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CELEBRATING CARY GRANT, THE COOL, SEXY EVERYMAN WHO REMAINS A FIGURE OF MYSTERY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was graceful and virile; fall-down funny and reflective; eloquent and mute.

He was Cary Grant, the impossibly handsome, enigmatic superstar who enjoyed decades of adulation and never, ever, went out of style. It was virtually impossible to resist his warmth and his cool, and if there were things he wished to keep private, so be it. (He didn't seem to be keeping secrets from Katharine Hepburn, shown above in "Holiday.")

The fact is that this deprived but determined cockney kid tenaciously honed his skills in English music halls and eventually polished them to perfection in Hollywood. Before long, it was clear to the movie moguls that American and world-wide audiences could not get enough of the unceasingly amusing, infinitely charismatic Cary Grant. The public fell in love with him and remained faithful to the end.

That's why The Brooklyn Academy of Music is paying tribute to Grant with an ambitious retrospective which runs from August 3 through August 20. And that's also why the Academy will unreel a second installment of the series in 2010, featuring an entirely different selection of Grant goodies.

Below, courtesy of BAM, a roundup of films in the current series. For full details--plus a link to Mike Hale’s sharp analysis of the Grant mystique in The New York Times--click here.

And, oh yes, did I manage to pry any secrets from Grant in my 1973 New York Times interview with him? To find out, click here. --GUY FLATLEY

 

BLONDE VENUS
1932

Directed by Josef von Sternberg
Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall, Cary Grant, Dickie Moore, Gene Morgan, Rita La Roy, Robert Emmett O’Connor, Sidney Toler, Morgan Wallace, Clarence Muse, Al Bridge, Cecil Cunningham, Bess Flowers, Mary Gordon, Sterling Holloway, Hattie McDaniel, Dewey Robinson, Kent Taylor

Grant's first leading role is this outlandish Dietrich/von Sternberg pre-code gem. When an American scientist (Herbert Marshall) suffers chemical poisoning, his former-showgirl wife retakes the German nightclub stage to foot the medical bills, seducing a foolhardy playboy (Grant) along the way. Get ready for fireworks when hubby finally recovers!

I’M NO ANGEL
1933

Directed by Wesley Ruggles
With Mae West, Cary Grant, Gregory Ratoff, Edward Arnold, Ralph Harolde, Kent Taylor, Gertrude Michael, Libby Taylor, Hattie McDaniel, Dennis O’Keefe, Nat Pendleton, Irving Pichel

"Some of the lines in this precode production are still jaw-droppers..." —Chicago Reader "A story about a gal who lost her reputation - and never missed it!"

Mae West wrote and starred in this tale of two NYC socialites’ (Grant and Kent Taylor) backstabbing love affair with a circus sideshow starlet. Censors balked at the leading duo's steamy banter, as innuendos fly from the big top to Park Avenue to the marital courtroom!

LADIES SHOULD LISTEN
1934

Directed by Frank Tuttle
With Cary Grant, Frances Drake, Edward Everett Horton, Rosita Moreno, George Barbier, Nydia Westman, Charles Ray, Charles Arnt, Rafael Storm, Ann Sheridan

This breezy early-career rarity has a Lubitsch-ian premise: a dapper bachelor narrowly dodges a gold digger, her brooding husband, and a swooning heiress, all thanks to an eavesdropping switchboard operator with romantic aims of her own. Features a rare Grant singing number!

BORN TO BE BAD
1934

Directed by Lowell Sherman
With Loretta Young, Cary Grant, Jackie Kelk, Marion Burns, Henry Travers, Paul Harvey, Russell Hopton, Mary Forbes, Etienne Girardot

A determined con-woman sees a goldmine when a wealthy entrepreneur (you know who…) bumps her smart-aleck son with his truck. Mother and son hatch a dual adoption/seduction scheme, only to become inspired by the charitable ways of their target. Grant hints at the innocent charm of his A-list screwball roles.

BIG BROWN EYES
1936

Directed by Raoul Walsh
With Cary Grant, Joan Bennett, Walter Pidgeon, Lloyd Nolan, Alan Baxter, Marjorie Gateson, Isabel Jewell, Joe Sawyer, Edwin Maxwell, Jinx Falkenburg

Grant is a distracted gumshoe trailing some jewel thieves. Feeling neglected, Danny's gal leaves her manicurist gig for the crime reporting beat, only to realize that a little nail salon gossip can crack the case and win back her man! This fun little oddity, equal parts screwball and B-cop flick, features a bizarre ventriloquist act by Grant!

TOPPER
1937

Directed by Norman Z. McLeod
With Constance Bennett, Cary Grant, Roland Young, Billie Burke, Alan Mowbray, Eugene Pallette, Arthur Lake, Hedda Hopper, Virginia Sale, Theodore von Eltz, J. Farrell MacDonald, Elaine Shepard, Doodles Weaver, Si Jenks, Three Hits and a Miss, Irving Bacon, Clem Bevans, Betty Blythe, Ward Bond, Hoagy Carmichael, Clair Du Brey, Bess Flowers, Grace Hayle, Martha Tilton, Lana Turner

"A frightfully funny mix of special effects and languid humour." —Channel 4 Film

A young couple (Grant & Bennett) awaken after a boozy night out to discover they've died and gone to limbo! Forced to perform a good deed before entering the pearly gates, the pair attempt to stir a henpecked financier out of his humdrum marriage, setting the stage for plenty of ghoulish screwball pratfalls!

THE AWFUL TRUTH
1937

Directed by Leo McCarey
With Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy, Alex D’Arcy, Cecil Cunningham, Molly Lamont, Esther Ralston, Joyce Compton, Robert Warwick, Mary Forbes, Al Bridge, Bess Flowers

Leo McCarey's largely improvised 1937 film is one of the funniest of the screwball comedies, and also one of the most serious at heart." —The Chicago Reader

With their marriage on the rocks, Grant and Dunne push hilarity to new heights as they bicker and outsmart each other along the road to spousal recovery. Director McCarey won an Oscar and is often credited with fine-tuning Grant's onscreen persona in this uproarious, career-defining role, which earned him true superstar status.

HOLIDAY
1938

Directed by George Cukor
With Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Doris Nolan, Lew Ayres, Edward Everett Horton, Henry Kolker, Binne Barnes, Jean Dixon, Henry Daniell

"Marvellous 'sophisticated comedy' about a prototype dropout (Grant in one of his best performances) who takes a rich upper class family by storm." —Time Out

The second classic Grant/Hepburn/Cukor collaborations follows a pleasure-seeker who marries a millionaire's daughter to bankroll his job-free frolics, only to fall for her quirky sister. Late-Depression escapism at its finest. Watch Grant showcases his vaudeville roots in the acrobatic finale!

ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS
1939

Directed by Howard Hawks
With Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Richard Barthelmess, Rita Hayworth, Thomas Mitchell, Allyn Joslyn, Sig Ruman, Victor Kilian, Don “Red” Barry, John Carroll, Noah Beery Jr., Robert Sterling, Rafael Storm


"The richest of the Howard Hawks flyboy dramas is the granddaddy of all wisecracking daredevil robo-action flicks; it stars none other than Cary Grant in an unexpectedly heroic mode." —Village Voice

Grant gives one of his greatest performances in perhaps Howard Hawks' most poignant film: a stolid airmail pilot (Grant) must grapple with a colleague's death, an enchanting singer (Arthur)'s arrival, and a former lover's untimely reappearance, all while navigating the stormy South American skies.

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY
1940

Directed by George Cukor
With Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, John Holliday, Mary Nash, Virginia Weidler, Henry Daniell, Lionel Pape, Rex Evans, Hillary Brooke, Hilda Plowright, Joseph Sweeney, Helene Whitney

“The wit still sparkles; the ambivalent attitude towards the rich and idle is still resonant; and the moments between Stewart and Hepburn, drunk and flirty on the moonlit terrace, tingle with a real, if rarely explicit, eroticism." —Time Out

Grant, Stewart, and Howard all jockey for position as the object of an old-money socialite (Hepburn)'s affection amidst the tumult of her high-society wedding weekend. A timeless rom-com masterpiece with an impeccable cast.

SUSPICION
1941

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
With Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce, Dame May Whitty, Isabel Jeans, Heather Angel, Reginald Sheffield, Leo G. Carroll, Billy Bevan, Rex Evans, Lumsden Hare, Gavin Gordon, Alfred Hitchcock, Doris Lloyd, Hilda Plowright

"Grant gives what is perhaps the finest of his many great performances for Hitchcock: required to play two different, completely contradictory characters simultaneously, he never cheats or flattens out, but plays in magnificent, mysterious depth." —Chicago Reader

Grant is a charmer with a nefarious past in this cliffhanger classic, his first of four Hitchcock roles. Fontaine's demure country girl absconds with the new stranger in town, but the honeymoon quickly fades as his shady intentions become apparent...or do they? Grant's chilling performance remains one of his most nuanced and the film boasts one of cinema’s finest ambiguous endings.

PENNY SERENADE
1941

Directed by George Stevens
With Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Beulah Bondi, Edgar Buchanan, Ann Doran, Dorothy Adams, Baby Jane Biffle

"Grant could hardly have been better. Using his dark eyes and his sensuous, clouded handsomeness as a romantic mask, he gave his role a defensive, not quite forthright quality, and he brought out everything it was possible to bring out of his warmed-over lines, weighing them perfectly, so that they almost seemed felt." —Pauline Kael

Dunne and Grant are a couple unable to conceive and whose difficulties adopting threaten to destroy their marriage in this classic melodrama. Through flashbacks, Dunne reminisces about their relationship, her memories triggered by songs from their record collection, as she contemplates divorce. A showcase for Grant's serious side, Penny Serenade is a certified three-tissue Hollywood weepy.

THE TALK OF THE TOWN
1942

Directed by George Stevens
With Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Ronald Colman, Edgar Buchanan, Glenda Farrell, Charles Dingle, Emma Dunn, Rex Ingram, Leonid Kinskey, Tom Tyler, Don Beddoe, Al Bridge, Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Brooks, Dewey Robinson, Dan Seymour

"An attractive serio-comic tale of civic corruption." —Time Out

In this socially-conscious love triangle, an activist- turned-prison-escapee (Grant) holes up with a former classmate (Arthur), just as a famous lawyer (Colman) arrives to spend the summer at her home. Grant deftly handles an unconventional role, shifting seamlessly from screwball comedy to gentle romance to political pathos.

MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE
1948

Directed by H.C. Potter
With Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas, Reginald Denny, Sharyn Moffett, Connie Marshall, Louise Beavers, Ian Wolfe, Jason Robards Sr., Nestor Paiva, Lurene Tuttle, Lex Baker, Emory Parnell, Will Wright

"A classic, beautifully acted Hollywood comedy." —Channel 4 Film

The Connecticut fixer-upper proves untamable for two young Manhattanites (Grant & Loy) as they bumble through a litany of real estate mishaps in this post-war suburbanization farce. Rosy idealism, unruly commutes, and even canned pork are milked for laughs well before they became staples of 1950s middle-class life

PEOPLE WILL TALK
1951

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
With Cary Grant, Jeanne Crain, Finlay Curie, Hume Cronyn, Walter Slezak, Sidney Blackmer, Basil Ruysdael, Katherine Locke, Bess Flowers, Margaret Hamilton, Jack Kelly

"...there are pungent swipes at tax evasion and the crass materialism of the postwar boom. The fact that Mankiewicz can contain all this within the context of a romantic comedy testifies to his immense sophistication, and Grant's performance is one of his very best." —Time Out

Dr. Noah Praetorious' alluring bedside manner incites the jealous gossip of his peers…falling in love with a pregnant young patient only adds fuel to the fire! Mankiewicz's oft-overlooked follow-up to All About Eve features a magnificent performance by Grant in one of his subtlest, most restrained roles.

TO CATCH A THIEF
1955

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
With Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis, John Williams, Charles Vanel, Brigitte Auber, Jean Martinelli, Georgette Anys, Bess Flowers, Steven Geray, Alfred Hitchcock, Leonard Penn

"Simply as a sample of Hollywood refreshment, it's a smashing product, with acres of sensation on display for audience consumption—from Cary Grant's bronzed, middle-aged elegance to a dozen travelogues' worth of paradisiacal French vistas." —Slant Magazine

Grant and Kelly outwit and out-burgle one another all over the French Riviera in this picture-postcard caper, one of Hitchcock's lightest, sexiest films. A Technicolor feast for the eyes, with eye-popping, Oscar-nominated location cinematography from Robert Burks.

THAT TOUCH OF MINK
1962

Directed by Delbert Mann
With Cary Grant, Doris Day, Gig Young, Audrey Meadows, Alan Hewitt, John Astin, Dick Sargent, Joey Faye, John Fiedler, Willard Sage, Laurie Mitchell Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Jack Livesey

"Romantic sex comedy beautifully photographed by Metty... benefits from, not only a strong support cast (Young, Meadows and Astin), but Grant and Day's delightful on-screen partnership." —Channel 4 Film

An aging womanizer finally meets his match in a wholesome small-town girl who won't go near the bedroom 'til she's tied the knot…no matter how much he lavishes her with gifts! Day's coy naiveté delightfully balances Grant in the final playboy role of his career. Yankees fans take note: Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Yogi Berra all have cameos in a "House That Ruth Built" dugout scene!

And, with luck, Part 2 of the Cary Grant Lovefest will bring us BRINGING UP BABY, GUNGA DIN, IN NAME ONLY, HIS GIRL FRIDAY, MY FAVORITE WIFE, MR. LUCKY, NONE BUT THE LONELY HEART, NOTORIOUS, I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE, CRISIS, MONKEY BUSINESS, INDISCREET, NORTH BY NORTHWEST and CHARADE.