Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cary Grant

Like Davis and Colbert, Grant had a flourishing career beginning in the early 1930s, and, like Davis, his career in film lasted into the 1970s. Amazing.

Once asked about his life, Grant responded, "My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can."

When I lived in NYC (in a former life) The Regency Theatre on the West Side had a summer film festival with all Grant's pictures--it was a month-long festival and they showed every picture only twice. I saw a lot of pictures I'd never heard of, as well as the familiar ones. Believe me, seeing the less familiar ones is as big a treat as the famous ones you already know.

Grant could do comedy or drama. He was hilarious in, for example, His Girl Friday, The Awful Truth, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, and even in Charade, which is after all a mystery with violence. But he was also spectacular in such serious films as Notorious, North by Northwest, An Affair to Remember, and Suspicion. No one seemed to think he was acting much, just being himself, a ridiculously suave and charming man. I suspect there was a lot of acting going on, but he made it all seem simple.

In her famous book The Dress Doctor, Edith Head talked about how great Grant was to work with, and how smart he was about style, fashion, costuming, and the camera. He always worked to make his co-stars look as good as himself, and was extremely aware of the nuances of screen costumes.

A list of Grant films would take you through the month I mentioned above, so I've got two categories:

My favorite famous Cary Grant films (a must-see collection):
She Done Him Wrong (1933), the early vehicle with Mae West that might be considered Grant's first break-through; he plays a temperance guy who tries to reform West, while being tempted by her. Oh, yes.
I'm No Angel (1933), again Grant and West, this time as a lion-tamer. Her earthiness and his class are an... interesting combination. And her costumes!

His Girl Friday (1940) with Rosalind Russell. Fast-talking version of B'way hit originally starring two male leads, Grant and Russell plays a soon-to-be-divorced newspaper couple caught in the story of the century! Quick, witty dialogue, with the delectable Ralph Bellamy as the fiance and a mob of great character actors.
The Philadelphia Story (1940) with Katharine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart and, again, a fantastic supporting cast. Grant is a huge star by now, and in this, the third of the Grant-Hepburn match-ups, they are at their best. Again, great style, witty dialogue, and fantastic characters. Super date movie, as well. The scene with Stewart, drunk, and Grant, sober, is priceless--better than anything else in the film, except maybe the song "Lydia."
Notorious (1946), Grant's second Hitchcock work, is my favorite romantic film of all time. He and Bergman were lightning in a bottle, in my opinion. But, hey, look for yourself.

To Catch a Thief (1955), third Hitchcock outing, with Grace Kelly... the film where she met Prince Rainier, as it was shot in Monte Carlo. The scenery is gorgeous, as are Grant and Kelly.
An Affair To Remember (1957), with Deborah Kerr. This is actually not one of my favorites; I think the tearjerking melodrama is over the top, but the style is fantastic. And it is considered an iconic "romantic" film, and the basis for Sleepless in Seattle's romantic use of the Empire State Building. I think the script is weak, but Grant and Kerr are both master actors and their scenes are often wittier and more complex than the thin script suggests.
North by Northwest (1959), fourth and final Hitchcock match-up. This one with the beautiful and talented Eva Saint Marie. The iconic race against the crop-duster.

My favorite unknown Cary Grant films (the follow-up, just for your own pleasure!)
Blonde Venus (1932), a very early film that pairs Grant with Dietrich. He's "the other man" and kind of a bad guy.
Madame Butterfly (1932), as, yes, Pinkerton. This is the original stage version (pre-opera!), and Grant plays the careless American sailor who seduced and "marries" the Japanese geisha, then deserts her, only to return and claim their child. In 1932, Sylvia Sidney, who played Cho Cho San, was much more famous than Grant; she is not Asian, he is a total cad, but oh, boy, worth every minute of the drah-ma.
Alice in Wonderland (1933) -- Forget Tim Burton and Johnny Depp (ok, well, for a minute) and get this live-action version of Alice starring major actors and character actors in Carroll's story. Oh, early Hollywood! Grant plays the Mock Turtle, Gary Cooper is the White Knight, Edward Evertt Horton is the Mad Hatter, and W.C. Fields is Humpty-Dumpty. Just get it!
Topper (1937) with Constance Bennet and Billie Burke. Grant and Bennet are a young couple killed in a car wreck who come back to haunt their stuffy banker. Light comedy with, again, great style.
The Awful Truth (1937) the first film with Irene Dunne--one of my personal favorites because of the great chemistry between Dunne and Grant, the witty script, and the supprting cast which again includes Bellamy and the ever-great Cecil Cunningham.

Only Angels Have Wings (1939) with Jean Arthur and the deightful young Rita Hayworth.
My Favorite Wife (1940), the second Grant-Dunne pairing, this time with Randolph Scott as the handsome man with whom Dunne, married to Grant, was stranded on an island for 7 years... oh, yes, hilarity ensues.
Penny Serenade (1941), the third Dunne-Grant film, this time a serious film about a couple trying to have a child. Charming.
Mr. Lucky (1943), with Laraine Day. Here, Grant plays a gambler trying to romance a society dame (Day) while cheating her charity out of lots of cash. This is his cad-turned-honest guy character, and again, well done.
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944). The stage play turned film -- RUN, do not walk, to get this fabulous comedy. Peter Lorre is priceless as Dr. Einstein, Raymond Massey terrifying and hilarious as evil brother Jonathan, and the supporting cast simply brilliant. The timing, the dialogue, the physical stuff--perfect.

None But the Lonely Heart (1944) with the great Ethel Barrymore are his mom. Tear-jerker extraordinaire.
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947), one of his best comedies with the luscious Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple, and Rudy Vallee. Temple gets a crush on Grant, and her sister, the judge (Loy), mandates dating to cure Little Sister of her crush... hijinx ensue when Big Sister too get a crush (who wouldn't?). Best scene: the nightclub (below)... or maybe the Fourth of July picnic? Mellow greetings, yukey dukey!

The Bishop's Wife (1947) in which Grant (an angel) competes for Loretta Young's attention with her husband, David Niven (the bishop). A lovely Christmas film you should see all year.
Crisis (1950), in which Grant, a brain surgeon, has to save the life of a South American dictator. I know! Just see it, for the fun of Grant operating.
Houseboat (1958) with Sophia Loren as the "housekeeper" Grant takes on to care for his three kids after their mom dies. Loren is on the run from her constricted life as a socialite (natch!), and hilarity and romance ensue. Loren is young and earthy, a great match for Grant's maturing glamour.
That Touch Of Mink (1962), Grant's only match-up with Doris Day is witty, again, as he pursues her. He wants an affair, she wants marriage... guess what?
Charade (1963), another personal favorite, that matches Grant with Hepburn--Audrey this time--in Paris. How could it go wrong? Clever, charming, and funny. The drip-dry suit: I love that Grant could laugh at himself so effortlessly. And I think I stayed in that hotel... but in the 1990s. Imagine!

What a list!

A mix of any or all would be an excellent use of your weekend.

One last image:

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