“There’s no point in being unhappy about growing older. Just think of the millions who have been denied the privilege.” – Cary Grant
Known as one of the greatest Hollywood film stars of all time, Cary Grant stood alongside the likes of James Stewart, Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn as the greatest actors of mid-century Hollywood. With a strong leading personality, Grant enjoyed 34 years in the industry, working with some of the finest filmmaking minds, including Alfred Hitchcock, Charles Walters and Howard Hawks.
Born in Horfield, Bristol in 1904, Grant (born Archibald Alec Leach) endured a difficult childhood with his father suffering from an alcohol addiction whilst his mother was also brought down with clinical depression. Teaching her son to sing and dance at the age of four, his mother occasionally took him to the cinema and the theatre whereby he would develop a taste for performance.
Taking his hand to the theatre, Grant developed his ability and broadened his acting skills, touring with the acrobatic group called The Pender Troupe where he would eventually perform at the New York Hippodrome to an audience of 5,697. Unbeknownst to Grant, it was here that a Hollywood star would be born, with his career in the arts was about to take a major turn. Starting his film career in 1932, let’s take a look at the six definitive films that illustrated the extraordinary life of Cary Grant.
Cary Grant’s six definitive films:
This Is the Night (Frank Tuttle, 1932)
Taking his performances to the next level, Grant appeared in the Broadway play Nikki where he was seen as a potential future star of Hollywood, with Paramount later picking up the 27-year-old for a five-year contract.
Establishing himself as a suave, masculine star, Grant exuded a natural charm that made him stand out among his peers, making his feature film debut in This is the Night directed by Frank Tuttle. Though the actor disliked his supporting role as Stephen Mathewson, even threatening to leave Hollywood he hated it so much, his performance garnered positive reactions from critics who praised his performance and publicised his blossoming fame.
Sylvia Scarlett (George Cukor, 1935)
Experiencing a tumultuous first few years in the industry, Grant was forced to endure a string of financial failures in the likes of Born to Be Bad, Kiss and Make-Up and Wings in the Dark, with Paramount finally concluding that the actor was surplus to requirements.
Loaned out to RKO pictures, Grant’s prospects picked up slightly in 1935 when he was cast in Sylvia Scarlett as a cockney wheeler-dealer, featuring alongside the ever-alluring Katharine Hepburn. Whilst the film didn’t perform well financially, the film earned Grant some much-needed critical publicity, with the actor himself noting the film as the one project that would forever change his career.
The Awful Truth (Leo McCarey, 1937)
Having gained critical acclaim, Cary Grant appeared in Big Brown Eyes, Topper and The Toast of New York before he would gain further commercial recognition for his performance in the romantic screwball comedy, The Awful Truth.
Appearing alongside Irene Dunne and Ralph Bellamy, Grant showed off his comic talents, using his time working in vaudeville in his early career to inspire his performance. Receiving critical and commercial success, the film would establish the actor as a significant Hollywood star, illustrating him as a versatile actor capable of being a sophisticated leading man and a screwball comedian.
Suspicion (Alfred Hitchcock, 1941)
Enjoying the height of his industry success, Grant was in high demand, starring in ten films from 1937-1941 including His Girl Friday, The Philadelphia Story and Penny Serenade. Next would come to his next major career turning point.
In his first of many collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, Grant starred in Suspicion alongside Joan Fontaine whom he found rather temperamental on the set of the film. Perfectly showing off the actor’s versatile acting capabilities, Grant was celebrated as a mysterious, murderous young man in the film, well-balancing the alluring charm and dark insidiousness that was necessary for the role.
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (Irving Reis, 1947)
Seeing sustained success throughout America during WWII, Grant was still seen as a torch of Hollywood pride in 1947 where he would play an artist in the comedy The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.
Featuring Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple, the film was praised for pulling off its slapstick comedy and became one of the year’s highest-performing films in the process. Representing one of Cary Grant’s final critical and commercial successes before his slump at the dawn of the 1950s, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer was a timeless ode to the performer Grant once was whilst signposting his imminent industry demise.
North By Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
By far Cary Grant’s most iconic role came late in his career, after the highs of his 1940s success and the lows of his stagnation in the 1950s, when he appeared in his fourth and final collaboration with the great Alfred Hitchcock, North by Northwest.
Starring in the film that followed an advertising executive who becomes embroiled in a case of mistaken identity, Grant was celebrated for his professional performance and his nuanced approach to the occasional moments of levity in the film. Recognised in contemporary cinema as one of the greatest films ever made, North By Northwest represented one of the actor’s final ever cinematic successes, as his Hollywood stardom ebbed away into the 1960s.
Starring in his final screen role in Walk Don’t Run in 1966, Cary Grant stepped away from the industry at the age of 62 when he embraced his life as a grandfather, passing away 20 years later in 1986. Recognised as one of the most commanding Hollywood stars of the 20th century, Cary Grant will long be remembered as a cinematic great.