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Movie Legends: Cary Grant



In Charade, made in 1963, near the end of Cary Grant’s movie career, a smitten Regina Lampert, played by Audrey Hepburn, confronts Grant’s Peter Joshua.

Lampert: Do you know what’s wrong with you?
Joshua: No, what?
Lampert: Nothing!

That’s the way women, and men, felt about Grant from 1933, when the formerly underachieving 29-year-old played the ingenue to Mae West’s sexual predator in She Done Him Wrong, to 1966, when he made his last film, Walk, Don’t Run—an incredible, unequaled 33-year stretch as America’s ultimate movie icon. As an action hero (Only Angels Have Wings, Destination Tokyo), the darkly conflicted center of Hitchcock classics (Suspicion, Notorious, To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest), and a supremely physical comedian (Bringing Up Baby, My Favorite Wife, His Girl Friday, Arsenic and Old Lace), Grant created an ideal self out of ferocious need.

Cary Grant

Born Archibald Leach in a poor family in Bristol, England, Grant came home one day at age ten to be told that his mother had gone to the seaside for a little rest; shortly after, he was told that she had died. (Twenty years later, he learned that she had been institutionalized and was still alive.) Grant pretty much raised himself, first as a truant and petty thief, then as part of an acrobatic troupe that eventually toured America.

There, he mutated from a popular escort who looked great in a tux into a Broadway actor who looked great in a tux. Few foresaw the movie star he would become in the mid-’30s in movies like She Done Him Wrong, Topper, and The Awful Truth, which showcased both his desirability and his self-deprecating comedic personality.

From The Awful Truth on, he was the Platonic ideal of a star—beautiful, fit, meticulously dressed and groomed, witty, and a bit melancholy. And then it turned out, in films like Suspicion and Notorious, that he could really act! Though clearly talented, Grant was most loved for the urbane persona he created for the screen and then pretty much became in real life. And in the end, we all wanted him to be Cary Grant as much as he did.

Essential Films: She Done Him Wrong (1933), The Awful Truth (1937), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955), North by Northwest (1959)

Oscar Dish: Two nominations, for Penny Serenade (1941) and None But the Lonely Heart (1944). Grant was given an Honorary Award in 1970.

Movie you have to see right now: To Catch a Thief, not because it’s his greatest film (though it’s a thoroughly glittering prize) but because it embodies his darkness, his comedic timing, and his dazzling sex appeal.

Cary Grant, 1904-1986.