From a turbulent childhood to an illustrious Hollywood career, Cary Grant is one of the best-known actors to have dominated screens during the Golden Age of cinema. In honour of the great man’ s birthday on 18th January 1904, we’ ve rounded up 15 fascinating facts you may not know about this debonair entertainer and highlighted a few of his best movies.
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1. What’s in a name?
A lot, it seems, in the case of Sir Cary Grant. His birth certificate welcomes one Archibald Alexander Leach to Bristol, England, in 1904. After launching his career in Hollywood, industry bigwigs insisted he adopt a more star-friendly moniker, and in 1941 he legally changed his name to the elegant sounding Cary Grant.
2. His younger years
Grant’ s path to the US and stardom wasn’ t a smooth one. After losing his mother when he was only nine, Grant was expelled from school and left home aged 14 to join the Bob Pender Troupe, a band of travelling comedians comprised exclusively of young men. Soon after, the ensemble enjoyed a successful two-year stint touring America where Grant refined his acrobatic skills and vaudeville antics. He decided to stay in the good old U.S of A, and continued to work as a travelling performer and seat warmer at dinner parties. By 1927 he’ d met producer Arthur Hammerstein and had a few Broadway performances under his belt. He was well and truly on his way up!
3. The truth about his mother
Although his father told nine-year-old Cary Grant his mother had passed away, the truth was far more complicated. She had in fact been committed to a mental health facility, the Country Home for Mental Defectives, and Grant’s father quickly remarried and left his son in state care. Grant discovered the truth following his father’ s death 20 years later, after which he had his mother released and set up in her own home with sufficient care in Bristol. Grant visited his mother often and, incredibly, she lived another 40 years and died at the age of 93.
4. Marriages and mental health
“Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops,” says Cary Grant.
In stark contrast to the majority of the light-hearted, straight-laced comedic characters he portrayed, regular and intense bouts of depression plagued Grant’ s adult life. He notoriously struggled in his relationships with women (he was married five times) and in a desperate attempt to save his mental health Grant took part in around 100 LSD therapy sessions starting after the breakdown of his third marriage in 1963. He later credited the sessions with easing him back to health and even bequeathed his doctor with $10,000 at the conclusion of his therapy.
5. Was he or wasn’t he?
“I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until finally I became that person. Or he became me,” Cary Grant The relationship between Cary Grant and Randolph Scott has been well documented. It all began on the set of Hot Saturday (1932), and before long the pair were living together and hitting the Hollywood party scene (some speculate it was the gay Hollywood scene). He and Randolph lived together for 11 years before Grant embarked on one of his five marriages (after pressure from studio execs to ‘ settle down’ ). Indeed, it wasn't the first time Grant shared a residence with a man; he previously resided with the openly gay Hollywood designer Orry-Kelly.
6. Clever collaborator
Highly sought after and immensely talented, Cary Grant shared the screen with some of Hollywood’ s brightest stars, from James Stewart, Katharine Hepburn and Doris Day, to Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.
7. Hitchcock muse
Alfred Hitchcock once said that Cary Grant was, “the only actor I ever loved in my whole life.”The infamous director cast Grant in four of his iconic films, Suspicion (1944), Notorious (1946), To Catch A Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959).
8. Dress up fun
In the obscure and kooky 1949 film, I Was a Male War Bride, Grant plays French officer, Captain Henri Rochard. After marrying his sweetheart, Lieut. Catherine Gates (Ann Sheridan), he is forced to dress as a woman and attempt to enter America with other, legitimate, war brides. What ensues is hilarious; if you haven’ t seen it already, get the popcorn ready and prepare to be entertained!
9. Charade, 1963
Directed by Stanley Donen, Charade is set in Paris and tells the story of stylish Regina Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) and her acquaintance Peter Joshua (Cary Grant). After her husband is found dead, and a series of men begin following her, Joshua agrees to help Lampert, but not all is as it seems. The comedy-thriller serves up twists and turns and a brilliant performance by both Grant and Hepburn.
10. Alice In Wonderland, 1933
Cary Grant graced the silver screen in almost 80 films, and of the many highlights, his role as the Mock Turtle in the 1933 blockbuster, Alice In Wonderland, is one of our favourites.
11. An Affair to Remember, 1957
Heralded as one of the greatest romantic films of all timeAn Affair to Remember had it all, including electric chemistry between Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. They play star-crossed lovers promised to others (Grant’ s character is engaged and Kerr is a married woman), who nonetheless pursue a passionate affair. Heartfelt and authentic, Grant quickly became the man the average woman dreamed of having a sordid affair with.
12. Cary Grant the radio star
Not only did Cary Grant charm audiences with his good looks and acting prowess, but he also worked in radio for a number of years. From 1934 to 1955 he could be heard in over 70 radio performances in programs like Theatre of Romance, The LuxRadioTheatre and Suspense.
13. Generous gent
Cary Grant was a magnanimous humanitarian who made significant contributions to War Relief Funds in America and the UK. In 1944 he gave his pay-check from the film Arsenic and Old Lace to the U.S War Relief Fund. The sum of 100,000 he donated at the time would be worth around $1.5 million today.
This wasn’ t the first time Grant made such a donation. In 1940 the British War Relief Fund received the proceeds from his role in The Philadelphia Story, which also starred Katherine Hepburn. The gesture was so well received that King George VI awarded Grant a King’ s Medal of Service in the Cause of Freedom in 1947.
14. He almost accepted the role of James Bond
We would have loved to have seen Cary Grant as the suave, gun-totting 007, but he was concerned about committing to more than one film, and worried he was too old, at the age of 58, to play the role with the vigour it deserved. Sean Connery ultimately took the lead and became arguably the most loved Bond in the series’ history
15. A humble and philosophical soul
“My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can.
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