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Who is Cary Grant?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Cary Grant (1904-1986) is well remembered as one of the most compelling American movie stars of all time. He embodied the model of the debonair, suave, chivalrous, witty gentlemen who appeared in almost every film from the 1940s to the 1960s, and he played many of these roles himself. Cary Grant is also remembered as being a kind man, active with charities and the animal rights movement. In addition, Cary Grant had a wicked sense of humor and a skill with language that made him an object of appeal for many women, presumably including his five wives.

Cary Grant was born Archibald Alexander Leach in England. As a boy, he had an interest in stage and musical theatre, and at the age of 14, he lied about his age to tour England with the Pender Troupe, a pantomime troupe that traveled the English provinces. Cary Grant honed his skills with the Pender Troupe enough to be sent to Broadway in 1920, where Good Times was performed 456 times. At the close of the run, Cary Grant decided to stay on Broadway, playing a variety of roles before decamping for California in 1931.

Cary Grant first appeared in This is the Night (1932), where he caught the attention of Mae West, who snagged him for two 1933 films: She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel. These films paved the way for a long career in film that didn't end until the 1960s, when Cary Grant became disappointed with the direction of American film and decided to retire from the silver screen, although he continued to perform on stage. Numerous Hollywood personalities, including Stanley Kubrick and Billy Wilder, tried to lure him into film performances again, but Cary Grant resisted a comeback.

Cary Grant tended to play roles in sophisticated comedies that showcased his dramatic and physical skills. Cary Grant was a very graceful man, whom many said reminded them of a cat with his modes of movement and the subtle style that infused all of his scenes. He performed many of his own stunts, utilizing the acrobatic skills he learned as a youth. He appeared in films with other well known stars of the day, including Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, and Douglas Fairbanks, Junior.

One of Cary Grant's most famous films was North by Northwest, made in 1959. In an earlier Hitchcock film, To Catch a Thief, filmed in 1955, Grant and his costar Grace Kelly improvised the dialog in some of the scenes. His Broadway skills gave Cary Grant an excellent sense of timing, double entendre, and language. His personal favorite film was Indiscreet, filmed in 1958.

Cary Grant had one child, Jennifer Grant, with his fourth wife, Dyan Cannon. Grant's first wife, from 1934 to 1935, was Virginia Cherrill, who appeared in the popular Charlie Chan movies of the 1930s. Following that brief marriage, Grant wedded Barbara Hutton in 1942 and remained with her until 1945.

In 1949, Grant married again to Betsy Drake, to whom he remained married until 1962. His final wife was Barbara Harris, who married him in 1981. Cary Grant also had a lifelong friendship with Randolph Scott that many suspected of being sexual. In addition to his marriages, Cary Grant had a number of affairs, most famously one with Sophia Loren, siren of the Italian screen.

Cary Grant donated the income from his films to numerous charities, including American and British war relief funds and the Fund for Animals in New York City. He also spoke out against the McCarthy hearings, in which a number of his fellows were blacklisted for their supposed political beliefs.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon32380 — On May 20, 2009

Was Cary Grant really gay?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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