Most people who know me have probably gathered that I’m just a bit fond of Johnny Depp. But today I thought I’d do a post on another favorite actor who doesn’t seem to get mentioned as often around here: Cary Grant, the dashing star of old Hollywood. Unlike Johnny, Cary played the same role in most movies…but he’s always a pleasure to watch! Here are a few favorites…
Arsenic and Old Lace is one of my all-time favorite movies. Cary plays Mortimer Brewster, who’s just found out that his two beloved aunts–who are the kindest, sweetest women you could ever want to meet–poison lonely old men as a charity. They bury the bodies in the basement with the help of Mortimer’s brother Teddy, who believes he’s Theodore Roosevelt. The stairs are always San Juan Hill (so he yells “Charge!” every time he goes up them) and he thinks he’s digging the lock in Panama in the cellar. Even more chaos ensues in the second half of the movie, when long-lost brother Jonathan shows up with a mad scientist and another body in tow. This is a wonderful black comedy, full of completely mad characters. Everyone’s funny, but it’s all worth it for Cary Grant’s double-takes alone.
Bringing Up Baby pairs Cary Grant with Katherine Hepburn. He’s a book-bound paleontologist and she’s a madcap socialite whose adventurer brother sent her a leopard named Baby. Cary gets pulled into her whirlwind, the leopard gets loose, and there’s a fantastic scene involving a dinosaur skeleton. If this suffers from anything, it’s a slightly contrived romance, but…when it’s Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, you don’t have to work very hard to contrive something. This movie gives us the textbook example of one of Cary’s two usual roles–the perpetually baffled man who’s trying keep his head up as life sweeps him to crazy places.
The Philadelphia Story gives us Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn again, but we get Cary’s other persona–the suave sophisticate who’s always charming and always in control. This was the person everyone (including Cary Grant) always wanted to be. In this movie he’s C. K. Dexter Haven, ex-husband to Katherine Hepburn’s Tracy Lord. Tracy is getting remarried, but of course complications ensue, and when you have Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart both on screen, the poor fiance becomes a relatively minor point in the story.
Stepping away from the comedies, Suspicion is one of my favorite Hitchcock movies. Joan Fontaine was so good at playing the wide-eyed ingenue, threatened by sinister forces around her. In this case, she’s afraid that her husband, played by Cary, is plotting to kill her. I love the way Hitchcock used Cary Grant’s reputation. As I said, he only really has two characters, and everyone knew that–so could he really be playing the villain this time? Hitchcock builds up the tension until you reach the point where a scene of Cary Grant carrying a glass of (maybe poisoned) milk up a flight of stairs becomes terrifying. Cary Grant! With milk! And it’s so sinister.
An Affair to Remember gives us a more dramatic role. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr meet on a cruise ship and fall in love, but they’re both engaged to other people. They vow to disentangle themselves and meet again in six months at the top of the Empire State Building…but tragedy strikes first. This is a good movie, but I must admit it’s much better if you watch Sleepless in Seattle too!
So I can’t be the only Cary Grant fan in the house…anyone else with a favorite movie? And do you prefer Suave-Cary or Baffled-Cary? 🙂