Cary Grant in 1959
|Born||Archibald Alexander Leach
January 18, 1904
Horfield, Bristol, England
|Died||November 29, 1986
Davenport, Iowa, U.S.
|Cause of death||Cerebral hemorrhage|
|Other names||Archie Leach|
|Education||Bishop Road Primary School
Fairfield Grammar School
|Spouse(s)||Virginia Cherrill (m. 1934; div. 1935)
Barbara Hutton (m. 1942; div. 1945)
Betsy Drake (m. 1949; div. 1962)
Dyan Cannon (m. 1965; div. 1968)
Barbara Harris (m. 1981–86)
|Partner(s)||Maureen Donaldson (1973–1977)|
|Children||Jennifer Grant (born 1966)|
|Awards||Academy Honorary Award (1970) For his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues.
Kennedy Center Honors (1981)
Cary Grant (born Archibald Alexander Leach; January 18, 1904 – November 29, 1986) was an English actor who became an American citizen in 1942. Known for his transatlantic accent, debonair demeanor, and "dashing good looks", Grant is considered one of classic Hollywood's definitive leading men.
In 1999, the American Film Institute named Grant the second greatest male star of Golden Age Hollywood cinema (after Humphrey Bogart). Grant was known for comedic and dramatic roles; his best-known films include Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Philadelphia Story (1940), His Girl Friday (1940), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Notorious (1946), An Affair to Remember (1957), North by Northwest (1959), and Charade (1963).
He was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Actor (Penny Serenade (1941) and None but the Lonely Heart (1944)) and five times for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. After his retirement from film in 1966, Grant was presented with an Honorary Oscar by Frank Sinatra at the 42nd Academy Awards in 1970.
Early life and career
Archibald "Archie" Leach was born on January 18, 1904 at 15 Hughenden Road in the northern Bristol suburb of Horfield. He was the second child of Elias James Leach (1866–1935) and Elsie Maria Leach (née Kingdon; 1878–1973). His father, the son of a potter, worked as a tailor's presser at a clothes factory named Todd's, while his mother, who also worked at the factory as a seamstress, was from a family of shipwrights. Biographers Charles Higham and Roy Moseley describe Elias as "delicately and weakly handsome, with light brown curly hair, soft, dark reflective eyes, chiseled cheekbones, and a sensual mouth decorated with a neat mustache". Grant himself stated that the reason was because his father was partly Jewish, despite the lack of genealogical evidence.[a] However many sources have reported that his mother had an ongoing affair with an Indian Officer in the British Intelligence Services who was actually Archie Leach's real father. His elder brother, John William Elias Leach (February 9, 1899 – February 6, 1900), died of tubercular meningitis.
Archie had an unhappy upbringing. His father was an alcoholic, and his mother suffered from clinical depression. Higham and Moseley claim that Archie grew up resenting his mother, and describe her as a "cruel and despotic human being". They believe that her hostility was triggered by the fact that she had lost an earlier child, and that Archie was taking his place. She would prevent Archie from being given pocket money at the least little mishap, whether it was scratching a table or misplacing a cushion. Grant later noted that he was kept in infant's clothing much longer than usual, and that for a period he "wasn't sure whether I was a boy or a girl". Due to his father's alcoholism, he had a poor reputation locally, and the family moved house twice before Archie was five years of age, both in the nearby Bristol suburb of Bishopston. To escape his parents, he spent much time in the company of his paternal uncle John (Jack), and illiterate grandmother Elizabeth at Picton Street. His father later placed his mother in Glenside Hospital (a mental institution) and told the 9-year-old that she had gone away on a "long holiday", later declaring that she had died. When Archie was 10, his father remarried and started a new family that did not include young Archibald. Archie did not learn his mother had not died until he was 31, when his father confessed to the lie, shortly before his own death, and told Leach that he could find her alive in a care facility. Archie made arrangements for his mother to leave the institution in June 1935, shortly after he found out about her whereabouts.
Archie enrolled at Bishop Road Primary School at the age of four and a half. Due to alienation from his parents, he was socially inept as a child, with a nervous disposition. He enjoyed the theatre, particularly pantomimes at Christmas which he would attend with his father. Elias frequently flirted with the showgirls backstage, and at the age of six and a half, Archie befriended a troupe of acrobatic dancers, known as "The Penders" or the "Bob Pender Stage Troupe", and began performing with them. One of the dancers, Robert Lomas, whom he would later closely resemble, became an early role model for him. Elias noticed that the two shared a bond, and when his father left and remarried, he placed him in the full-time care of Lomas and the troupe. Lomas nurtured him as a performer, despite him being underage. Archie began touring with the troupe from the age of six. One two-week stint at the Wintergarten in Berlin had a profound impact on young Archie, and he subsequently trained as a stilt walker for the troupe. In his first year with the troupe, he performed in the Jack and the Beanstalk Christmas pantomime at Drury Lane's Theatre Royal, donning a bird mask and appearing as a stork.
On March 5, 1911, Archie sailed to New York on the Lusitania with the Pender Troupe. They performed for several weeks on 46th Street. In one nine-minute segment of a three-hour show at the Folies Bergère Theater, the first dinner theater in the United States, they performed in front of the likes of Diamond Jim Brady, Lillian Russell and the Mellon, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt families. The show eventually began to lose money, and the troupe receive negative press for their vulgarity, leaving Archie feeling disappointed upon his return to England in the September. He developed a love of comedy, attending shows by the likes of John Bunny and Mabel Normand on Saturdays evenings in London. In January 1914 his father took him to see Fanny Brice appear in the revue Hello, Ragtime at the Prince's Theatre.  The same year, he won a scholarship to attend Fairfield Grammar School in Bristol, his father barely scraping together enough money to pay for his uniform. He started at the school on September 2, 1915, and with his good looks and acrobatic talents he became a popular figure among both girls and boys, who affectionately referred to him as "Gussie". Though he was able at most academic subjects and excelled at sports, particularly "fives", similar to squash but with gloves, he developed a reputation for mischief, and frequently refused to do his homework. His evenings were spent working backstage in the Bristolian theatres, and in 1917 he was responsible for the lighting for the magician David Devant at the Hippodrome. A mishap occurred during the "Magic Mirror" segment of the show in which Archie revealed a girl hiding by misplaced lighting, which led to him being fired.
In March 1918, Archie was expelled from Fairfield. Several explanations were given, from him being found in the girls' lavatory to being found guilty of theft, along with two other classmates, in the nearby town of Almondsbury. Higham and Moseley believe that the real reason was that he stole a valise full of paints, which is self-referenced for good humor in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. Without school to attend, Archie rejoined the Pender Troupe, giving nightly performances at the Norwich Hippodrome from May 13 to May 18 1918, and then the Ipswich Hippodrome for two days until May 25. During that summer the troupe performed in Aldershot and toured northern England and southern Scotland, including Aberdeen and Dundee, before returning to Bristol in the September. At Christmas he appeared in the pantomime of Babes in the Wood at Edinburgh's Princes Theatre. At age 16, in 1920, he traveled with the group on a two-year tour of the United States, on the RMS Olympic. He was processed at Ellis Island on July 28, 1920. While there they stayed in a small apartment on 58th Street, just off 8th Avenue, and performed at the New York Hippodrome. Higham and Moseley note that Grant "fell in love with Manhattan", and was "dazzled" at meeting the stars of Broadway. When the troupe returned to Britain, Archie decided to stay in the U.S. and continue his stage career.
Archie became a part of the vaudeville world and toured with Parker and Rand. On March 27, 1922, he performed at the Orpheum in St. Louis, Missouri. He later performed in drag in Coney Island, a place which he detested. In 1923, he toured the US, performing in cities such as Spokane, Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles by later October. After a tour of the mid West in 1924, he returned to Los Angeles in May 1925. Exhausted after touring the entire United States and Canada, the group split up and he returned to New York. There he became acquainted with Jean Dalrymple and Dan Jarrott, and they decided to form the Jack Janis Company, which commenced touring in May 1926. 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.
Debut, early roles and breakthrough (1932–1936)
Leach's role in songwriter and theatre producer William B. Friedlander's play Nikki (1931), where he starred opposite actress Fay Wray as a soldier named Cary Lockwood, was praised by Ed Sullivan of The New York Daily News, who noted that the "young lad from England" had "a big future in the movies". This review got him an uncredited role as a sailor in Singapore Sue (1932), a ten-minute short film by Casey Robinson. Leach filmed his portions for the short in a day.
Through Casey Robinson, Leach met up with Jesse L. Lasky and B. P. Schulberg, the co-founder and general manager of Paramount Pictures respectively. After a successful screen-test directed by Marion Gering, whom Leach would later work with in Devil and the Deep (1932) and Madame Butterfly (1932), Schulberg signed up Leach at a starting salary of $450 a week. Schulberg also requested Leach to change his name to "something that sounded more all-American like Gary Cooper". While having dinner with Fay Wray, she asked Leach to choose the name "Cary Lockwood", the name of his character in Nikki. Schulberg decided the name "Cary" was acceptable, but was less satisfied with "Lockwood" as it was too similar to another actor's surname. Schulberg gave Leach a list of surnames compiled by Paramount's publicity department to choose from, and Leach chose "Grant", which Schulberg liked.
Cary Grant made his feature film debut with Frank Tuttle's adaptation of playwright Avery Hopwood 1925 comedy Naughty Cinderella, This is the Night (1932), opposite Thelma Todd and Lili Damita, who played his wife and love interest respectively. Grant disliked his role, believing that a man accepting the unfaithfulness of his wife so calmly was unbelievable. After seeing the film, he decided to quit Hollywood. However, his friend Orry-Kelly talked him out of it. Grant's performance in the film was praised by critics, much to the actor's surprise, with a critic from Variety describing it as "striking" and noted that "he looks like a potential femme rave". Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times believed Grant to be "efficient as the stalwart Stepan." Grant then appeared opposite Carole Lombard in Sinners in the Sun (1932) as a "sophisticated man-about-town" named Ridgeway, a role which he felt was more suited to his acting style. The film was poorly received by critics with Variety calling it "a very weak picture with an unimpressive future before it." Grant later featured in five more films in 1932 — Blonde Venus opposite Marlene Dietrich, Merrily We Go to Hell opposite Frederic March and Sylvia Sidney, Devil and the Deep opposite Gary Cooper, Charles Laughton and Tallulah Bankhead, Hot Saturday opposite Nancy Carroll and Randolph Scott, and Madame Butterfly opposite Sidney. According to biographer Marc Eliot, while these films didn't make Grant a star, they did well enough to establish him as one of Hollywood's "new crop of fast-rising actors".
In 1933, Grant garnered attention for appearing in the Pre-Code films She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel opposite Mae West.[b] According to biographer Jerry Vermilye, West had asked one of Paramount's office boys about Grant to which the boy replied, "Oh, that's Cary Grant. He's making [Madame] Butterfly with Sylvia Sidney". West then retorted, "I don't care if he's making Little Nell. If he can talk, I'll take him." Andre Sennwald of The New York Times found Grant's performance in She Done Him Wrong to be "commendable" while Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader described him as "a callow young actor". The film is placed at 75 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs list, while West's line "Why don't you come up sometime and see me?" was voted number 26 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes. She Done Him Wrong was nominated in the Best Picture category but lost to Cavalcade (1933). For I'm No Angel, Grant's salary was increased from $450 to $750 a week. The film was even more successful than She Done Him Wrong and Vermilye noted that it became "one of the best comedy films of the 1930s." These two films saved Paramount from bankruptcy. Paramount then put Grant in a series of less successful films until 1935, when he was loaned to RKO Pictures. He starred in his first venture with RKO, Sylvia Scarlett (1935), opposite Katharine Hepburn thereby marking his first collaboration with her. The pair would later on feature in Bringing Up Baby (1938), Holiday (1938) and The Philadelphia Story (1940). Despite the film being a commercial failure, Grant's performance was praised by critics, with Variety noting that he "practically steals the picture". His performance in the film lead him to sign joint contracts with RKO and Columbia Pictures, enabling him to choose the stories to which he felt suited his acting style.
Hollywood stardom (1937–1963)
Grant's first major comedy hit was when he was loaned to Hal Roach's studio for Topper (1937), a screwball comedy film distributed by MGM. Grant became a naturalised United States citizen on June 26, 1942, at which time he also legally changed his name from "Archibald Alexander Leach" to "Cary Grant". The Awful Truth (1937) was the breakthrough role of Grant's career, which established for him a screen persona as a sophisticated light comedy leading man in screwball comedies. As Grant 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." Grant is said to have based his characterisation in The Awful Truth on the mannerisms and intonations of the film's director, Leo McCarey, whom he resembled physically.
The Awful Truth began what The Atlantic later called "the most spectacular run ever for an actor in American pictures". During the next four years, Grant appeared in several classic romantic comedies and screwball comedies, including Holiday (1938) and Bringing Up Baby (1938), both opposite Katharine Hepburn; The Philadelphia Story (1940) with Hepburn and James Stewart; His Girl Friday (1940) with Rosalind Russell; and My Favorite Wife (1940), which reunited him with Irene Dunne, his co-star in The Awful Truth. During this time, he also made the adventure films Gunga Din (1939) with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Only Angels Have Wings (1939) with Jean Arthur and Rita Hayworth, and dramas Penny Serenade (1941) with Dunne, and Suspicion (1941), the first of Grant's four collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock. Besides Suspicion, Grant appeared in the Hitchcock classics Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955), and North by Northwest (1959). Grant was a favorite of Hitchcock, who called him "the only actor I ever loved in my whole life".
In 1952, he appeared in Monkey Business co-starring with Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe. In the mid-1950s, Grant formed his own production company, Granart Productions and produced a number of films distributed by Universal, such as Operation Petticoat (1959), Indiscreet (1958), That Touch of Mink (co-starring with Doris Day, 1962), and Father Goose (1964). Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman originally sought Grant for the role of James Bond in Dr. No (1962) but discarded the idea as Grant would be committed to only one feature film; therefore, the producers decided to go after someone who could be part of a franchise. In 1963, Grant appeared opposite Audrey Hepburn in Charade directed by Stanley Donen. Hitchcock asked Grant to star in Torn Curtain (1966) only to learn that Grant had decided to retire.
Grant was one of the first actors to go independent by not renewing his studio contract, effectively leaving the studio system, which almost completely controlled all aspects of their lives. He decided which films he was going to appear in, often had personal choice of directors and co-stars, and at times even negotiated a share of the gross revenue, something uncommon at the time. Grant received more than $700,000 for his 10% of the gross for To Catch a Thief, while Hitchcock received less than $50,000 for directing and producing it.
Grant was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Penny Serenade (1941) and None But the Lonely Heart (1944), but never won a competitive Oscar; he received a special Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1970. Accepting the Best Original Screenplay Oscar on April 5, 1965 at the 37th Academy Awards, Father Goose co-writer Peter Stone had quipped, "My thanks to Cary Grant, who keeps winning these things for other people". In 1981, Grant was accorded the Kennedy Center Honors.
One of the wealthiest stars in Hollywood, Grant owned houses in Beverly Hills, Malibu, and Palm Springs. He stayed at the finest hotels, had his clothes and shoes hand-made especially for him, and owned two Rolls-Royces. Biographers Higham and Moseley note that such was his level of sophistication, he became the envy of the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan and Bob Hope. They state that Grant was the "ultimate matinee idol", with a "proletarian charm" which endeared him to both men and women. He wore "perfectly tailored" suits and was immaculate in his personal grooming, with neatly coiffured hair and a sun tan. Though sophisticated in appearance, he was often cocky and vulgar in his humour, leading Highman and Moseley to summarise him as a "tough, brash, sardonically humorous West County lad screaming to be let out". They describe him as a "mass of contradictions" whose life was "painful, even tortured", and was spiritually ambiguous and "deeply compulsive" almost to the point of insanity. Despite often being careless with his attitude to domestic cleaning, he would obsess about the smallest of details, from the position of a light, the glass in the window to the ironing of his shirts. During periods of stress, Grant had a volatile temper, and was prone to neurotic outbursts and mood swings, going to extremes in his behavior.
Grant was married five times. 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 following a $50 million inheritance from her grandfather, Frank Winfield Woolworth. 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 the "fondest of 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.
He eloped with Dyan Cannon on July 22, 1965, in Las Vegas. Their daughter, Jennifer Grant, was born on February 26, 1966. Jennifer is also his only child all his life.  He frequently called Jennifer his "best production". Grant and Cannon divorced in March 1968. On April 11, 1981, Grant married Barbara Harris, a British hotel public relations agent who was 47 years his junior.
Higham and Moseley claim that Grant's resentment of his mother took its toll on his treatment of women in his relationships, and he could be physically as well as verbally abusive. Some, including Hedda Hopper, and screenwriter Arthur Laurents, claimed Grant was bisexual. Grant was allegedly involved with costume designer Orry-Kelly when he first moved to Manhattan, and lived with actor Randolph Scott off and on for 12 years. Richard Blackwell wrote that Grant and Scott were "deeply, madly in love." Scotty Bowers alleged in his memoir, Full Service (2012) that he had been intimately involved with both Grant and Scott. William McBrien, in his biography Cole Porter, says that Porter and Grant frequented the same upscale house of male prostitution in Harlem, run by Clint Moore and popular with celebrities. All of these claims were published many years after Grant had died. Barbara Harris, Grant's widow, has disputed claims that Grant had had a relationship with Scott. When Chevy Chase joked in a television interview about Grant's being gay, Grant sued him for slander, and he was forced to retract his words. However, Grant's one-time girlfriend Maureen Donaldson wrote in her memoir, An Affair to Remember: My Life with Cary Grant (1989), that Grant told her his first two wives had accused him of being homosexual.
In Chaplin's Girl, a biography of Grant's first wife Virginia Cherrill, Miranda Seymour wrote that Grant and Scott were only platonic friends. Former showgirl Lisa Medford claimed Grant had wanted her to have his child, but she did not want children.
Grant's daughter Jennifer Grant wrote that her father was not gay in her memoir, Good Stuff (2011), but admitted that he "liked being called gay". In 2012, Dyan Cannon said that Grant was not gay. Tallulah Bankhead jokingly referred to Grant as being a lesbian.
Grant retired from the screen at 62, when his daughter Jennifer was born, to focus on bringing her up and to provide a sense of permanency and stability in her life. While raising his daughter, he archived artifacts of her childhood and adolescence in a bank-quality, room-sized vault he had installed in the house. His daughter attributed this meticulous collection to the fact that artifacts of his own childhood had been destroyed during the Luftwaffe's bombing of Bristol in the Second World War (an event that also claimed the lives of his uncle, aunt, cousin, and the cousin's husband and grandson), and he may have wanted to prevent her from experiencing a similar loss.
Although Grant had retired from the screen, he remained active. 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 traveled internationally to support them. 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, California), Western Airlines (acquired by Delta Air Lines in 1987), and MGM.
Grant expressed no interest in making a career comeback. He was in good health until almost the end of his life, when he suffered a mild stroke in October 1984. In the last few years of his life, Grant undertook tours of the United States in a one-man show, A Conversation with Cary Grant, in which he would show clips from his films and answer audience questions.
Grant was at the Adler Theatre in Davenport, Iowa, on the afternoon of November 29, 1986, preparing for his performance when he suffered of a cerebral hemorrhage. He died at 11:22 p.m. in St. Luke's Hospital, at age 82. He was cremated and his ashes scattered. The bulk of his estate, worth millions of dollars, went to his wife Barbara Harris and his daughter Jennifer Grant.
Film critic David Thomson referred to Grant as "the best and most important actor in the history of the cinema", while the film critic Richard Schickel said that he's the "best star actor there ever was in the movies". Howard Hawks concurred, remarking that Grant "so far the best that there isn't anybody to be compared to him". Grant remained one of Hollywood's top box-office attractions for almost 30 years. In 1987, People magazine named him, along with Greta Garbo, as the greatest of all stars. In November 2005, Grant again came first in Premiere magazine's list of "The 50 Greatest Movie Stars of All Time".
Grant poked fun at himself with statements such as, "Everyone wants to be Cary Grant—even I want to be Cary Grant", and in ad-lib lines—such as in the film His Girl Friday (1940), saying, "Listen, the last man who said that to me was Archie Leach, just a week before he cut his throat." In Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), a gravestone is seen bearing the name Archie Leach. According to a famous story now believed to be apocryphal, after seeing a telegram from a magazine editor to his agent asking, "How old Cary Grant?", Grant reportedly responded, "Old Cary Grant fine. How you?" 
Filmography and stage work
- Grant turned down a leading role in Gentleman's Agreement in the 1940s because he believed he could not effectively play the part, being of Jewish ancestry. He donated considerable sums to Jewish causes over his lifetime, and in 1939 gave the Jewish actor Sam Jaffe $25,000. In 1947 he gave the same figure to the State of Israel,[dubious ] declaring that it was "in the name of his dead mother".
- She Done Him Wrong was an adaptation of West's own play Diamond Lil (1928).
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- McBrien, William (2000). Cole Porter. Vintage. ISBN 978-0-679-72792-7.
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- Vermilye, Jerry (January 1, 1973). Cary Grant. Pyramid Publications. ISBN 978-0-515-03246-8.
- Wallace, David (2008). A City Comes Out: How Celebrities Made Palm Springs a Gay and Lesbian Paradise. Barricade Books. ISBN 978-1-56980-349-3.
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- Weiten, Wayne (1996). Psychology: Themes and Variations. Brooks/Cole. ISBN 978-0-534-33926-5.
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- Cary Grant at the Internet Broadway Database
- Cary Grant at AllMovie
- Cary Grant at the Internet Movie Database
- Cary Grant at the TCM Movie Database
- Works by or about Cary Grant in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- "Archibald Leach's christening record". Familysearch.org.
- "Archibald Leach's entry in the England/Wales Census". Familysearch.org. 1911.
- "Archibald Leach's US immigration record". Familysearch.org. 1920.
- "Social Security Death index". Familysearch.org. 1986.
- Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. "Cary Grant papers". Margaret Herrick Library.