952) opposite Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe. 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. These performances solidified his appeal, and The Philadelphia Story (1940), with Hepburn and James Stewart, showcased his best-known screen persona: the charming if sometimes unreliable man, formerly married to an intelligent and strong-willed woman who first divorced him, then realized that he was with all his faults irresistible.
Grant was one of Hollywood's top box-office attractions for several decades. He was a versatile actor, who did demanding physical comedy in movies like Gunga Din (1939) with the skills he had learned on the stage. Howard Hawks said that Grant was "so far the best that there isn't anybody to be compared to him".
Grant was a favorite actor of Alfred Hitchcock, notorious for disliking actors, who said that Grant was "the only actor I ever loved in my whole life". Grant appeared in such Hitchcock classics as Suspicion (1941), 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 in Torn Curtain, 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 fim was Walk, Don't Run (1966) with Samantha Eggar.
Grant was once considered a maverick as he was the first actor to "go independent," effectively bucking the old 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. He decided which movies he was going to appear in, he had personal choice of the directors and his co-stars and at times, even negotiated a share of the gross, something unheard of at the time, but now common among A-list stars.
Grant was nominated for two Academy Awards in the 1940s. He was denied the Oscar throughout his active career because he was one of the first actors to be independent of the major studios. Grant received a special Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1970. In 1981, he was accorded the Kennedy Center Honors.
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 Faberg. By all accounts this position was not honorary as some had assumed, as Grant was regularly attending 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, 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 29 November 1986 when he suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage. (He had also suffered a minor stroke in October 1984.) He died at 11:22 pm in St. Luke's Hospital.
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. He married Barbara Hutton and became a father figure to her son, Lance Reventlow. The couple were 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."
Grant married Betsy Drake on December 25, 1949. 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 60s 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.
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 11 April 1981 Grant married long-time companion, British hotel PR agent Barbara Harris, who was 47 years his junior. They renewed their vows on their fifth wedding anniversary. In 2001, Harris married former All-American quarterback David Jaynes.
Grant was allegedly 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 have also 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.
Grant's widow, Barbara, has disputed that there was a relationship with Scott. When Chevy Chase joked about Grant being gay in a television interview, he sued him for slander; they settled out of court. However, he 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".
Grant was a Republican, but did not think movie stars should publicly make political declarations. During his career some people considered him to be a left-winger, as he publicly condemned McCarthyism in 1953 and vocally supported his blacklisted friend Charlie Chaplin. Grant was also criticized by right-wing columnist Hedda Hopper for vacationing in the Soviet Union after filming Indiscreet (1958). He appeared to worsen the situation by remarking to an interviewer "I don't care what kind of government they have over there, I never had such a good time in my life". In June 1968 he made a public appeal for gun control following the assassination of his friend, Democratic Senator Robert F. Kennedy. After his retirement from acting, Grant was active in a number of Republican causes. He introduced First Lady Betty Ford to the audience at the Republican National Convention in 1976. He was also a vocal supporter of his friend Ronald Reagan during the 1980s.
Photograph is from the 1942 movie, The Talk of the Town & was Hand Oil Tinted by artist Margaret A. Rogers