Cary Grant was born Archibald Alexander Leach on January 18, 1904. But before becoming the charming actor with the delightful accent, this legend of classic Hollywood had to climb the ladder all the way up from his early days as a vaudeville entertainer. In his youth, Grant worked any job he could get in the entertainment biz – from street mime to stilt walker to the stages of Broadway in several musicals. In 1931, still using his birth name Archie Leach, he traveled to Hollywood where he signed with Paramount Pictures who promptly assisted in changing his name to Cary Grant.
Appearing opposite two of the biggest female stars of early Hollywood – Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus (1932) and Mae West in both She Done Him Wrong (1933) and I’m No Angel (1933) – helped launch Grant into stardom. Grant’s run with Paramount ended in 1936, when he signed with Columbia Pictures. After starring in The Awful Truth (1937), Grant became the most sought after actor for comedic leading roles. Over the next four years, Grant would star in many classic screwball and romantic comedies including Holiday (1938), Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Philadelphia Story (1940) – all three of which were opposite Katherine Hepburn – His Girl Friday (1940), and My Favorite Wife (1940). In the same four years, he starred in several more dramatic films including the action/adventure Gunga Din (1939), Penny Serenade (1941, for which he received his first Academy Award nomination), and Suspicion (1941), his first collaboration with director Alfred Hitchcock. The two would go on to make three more classics, including Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955), and North By Northwest (1959). Grant would receive his second Oscar nomination for None But the Lonely Heart (1944). Grant was one of the most versatile actors of all time, known mostly for his comedic and dramatic performances, the debonair actor was also a favorite for romantic leading roles, including films like An Affair to Remember (1957) and Father Goose (1964).
In 1963, Grant starred opposite Audrey Hepburn in the Hitchcock-esque Stanley Donen film, Charade, and would retire from acting three years later following his performance in Walk, Don’t Run (1966). While he never won a competitive Oscar, Grant was honored with a special Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1970, and was later bestowed with the Kennedy Center Honors in 1981. Not too long after suffering a stroke in October of 1984, Grant sustained a cerebral hemorrhage and died on November 29, 1986, at the age of 82. He was preparing to do something he had done for his entire life: entertain.
The American Film Institute has named Cary Grant the second Greatest Male Star of All Time (behind Humphrey Bogart).
My Circuit 3 for Cary Grant:
- North by Northwest (1959)
- The Philadelphia Story (1940)
- Notorious (1946)
What are your three favorite/best Cary Grant films? You can view his entire filmography here.