Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Cary Grant's Intimate Bromance

Here is the simple truth about Cary Grant: he was the best and most important actor of the last hundred years. He didn’t reinvent acting like Brando, he didn’t fatten himself up like Robert De Niro or starve himself like Christian Bale. He wasn’t burly like Gable, and he didn’t smolder like Mitchum. Instead, he played slight variations on the same character for the majority of his career, he wore a suit better than anyone in Hollywood, and he made acting seem like living. Over the course of his long career, Grant fixed standards of what it meant to be “debonair” and “a man about town” — everything he did, on screen and off, seemed inflected with panache and grace. Or, as my professor from undergrad used to sum him up: “The man knew how to wear clothes.” Indeed he fucking did.

But the phrase “knew how to wear clothes” is a loaded one. To “know how to wear clothes” is another way of saying that Grant embodied class, which is to say high class: Grant wore well-tailored clothes, and he knew how to hold himself in them. But he came from nothing, and the way he wore clothes was just as much of a performance as his refined trans-Atlantic accent, his acrobatic slapstick routines, and his masterful flirtation skills. When a tailor returned a collar point even an eighth of an inch too short, he sent it back. He understood that only through attention to seemingly meaningless details could a quasi-orphaned vaudevillian become one of the most enduring and beloved stars of the 20th century.

Rumors of Grant’s bisexuality swirled around Hollywood for years: was he a man-about-town who liked to have sex with men-about-town? But as evidenced by the story of Rock Hudson, Hollywood was adept at covering queerness with a varnish of hyper-heterosexuality, and women fell at his feet both onscreen and off. As will become clear, it was and remains unclear whether Grant actually was bisexual or whether he simply reveled in messing with anxieties sparked by two men living together. It seems unlikely that Grant, a practiced comedian, would not have been amused by befuddling as many gossip columnists as possible.

But all that came later. Grant, born Archibald Alexander Leach, spent the early years of his life in an unhappy home in Bristol, England. At age nine, Leach’s father put his mother in a mental institution. He soon remarried, abandoning young Archie to the care of the state. Leach was expelled from school at 14 and joined a traveling stage troupe, quickly mastering the art of stilt-walking. In 1920, at all of 16, Leach and the troupe left Britain for a two-year American tour, from which he would never return. He joined the American vaudeville circuit, spending a significant chunk of time on the St. Louis stage and refining the acrobatic, juggling, and miming skills that would serve him for the rest of his entertainment career. You might laugh, but the sort of immaculate movement control required of a vaudevillian is the same sort of control necessary for intricate flirtation. This is why football players are such bad flirts and ballet dancers and unicyclists, however weird, are such good ones.

After a stint on Broadway, Archie Leach moved to Hollywood, signed a contract with Paramount, and changed his name to Cary Grant. From the beginning, he was cast as wealthy and sophisticated, playing very young, very rich, and very boring opposite Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus in 1932. Then Mae West (who deserves about five posts of her own — I mean REALLY, this lady was happening) selected Grant to play her love interest in back-to-back films — She Done Him Wrong and I’m No Angel. The latter was a monster hit, but West was the main attraction; Grant was just window-dressing. Yet this window-dressing nevertheless attracted women, including his first wife, Virginia Cherrill, whom he met at the premiere for Blonde Venus. The relationship had the reek of a studio-arranged affair, especially when the two divorced a year later amid rumors that Grant had become depressed and disillusioned with his ready-made romance.

Grant was pretty to look at, but seemed to lack charisma. So Paramount let him loose, freeing him to sign as an independent with Columbia and RKO, which cast him in a smattering of comedic roles, including Sylvia Scarlett (1935) opposite a cross-dressing Katharine Hepburn.

Grant’s comedic potential was clear, and Columbia paired him with Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth. I’ve seen nearly every classic screwball, but none bring down the house quite as effectively as The Awful Truth. Like so many screwballs of the ‘30s, it centers on what Stanley Cavell terms a “comedy of remarriage”: the film starts with a divorce, then spends the remainder bringing the couple back together. (Sweet Home Alabama = 21st century comedy of remarriage.) In The Awful Truth, Irene Dunne has left Grant for a new, very Oklahoman suitor. Two summers ago I saw it in Austin, and the crowd was basically rolling in the aisles, because the only thing that Texans like more than BBQ are jokes at Oklahoma’s expense.

There’s a brilliant moment when Grant, out to dinner with Dunne and her Oklahoma suitor, watches as the two take the dance floor. Oklahoma boy starts with some fancy dance moves that clearly embarrass Dunne. She has no choice but to keep up, and super awkwardness ensues. But the camera keeps cutting back to Grant, casually sitting at the table — he watches the couple with slight disgust, but then, as the dancing gets more and more ridiculous, his disgust turns to glee. (Start at 4:00 for maximum ridiculousness.)

That moment when he stands up and takes an even closer seat, crossing his legs and folding his hands — it’s the finishing cherry on the sundae of a scene.

This brand of casually potent humor, purportedly based on the tastes of The Awful Truth’s director, Leo McCarey, would structure Grant’s image from that point forward.

And so began what is arguably the best series of films by any actor EVER:

All sorts of ridiculous and romantic in Holiday with Katharine Hepburn (1938);

Playing a huge dork, complete with spectacles, in Bringing Up Baby (1939);

Taking the role of the relative straight man in The Philadelphia Story (1940) with Hepburn again, only add the super-bonus of Jimmy Stewart at his most drunk and amusing;

And, perhaps most hilarious of all, talking 500 words a minute in His Girl Friday with Rosalind Russell (1940).

You guys, I could talk about each of these films FOR HOURS. I could write a thousand words on each and just be getting started. I could write a thousand words just on the way that Katharine Hepburn holds her chin, or the magnificence that is Russell’s wardrobe in His Girl Friday. But what really matters is that each of these films is a masterpiece, and I could watch them forever and never want for more.

Part of their greatness stems from the writing. Part of it stems from the inherent speed and intensity of the screwball. Part of it stems from the fact that Grant’s characters were not attracted to beauty, per se, but to beauty paired with wit and intelligence. But most of it is Grant himself. Don’t mistake me: I love — love! — Hepburn, Dunne, and Russell, even though the Russell was a bit of a wet blanket away from Grant. But Grant provided the alchemy that made all four of these films into classics: without him, they’re just genre pics.

During this first period of success, Grant had been living, on and off, with an actor named Randolph Scott. Grant and Scott had met on the set of Hot Saturday, where both men played suitors to the same leading lady. The two hit it off immediately and shared an apartment until Grant’s first marriage in 1934. After Grant’s divorce, it was 24-hour bro-time, and the two rented a sprawling seven-bedroom Santa Monica beach house, widely known as the “Bachelor Hall.”

Here’s where it becomes unclear whether Grant was just making fun of nosy gossip columnists or actually bisexual. The two had women over all the time — but hey, George Clooney also has many, many (vetted) girlfriends, and Tom Cruise has been married three times. Gossip columnists warned that the couple had “taken things too far”: while other stars posed for fan mag spreads with their wives, Grant and Scott reveled in homosocial domestic bliss.

Chillaxing on the diving board!

Doing a little light reading!

Playing floppy-trouser golf!

Sculpting and jazzercising!

Scott even signed a menu from a dinner party with “To my spouse, Cary.”

So here are our options:

1. Grant and Scott were gay and used the lady-parties as a cover. They joked about being gay so as to deflect real anxiety about them being gay.

2. Grant and Scott were not gay, and found the anxiety over close male friendship amusing, playing it up for the press.

3. We’ll never know whether they were gay or not, but Grant’s all the more interesting because of the ambiguity, not to mention the presence of high-waisted boxing shorts. Those calves!

I vote for option number three.

In 1940, the two co-starred in My Favorite Wife, playing rival suitors to Irene Dunne. Dunne and Grant had already proven their chemistry, and Wife made it clear that Scott and Grant had it as well. But take it as you will: if you want to read sublimated gay desire into the film, that reading is available; if you don’t, that’s fine too. I support both!

Grant received his first Oscar nomination in 1941 for his performance in the over-the-top melodrama Penny Serenade. And let it be said: this film is ridiculous. There are more flashbacks than Memento. There are laughably faux Japanese sets, countless adoptions and baby deaths, and we are asked to believe that Grant really, really cares about being a good father. I mean, even the way Grant is crossing his legs is ridiculous.

Grant’s image encompassed many characteristics, but dedicated fatherhood (at least at this moment) was not one of them. But as remains true today, the Academy loves to honor a sad-sack maudlin performance over a pitch-perfect comedic one, which is why Kristen Wiig will probably get the shaft until she adopts a black child and teaches him how to play football.

In 1941 Grant also appeared in Suspicion, the first of many collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock. (Hitchcock: “Grant is the only actor I ever truly loved!”) Suspicion is generally pushed aside in the Hitchcock pantheon, but it does feature Grant at his darkest and most menacing, which leads me to block it out of my cinematic memory the same way that I block Jimmy Stewart’s Vertigo creepface.

In Suspicion, Grant naturally plays a handsome, charismatic rogue who seduces an innocent young woman (naturally Joan Fontaine, best known for not-being-Rebecca in Rebecca) and sweeps said woman her off her feet, despite her family's objections. After the two marry, it becomes super f-ing clear that the rogue is totally broke and married Fontaine's character for her money. He gambles! He embezzles! His best friend mysteriously dies while they’re away in Europe! He makes queries concerning untraceable poisons!!!

Looking very devious during a high stakes Scrabble game

AHHHHHH SHIT, Grant is totally trying to kill Fontaine for the insurance money! Of course, this being Hitchcock, there’s something far more psychologically screwed up going on, and Grant does not, in fact, want to kill his wife. But the film marked the first of many times that Hitchcock would play with moviegoers' expectations for a Cary Grant character, highlighting the ways in which smooth exteriors distract from generalized nefariousness.

The film’s plot also mirrored Grant’s extra-textual life — mere months after the movie's release, Grant began a whirlwind romance with Barbara Hutton, Woolrich heiress, most eligible bachelorette, and, due to her tragic upbringing and marital turmoil, best known as “America’s Poor Little Rich Girl.” Hutton had already plowed through a Prince and a Baron, it was only natural that she’d be paired with the most dashing man on the big screen. Grant signed a detailed pre-nuptial agreement, but the golddigger rumors stuck — OH, I DON’T KNOW WHY, MAYBE BECAUSE HE STARRED IN THAT MOVIE WHERE HE MARRIED THE GIRL FOR MONEY?? — and the two were dubbed “Cash and Cary.”

Like all studio-contracted stars during the golden age, Grant continued to make two to three films a year. Between 1942 and 1949, he appeared in nineteen films — highlights include the Hitchcock-directed Notorious (Ingrid Bergman is a nerdy doctor!) and I Was a Male War Bride, which highlighted Grant’s capacity for masquerade. He and Hutton divorced in 1945, and in 1949, he and an actress named Betsy Drake met cute on a cross-Atlantic voyage on the Queen Mary.

And boy was this Betsy a character. Her grandfather had founded Chicago’s very chi-chi Drake Hotel, but the family had lost the farm, as it were, in the stock market crash. She had grown up a drama queen, switching schools TWELVE TIMES the way that only truly insufferable people (or army brats) do. When an agent convinced her to sign a studio contract, she got herself out of it by having herself declared insane. She fled L.A. to New York, auditioned for an Elia Kazan play, and went to go perform it in London.

As the story goes, Grant saw her in this play, and they just happened to be on the same ship back stateside. He “begged” (seriously? can you imagine Cary Grant begging for anything?) his friend and fellow Hollywood star Merle Oberon for an introduction, and things went forward from there. After lots of canoodling and above-board making out, Grant convinced RKO Studios to sign her to another contract. (I don’t understand why RKO thought this was a good idea; hello, previous insanity strategy.) Drake appeared with Grant in Every Girl Should Get Married (1948) and WHAT DO YOU KNOW the two stars got married. In a private ceremony. On Christmas Day. With Howard Hughes as the best man.

Grant and Drake looking rather mismatched in Every Girl Should Get Married.

This smells fishy to me. But it stuck for nearly 12 years — well, okay, it was totally over in 1954, when Grant started working with Sophia Loren and fell head-over-heels, as people generally did when it came to Loren. But Grant, like many others in Hollywood, started receiving then-totally-legal LSD therapy during the disintegration of the marriage. At the time, one simply went to go receive treatment — which usually lasted 8-12 hours — at an office, and afterwards, when you were all loopy and jonesing for some tie-dye, you were picked up by a friend at the end. Kinda like after dental surgery, only less drooling.

After trying LSD, Grant became its most visible advocate: he loved it, and he especially loved how it helped him with his inner demons. For a man who had worked so diligently to cultivate his suave, put-together image, this was a huge deal. And he didn’t just mention it to a friend — he told Look Magazine (People : Us Weekly as Life : Look) that he took LSD because “I wanted to rid myself of all my hypocrises. I wanted to work through the events of my childhood, my relationship with my parents and my former wives. I did not want to spend years in analysis.”

Exchange “wives” for “unfortunate make-out sessions” and ME TOO, CARY, MEEE TOO.

Good Housekeeping, which is essentially the most boring magazine in America, even valorized Grant’s groundbreaking experimentation with the drug, pointing to how Grant had “courageously permit[ted] himself to be one of the subjects of a psychiatric experiment with a drug that eventually may become an important tool in psychotherapy.” In other words, millions of housewives were told that getting high was AWESOME.

During this LSD-infused period, Grant seemed to get more and more tan. In reality, he was just appearing in movies that were in color. But he did seem quite golden (accentuated by the use of ‘50s-era coloring processes, which I could give you a 75-minute lecture on [I have totally given this 75-minute lecture] regarding why it made faces look the way they did, and why it made it easier for white people to play brown people and thus allow Hollywood to continue its nasty, unstated boycott of actual brown people). The most important of these films, however, were all made for Hitchcock.

To Catch a Thief! I mean, I realize this film is a confection. I realize that anytime I mention it in a discussion of Hitchcock I’ll get a giant guffaw. BUT YOU GUYS, there is so much going on this film, like Grace Kelly at her coldest and most (arguably) beautiful, Cary Grant in shorty shorts on the Mediterranean centuries before Daniel Craig in shorty shorts on the Mediterranean, and a distinct sense of Hitchcock making fun of all parties involved. And Grant as a catbugler/confidence man is brilliant: who better to play a man who plays at acting rich in order to finagle women’s jewels than a poor boy who’s played at being rich all of his adult life?

When you watch this clip, two things become clear:

1. It’s not hard to see where the rumors of Kelly’s voracious sexual appetite originated.

2. Hitchcock loves juxtaposing sexual tension with explosions. Fireworks! In case you’re not picking up what Hitch is putting down: THAT MEANS ORGASM, even if you couldn’t see it onscreen.

Over the course of his career, Grant did a lot of firm embracing and what I like to call “fish kissing” — the mouth opens, the couple moves in, the lips touch, and then they just sit there, gills opening and closing for the allotted period of time. “Fish kissing” developed because the Hays Code forbade tongue kissing, but as a result, gilling around and smooshing faces with Grace Kelly was the closest Grant ever got to a veritable love scene. Which, if you think about it, is really saying something: the sexiest man of Classic Hollywood didn’t need to do full frontal. He didn’t even need to take off his shirt. He just crossed his legs and raised his eyebrows. WOWZA.

With Grant well into his ‘40s, the films just kept coming: An Affair to Remember, which is basically a Nicholas Sparks film, and North by Northwest, a willfully confusing masterpiece, with Hitchcock again using our expectations of Grant’s star image to psychologically and narratively fuck us over. But NxNW also gave us one of the most enduring images of cinema, with Grant, all suit and polish, stranded in the middle of a field and sprinting for his life.

As writer Todd McEwen declared, “North by Northwest isn’t a film about what happens to Cary Grant, it’s about what happens to his suit” — a suit GQ called the best in film history. Having seen so much classic Hollywood cinema, that is saying something, and that something is spectacular.

All over Hollywood in the ‘50s, quality films were in decline. Ironically, actors, especially ones with high asking prices like Grant, were making fewer and fewer films, but the ones they did make were given such large budgets that they had to succeed, leading to all sorts of over-production. Too many spoons in the stew; too many chefs in the kitchen; too few profits to go around. Grant was good, but this was a different calculus, and my guess is he was probably pretty exhausted by playing himself. By the time we get to Charade (1962), it’s not that he’s too old for Audrey Hepburn as much as he lacked the stamina to match Hepburn’s incessant doe-eyeing. Grant’s brand of obstinate flirtation, always toe-to-toe with the likes of Hepburn the Elder, here seems more like crotchety grandparenting.

But unlike most Hollywood stars, Grant never underwent a true (or public) decline. He kept up appearances, married a really, really young Dyan Cannon (33 years his junior) and, in 1966, fathered his first child.

With the birth of his daughter, Grant retired from the screen to dedicate himself to fatherhood. In 1970, he at last received an Oscar for “his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues.” In other words: Grant received an Oscar for being so much more awesome than everyone else still alive in Hollywood. He spent the last years of his life reveling in his own silver foxness and doing ridiculous things like serving on the board of Fabergé. Grant divorced Canon relatively quickly, married again, and, after living a full and glorious life, passed away at the age of 82 in 1986, with more than 70 films to his name.

When someone says another person is “Cary Grant-esque,” you know exactly the way that man holds himself, exactly the cut of his suit, exactly the way he appraises a situation and the people within it. You know his power over women, his impeccable social timing, and his ability to master the ebb and flow of conversation to his advantage. To be Grant-esque is to be the immaculate socialite, sartorially refined, and the object of affection and admiration. And such clarity of image, and the exacting self-discipline it took to maintain it, must have been exhausting. As Grant himself famously remarked, “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant — even I want to be Cary Grant.”

Which returns us back to the question of Grant’s relationships with men. Grant admitted that his first two wives suspected he was gay, but Betsy Drake shot down such rumors, asking “Why would I believe that Cary was a homosexual when we were busy fucking?” TOUCHE, BETS.

But I’m going to suggest something radical: we’ll never know whether Grant was or was not gay, and it does not matter. What matters was that his image, for all its perfection, also had its points of flexibility — living intimately with a man for long stretches of time, doing cute man things together — that leaves the possibility open. Grant made millions of women swoon, and millions of straight men aspire to his likeness. But he also provided thousands of queer audience members with the hope that famous, successful, high-profile performers and homosexuality were not mutually exclusive, further suggesting straight, high-class masculinity as an elaborate masquerade.

Grant’s image was in many ways univocal — he played variations of the same character, he seemed to be a ladies' man on and off the screen — but it also had room for a voice of dissent, one that made alternative interpretations possible and plausible. And this, in the end, is why Cary Grant mattered and continues to matter: he could mean so many exquisite, beautiful things to so many different people.

Previously: Rita Hayworth, Tragic Princess.Anne Helen Petersen is a Doctor of Celebrity Gossip. No, really. You can find evidence (and other writings) here.

303 Comments / Post A Comment

dj pomegranate


Ok, going to read it now.


@dj pomegranate: DITTO! And just to proclaim that Cary Grant not getting Oscar nominations for any of those perfect movies is a crime, and the Academy doesn't know shit about acting or good films.


@dj pomegranate
Yeah I pretty much came down here before reading to say EEEE! Cary Grant was born on the street I used to live on in Bristol! Hughenden Road, Horfield. I am famous now, you all understand that, yes?

Nicole Cliffe


"The Philadelphia Story" - Great movie, or the greatest movie?


@Nicole Cliffe The greatest movie. HOW CAN YOU EVEN ASK?


@pterodactgirl Because His Girl Friday.


@pterodactgirl Also because Lion in Winter.


@Nicole Cliffe Can I cast my vote for Pretty Good Movie? Because I think it is good, but not great and not even close to being the greatest.


@AnthroK8 Oh you do have a point. The greatest movie tied with His Girl Friday?


@srs Your vote has been recorded. As for me, I will stand here alone, besieged by assailants of all kinds, from now until the stars wink out into nothing and the sun burns black and the mountains sag into the sea, maintaining that Katherine Hepburn should have picked Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story.


@Nicole Cliffe The Philadelphia Story is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE movie of ALL TIME. Cary Grant + Katharine Hepburn = Perfection. His Girl Friday is a very, very close second though.


@melis BUT what about poor Ruth Hussey then, does she have to get stuck with the sexy wife beater instead? Can't she have Jimmy Stewart too?


@melis Yes. You are correct. And everyone who disagrees: hurry back to the ball before you turn into a pumpkin and six white mice, goodbye.


@queenofbithynia I find your proposal for a free-love ending to The Philadelphia Story acceptable.

ms. alex

@Nicole Cliffe Because Charade!


@ms. alex Yes, Charade! (OK, maybe not a Great Film. But a great movie! The banter! The orange! The shower scene!)


@melis You are not the only one. I would take a young Jimmy Stewart over a young Cary Grant any day. Although I would pick an older Cary Grant over older Jimmy Stewart.


@notwhouthought An ex of mine's father sounded like the love child of Ethyl Merman and Jimmy Stewart.

Thus, for me, always Cary Grant. Although JS is quite fab, ex-father-not-in-law aside.

raised amongst catalogs

@melis Ugh, preach! There are those who say that Jimmy Stewart could not and did not smolder, but those people have not seen The Philadelphia Story.


@Nicole Cliffe Greatest, of course!

@melis and @notwhouthought Jimmy Stewart is darling, but I think he was just momentarily enchanted by Hepburn. And she didn't want to be put up on a pedestal; she wanted to be loved. Cary Grant was really her equal, thus to my mind, the right choice. Not sure 12 year-old me would agree, but...clearly I've thought about this a lot.


@vanillawaif The drunken dancing scene where he tells her she has great fires burning within her....huhguhghgl


@ms. alex ALWAYS CHARADE! Double ditto the orange! Also how good is Walter Matthau in that film?


@Nicole Cliffe THE GREATEST

It Happened One Night.
oh god
and My Man Godfrey.

Can I go watch all of these at once right now forever?


William Powell, aslkfjs;ldksdlkfj. That scene in The Thin Man when he's hungover and shooting ornaments off the Christmas tree with a BB gun is one of my favorites.


@serenityfound Charade will always be my favourite, and the fireworks and Grace Kelly presenting her chest/shoulders -- you have no idea ... none!


@jinglebts I mean TO CATCH A THIEF - GAH!


"You might laugh, but the sort of immaculate movement control required of a vaudevillian is the same sort of control necessary for intricate flirtation"

This. My cousin who went to clown school is the best flirt I know.


@sarabara also Cary as NERD in Bringing Up Baby = ahhhhhhhhhhhhh


@sarabara And now suddenly I want to enroll in clown school... (Although maybe the better lesson here is that my complete lack of coordination explains my complete inability to flirt. Gawky for life!)

Lily Rowan

@sarabara Yeah, that actually explained a lot to me...


@hulia Barre classes might be easier to find, although way less fun.


@hulia Find a circus school! Or an improv group--anything that teaches you to use your whole body as a place of expression. :)


@sarabara Oh, someone shares my favorite film! I love, love, love The Lion in Winter. I recently noticed that many of my very favorite films are about extremely dysfunctional families that also have a very intense love for each other (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is one that falls into this category).


@sam.i.am Oh god, you should see me in the physique/exhale barre classes. It is not pretty. Elbows and knees everywhere. I think I just need to accept that I will forever be the girl covered in bruises because she falls down her own stairs regularly. And not in a deliberate clown way at all.


@sarabara I fell so hard getting out of my car today, that I started bleeding from both my foot and my knee (HOW?! HOW DID I DO THAT!?). So yes to the falling down the stairs. Although once I dated a nice guy after accidentally hitting him in the face in a bar. So...charming?

screwball cate

@MissMushkila thankyou for sharing that. sincerely. THANK YOU. As hulia said, Gawky4lyf! We aren't freaks we're just honestly not that smooth so please love us anyhow?


I was waiting for this one!


No one else has ever made "being yourself" onscreen look so easy and so goddamn fun. He and Katherine Hepburn are beyond delightful together.


@City_Dater: Yes! Even his lesser movies are hugely enjoyable.

The Snarktorialist

Yay! Cary Grant = best ever. Love these old Hollywood articles and love The Hairpin.

Not trying to nitpick, but I feel really unnerved about the accuracy of what's going to be in this article when just a few paragraphs in, he's inaccurately and repeatedly identified as Archie Leash. Leach was his name.

Nicole Cliffe

@The Snarktorialist Perhaps it is an homage to the mishearing of "Archie Leach" as "Archie Leash" by Jamie Lee Curtis in "A Fish Called Wanda."


@The Snarktorialist don't worry me too. LEACH.

Edith Zimmerman

@The Snarktorialist Fixed -- thanks.


@Edith Zimmerman It's also Leo McCarey. Sorry to nitpick!

The Snarktorialist

@Nicole Cliffe I LOVED that movie when I was a kid.

Also, fun fact: There's a tombstone in the cemetery in Arsenic and Old Lace that has "Archie Leach" on it. And then there was the reference to the last person who crossed him ("Archie Leach") in His Girl Friday. Pretty funny...and also makes me wonder what it must've been like in his head to actually "kill" his former self.


@Edith Zimmerman Also, Barbara Hutton was heir to the Woolworth fortune, not Woolrich.

Sunny Schomaker

One quibble: Notorious was not where Ingrid Bergman was a nerdy doctor. That was Spellbound, with my old-timey dreamboat Gregory Peck. Notorious is the one where Ingrid is a spy and Cary is her handler. (I was raised on Hitchcock.)


@Sunny Schomaker Quasi-related: Can we have a Gregory Peck Scandals of Classic Hollywood? Because that man is amazing.


@Sunny Schomaker Spellbound also features my favourite line of classic movie dialogue ever:

"I suppose you think the supply of linens in this institution is inexhaustible!"


@Sunny Schomaker Nerdy doctor, slutty daughter of a Nazi, same difference, right?


@Sunny Schomaker Notorious still gives me shivers because Cary fucks with Ingrid's head so much. She's just a poor lush! He ropes her into a dangerous situation! And then they fall in love!

(also, the camera work is so crazy and beautiful in that film it makes my head hurt)


@Sunny Schomaker Thank you for pointing out the Spellbound/Notorious mix-up. I spent semesters of undergrad and grad school on Hitchcock and was shocked and horrified Anne Helen Petersen made that error. (And I say this as someone who gets stupid excited with each new Hollywood Scandals post from her.) Also, how come the Notorious love scene doesn't get a shout out? It's relatively chaste next to the one in To Catch a Thief, but it factors into Grant's sex appeal and Hitchcock's thumbing his nose at the Production Code.


Thank you for this!! Cary Grant is the best. Now I want to have a Cary Grant movie-fest tonight.


So many pretty ladies! So many pretty men! I want to live in a Cary Grant movie please.


I just ran straight down here to say I love Cary Grant, I LOVE HIS GIRL FRIDAY so much. Partially because I also talk at 500 words a minute. I love him as a comedic actor because smart comedy makes me happy and I want Rosalind Russell's hat.

Also, I wish I could hang out all afternoon and refresh this page and read the banter. But nooo, I have to grade. Blam.


@AnthroK8 Ditch the grading! Ditch the grading! We are much more fun!!!


@OxfordComma Tempting. TEMPTING.


@AnthroK8 : Or, take a shot every time a student gives a ludicrous answer? :)


@OxfordComma And then I would be dead from an alcohol OD.


Fuck I love Cary Grant. Excellent Scandal of Classic Hollywood! And things happened in his life that were just like An Affair to Remember?! I can't handle it. Maybe I just need a transatlantic voyage.


Cary Grant is the shiz, for serious. I need to add a pile of movies to my to-watch list.


"Exchange “wives” for “unfortunate make-out sessions” and ME TOO, CARY, MEEE TOO."

Sigh....Meeee Threee.


@redheadedtwit Ugh. I know. Just give me some LSD and Mae West movies, and let the psychological healing begin already.


@pterodactgirl On second thought, me + psychedelic drugs= wanting to die, you can take the LSD, I'll take a bottle of red wine and we can heal away.

Tammy Pajamas

That poodle picture just made the rest of my week.


Ah I love Cary Grant. Knew how to wear clothes indeed, but I see from the boxing picture that he knew how to *not* wear them also.


@iceberg Ooooh, I thought the boxing photo was kinda sexy!


@iceberg I love him too! Cary Graaaaaaaaaant! I am not like this with any other celebrity, like seriously I don't care about anyone, but I would give my left ovary to make out with him even if he was gay!


Lord Jesus, Anne Helen. You sure know how to pick a closing photo.


@AnthroK8 I know!!!!!!!! It totally gave me goose bumps! I love that image--thanks, AHP!


Carrie Fisher tells a great story in, I believe, Wishful Drinking about getting phone calls from Grant (at the request of Debbie Reynolds) to discuss her drug usage, particularly her LSD usage.


Rob Lowe has a few terrific anecdotes (and a quite-decent impression in the audiobook version) of Grant in his autobiography as well.

Lily Rowan

@melis And that reminds me to say out loud (??): Jennifer Grant, best known for Beverly Hills 90210!


@KellySkittles I read something by Carrie Fisher recently where she said that Cary Grant was the only movie star who ever reduced her to that oh-my-god-I'm-in-the-presence-of-a-star feeling. Due to her upbringing she was generally impervious.

Stephanie Lucianovic@twitter

"The Awful Truth" is probably my favorite movie of all time. However, Rosalind Russell a wet blanket when away from Grant? Yikes. Definitely see Auntie Mame and The Women to dispel that perception 100%.

In the first, she IS the movie, and in the second, she's the best part of the movie. Especially when she gets in a clothes-ripping catfight with Paulette Goddard and bites her thigh. Russell's bugged out eyes and careful baring of teeth before she chomps is one of the best things in black and white.

dracula's ghost

@Stephanie Lucianovic@twitter I CAME HERE TO SAY THE SAME THING!

I can not see her in The Women without becoming helpless with laughter. The exercise scene!!! HER FACE!


@dracula's ghost Her outfit at the fashion show!
Also love Joan Fontaine's line about her, " My Jonny says he'd like to do her nails right down to the wrist, with a big buzzsaw."
Now it's time for a "The Women" quote-a-thon.

Stephanie Lucianovic@twitter

@oeditrix "Our new one-piece lace foundation garment -- zips up the back and no bones!" My sister and I went around saying that forever. We were 8 and 11.

When stressed, I have been known to wail, "Get me a bromide! And put some gin it!"

Also, my grandmother, who was a model/extra in those days, has a tiny part in the zoo scene of the fashion show. She's the one in red with a feather on her hat.

Auntie Mame is highly quotable, too: "You're everything I ever expected. And quite a bit more." And the "life is a banquet" quote was my senior year HS quote in 1992.


@Stephanie Lucianovic@twitter This is what I came here to say! Auntie Mame is one of my favorite movies ever, and I will very carefully block out anything that anybody says about Rosalind Russell being a wet blanket.

"Is the English lady sick, Auntie Mame?"
"She's not English, darling, she's from Pittsburgh."
"She sounded English."
"Well, when you're from Pittsburgh, you have to do something."

Also, what about her in Gypsy? Even as a scene-stealing, somewhat desperate and sad stage mother, she's riveting.


@Stephanie Lucianovic@twitter Her husband's nickname for her was The Lizard of Roz.

Stephanie Lucianovic@twitter

@dracula's ghost

"Stretch up together, up! Over, up! Down, up!" My sister and I did those exercises.

Anne Helen Petersen

@Stephanie Lucianovic@twitter CLARIFICATION! I love me some Rosalind Russell ONSCREEN. The Women, oh god, the fashion show, the exercise scene, to use my favorite f-ing phrase, I DIE. But she was a wet blanket OFF screen, as in her star image was rather stodgy.

Stephanie Lucianovic@twitter

@Anne Helen Petersen Ah, a logical explanation. I knew you couldn't be so right about everything else in that piece and not be a Roz Russell fan! I did always hear that she was very shy and quiet off camera.

Anne Helen Petersen

@Stephanie Lucianovic@twitter and, AHEM, Republican.


@Anne Helen Petersen Noooooooo. This is like when I learned the truth about Kelsey Grammer. :(

Sella Turcica

@figwiggin Are you careless, Edith, or Catholic? (I did the play several years ago)


You cannot tell me that his "roommate" is not in the middle of giving him a backrub on that diving board.


@Dancersize Or at least rubbing in some sunscreen/tanning lotion.

Kara Reynolds

"An Affair to Remember, which is basically a Nicholas Sparks film" I fucking DIED! People are looking at me! I am laughing SO hard! Thank GOD FOR AHP!


@Kara Reynolds AHP is a Speaker of Truths.


@Kara Reynolds If you can paint, I can walk!

Lily Rowan

I really love the idea that he and Randolph were not a couple, but started to hear rumors and decided to REALLY fuck with people by acting as gay as possible. It just makes me laugh so hard! (Of course I have no issue with the idea that they were a couple, either.)


"Randolph, isn't it an absolute scream, what they're saying about us?"

"Mm, what's that, angel?"

"Us. You and I. Living here, together, you know. Louella Parsons and the other girls, saying we're fucking."

"But darling, we are. We did twenty minutes ago in the poolhouse. And - language, pudding."

"Well, yes, but isn't it funny they're saying so?"


@Lily Rowan I know! I can't decide which of those two options is more delightful.
(An aside- if, say, George Clooney or...who else is famously unmarried? Bradley Cooper? decided to mix things up and do this with a bro, I would shriek like a fucking child with delight. You fuck with those gender norms, gentlemen!)

Lily Rowan

@melis YES OR THAT ONE!! (PS: Did you see the Hey Girl KStew tumblr I left you on some other thread in the past? It is relevant to your interests.)


@Lily Rowan You have no idea how many other 'Pinners sent me that link. I couldn't stand up on my own strength for days, bless your hearts.

Lily Rowan

@melis Heh -- I should have known. I mean, now I want to fuck her, and I'm a straight lady!



"Yes, Archie?"

"Have you seen my grey check suit? I was going to wear it to Chris and Don's party tonight."

"Oh, I - I'm so sorry, Archie, but I lent it to Gary Cooper when he stopped by for tea yesterday. He was so worried he wouldn't have anything to wear and you know I can't say no to anyone with eyes like that."


"Damn it all, Randolph, if you're going to give my clothes away to every long-lashed boy ingenue in town, I'd at least like to be in them when you do it. Doesn't seem fair I should have to give up the clothes without having the fun of losing them."


@melis : "Archie, you *know* how weak I am! I...just...he seduced me, Archie!" (sobs)

"There, there, Poppet. Daddy still loves you. Knock us a kiss, now."


@Lily Rowan That would be awesome, but...can I keep them as gay in my secret fantasies?

Anna Jayne@twitter

@melis PERFECTION in dialogue form.

dracula's ghost


Lily Rowan

@WaityKatie As (I hope) you know, anyone can be gay in your secret fantasies!


@WaityKatie I would be a little disappointed if they didn't even try it out a couple of times. Um. I'll be in my bunk.


@Lily Rowan And pretty much everyone (hot dudes, anyway) is!

Lily Rowan

@WaityKatie Luckily for me, it can go the other way, too! (See elsewhere re: Matt Bomer.)


Can we talk about the scene with the mirror and the hat in "Arsenic and Old Lace"? The man was amazing. How can someone be so funny and so good looking? Also, if he was just totally cool with people thinking that maybe he was gay, then he was also really sure of himself and what mattered. Cary Grant!


Does anyone else kind of think of Cary Grant and Gregory Peck as brothers in a family where Cary Grant is the "fun" one and and Gregory Peck is the "smart" one?


@ginalouise I love this! Can we include Gary Cooper as the one who's mostly away at college but sometimes comes home and is a little cool and superior although in a fraternal way?


@datalass and Jimmy Stewart is the "dopey" one.


@ginalouise For the first time in my life, I'd like to be the girl next door. Wow.


@ginalouise Also, I feel like Jimmy would end up (happily) with the girlfriend that Gary threw over for someone more glamorous.


@datalass COMPLETELY.


Where is Arsenic and Old Lace here??!! No love?

I am THRILLED that you addressed the ridiculousness of Penny Serenade. AND I LOVE HOLIDAY SO MUCH IT'S NOT EVEN FUNNY.


@thanks_maybe have you seen Operation Petticoat? It's delightful. Beleaguered Cary Grant and dashing Tony Curtis and the high seas and submarines?! So much fun! And yes, Arsenic and Old Lace is wonderful.


@thanks_maybe Yes, Holiday!! I had no idea that movie even existed until about three years ago and it is the most adorable, poignant, sweet little film ever! The poor little rich kids plot is a bit heavy-handed, but I love the piano playing brother and their toy room. Cary Grant's older couple friends at the fancy party???!? I DIED. Katharine Hepburn saying, "Oh, well, that's all right then," and turning to go when she's informed that the dude she found her sister kissing was in fact her new fiance. Just so funny and perfect. Sigh.


@thanks_maybe Perhaps it was because I was probably 13-14 when I saw it, but I was haunted by seeing Penny Serenade on a late late show. I did think the Japanese scenes were kind of fake looking, but I really "felt" the emotion of the movie. Maybe it's not a great movie by today's standards, but I always see a movie in context if there is something "ridiculous" in it. I was still three years away from seeing Citizen Kane, which blew my mind, but sometimes pure heart string tugging isn't such a bad thing.


I have never heard the phrase "Cary-Grant-esque" actually used IRL because honestly, who really is? Has anyone met anyone like this? I think if I ever actually met a guy who was Cary-Grant-esque I might be forced to chuck it all in to follow him around like a lap dog.


@pterodactgirl Precisely!

Also, poor Ralph Bellamy. What a good sport.


@HereKitty I have said this so many times.


@pterodactgirl I knew a guy who came really close in both looks and manners to Cary Grant-esque, but then at the last minute he took a swerve and landed in Kyle Maclachlan.


Oh dear, my tags appear to be showing.

Atheist Watermelon

@melis oohhh unfortunately kyle has not aged as gracefully as cary grant, sigh... jeeeezus that man was unspeakably beautiful in blue velvet/ twin peaks... i'm pretty sure he wears self tanner and a wig now. Agent Cooper just hasn't been the same since he starred in Showgirls...


Doris Day breaking out in freak-out hives in A Touch of Mink when Cary Grant flies her down to Bermuda to sleep with her is pretty much the realest of the real, right?



I love Grant's diction--so crisp,
so well-modulated,
so understandable.


Would it be too much to argue that Joseph-Gordon Levitt is our new Cary? (Seriously. Have you *seen* the way that boy wears a suit?)


@OxfordComma Sorry, yes it would (in my opinion, which means nothing!). He's still too boyish.

I would submit Matt Bomer of White Collar (of course,his acting chops are MUCH less than Grant's). He's got debonair masculinity, suit-wearing ability,the flirting, AND the ambiguous sexuality down...

Lily Rowan

@iceberg I don't find Bomer that convincing flirting with ladies, really.....


@iceberg : Bomer is a lovely piece of man-flesh, to be sure! But have you *seen* Levitt recently? He can look boyish, as did Grant, but he has the ability to perform with gravitas and maturity.

(I was, once, twenty feet away from him in a bar in Hollywood. I heroically resisted my desire to swoon on his well-tailored lap.)


@OxfordComma I still picture JGL as the kid from "Third Rock from the Sun"... long hair and all. Or "Angels in the Outfield".


@QuiteAimable: GIRL.



@OxfordComma: Nah, still not buying it. Even when Grant looked boyish, he was still a MAN. Levitt may be handsome and a good actor, but he doesn't have that authority.

(Of course, the fact that I'm practically old enough to be Levitt's mother has nothing to do with my assessment...)


@Bittersweet I think part of the problem is that we witnessed Levitt's coming of age, whereas Grant seems to have launched onto the screen fully formed. That is, maybe there was a period of adolescent awkwardness in Archie Leach's life, but it was all gone by the time he showed up on screen.


@Bittersweet: I'll bet we could make a man out of Levitt. :)


@datalass: Exactly! And maybe I'm coming into it differently because I never watched "Third Rock". My first encounter with Levitt was watching "Brick", and holy SHIT, is that good film.


@OxfordComma: I've always gone for older guys, but I'll happily revise my outlook for tasty young morsels...


@OxfordComma Rupert Everett seemed poised to take on that mantle for a few minutes there--he has (had) the debonair looks, the grace, the ability to be slapstick silly one minute and smoldering the next....aaaand then he did a movie with Madonna and had hideous plastic surgery. The end.


@Bittersweet: Right? Omnomnom, young lad.


@SuperGogo: And then. Oh, the tragedy of the "and then". Seriously, Rupert, what were you thinking?


@OxfordComma Ehh, I still don't know. He still has that boyish face. And his hair! We gotta do something with that.


@QuiteAimable : Fair enough! And oh, I have *plenty* of ideas on what to do with his hair.


@SuperGogo: Don't even start with Rupert Everett because I can't even. 15-year-old me is still in mourning.


@OxfordComma I think actually that you have to go to foreign cinema to find someone like a contemporary Cary Grant. Daniel Henney maybe, but ... this is weird, I know ... mostly Shahrukh Khan gives me the Cary vibe. He has the same slightly silly, "am I fucking with you? maybe!" self-aware spirit, and does endless variations on himself (including creepy ones). His performances don't have a lot of hard edges, either - a lot of modern actors have all kinds of edges (and that's fine!), but Grant didn't really.

It's not perfect, of course.


@Lucienne : Ooooo...that's a good point...and he is tasty.


I really like the thesis that uncovering the "truth" of Cary Grant's bisexuality doesn't matter. I mean, check out that photo of the two of them playing golf. Clearly there's a man that knows how to look at men. Whether or not you're really, truly intrinsically gay, it takes a certain open mindedness to get to the point where you're capable of looking at men that way and of owning that look.

Kara Reynolds

AHP - can I request K. Hepburn and her pants and affair w/ Tracy?


@Kara Reynolds Ditto please!


Don't forget the secret lesbian affairs!


@Kara Reynolds K Hepburn's PANTS!!! the best.


@Kara Reynolds I second the pants, but the Tracy affair was actually super depressing! I feel like she really got the short end of the stick in that whole thing.


I'd like a whole thing on Wearing Pants in Hollywood. Alll the different ways.

Super Nintendo Chalmers

@iceberg My favorite of all Hepburn instances of talking about PANTS!!!

From Katharine Hepburn’s 1981 interview with Barbara Walters:

Hepburn: I have not lived as a woman. I have lived as a man… I’ve just done what I damn well wanted to and I made enough money to support myself. And I ain’t afraid of being alone.

Walters: Is that why also you wear pants?

Hepburn: No, I just wore pants because they’re comfortable.

Walters: Do you ever wear a skirt, by the way?

Hepburn: I have one.

Walters: You have one.

Hepburn: I’ll wear it to your funeral.



@Kara Reynolds Katharine Hepburn is my spirit guide.


@EddieMcCandry: If you haven't already, read her memoir about making The African Queen. It is delightful, and as full of pants, hairdos, alcoholics, bodily functions and being jealous of Lauren Bacall as you might imagine.


"Holiday" and "The Lady Eve" are my two favorite movies. This pretty much sums it up: http://www1.salon.com/march97/zacharek970321.html

It goes without saying that Grant was amazing. I breezed through most of his films in my teens, and finished up what I hadn't seen thanks to my college library. The Castro Theater did a week of old Grant films a couple months back, and I was able to see Bringing up Baby and Philadelphia Story on the big screen for the first time. Also, it being the Castro, it was amusing to realize that at least 98% of the viewing audience was hot for Grant.


@adminslave Now that I think about it I suspect that statistic always holds, the 2% representing those who are blind/asleep/inanimate.


lovely post all-around, but i wanted to particularly thank the author for the term fish-kissing and its explanation. nice to know there's some reason for the baffling way people sometimes kiss in old movies.


See also: The Ol' Seize, Squeeze and Freeze.


Shit I forgot he was married to Dyan Cannon. Curly-haired judge lady from Ally McBeal!


@ginalouise WOAH.

I don't know why this information blows my mind BUT IT DOES.


“Everyone wants to be Cary Grant — even I want to be Cary Grant.” I love the way AHP always highlights the interplay between classic actors roles and the public's perception of them as people. My mind is blown that people actually thought he was marrying Barbara Hutton for her money because "OH, I DON’T KNOW WHY, MAYBE BECAUSE HE STARRED IN THAT MOVIE WHERE HE MARRIED THE GIRL FOR MONEY??" even though I guess this still happens now all the time (see Jennifer Aniston's career.) And then conversely the discussion of To Catch A Thief as a play on his real life story is also super interesting! Gah! I love these. Thanks for always writing such illuminating articles, AHP.


@pterodactgirl: I read a long magazine article ages ago about Grant and Hutton's marriage and how crazy it was, one giant reason being their diametrically opposed attitudes toward money. Apparently Hutton breezed through life giving money/jewelry/mink coats to people she met and liked, and Grant (having grown up with almost nothing) was very frugal and incredulous about her spending habits.


Wonderful wonderful wonderful. I mean, sometimes you live with someone of the same sex for years & stay single for most of that time & then tell people you're gay because you think it's funny.

I mean, I WANT to believe he's straight - not because I have any problem with him being bisexual (I'm guessing he's probably in that super-class of beautiful people that sleep with other beautiful people regardless of gender, which is an amazing way to be), but I just want to have that in common with him.


@alliepants not funny to be gay, of course, but to keep people guessing.


@alliepants "...that super-class of beautiful people that sleep with other beautiful people regardless of gender..."
YES. I totally think that's A Thing, and the most plausible description of Grant, in my opinion.


@alliepants The thought of Cary Grant sleeping with anyone, including Randolph Scott, is just . . . I'll be in my bunk.


@alliepants To be fair, being gay is pretty hilarious.

Jon Custer

@melis Certainly funnier than being a woman!



Dear little monkey-face. Here's the milk you ordered, darling.

femme cassidy

@melis Oh, so you do that thing where you burst into uncontrollable laughter during sex and she's like "THE HELL?" and you're like "It's just... I can't... vaginas!" too?

Jon Custer

While I rarely read these all the way through, I just wanted to sincerely thank you for tipping me off to the "Cary Grant's Suit" story...


@Jon Custer Thank her by reading this all the way through!

Jon Custer

@melis I can only offer the hopefully-not-too-backhanded complement of saying that I typically read far more of "Scandals of Classic Hollywood" than I do any article ever written about a celebrity who is currently alive.

Keeley Geary@facebook

CORRECTION: Ingrid Bergman DID NOT play a nerdy doctor in "Notorious". She played a man-eating alcoholic playgirl. Bergman played a nerdy doctor in "Spellbound" with Gregory Peck. "Notorious" has THE hottest "Hey look, they're just having an intense talk in bed, but damn, it looks like they're having sex" scenes ever.


@Keeley Geary@facebook Notorious is one of the hottest movies about misogyny ever. Ingrid Bergman's stomach should have gotten separate billing.


@oeditrix The scene where she's trying to goad him into talking about their failed relationship and he just wants to talk about super secret spy stuff so he keeps telling her to "Skip it"...hard to explain but it just kills me every time.

ms. alex

Ah, Cary Grant. He brought me and my husband together over a love of Charade. (Also, my husband, given the chance, would probably leave me for Cary Grant in a heartbeat, and I wouldn't even blame him. Although I would prefer to be brought along.)

dracula's ghost

Also I think it is so wonderful that Tony Curtis is doing an impression of Cary Grant in "Some Like it Hot," when he pretends to be the owner of Shell Oil in an effort to trick Marilyn Monroe into frenching him.

Contemporary Cary Grant impression!!! And then later Jack Lemmon is so pissed off and he goes "And your accent! What IS that? 'NOBODY TALKS LIKE THIS'"


Yes, but nobody's perfect.


@melis I drink! I drink like a fish! *sniffle tragically* I can never bear children!


@dracula's ghost He's not only got a yacht, he's got a bicycle!


"You're a guy! Why would a guy wanna marry another guy?"



"We have a quick annulment, he makes a nice little settlement on me and I keep getting those alimony checks EVERY MONTH!! *maracas* "


"It used to be Sugar Kowalchik, but I changed it."


"Yes, except for my father and mother's side. They're Irish."


@dracula's ghost Yes! That's the main reason I love that movie.


Christmas came early. Thank you HJP and The Hairpin. Mr. Grant is my most favorite EVER!!

Okay going to read now!


Thank you so much for writing this. I've been DYING to read about Cary Grant, and not just because I was the only girl in my jr. high to have a picture of Cary Grant hanging in my locker instead of Kurt Cameron (gag). I've already watched the Bishop's Wife twice, but dammit I'm going to again and you can't stop me.

Also, Katherine Hepburn in drag. Swoon x 1000.


I just want to curl up in a ball and take a nap in his chin cleft.
Also, drunk Cary Grant in "North by Northwest" is some of the best physical comedy that's ever been onscreen. And the way he drunkenly delivers the dialogue! And his buddy-buddy relationship with his mother! I love him in that movie.



There's also a moment where he moves well out of his usual narrow range. At the Chicago train station, when he tries again and again to get the Eva Marie Saint character to acknowledge that they have something between them, and she won't, he shows confusion, hurt, disbelief, and real emotional pain.


@BScottie Aaah! You're so right.


(and I want a catbugler)


Ugh, this is so great. All of these are so great! Are you writing a book? please write a book.

liz ward@twitter

i love these so much--i look forward to them and i send them to my mom!


My favorite apocryphal story about Cary Grant is that at some point, a reporter wired his agent, asking "How old Cary Grant?" and got the following response from Cary: "Old Cary Grant fine. How you?"


@koume I've read this story multiple times and every single time it makes me crack up in a ridiculous face crumple snorty way. So stupidly hilarious.


I love Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant together so so much. The Holiday! He does somersaults and contemplates selling out!

Also my favorite thing to do sometimes when someone says that Grace Kelly was a good actress is to have them watch the scene in Philadelphia Story where Hepburn meets Stewart and Hussey for the first time and talks circles around them and compare it to the similar one in High Society with Kelly. K Heps just kills it, no contest, thanks for playing Grace, bye.


@Mildred Agreed! Kate and Cary do TPS so much better.


@Mildred I love Grace and blame Sinatra more for that scene sucking. And Bing! Get out of my Philly remake! But yes, KHep and Jimmy are so good in Original Philly that I can't handle it. In fact, a photo of the two of them drinking champers and undressing each other with their eyes is my current profile pic.


@LMac Also, I love you, Cary. Cary is still proudly my grandma's "get out of jail free card" though she is 92 and has been widowed for 40 years. She still feels the need to remind us (often after drinking a huge glass of vodka whilst beating our asses in Scrabble.)

The Snarktorialist

@LMac You just made me smile because I also had a grandmother who went all dreamy for Cary Grant and beat my ass at Scrabble.


@The Snarktorialist Awww, hooray!


What, no Indiscreet? Grant pretends to be married so that Bergman won't bug him about marrying her, and then she finds out that he's not married and is mad at him and plots revenge. Not a great movie but all-time sleaziest Grant performance ever. Co-starring Ingrid Bergman's gorgeous apartment.


@oeditrix How dare he make love to me and not be a married man.


I wish every history book ever was written with such enthusiasm. These are just SO GOOD.

Vera Knoop

That scene from The Awful Truth needs to be the next Michael Jackson popcorn .gif!


Marry me, Anne Helen Petersen. (I love this series more than I can say!)


I love that photo of Grant and Scott relaxing by the fire. Grant gets the wife chair! Draw your own conclusions!


Holiday!!!! Holy crap that is a great movie that needs more recognition. I feel like it is overshadowed by A Philadelphia Story (see: Jimmy Stewart). Jonathan is a hilarious alcoholic brother. The Potters! Woohoo!


@ohmy That actor guy who played Ned was seriously amazing. "How did I get this bump on my head?"


@Mildred You will thank me for my recommendation of THE KISS, if you haven't seen it, then.


@Kakapo Yess, consider yourself thanked.


@ohmy I think that is probably one of the best movies ever. EVER. The professor and his wife are a total scream. Everyone is. Well except the sister but that is okay.


so i need to own that 2nd picture of him WHERE CAN I FIND IT thanks.


I want to immediately shut myself up in my apartment and not leave until I've seen every single Cary Grant film! Clearly I am lacking in experience.


Favorite Cary Grant line ever, in "Bringing Up Baby," wearing a frilly dressing gown, in response to an inquiry as to why he is wearing said item, "I don't know! Maybe I've just gone GAY all of a sudden!" On the word "gay" he randomly jumps in the air with both feet as some sort of physical punctuation. It's glorious.


@KatPruska I am shocked that that line didn't get a mention! Especially vis-a-vis the possibility of Cary Grant just liking to fuck with with people's expectations in light of the rumors about his sexuality.


@bitzyboozer In my mind it was all a last second improv on his part in service of said fuckery.


About the 60's and how an aging Cary Grant was starting to seem crotchety: This was used to hilarious effect in Father Goose, in which he plays an old drunk living alone on an island who is forced to take in a bunch of little girls. We had this on VHS when I was growing up and it is etched deeply into my brain.


@katerrific And have you seen the Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer? It is not a very good movie, but it's Cary Grant and Shirley Temple and kind of adorable and funny.


@phlox Yes, and Myrna Loy! Who is so businesslike and on it. Love that movie.


I really needed one of these today. Many thanks, and happy holiday of your choosing.


Cary Grant will always always always be my favorite. Thanks for this!

I feel like I must mention Arsenic and Old Lace, which is probably my favorite example of his slapstick. "I'm not a Brewster! I'm a son of a sea cook!"


This was lovely, but SUSPICION is not actually complex or fucked up. They changed the ending at the last minute because the studio would not allow Cary Grant to be a murder. So... we're left with a movie where he is obviously trying to kill his wife and about three minutes at the end where he basically says "What are you talking about? Of course I'm not trying to kill you," and they live happily ever after


I once experienced a serious emotion in my Entertainment Law class because when explaining the right of publicity, the professor used a case involving Grant as an example. He apparently testified that he never licensed his image in order to increase its value if his daughter ever needed money after his death. That just slays me. DADS, AMIRITE?


Completely agree with the others who have mentioned a book, or collection of essays, that the Doctor oughta write! Must disagree a bit about Charade. I sort of love how cranky Grant is, if only because Hepburn being such a dorky elvish slut is a refreshing change for her as well. The soundtrack, costumes, and side characters (Walter Matthau, James Coburn!) are all amazing, not to mention the famous opening title sequence. But it's mostly the dialogue! Best part: When Hepburn makes some comment about the Hunchback of Notre Dame as they walk along the quai and Grant turns around to look at it and says, "Oh, who put that there?"


@boomforreal Ah, that whole conversation. "Would you ever do something like that?"

Seriously, I love this movie.


@boomforreal OH GOD YES the dialogue. Like when they meet.
Reggie Lampert: I already know an awful lot of people and until one of them dies I couldn't possibly meet anyone else.
Peter Joshua: Well, if anyone goes on the critical list, let me know.
That always kills me.


@boomforreal I long for an opportunity to use that line in real life.


@boomforreal I love the faux Hitchcock of Charade. I think it's a great film because of the script and its actors.


@boomforreal "Oh, who put that there?" seconded as one of the great lines of all time. Don't know how many times I've used tring to cover my ass when I've overlooked something obvious. Not coming from CG it doesn't get the appreciation or recognition it deserves.

On Charade: this movie was in effect the sequel to North By Northwest. Stanley Donen made the perfect Hitchcock light comedy audiences longed for that Hitchcock never made again. In this day of "Triologys" To Catch A Thief > North By Northwest > Charade.

Betty Brant

I would like to attend the lecture on ‘50s-era coloring, please. Is there a powerpoint presentation somewhere?



Moon of My Life

@Betty Brant MEE THREE!


@Mildred NED! crap! who the hell is jonathan and why is he stuck in my head? nope, it was definitely Ned. I'm getting my old time movies mixed up. It's been a long day.


AHP, ILU. This was one of the best Scandals yet. (Do I say that every time? Because it's true, every time :P.)


This post broke my Netflix queue. I am so much more than okay with that!


Ooooh, loved this, but now am craving one about Katharine Hepburn to go w/ it!!


Cary Grant refused to say who his favourite co-star lady was (and he had some good 'uns) BUT did once admit that out of everyone he had starred with, Irene Dunne smelled the nicest. That story makes me so goofily happy because I adore the two of them together. I've watched The Awful Truth countless times and it still reduces me to a wheezing, blubbering, cramped-up ball of laughter.


Thank you for making my day.
I grew up on a healthy diet of Cary Grant as my Mother loves him so much. I suspect it colored my ideas about what a guy should be like.


This is my favourite! And yes,Katherine Hepburn! Please!
Also, somehow Cary Grant and Gregory Peck morphed into one person in my head, Dr.Jeckyl-and-Mr.-Hyde style, until now, thankfully. Just like Richard Gere and Harrison Ford, not that i really need to tell these guys apart.

Stephanie Lucianovic@twitter

@dracula's ghost

"Stretch up together, up! Over, up! Down, up!" My sister and I did those exercises.


Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, and Holiday were all on TCM a couple of nights ago, all in a row. Like a Christmas gift, just for us.

My dearest wish is that we get an entry on Barbara Stanwyck. LOVE HER. If you haven't had the pleasure of her acquaintance yet, Ball of Fire is on TCM tonight. Watch it tonight, then we can all get together and do the "Drum Boogie" on a matchbook thingie.


@McC@twitter Oh, Ball of Fire is so, so, very good. The matchstick drumming! Barbara Stanwyck!

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@McC@twitter Also Baby Face: so amazing, so very pre-code. Also I have a soft spot for it because it starts in Erie, PA which is basically where some of my family is from and things are never set in Erie, PA!


Question: Would having Cary Grant in the lead male role of Roman Holiday, as originally intended, make it the best romcom of all time?

I say this as someone who loves Gregory Peck. But you're never really in doubt that Atticus Finch is going to do the "right" thing at the end, and throughout, the movie, whereas Cary Grant's take on the character would have been less wholesome.

(Tangential sub-question: what about the original plan to cast Elizabeth Taylor instead of Audrey Hepburn as the female lead?)


Fantastic piece, and I admire your focus when it would be easy to go on and on about the contributions that women like Hepburn, Dunne, and Russell made to Grant's persona. It really is all about Cary, though I admit to being in the minority regarding "Bringing Up Baby." I don't find it particularly funny and Hepburn's laugh grates. One more thing: Barbara Hutton was the WoolWORTH heiress, not Woolrich.


i just made an account and i am commenting for the first time on hairpin because I HAVE TO TELL YOU HOW AMAZING THIS SERIES OF POSTS ARE. this one has been my favourite.


I spent a good chunk of my early childhood absolutely convinced that Cary Grant and I were going to get married. It just seemed like if you lived with him your drink would always be full and you'd always be having fun. I think I was about 8 or 9 when I realized this definitely was not going to happen, and that remains one of the harsher intrusions of the reality principle in my life. Another great post, Anne.

Dani Dias@facebook

1. You were my professor in college (at UT...I left you a cupcake one day for helping me out so much), I refer to you and your class often!

2. I feel like I could have written this article—maybe not as beautifully but I heart your series of posts.

I now realize this is the creepiest post ever.

Gordon Bradley

Amazing! Where do I buy your full-length book, and when do we get the 75-minute lecture on changing film stocks to colour in the 50s? SRSLY.

Barry Grant

Was out sick for a couple days so I'm late to the party but yes, I bow to the master. Of all of the excellent points in this essay I think the four-picture stretch of absolute classics says a lot. And that was just one period of his career! Thanks so much for this Hollywood series and this entry in particular.



I am so sad you skimmed over him and Sophia Loren. That shit was epic. She told 60 minutes he was the love of her life but she was loyal to Ponte!


This was wonderful - thank you.


Fish kissing! When I was little, I thought that's how grownups really kissed. Like, they smashed their lips together and rolled their heads around. No wonder it didn't seem appealing!

Elaine Tary@facebook

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You should seriously think about starting a web series. I would totally watch!

Sally Barry@facebook

What about Father Goose??? You completely left out Father Goose!!!

Lana Northern@facebook

I'm sure it's somewhere in the comments already (or maybe not), but please, pretty please...Ingrid Bergman was not a nerdy doctor in Notorious, she was a party girl turned government agent. She was a nerdy doctor in Spellbound with Gregory Peck- also a very good film.

Lee Lee Batista@facebook

"I believe that Bi-Sexuality is almost a necessary factor in artistic production"--Muriel Rukeyser


I started reading your Old Hollywood Scandal series with Garbo and working backwards. May I add a small story that speaks to Cary Grant's character?

My dad attended LA High School (1946 grad). One of his best high school buds was the son of the casting director on The Bachelor & the Bobby Soxer ... so my dad (as well as the group of friends) got to be extras on the film (shot at Beverly Hills HS). One day, during the filming of the basketball game scenes, the guys were standing around during lunch break when Grant approached them and asked them where the best burger could be had in the area. They told him, and then he said, "Well, come on then." Grant not only drove the group but treated them all to lunch.

Dad says Cary was one of the most down-to-earth, open and friendly guys he has ever met.


@darleenclick@twitter Hmm all guy bb scenes and Grant was standing around watching??? da!!


Can someone revisit this post or topic? Also, his daughter wrote a memoir about their father/daughter relationship and while she doesn't go on to say explicitly that he was or wasn't gay she gives the impression that she didn't think he was. The book is called "Good Stuff" and again it's by his daughter Jennifer Grant.


@LilyPea Have you seen the movie MY Favorite Wife-IT is the only movie that Cary Grant and Randolph Scott made together. If you look closely, you can see that both of them are wearing pinky rings on their left hands-That was what Gay men did back then to signify being in an active relationship. It is my opinion that they were life long lovers behind the scenes. Yes they slept w tons of women, but were only Bi with each other. Randolph Scott never had any of his own children, and Grant only one-when he was 62!!!! I only hope that they did their Penance w God-as I loved both of them as Actors I only wish I had never heard about it..

Mike Salter@facebook

'abandoning young Archie to the care of the state' Elias never abandoned young Cary/Archibald....and he certainly was never in the care of the state..i think this statement came from the very badly researched and sensationalised biography by Charles Higham...


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F'mal D'Hyde@facebook

No mention of Arsenic and Old Lace? I think that was the first time I had seen him and I was smitten by both his beauty and goofiness.


Thank you for your informative essay. HOWEVER, I must disagree with you. Penny Serenade is NOT ridiculous. It is featured in one book on the best films of the 40s and although dated by today's standards, it is usually considered a classic of its genre. By the way (and you should edit your above commentary to include this fact), of all Grant's leading ladies, he personally preferred Irene Dunne. I wish you would comment more on how she holds her chin (as compared to Kate Hepburn), in other words, study her films and you will realize why she is considered one of the finest American actresses ever to grace the screen (not only my opinion). Am I a Dunne fan? AND HOW!


I must disagree with you. Penny Serenade is NOT ridiculous. It is featured in one book on the best films of the 40s and although dated by today's standards, it is usually considered a classic of its genre.

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Dianne Sarni Stevens@facebook

Seriously ?? Cary Grant--Gay?? Are you nuts?? Men were supposed to be gentlemen at that time...He never made a move that looked queer and he was never caught in any compromising situations. He came from a terrible home life and childhood, so his large number of marriages attests more to a person unable to bond and out of contact with what makes a good relationship than it does to some sexual confusion. Most gays are just unhappy with the exigencies of life and blame it on their sexual identity anyway...so from that perspective, I guess, everyone could be gay. And while gays may be hard pressed to find role models, it is unconscionable to besmirch a successful actor's name because misery loves company. I fully support equal rights for gays and all other groups, but I do not support crass whining and complaining disguised as discovery.

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