Archie Leach was a traumatized little boy who ran away from home, joined a vaudeville troupe, and transformed himself into the suave Hollywood actor we now know as Cary Grant. With his debonair manners and deep voice, Grant has gone down in cinema history as one of our greatest stars. But off screen, his life was as messy as they get. From family secrets to fiery affairs, you’re going to want to buckle in for this one: Here’s the real story of Cary Grant.
Cary Grant Facts
1. His Mother Vanished
When Grant was just nine years old, his mother disappeared out of his life. At first, Grant’s father Elias said that his mom was away at a seaside resort, but after time passed, he revealed the truth: Grant’s mother had died. Grant was devastated at this horrible loss, but his father seemed to rally quickly. He moved him and his young son into his grandmother’s house, where he proceeded to get rip-roaring drunk every day.
2. He had an Unhappy Upbringing
Life at Grant’s grandmother’s house wasn’t all that much better than it had been when his mom was around. His dad Elias was either drunk or away, shacking up with his new girlfriend, who he married when Grant was 10. Meanwhile, Grant’s grandmother was cold. They didn’t get along, leaving Grant devoid of affection from his only parental figures left. He’d seek solace at the one place he felt accepted: the movie theater.
3. He Inspired an Iconic Character
Here’s how you know you’re suave: Cary Grant helped inspire the character of James Bond. The author Ian Fleming took inspiration from Cary Grant’s roles in thrillers like Notorious when he came up with the super-spy. When it came time to cast Bond, producers even offered the role to Grant. Grant respectfully declined, saying he felt that at 60 he was too old to play a womanizing secret agent. His rejection freed up the part for Sean Connery.
4. He Ran Away and Joined the Circus
When he was just 14, Grant heard that the Pender Troupe of comedians was hiring a new member. He immediately applied, lying about his age and faking his father’s signature. Without his family’s knowledge, Grant started touring with the acrobatic troupe, learning how to stilt-walk, pantomime, and stage-tumble. When his father eventually found out, he didn’t take his son’s new interest very well. He dragged Grant home by the ear and forced his son to return to school. But it would take more than that to get Grant away from the spotlight.
5. He was Sneaky
Grant’s return to school didn’t last very long. The year after his father forced him to go back to class, Grant got himself expelled from Fairfield Secondary School, supposedly for sneaking into the girls’ bathroom. Three days later, Grant rejoined the Penders and got what he wanted all along. Sneaky, sneaky.
7. America Called to him
When Grant was 16, he booked a role at the prestigious New York Hippodrome and immediately knew that he belonged on stage. At the end of the tour, the rest of Grant’s troupe returned to England, but Grant decided to stay in New York and make a go of it. For nearly a decade, he made ends meet by working odd jobs like being an audience plant for mind readers, a barker at Coney Island, a stilt-walker, and even a seat-filler at dinner parties. However, according to some film historians, that’s not all he did to pay the bills.
6. He Did What he had to Do
Grant became a powerful Casanova during his time in Tinsel town, and according to some, he may have got some, um, unique experience with romancing ladies. During Grant’s early days in New York City, he was rumored to be the town’s highest paid gigolo. But was he turned away by snobby shopkeepers while trying to buy a new outfit for Richard Gere, though?
7. He Wasn’t an Overnight Success
Even screen legends like Cary Grant experienced failure once in a while, and in Grant’s case, he learned to roll with the punches on his very first screen test. Scouts for Fox Film Corporation wanted to cast him in a new film, only for the studio to see his screen test and say he was too “thick-necked” and bowlegged to be in movies. Wrong on both counts, gentlemen.
8. He Usurped his Friend’s Girl
There’s a classic lucky break story behind the way that Grant signed with Paramount. When Grant was still an aspiring actor, he ran into an old friend who’d become a director. The director was planning to give his wife a screen test, but since she was so nervous about her audition, the director asked Grant to be her scene partner. On the day of the screen test, the studio executives immediately signed not the actress, but young Cary Grant. He got a glitzy contract just a couple weeks later.
9. Grant Got Game
It’s no secret that Cary Grant had a way with women. He married five times, had affairs with gorgeous actresses, and dated countless other ladies. But how did he do it? According to Grant’s friend and fellow actor David Niven, Grant had one simple trick up his sleeve. He quipped that “to succeed with the opposite sex” all you had to do was “tell her you are impotent. She can’t wait to disprove it.” Also, looking like Cary Grant probably helped. Just saying.
10. He Took on a New Name
When Grant started to try to break into showbiz, there was one big thing holding him back from success: His real name, “Archie Leach.” The execs at Paramount studios weren’t exactly enamored with it, feeling like Archie Leach wasn’t masculine enough for a leading man. They broke it to Grant gently, saying his real name just didn’t sound right in America. Grant agreed, admitting, “It doesn’t sound particularly right in Britain, either.” After some negotiations, Grant and the studio agreed to rebrand him “Cary Grant.”
11. He had an Identity Crisis
When Grant looked back on his life, he often felt torn about his identity. A fan once asked him how his real personality compared to the silver screen’s suave Cary Grant. The actor looked subdued and said, “It’s a facade, an aura. I don’t know that I’m proud of that.” On another occasion, he remarked that for a long time, he didn’t know if he was “Archie Leach or Cary Grant.”
12. He Filmed Flop After Flop
Most of Grant’s first films were flops that nearly dashed his movie star dreams, but all that changed on one fateful day. During the casting for a male part in Mae West’s film She Done Him Wrong, the actress spotted Grant as she traipsed through the film stud. Credit where it’s due, West immediately knew that Grant was her man. She turned to her producer and said, “If he can talk, I’ll take him.” She Done Him Wrong became Grant’s big break, and the rest, as they say, is history.
13. He Got By With a Little Help From his Friends
When Mae West recalled her fateful meeting with Cary Grant, she revealed an extra detail about their fortuitous encounter. West said, that Grant’s “gorgeous, tall, dark and handsome” looks immediately caught her eye, leading her to turn to the head of Paramount and demand to work with him. The studio head asked West, “Don’t you want to see his screen tests?” She replied, “What for? I’ve seen him.” Like so many of Grant’s fans, she liked what she saw.
14. He Finally Broke Through
Even after landing his big break in 1933’s She Done Him Wrong, it still took a few rough years until Grant really made his mark. His first real success came in 1937 with the comedy The Awful Truth, and after that, he made hit after hit, receiving two Oscar nominations for Penny Serenade in 1941 and None but the Lonely Heart in 1944. His persistence obviously paid off, but not quite enough for Grant…
15. The Academy Snubbed Him
Even though he’s one of Hollywood’s greatest actors, Cary Grant never won the Best Actor Oscar, and for years, he was seriously ticked about it, going so far as to boycott the ceremony for over a decade. Eventually, the Academy did the right thing and gave him an honorary award in 1970, but before that, Grant took out his Oscar-based insecurities on his co-stars through vicious feuds and outrageous demands. More on that later…
16. He Finally Became a Star
Over his various films, Cary Grant perfected the man-of-the-world persona, complete with the mid-Atlantic accent practiced by many of the stars of the era. His films were considered high comedy (sophisticated, witty and satirical) and he was charming, handsome, and a gentleman. Grant is one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men, but off screen, things weren’t quite so rosy.
17. His Love Life was Messy
In 1934, Cary Grant fell madly in love with Virginia Cherrill, an American actress best known for her role as the blind girl in Charlie Charplin‘s City Lights. Grant declared her to be “the most beautiful woman” he had ever seen, and said he “fell in love with her” the moment he saw her. Apparently, when Cary Grant fell, he fell hard. After getting Cherrill’s number, he called her once every ten minutes until she picked up. Was that gesture romantic or creepy? Strap in: It only gets weirder.
18. He had a Dark Side
After a whirlwind romance, Grant and Cherrill tied the knot, but unfortunately, the “happy” couple wasn’t happy for long. The Hollywood stars made “on again, off again” look like child’s play, constantly splitting, reconciling, then splitting again. In the end, they just couldn’t make it work, separating a mere seven months after their wedding. As Grant and Cherrill duked it out in the courts and in the papers, the dark truth about their relationship finally came out.
19. A Fan Left Him Speechless
When Cary Grant was chatting with Michael Caine in a glamorous hotel, a woman came up and went into raptures. She begged Caine for an autograph and after he obliged, she told him that she’d waited in the lobby for three days in the hopes of seeing some famous people. She then looked right at Cary Grant and said “I think it’s shocking that more stars don’t come by. Don’t you?” She had no idea who he was. Grant, always ready with a quip, couldn’t think of anything to say as Caine bent over laughing.
20. His Divorce was Horrific
In the years after Cherrill’s split from Grant, she revealed that her ex-husband wasn’t just hard to get along with, he was “psychotically jealous” and just plain monstrous. According to Cherrill, Grant would get incredibly drunk, viciously insult her acting abilities, refuse to pay the couple’s bills, and even sometimes hit his wife. Yikes.
21. He Knew He Messed Up
When Grant reflected on his failed first marriage, he admitted that he was the one who’d messed everything up. He said, “My possessiveness and fear of losing Virginia brought about the very condition I feared: the loss of her.” In the years after their split, though, the couple managed to become friends. When Grant went through his fourth divorce (yup, you read that right: his fourth divorce), Cherrill even offered to be her ex-husband’s character witness.
22. He has a Weird Quirk
When he was young, Cary Grant chipped one of his front teeth while ice skating. To avoid getting in trouble, he went to a dental college to get the tooth removed, and then had the dentists gradually push his teeth together to hide the gap. They must have done a good job, because not only did his father not notice, only one cinematographer ever brought it up.
You probably never noticed either, but now you know, and trust me, you’ll never be able to unsee it.
23. He Changed Hollywood Forever
Back in the old Hollywood, actors had to sign exclusive long-term contracts with studios like Paramount and MGM. If an actor wanted to be in a movie made by a competitor, their studio had to agree to “loan” out their star. As you can imagine, this meant actors didn’t have a lot of freedom, and for Cary Grant, that was unacceptable. In 1936, Grant broke from Paramount and took full control of his career over a decade before the studio system ended. Film historians now consider Grant a true trailblazer.
24. He Hid in Plain Sight
On the set of the 1932 film Hot Saturday, Cary Grant became fast friends with Randolph Scott, a fellow Hollywood heartthrob. To this day, the nature of their relationship isn’t clear. What we do know is that Scott and Grant were very close, with Scott referring to Grant as his spouse and the 1940 census listing Grant as Scott’s “partner.” The men lived together for 12 happy years, but things became complicated after a now legendary photoshoot.
25. He Starred in a Controversial Photo Shoot
In 1934, Scott and Grant posed for a photo shoot that depicted them as a happy couple. The pictures showed the men exercising together, reading, dining, embracing, and enjoying domestic life. Nowadays, the LGBTQ community loves the photographs, but when the spread was published back in the 1930s, Paramount panicked. The studio forced Grant to get married so that audiences wouldn’t get “the wrong idea” about Grant and Scott’s close friendship…but how wrong would they have been? The jury’s still out on that one.
26. Rumors Persist to This Day
Though it’s never been confirmed whether or not Grant and Scott were in a homosexual relationship, the studios were rumored to have planted stories with the press about beautiful young women going in and out of Scott’s and Grant’s shared beach house, dubbing the location “Bachelor Hall.” Between them, they were married seven times, but there is still wide speculation as to the true nature of their relationship.
27. He Could Be Cheap
Even though he was a wealthy Hollywood star, Grant was notorious for being incredibly cheap. He marked how much liquor was in each bottle to make sure no one took any, charged fans 15 cents for an autograph, and kept detailed logs about how much he spent on food. Grant even used to cut the buttons off of his old shirts before throwing them away. He thought this was good practice so he wouldn’t worry about scuffing the furniture if the maid used them for rags. Sure, Cary.
28. He Worked With Iconic Actresses
As a leading man, Grant worked with many of Hollywood’s most glamorous actresses, but his favorite co-stars were a who’s who of Hollywood royalty. He spoke highly of Audrey Hepburn, Deborah Kerr, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, and of course, Katharine Hepburn. As Hepburn said, “We got on well, Cary and I. It was fun to play with him, and I think he had a good time, too.” It’s too bad Grant didn’t get along this well with all his leading ladies, especially Joan Fontaine…
29. Hitchcock Made him Miserable
The Alfred Hitchcock thriller Suspicion is a chilling story of mounting tensions and icy conflicts…and that goes for both the movie and the troubled production. When Grant filmed the flick, he detested his co-star Joan Fontaine, thinking that she was a huffy diva. To make matters worse, Hitchcock was absolutely fixated on Fontaine, basically ignoring Grant throughout the production. Then everything got so much worse.
30. He Engaged in a Huge Hollywood Feud
Thanks in part to Hitchcock’s attentive direction, Joan Fontaine ended up taking home Oscar gold for her role in Suspicion. Grant, on the other hand, didn’t even get a nomination. In the end, the film made Grant so miserable that he vowed to never collaborate with Alfred Hitchcock again. Thankfully for cinema lovers everywhere, Grant changed his mind.
31. The Studio Controlled his Image
For all of his varied roles, the one type of character Grant never played was a villain. The closest he came was in Suspicion, where he played a husband whose wife thinks he’s trying to kill her. As Hitchcock explained, the original ending actually revealed that Grant was planning on offing Fontaine’s character…until the studio ordered him to change the finale and preserve Grant’s heroic image. But it’s so much scarier when the bad guy seems good!
32. He Wasn’t a Hollywood Seer
Grant didn’t always have the best instincts about his films. When he was filming The Awful Truth in 1937, Grant was convinced that the movie would be a complete flop. He even begged the studio to let him quit. When they said no and forced Grant to go back to work, he was miserable. But when The Awful Truth came out, things weren’t so awful after all. The movie became one of Grant’s biggest hits.
33. You Didn’t Want to Mess With him
Cary Grant wasn’t one to suffer fools. If people were rude when they requested his autograph, he always had a witty retort at the ready. When a group of pushy teens told him that if he didn’t give them his autograph, they wouldn’t go see his movies, Grant simply replied “Fine. Don’t go!” But flirtatious fans got an ever colder rejection. When a woman walked up to Grant and coyly said, “I’ve made a bet I can kiss you,” Grant firmly replied “Madam, you’ve lost your bet!”
34. He Found Love…For a Time
In 1942, Cary Grant tied the knot for the second time when he wed the American heiress Barbara Hutton. The press immediately jumped on the new couple, dubbing them “Cash and Cary.” Grant knew that gossip-mongers would assume he was only with Hutton for her money, even though he was perfectly fine on his own, so he demanded that the couple get a unique pre-nuptial agreement. In it, he agreed to never take any of her inheritance, even if the pair split…which they did just three years later.
35. His Marriage Crashed and Burned
When Hutton and Grant were together, they were very tender and affectionate. While Grant could be debonair and standoffish with other flames, he felt very protective of Hutton, who had a long history of family manipulation and mental illness. But even though they loved each other, the couple just wasn’t compatible enough to stick together long-term.
Grant was a notorious spendthrift, while Hutton would throw away hundreds in a single moment. It drove Grant nuts that Hutton would buy two newspapers each day (one for her and one for him), and he hated that Hutton’s insecurities led her to to surround herself with “a consortium of fawning parasites.” It was only a matter of time before they imploded.
36. He Wasn’t a Cat Person
During the filming of the classic comedy Bringing Up Baby, the studio brought in a real-life leopard to play the eponymous Baby. While gutsy Katharine Hepburn was unafraid of the cat, Grant wasn’t quite as keen. Despite his macho image, Grant demanded that the studio use a body double for all scenes involving him and the leopard. He was too afraid to get anywhere near the animal.
37. Years Later, He Told the Truth
Long after Grant and Hutton split, they revealed where they thought their relationship went wrong. Hutton said, “Of my four husbands, he is the one I loved most. He was so sweet, so gentle. It didn’t work out, but I loved him.” For his own part, Cary admitted the hard truth. When it came to his marriage to Hutton, he sadly said, “my hope was to get affection. I didn’t know I had to give it, too.” Oof.
38. He Suffered a Terrible Loss
Even after Hutton and Grant went their separate ways, they managed to be amicable exes, especially when it came to Lance Reventlow, Hutton’s son from a previous marriage. When Hutton and Grant were together, Grant became very fond of little Lance, and even after the split, he called him his son and saw him often. That’s why, when Reventlow passed away in a horrible plane crash, Grant’s heart broke. He personally helped Hutton plan the funeral for the boy they both loved.
39. He Had a Big Heart
It may have appeared that Grant’s demand for top-billing and $100,000 to appear in The Philadelphia Story was egotistical and greedy. However, Katharine Hepburn had been deemed “Box Office Poison” at the time and would never have received top billing anyway. Plus, Grant more than made up for his huge salary after filming finished. He famously donated all of his earnings to the British War Relief Fund.
40. He Made a Huge Mistake
Oh, Cary Grant, he could really be his own worst enemy. When asked about the role he remembered most fondly, Grant said it was C.K. Dexter Haven from The Philadelphia Story. But here’s the thing: When Grant signed on to do the movie, producers let him pick which of the lead male roles to play. In choosing Haven, Grant led Jimmy Stewart play Mike Connor…the role that won him an Oscar. Once again, Grant missed out on Oscar gold to a co-star, and even worse than the Fontaine situation, the role literally could have been his.
41. He Demanded Star Treatment
When Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers co-starred in 1942’s Once Upon a Honeymoon, they couldn’t agree about which one of them would get top billing. In the end, the fight escalated so much that the studio had no choice but to intervene. They billed Grant first in half of the promotional materials, while Rogers got the top spot in the other half.
42. He Ran Into an Old Friend
When Cary Grant showed up on the set of Arsenic and Old Lace, he had no idea that he was in for the shock of his life. Two decades before shooting the film, Grant had been working in vaudeville when he became ill. Thankfully, a kind nurse stepped in to help him recover. Imagine his surprise when that same nurse was on set of Arsenic and Old Lace. It turned out that young Cary Grant’s caregiver Jean Adair had become an actor and performed in the Broadway run of Arsenic. She was on set to reprise her role in the film version of the play!
43. The Set was Tense
Arsenic and Old Lace is a beloved comedy, but on set, it was no laughing matter. Apparently, Cary Grant complained about everything throughout filming, mostly because he didn’t like Frank Capra’s broad comedy style. For his part, Capra wasn’t Grant’s biggest fan either. He originally wanted Bob Hope for the part. Things were already bad, but they got much worse after Pearl Harbour. The studio shut down production after the attack, meaning that Grant couldn’t reshoot scenes he hated. In the end, it all made Arsenic Grant’s least favorite film.
44. He was Witty
Grant’s public and private personas were two extremely different things, and he knew it. When an interviewer told him that “Everyone would like to be Cary Grant,” he quickly replied, “I’d like to be Cary Grant, too!”
45. He Eluded the Censors
Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious made cinema history by extravagantly flouting the Hays Code’s strict rules for “moral filmmaking.” Instead of playing by the rules and limiting kisses to just three second long (boo!), Hitchcock, Grant, and Bergman came up with an ingenious way to defy the prudish code. In the movie, Grant and Bergman give each other multiple kisses, halting each one at the three second mark before nibbling each other’s ears and necks, and then resuming more of their many three second kiss.
Thanks to their tactics, the kissing scene in Notorious ended up becoming Hollywood’s most erotic on-screen smooch for many, many years.
46. He was a Loyal Friend
When Ingrid Bergman’s affair with Roberto Rossellini became public, she was scorned by politicians, preachers, moviegoers, and Hollywood alike—with the exception of Cary Grant. While everybody else was busy making her out to be public enemy #1, Grant kept in touch with the actress and was there to protect her from the press when she came back to Hollywood.
Knowing that she was also struggling for money, he then got her cast in his film Indiscreet and made sure that she got a percentage of the receipts. He even used his connections with Christian Dior to get her a stellar wardrobe for the film. Now that’s a friend!
47. He had a Brush with Death
Shortly after filming Notorious, all Grant’s years of indulgent drinking finally caught up with him. In 1948, he contracted a serious case of jaundice and hepatitis. His health was so horrendous that doctors gave him a terrifyingly slim chance of survival, at just 10%. Somehow, Grant made it through, though it took him six long months to feel well again.
48. Producers Would Do Anything for Him
RKO’s manager Charle Koerner was so desperate to make a movie starring Cary Grant that he would do anything to sweeten the pot. When he heard that Grant liked a book called None But the Lonely Heart, he immediately bought the rights to turn the novel into a movie. With that done, he called up a director and Grant, prepared to get the film going. As Koerner asked Grant to sum up the plot, his dreams were dashed. Grant simply said, “”I haven’t read it. A friend of mine told me he thought it good. That’s all I know about it.” Ha! Even so, Koerner’s ruse worked and the movie got made.
49. Men Wanted to be Him…
When Cary Grant signed on to play Cole Porter in Day & Night, Hollywood collectively went “…what?” The truth was that Grant and Porter couldn’t look more different, with one of Porter’s friends asking him why he didn’t ask for someone like Fred Astaire to play him instead. In response, Porter quipped, “If they wanted Cary Grant to play you in a movie, would you complain?”
50. And Women Wanted to be With him
While on the set of 1957’s The Pride and the Passion, Cary Grant got entangled in a legendarily tragic love story. He fell madly in love with his co-star, the Italian beauty Sophia Loren, and begged her to take him to bed—even though he was married to Wife Number Three at the time. At first, Loren accepted Grant’s advances, but then she dealt him an absolutely cold-hearted betrayal.
51. He had a Passionate Affair
During much of the time she was with Cary Grant, Loren was already planning to marry Italian film producer Carlo Ponti. After getting what she wanted from the star, Loren quickly left Grant in the cold. For his part, Grant never quite got over Loren. He often described her as one of the most passionate romances of his entire life.
52. He Found a New Love
Who was the unlucky third wheel in the affair between Sophia Loren and Cary Grant? That dubious honor goes to Betsy Drake, an actress and screenwriter who married Grant in 1949, when she was 26 and he was a whopping 45 years old. While the couple stayed married for over 12 years, their time together was TUR-BU-LENT. Strap in, and away we go.
53. But He Didn’t Treat her Well
At first, things went great for Grant and Drake. Her wealthy older husband supported her burgeoning career as an actress. Grant got her roles as his co-star in two movies and a TV show, but for whatever reason, fame never came knocking for Drake. Soon enough, the marriage got rocky. Grant began to distance himself from Drake, even putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on his office for days at a time. If Drake violated the sign, Grant would become furious. And it only gets worse, people.
54. His Bride Nearly Died
When Grant had his affair with Sophia Loren, Drake was justifiably upset. She stormed out of their accommodations in Europe and caught an ocean liner back to the USA, only for, I kid you not, the boat to crash into another vessel and begin to sink. Drake managed to survive the crash, but when she learned about the next betrayal Grant had in store for her, she might have wished she’d gone down with the ship.
55. He Betrayed his Wife
After Sophia Loren dumped Cary Grant, he went crawling back to his wife Betsy and used his trademark charm to patch things up. In the end, Drake took him back and as a sign of how much she loved him, she even wrote a movie for them to star in together. Grant signed on to the picture and promptly gave the love interest role to…guess who? Sophia Loren. Ice cold, Cary, ice cold.
56. He Could be Vain
When Cary Grant and Loretta Young shot The Bishop’s Wife, neither one would budge about only having their “good side” filmed. Because one scene had to be framed very specifically, their demands made production a nightmare, until MGM head Samuel Goldwyn visited the set. When he saw Grant and Young making a fuss, he nipped their diva behavior in the bud. He said, “Look, if I’m only getting half a face, you’re only getting half a salary!” Grant and Young played nice after that.
57. He had Bad Habits
After all Grant’s philandering, it’s not too surprising that he and Drake eventually called it quits in 1962. But before they split, Drake introduced her hubby to his new passion: Hypnotism. Yup, under Drake’s tutelage, Grant was hypnotized into sleeping better and quitting smoking. Before then, he’d enjoy up to 60 cigarettes in a single day. But hypnotism is nothing compared to the other thing Drake got her husband hooked on.
58. He Loved LSD
By the 1950s, Grant was a huge star, but he was still plagued by his traumatic childhood. When yoga and other conventional methods failed, his wife Betsy Drake, suggested that he go from zero to 100 and ditch meditation for literal LSD. Grant took to the drug quickly. He credited the hallucinogen with helping him understand the negative impact of his mother’s disappearance and why all of his marriages had failed.
59. He Spread The Word
After falling hard and fast for LSD, Grant decided to tell the world about his passion for acid. He called up Good Housekeeping magazine and raved about taking 100 trips, saying doctors had prescribed it for his “prolonged emotional detachment” issues. According to Grant, LSD was amazing. One trip saw Grant hallucinate that he was an enormous dong blasting off into space. Honestly–I couldn’t make that up if I tried.
60. He Made Enemies
In 1953, Grant decided to retire from acting and he wasn’t shy about his reasons for doing so. An, um, energetic interview, featured Grant lambasting modern method actors. He said he had no respect for Marlon Brando or “that God-awful James Dean. Some producer should cast all three of them in the same movie and let them duke it out. When they’ve finished each other off, James Stewart, Spencer Tracy, and I will return and start making real movies again.”
61. He was a Comeback King
Despite his mouthy comments about never starring in movies again, Grant went back on his word. He came out of retirement to make To Catch a Thief with Alfred Hitchcock and Grace Kelly…and ended up acting for another 11 years after that. He made his most famous movie, North by Northwest, in that time frame, but to book the part, Grant would have to hurt one of his closest friends.
62. He Stole a Role from a Friend
Jimmy Stewart collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock on four different films, but the director blamed him for the initially poor reception of Vertigo. When it came time to film 1959’s North by Northwest, Hitchcock knew he wanted to use a different actor. On the other hand, Hitchcock really didn’t want to disappoint Stewart, so he did what any adult would do: Avoid the problem. Hitchcock delayed filming until Stewart was no longer available and cast Cary Grant instead.
Other sources claim Hitchcock used another excuse: He told Stewart he looked too old for the role, then hired Cary Grant…who was four years older than Stewart.
63. He Made Heads Turn
The United Nations Building in New York City had a strict policy against allowing movies to shoot on its grounds, and it was off-limits even to Hitchcock when he was filming North by Northwest. To compensate, Hitchcock had the studio build a model of the lobby for the interior scenes and set up hidden cameras across the street for exterior shots. Obviously, Hitchcock couldn’t officially hire extras, so the people in those scenes were real people who just happened to walk into the shot. Eagle-eyed viewers might even notice one passerby doing a double take when Cary Grant walks past him.
64. He Had Moves
For her big kissing scene with Cary Grant in North by Northwest, Eva Marie Saint confessed that she had just one thing on her mind—not stepping on his toes. As it turned out, Grant got so involved in the kissing scene that he ended up falling off a ladder. Thankfully he didn’t get hurt, and as an added bonus, they got to do it again. It sounds like Grant knew what he was doing. Saint later said, “It’s a good thing I am happily married.”
65. He Was a Brutal Husband
It didn’t take long for Cary Grant to fall for another beautiful woman, and his fiery affair with TV star Dyan Cannon was no different. The duo were married between 1965 and 1968 and as usual, when it ended, it got messy. Cannon alleged that Grant was an “apostle of LSD.” He’d pressure her to take the hallucinogen and try to control her schedule and outfits. According to Cannon, Grant would fly into rages and even spank his wife if she didn’t follow his orders. In other words, their marriage was a mess, but thankfully, it had one major silver lining.
66. His Movie Made a Big Mistake
Here’s a good TIL for the next time you find yourself in an awkward silence. The charming Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn movie Charade has always been freely available thanks to a major goof. When Universal Studios released the film, they forgot to copyright it. It’s been in the public domain ever since 1963, the same year that it was released. So the next time you mess up at your job, just be thankful you weren’t the guy who forgot to copyright a multi-million dollar movie.
67. His Whole Life Changed
In 1966, something took place that changed Grant’s entire focus and made him decide to give up acting once and for all. That something was the birth of his daughter Jennifer by his fourth wife Dyan Cannon. At 62 years old, Grant hung up his hat and devoted the last 20 years of his life to her. He was known to take her everywhere he went and he would keep a camera on him at all times to document their time together.
Grant also kept every note and letter that they wrote to each other, putting them in a fireproof vault in his house to make sure they were kept safe for when she was older.
68. He was a Devoted Father
Looking back on her childhood, Jennifer Grant recalls a time when her father rented a house in the neighborhood she was trick-or-treating in for the sole purpose of seeing her and being able to give her candy. Like most kids, she was slightly embarrassed at the time by his extreme devotion—but admits to wishing now that she’d thanked him for everything he did.
69. He was Finicky
How’s this for diva behavior? While staying at the Plaza hotel, Grant was annoyed to find that he’d only received 1.5 English Muffins for breakfast. The aggrieved star called then-owner Conrad Hilton for an explanation. He was told it was a matter of efficiency, as the hotel had found most people only ate three out of four halves—but that didn’t satisfy Grant.
As a result of the incident, the hotel changed its policy and started serving two full English muffins. Now that’s a good use of power.
70. He was Generous…When he Felt Like it
Ever the cheapskate, Grant was not a big believer in required gift-giving and even refused to give gifts at Christmas. However, he could be very generous with his friends and family when the mood struck him. Grant was known to buy sudden and unexpected gifts, such as a sable coat for ex-wife Dyan Cannon. But bear in mind, he only bought it as an olive branch after their incredibly nasty divorce.
71. He had a Bad Romance
Cary Grant seems to have had a thing for messy relationships, but despite everything we’ve already covered, nothing compares to his tryst with actress Cynthia Bouron. She claimed that Grant was the father of her baby and even took the matter to court. Grant didn’t believe that was true and demanded Bouron to prove it with a blood test. He asked to be tested three different times…only for Bouron to dodge him. And then the truth came out.
72. Was he the Father?
It turns out that Bouron knew all along that Grant wasn’t the real father. She’d actually found a man who looked like Grant and had a baby with him, hoping to trick Grant into acknowledging the infant. When Bouron failed to cooperate with Grant’s request for a blood test, the court had to drop the case. Cary Grant: He was so smooth on screen, and so, so messy in real life.
73. He Lost a Dear Friend
When Grant’s To Catch a Thief co-star Grace Kelly tragically died in a car crash in 1982, he travelled to Monaco to attend her funeral. The service was televised, which meant that the world could see how much Kelly’s loss affected Grant. He cried throughout the funeral.
74. He was a Glutton for Punishment
When asked about his numerous marriages, Grant admitted that each one was more difficult to endure than the last, and that he was “rather a fool for punishment.” Regarding all his romantic failures, a saddened Grant simply said, “I never left any of my wives. They all left me. They got bored with me, I guess, tired of me. I really don’t know.” But as they say, it isn’t over til it’s over…
75. He Finally Got it Right
In 1979, Grant finally met the right woman: His beloved last wife, Barbara Harris. The couple met at a hotel where Harris worked and despite their intense age gap (Harris was 47 [!] years younger than Grant), the pair stayed married until Grant’s death.
76. He had the Last Laugh
Even as a senior citizen, Cary Grant had razor sharp wit. A famous anecdote describes how a magazine needed to confirm his age for an article. They sent Grant a telegram that read, “HOW OLD CARY GRANT?” Grant immediately replied, “OLD CARY GRANT FINE. HOW YOU?”
77. He Kept Up Appearances
Despite his inner turmoil, Grant always took pains to make sure to keep up his outside appearance. He never let his weight get above 180 pounds, he maintained his tan all year round, and he wore very little makeup on screen. Whatever he was doing, it worked. Grant played a literal teenager when he was 40 years old and kept his good looks right into old age!
78. He Made Fashion History
Cary Grant was a stylish man, but his high point has to be the famous suit he wears in North by Northwest. Fashion experts have called the best suit in film history, with the grey ensemble inspiring outfits in movies like Collateral and Paycheck. Heck, it even inspired a short story that retells North by Northwest from the suit’s perspective. Sounds…gripping?
79. His Health Declined
Even when Cary Grant entered his 80s, he showed no signs of slowing down. The iconic actor traveled around America, screening segments of his films and fielding questions as part of a show called A Conversation with Cary Grant. However, on November 29, 1986, Grant began to feel under the weather. Right before the show started, he suddenly ran back stage and asked to see a doctor.
80. He was Gone, but Never Forgotten
As soon as the doctor investigated Grant’s symptoms, he knew what was happening: The legendary star was having a massive stroke. Even though the doctors begged Grant to go to a hospital, he refused. In the process, he made a terrible mistake. Grant fell into a coma and by the time he finally went to the hospital, it was too late. The 82-year-old movie star died at 11:22PM.
81. He was Classy to the End
Towards the end of his life, a reporter asked Cary Grant what he thought his epitaph should be. Grant, as always, knew exactly what to say. He replied, “He was lucky–and he knew it.” When the time came for his burial, Grant’s family followed his wishes. His body was cremated and there was no funeral, exactly as he had requested in his will. Grant’s loved ones spread his ashes in the Pacific Ocean.
82. He Had Mommy Issues
When Grant was 31 years old, his father Elias became terribly ill. As he lay on his deathbed, he finally told his son his darkest secret. Grant’s mother Elsie wasn’t dead, and she definitely wasn’t at a “seaside resort.” Instead, she’d been alive the whole time, locked up in a lunatic asylum. Grant’s father had placed her there so that he could pursue a new bride. Horrified, Grant immediately travelled to England to get his mother out of the asylum. It took a while for her to recover from the trauma of being locked up, but she and Grant became very close.
83. His Life Wasn’t Easy
When Grant looked back on his father’s lies, he sadly said that by the time he got her out, “My name was changed and I was a full-grown man living in America.” It felt cruel and unjust that Cary Grant was “known to most people of the world by sight and by name, yet not to my mother.”