When the American Film Institute listed the 50 greatest screen legends, many recognizable names were on the list. Having already written posts about the #1 male legend, Humphrey Bogart, and the #3 male legend, James Stewart, it’s about time I cover male legend #2. Cary Grant was a very admirable actor for many reasons. Not only did he not use his stardom to promote any political or ideological ideas, but he actually retired from acting in order to raise his daughter. Such selfless devotion and humility are inspiring, considering the amount of attention actors receive. While his off-screen persona definitely seemed normal, the roles he played on-screen were exciting, as well as humorous. It didn’t hurt that he was handsome to boot. This week’s two films highlight some excellent roles of Cary Grant’s career.
The Philadelphia Story
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 112 minutes / 1.86 hours
Even though Cary Grant is ranked at #2 of the male legends, Katharine Hepburn is ranked at #1 of the female legends. And when you add in James Stewart to the cast of The Philadelphia Story (1940), greatness will ensue. While Grant and Hepburn starred in four different romantic comedies, two of them were directed by the same man: George Cukor (Sylvia Scarlett (1935) and Holiday (1938)). Another director Cary Grant paired with was Howard Hawks, who directed the second of the Grant/Hepburn comedies (Bringing Up Baby (1938)), as well as three other comedies (Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), and Monkey Business (1952)). Of course, I would be amiss if I didn’t also mention Cary Grant’s involvement in Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), especially after listing so many other great comedies.
If you were divorced from someone, where is the last place you would like to be? If you answered “my former spouse’s next wedding,” most people would agree with you. And yet, C. K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) has arrived right before his ex-wife’s wedding to George Kittredge (John Howard). He does this to give two reporters the scoop on the wedding so they won’t release some blackmail on his former father-in-law. Needless to say, the ex-wife, Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn), is not pleased by this development at all. Unfortunately, as she starts to fall back in love with Dexter and the magazine reporter, Macaulay “Mike” Connor (James Stewart), her original wedding plans go out the window. Fortunately, with all the guests seated and the orchestra playing the wedding march, Dexter does some quick thinking and proposes to Tracy again, ready to take her down the aisle.
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 113 minutes / 1.88 hours
One other director Cary Grant paired with for multiple films was Alfred Hitchcock. While Grant was good at comedies and romances, he also excelled in suspenseful roles. Starting in 1941 with Suspicion, Hitchcock would cast Grant in three more films, each time increasing the greatness of the film. Notorious (1946) and To Catch a Thief (1955) pale in comparison to the success that was North by Northwest (1955). What some people don’t realize is that one of Cary Grant’s last films, Charade (1963), was not in fact directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Sure, it had all the elements of a classic Hitchcock tale but was actually directed by Stanley Donen. Another thing people don’t realize is that Audrey Hepburn (#3 on AFI’s female legend list) isn’t related to Katharine Hepburn at all. Even so, between The Philadelphia Story and Charade, Cary Grant has acted on screen with both of them.
In Charade, Cary Grant plays not one, but four different characters, even if they’re all the same person. His first persona is that of Peter Joshua, who happens to meet Regina “Reggie” Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) in Megève, France. She has decided to divorce her husband but does not get the chance because, when she returns to Paris, she finds her apartment empty and officials notifying her of the murder of her husband. When Peter finds Reggie in Paris, he changes his name to Alexander “Alex” Dyle, revealing himself to be the brother of someone who worked with her husband. When confronted with that name, he now admits he’s Adam Canfield, a professional thief, but by now lots of people are after Reggie since they think she has the fortune that disappeared during her husband’s watch. With one last name change to Brian Cruikshank, the duo figure out that the riches were in plain sight all along.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great Grant roles
Bacon #: 2 (Charade / Walter Matthau -> JFK / Kevin Bacon)