In the TV show "To Tell the Truth," there were always three individuals pretending to be the prominent or accomplished figure, an adventurer or a football hero, and the panel had to choose who was the genuine article.
But Cary Grant stumped the panel.
Each of the three individuals named Cary Grant was extraordinarily handsome, suave, charming, and irresistible even though one was a glib ad man named Roger Thornhill, skillful at stealing a taxi cab or fobbing off girlfriends with gifts of chocolate and insincere praise. The second Cary Grant was a fast-talking newspaper editor ("Duffy! Get me rewrite!"), who can outwit Ralph Bellamy or whoever the designated rival is and recover the affections of alienated partners such as Irene Dunne and Rosalind Russell. The third showed up at the top of the Empire State Building to meet Deborah Kerr but she, though equally eager, gets hit by a car in the street below, and they do not consummate their affair to remember.
Born Archie Leach on January 18, 1904 in Bristol (England), Cary Grant spoke in an accent that sounds somehow British and yet is not out of place in any set of circumstances in the States. His versatility extended from the globetrotting realm of Hitchcock's thrillers (the England of "Suspicion," the South America of "Notorious," the French riviera of "To Catch a Thief") to comedies with leading ladies on the order of Irene Dunne, Jean Arthur, Rosalind Russell, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly and Eva Marie Saint. Possibly the handsomest leading man in the movies, though not the sexiest, he starred with both Hepburns, Katharine in a whole bunch of films and Audrey in Charade. He ties Jimmy Stewart as the most frequent Hitchcock hero. He became a US citizen in 1942 and never won a regular academy award, although he did collect an honorary Oscar in 1970.
Origin of name: Boring Hollywood legend has it that "Cary" came from his stage role as a guy named Cary in a musical with Fay Wray, and "Grant" was assigned to him by the studio. You and I can do better. "Grant me an hour, and I will carry you over the altar," he said sheepishly.
Marital status: five times, with wife #3 (Betsy Drake) the marriage that lasted longest. He had a genius for screwball romantic comedies and was a natural straight man -- in Frank Capra's "Arsenic and Old Lace," example.
His last romantic hurrah: Charade with Audrey Hepburn in 1963. The Stanley Donen-directed film also exploits the talents of Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy, the Marche aux Timbres and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Gene Kelly doing a carefree dance on the banks of the Seine (though filmed on a studio) is lovingly recalled by Miss Hepburn (Mrs Charles Lampert) as the hero and heroine hold hands under a bridge and a bateau mouche glides by. Cary Grant shrewdly insists that the romance begins on the lady's side -- he is acutely conscious of the age difference between him and Audrey Hepburn. But then you think about it and you realize that he is ever the pursued one -- that his good looks trump the ladies and he doesn't even have to make a pass to score. If life were a romantic comedy with a Nora Ephron accent, you could not do better than cast Cary Grant in the lead role.
From Charade: "You know what's wrong with you? Nothing." From North by Northwest": "The moment I meet an attractive woman, I have to start pretending I've no desire to make love to her." "What makes you think you have to conceal it?" "She might find the idea objectionable." "Then again she might not."
There is, however, a blank where an identity should be.
Cary Grant took LSD more than 100 times, having been introduced to the narcotic by Betsy Drake. It helped him more than a posse of doctors in his lifelong quest to confront his identity. Best quote: "Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant." The plot conceit generating North by Northwest, in which a Madison Avenue executive is mistaken for a CIA agent who doesn't exist, is based on an incident in Grant's biography.
A rose is just a rose: "I never had so much fun since Archie Leach died," he says in His Girl Friday. If you watch Capra's Arsenic and Old Lace, you'll see the grave of Archie Leach.
Posthumous scuttlebutt that doesn't shock anyone anymore: he may have been bi-sexual (LTR with flatmate Randolph Scott).
Dodger Fan Info: Shared exclusive box seats with Frank Sinatra and Gregory Peck at Dodger Stadium. Did not pay very close attention to the games.
Retirement job: Became a director of the Fabergé company and promoted the fragrance firm's products.
Vital stats: Rising sign Libra, moon in Aquarius; Water Cat (Chinese astrology); six feet one and a half inches tall.
The well-dressed actor's method was the opposite of the method of Marlon Brando. Brando wanted to find the character within himself. Cary Grant lost himself in the character he was playing.
Like a handful of other Hollywood giants -- Bogart, Cagney, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, John Wayne -- he was always himself and whoever he was depicting. When Bogart or Cagney want to shock you, they act like madmen, Bogart the paranoid ("The Caine Mutiny"), Cagney the psychotic bundle of rage who holds conversations with his dead mama ("White Heat."). Gable is always dashing, Cooper always stoical, strong, and silent, and John Wayne will never lose a fight or a battle. But Cary Grant is at heart a comic actor of supernal charm thrust into a melodrama of high gravity. And what he acts out is invariably a romance. No man is luckier in love than the Cary Grant that existed only in the movies. It is said that Ian Fleming concocted Jame Bond with Cary Grant in mind.