Monday, December 06, 2010
Cary Grant was the personification of the self-made man: a one-time child acrobat who had transformed himself into the sophisticated and urbane ideal of men and women throughout the world.
The career that brought him two Oscar nominations ("Penny Serenade," 1941, "None But the Lonely Heart," 1944) and finally a special Oscar in 1970 for "sheer brilliance" began with one desperately simple desire: to get out of Bristol, England.
Virtually from the beginning, when he proved a straight foil for Mae West and then caught his stride in the light comedies of the late 1930s, turning roles for Cary Grant into Cary Grant roles, he magically plied his craft, entertaining his public with interwoven reserve, humor and lightly smoldering charm.
From nasty con man in "Sylvia Scarlett" to absent-minded scientist in "Bringing Up Baby," from rough-hewn city editor in "His Girl Friday" to charming fortune hunter in "Suspicion," from cool counterspy in "Notorious" to reformed cat burglar in "To Catch a Thief," he was the enticing, civilized gentleman women dreamed of for five decades.
But there was more to Cary Grant than that, a thoughtful side that expressed itself in "None But the Lonely Heart," a somber 1944 film reminiscent of his English childhood. But Grant, too, saw the limits of what his audience wanted, and with few exceptions he gave them just that.
"I enjoyed making "None But the Lonely Heart," but it was accepted by the critics, not the public," he later said. "They wanted me to make them laugh.
"I remember this absolutely marvelous feeling when a great laugh went up at something I had done or, even better, at something I had added myself. I felt so good. All the people at that moment had forgotten all their troubles. . . . Perhaps just a twist of my head sets them off."
But he rankled at criticism that he actually played only one role—Cary Grant.
"I've often been accused by the critics of being myself on the screen," he said. "But being one's self is more difficult than you'd suppose. Anyway, who else would I be? Marlon Brando?"
— Cathleen Decker in the Los Angeles Times Dec. 1, 1986