Promotional photo of Cary Grant for Suspicion (1941)
|Born||Archibald Alexander Leach
18 January 1904
Horfield, Bristol, England
|Died||29 November 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; 18 January 1904 – 29 November 1986) was an English-born stage and Hollywood film 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 18 January 1904 at 15 Hughenden Road in the 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 was from a family of shipwrights. His elder brother, John William Elias Leach (9 February 1899 – 6 February 1900), was five years older had died of Tubercular meningitis.
Archie had an unhappy upbringing. His father was an alcoholic, and his mother suffered from clinical depression. His father placed her in 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. Little is known about how he was cared for, and by whom. 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 attended Bishop Road Primary School, and then Fairfield Grammar School in Bristol from the age of 11, where he was expelled in 1918. After joining the "Bob Pender Stage Troupe", he performed as a stilt walker. 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 28 July 1920.
When the troupe returned to Britain, Archie 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 Archie. After his departure, Archie was replaced by James Cagney. 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's breakthrough came with the Pre-Code films She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel opposite Mae West.[a] 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".
Hollywood stardom (1937-1963)
His first major comedy hit was when he was loaned to Hal Roach's studio for Topper (1937, distributed by MGM). Grant became a naturalised United States citizen on 26 June 1942, at which time he also legally changed his name from "Archibald Alexander Leach" to "Cary Grant". The Awful Truth (1937) was another pivotal film in Grant's career, which established for him a screen persona as a sophisticated light comedy leading man. 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 characterization in The Awful Truth on the mannerisms and intonations of the film's director, Leo McCarey, whom he resembled physically. As writer/director Peter Bogdanovich noted, "After The Awful Truth, when it came to light comedy, there was Cary Grant and then everyone else was an also-ran."
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.
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).
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 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 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 5 April 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.
Grant was married five times. He wed Virginia Cherrill on 10 February 1934. She divorced him on 26 March 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 25 December 1949, Grant married Betsy Drake. He appeared with her in two films. This would prove to be his longest marriage, ending on 14 August 1962.
He eloped with Dyan Cannon on 22 July 1965, in Las Vegas. Their daughter, Jennifer Grant, was born on 26 February 1966. He frequently called Jennifer his "best production". Grant and Cannon divorced in March 1968.
On 11 April 1981, Grant married Barbara Harris, a British hotel public relations agent who was 47 years his junior. They renewed their vows on their fifth wedding anniversary.
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. 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, California), Western Airlines (acquired by Delta Air Lines in 1987), and MGM.
Grant expressed no interest in making a career comeback and rejected all offers to appear in movies and stage plays. He admitted in interviews that he rarely attended current movies or plays, or kept up with them. During a 1978 sit-down with London Times columnist Roderick Mann, Grant remarked: "I probably have less than 70,000 hours left on this Earth and I'm going to enjoy every one of them." He was in good health until almost the end of his life, when he suffered a mild stroke in October 1984. He appeared on the cover of GQ Magazine several times, the last being the January 1986 issue which hit newsstands just as he celebrated his 82nd birthday.
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 Hotel Blackhawk preparing for a performance at the Adler Theatre in Davenport, Iowa, on the afternoon of 29 November 1986, when he collapsed of a cerebral hemorrhage. His then-fifth wife, Barbara Harris, unaware of what was ailing him, went to a local pharmacy to get aspirin. 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.
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, "I never had so much fun since Archie Leach died". 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?" 
In 2001, a statue of Grant was erected in Millennium Square, a regenerated area next to Bristol Harbour, Bristol, in the city where he was born. In November 2005, Grant came in first in Premiere magazine's list of "The 50 Greatest Movie Stars of All Time".
Filmography and stage work
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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.