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Cary Grant: The Englishman That Became a Hollywood Legend

Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

Cary Grant: The fine talented English Actor


Why was Cary Grant so important to the United States movie industry?

England has always historically been a country that has given birth to many fine actors. One such example helped shape America because of his contribution to the comedy scene as well as the movie industry, that actor is Cary Grant. His unique look with a dimpled chin and his Mid-Atlantic accent helped him land the role of a leading man in many romantic comedies. This English actor became the heartthrob of many women. Cary Grant also never played the role of an antagonist in his movie career.

Cary Grant: Early Life and Comedy Career (1904-1931)

Grant entered the world on January 18, 1904, born to parents Elias James and Elsie Leach under the name of Archibald Alexander Leach. A native of Bristol, England, he attended Fairfield Academy in Somerset, England from 1914 to 1919. Grant spent lots of time in the local cinema attempting to escape the pressures brought on by his unstable family situation. He had a mentally ill mother and a father that never really paid any attention to him. Cary Grant dropped out of school at 14 and became self-educated reading many books throughout his life.

Cary Grant’s comedy career began at the young age of 13 when he joined the Bob Pender Troupe, a group of young comedians and acrobats as well. This group toured vaudeville houses in England before touring in the United States for two years beginning in 1920. Cary Grant moved to the United States the following year. After spending several years in New York before returning to England in 1927 he had an encounter with Arthur Hammerstein. Hammerstein then sent Grant back to New York where he made his Broadway debut in the operetta called “Golden Dawn”.

Cary Grant: his career and friendship with Ingrid Bergman (1932-1958)

Grant’s movie career began in 1932 when he starred in This is the Night. He followed up that movie with roles in two movies with famous actress Mae West called She Done Him Wrong in 1933 and I’m No Angel in 1934. In 1936 when Grant had a contract with RKO Studios, he starred in the movie Sylvia Scarlett with actress Katherine Hepburn, the same actress that would star with Humphrey Bogart many years later in The African Queen. A few more roles in movies such as Topper, The Awful Truth and Bringing Up Baby helped Grant to become an “expert in sophisticated comedy.”[1] He became really famous for his talents after some of his most successful films including Gunga Din, The Front Page, The Philadelphia Story, and Arsenic and the Old Lace. He would get a very first Academy Award nomination for his role in Penny Serenade in 1941. He followed that role with roles in movies such as Suspicion in 1941 and Destination Tokyo in 1943. Suspicion featured Grant’s first collaboration with famous director Alfred Hitchcock. Grant became a US citizen in 1942. In 1944, Grant had a role “in what has become known as his most challenging role, that of Ernie Mott in “None But the Lonely Heart[2].”

In a strange turn of events, Grant made an announcement at a press conference in 1953 of his retirement from acting angered over Hollywood’s treatment of Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin “had been blacklisted for his political beliefs [3].” Grant’s hard work would finally pay off in 1955 when he came out of retirement and starred as John Robie alongside the late actress Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief. Based upon the success of that film, Grant made the decision to play in more movies. Grant also starred with Swedish beauty Ingrid Bergman in another Hitchcock film Notorious in 1946 and Indiscreet in 1958, which he liked the most out of all of his movie roles. Grant and Bergman remained close friends. Grant supported her when she had an affair with director Roberto Rossellini and accepted her Best Actress Oscar in 1958 in her absence due to exile.

[1] From the Gale Biography article. See works cited section.

[2] From the Gale biography article as well.

[3] Grant was a huge supporter of Charlie Chaplin

In this photo, actor Cary Grant looks very serious but he was not short on talent. Cary will always be one of the best actors who ever lived.

In this photo, actor Cary Grant looks very serious but he was not short on talent. Cary will always be one of the best actors who ever lived.

Cary Grant's personal life and affair with Sophia Loren

Cary Grant got married five times in his lifetime, his last spouse being Barbara Harris in 1981. However, his most famous marriage to actress Dyan Cannon in 1965 produced a daughter, Jennifer in 1966. However, he also loved actress Sophia Loren so much that he called it “one of the most passionate romances of his life.”[4] When the shooting of the film The Pride and the Passion in began in 1957, he fell in love with her at the age of 53 while still married to then wife Betsy Drake. The romance really died after the film finished shooting. In 1958, Grant still pursued Loren during filming of Houseboat who told him of her love for Carlo Ponti to the dismay of Grant. In the years before his death, he would marry Barbara Harris. She was 47 years younger than him! In 1959, Grant starred in the movie North By Northwest.

[4] Grant pursued Sophia Loren many times.

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Michael Caine describes why Cary Grant was such a great leading man in movies

Cary Grant's later movie career and retirement from acting

In 1960, Grant really became bitter with his personal life and turned to drugs, experimenting with LSD. He did find the courage and strength to star in more movies such as That Touch of Mink, Charade, Father Goose and Walk Don’t Run in 1966 which became his last movie role. But Grant had originally refused the role for that movie Charade but he later accepted the role, realizing the greatness of the part. He co-starred alongside Audrey Hepburn and made it clear that in the movie he wanted Audrey to pursue him.

Grant then officially retired from the movies, deciding to dedicate his life to raising his only daughter Jennifer.

Cary Grant with Audrey Hepburn (right) in 1963.

Cary Grant with Audrey Hepburn (right) in 1963.

Some of Cary Grant's Most Well-Known Movies

Gunga DinNorth by Northwest 

Notorious (Starred With Ingrid Bergman)

Charade (Starred with Audrey Hepburn)



Walk Don't Run



Father Goose


A Photo of Cary Grant in London in 1973

Cary Grant: Later Years and Final Thoughts

In 1970, Grant received a special award for his hard work and achievements. Grant’s health took a hit in the late 1970s when he began to experience high blood pressure. In 1984, he got a minor stroke which caused him to limit his appearances in public. Grant passed away on November 29, 1986 in Davenport, Iowa before stepping onto the stage to perform “An Evening With Cary Grant”, a solo show at the Adler Theater.

The uniqueness of Cary Grant will probably never be seen again. Grant once famously remarked “Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant [5].” He will still be missed by movie fans all over the world including myself. Grant became a movie icon and one of England’s best entertainers in his nearly 35 year movie career. At the time of his death, it was estimated that the value of his estate was $60,000,000 [6]. His greatness is still being seen and admired today even many years after his death. In 1999, The American Film Institute honored Grant by putting him in one of the greatest categories that a movie star can achieve. They named him the second greatest male star of all time of American cinema [7]. That is one of the greatest tributes that you can give to a celebrity. I am blessed to have gotten to know about the man and in 2016, Cary Grant is still recognized as one of the greatest movie actors to have ever lived!

Works Cited

“Cary Grant.” Newsmakers. Detroit: Gale, 1987. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 18 Apr. 2012.

“Cary Grant”. Biography for Cary Grant. Internet Movie Database. 30 Apr. 2012.

[5] That is perhaps Grant’s most famous quote and can be found at the Internet Movie Database.

[6] From The Internet Movie Database

[7] Internet Movie Database

© 2016 Ara Vahanian

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