The “Monthly Celebrity” for this month is Cary Grant.
Once told by an interviewer, “Everybody would like to be Cary Grant”, Grant is said to have replied, “So would I.”
Cary Grant was born Archibald Alexander Leach on January 18, 1904 in Horfield, Bristol, England, to Elsie Maria (Kingdon) and Elias James Leach, who worked in a factory. His early years in Bristol would have been an ordinary lower-middle-class childhood, except for one extraordinary event. At age nine, he came home from school one day and was told his mother had gone off to a seaside resort. However, the real truth was that she had been placed in a mental institution, where she would remain for years, and he was never told about it (he would not see his mother again until he was in his late 20s).
He left school at age 14, lying about his age and forging his father’s signature on a letter to join Bob Pender’s troupe of knockabout comedians. He learned pantomime as well as acrobatics as he toured with the Pender troupe in the English provinces, picked up a Cockney accent in the music halls in London, and then in July 1920, was one of the eight Pender boys selected to go to the United States. Their show on Broadway, “Good Times”, ran for 456 performances, giving Grant time to acclimatize. He would stay in America. Mae West wanted Grant for She Done Him Wrong (1933) because she saw his combination of virility, sexuality and the aura and bearing of a gentleman. Grant was young enough to begin the new career of fatherhood when he stopped making movies at age 62.
One biographer said Grant was alienated by the new realism in the film industry. In the 1950s and early 1960s, he had invented a man-of-the-world persona and a style – “high comedy with polished words”. In To Catch a Thief (1955), he and Grace Kelly were allowed to improvise some of the dialogue. They knew what the director, Alfred Hitchcock, wanted to do with a scene, they rehearsed it, put in some clever double entendres that got past the censors, and then the scene was filmed. His biggest box-office success was another Hitchcock 1950s film, North by Northwest (1959) made with Eva Marie Saint since Kelly was by that time Princess of Monaco.
Although Grant retired from the screen, he remained active. He accepted a position on the board of directors at Faberge. By all accounts this position was not honorary, as some had assumed. Grant regularly attended meetings and traveled internationally to support them. The position also permitted use of a private plane, which Grant could use to fly to see his daughter wherever her mother Dyan Cannon, was working. He later joined the boards of Hollywood Park, the Academy of Magical Arts (The Magic Castle – Hollywood, California), Western Airlines (acquired by Delta Airlines in 1987) and MGM.
Grant expressed no interest in making a career comeback. He was in good health until almost the end of his life, when he suffered a mild stroke in October 1984. In his last years, he undertook tours of the United States in a one-man-show, “A Conversation with Cary Grant”, in which he would show clips from his films and answer audience questions. On November 29, 1986, Cary Grant died at age 82 of a cerebral hemorrhage in Davenport, Iowa.
In 1999, the American Film Institute named Grant the second male star of Golden Age of Hollywood cinema (after Humphrey Bogart). Grant was known for comedic and dramatic roles; his best-known films include Bringing Up Baby (1938), De bronzen godin (1940), His Girl Friday (1940), Arsenicum en oude kant (1944), Notorious (1946), An Affair to Remember (1957), North by Northwest (1959) and Charade (1963).
Work in progress
Monthly Celebrity September 2017, Notorious
Charcoal, ink and white chalk on colored paper
15 x 21 cm
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