Remembering Cary Grant

By Ali Datko, ReMIND Magazine

If there ever was a self-made man to come through Hollywood, he would be perennial heartthrob Cary Grant.

Born Archibald Alexander Leach into an unhappy family in Bristol, England, in 1904, Cary’s early years were wrought with abandonment as his mother was committed to a mental institution and young Cary left to fate after his father remarried when he was 10.

Grant was expelled from grammar school just a few years later and joined a traveling entertainment troupe, in which he performed as a stilt walker on a trans- Atlantic ocean liner.

Grant arrived at Ellis Island in 1920 and continued to expand his career in vaudeville; by his late teens, he was an experienced stage performer, juggler, acrobat and mime, and had appeared in several Broadway musicals.

He went to Hollywood in 1931, signed with Paramount Pictures, and changed his name upon suggestion from the studio execs. Unlike most stars of the era, the transition from who he was to the star he would become was a contemplative one. Grant later said, “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.”

 Cary Grant and Priscilla Lane in “Arsenic and Old Lace” (1944). Cary Grant and Priscilla Lane in “Arsenic and Old Lace” (1944). In 1936, after being cast in a series of unsuccessful films, Grant ended his contract with Paramount and signed with Columbia

Pictures instead. He then appeared in the 1937 comedies Topper and The Awful Truth, followed by 18 more films in what Benjamin Schwarz in The Atlantic later called “the most spectacular run ever for an actor of American cinema.”

Grant had become a leading man in every sense of the term. He was a favorite of directors Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock, rubbed shoulders with social icons like Betty Ford and Charlie Chaplin, and was called “the most important actor in the history of the cinema” by film historian David Thomson.

And he wasn’t too shabby on the eyes, either. Married five times and known for his dashing good looks, Grant was a catch no matter who you asked.

Today Cary Grant is remembered for his on- and offscreen charisma, and often is celebrated as the greatest film actor of all time. During his career he received two Academy Award and five Golden Globe Award nominations, and in 1970 was presented an Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement for his “unique mastery of the art of screen acting.”

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