Rumors about Cary Grant’s sexual preferences did and still do swirl about the life of this classic of all classic movie actors. Was he strictly heterosexual? Was he bisexual? Was he a closeted gay man?
Given the pleasure Grant has provided so many over a 34-year career comprising 77 movies, should we care?
We don’t especially, but we were intrigued by a short anecdote that opens a chatty and informative book written by veteran publicist Leonard Morpurgo, Of Kings and Queens and Movie Stars: True Revelations of a Hollywood Publicist! (Global Book Publishers, 2009).
Like many in his trade, Morpurgo did much more than just publicize his clients. He also functioned as event organizer, schmoozer to the stars and general all around handler. Publicists can get very close to their charges — sometimes too close — and glean all sorts of personal information best kept (at least for the star involved) private.
Morpurgo worked for the major studios operating for a long time out of various European capitals. In 1965, he reports, he received a call in Paris from Columbia Pictures in New York asking him to attend to one of their biggest star clients — a recently married Cary Grant who was about to headline (as a British industrial magnate) in his last movie, the studio’s upcoming romantic comedy with Samantha Eggar and Jim Hutton, Walk Don’t Run.
(The movie isn’t very good. Skip it.)
Before making the picture, the 61-year-old former Archie Leach had wanted to take a European trip to visit his 90-year-old mother living in his home town of Bristol, England. Then, it was off to Paris for a honeymoon with the actor’s fresh 28-year-old bride, actress Dyan Cannon.
She was Grant’s fourth spouse.
His first marriage, lasting a year, was to actress Virginia Cherrill. Then came a three-year-union with socialite-heiress Barbara Hutton followed by a marriage to actress Betsy Drake, the longest of Grant’s five trips to the altar, lasting 13 years. Grant’s wife No. 5 was Barbara Grant, who stayed with him until his death in 1986 at age 82.
What fueled the Hollywood gossip mills were the in-between years when Grant shared a house with a male companion, actor Randolph Scott.
What surprised Morpurgo about Columbia’s request concerning Grant’s visit was that it stipulated that my job would be to avoid publicity at all costs. He was told to just do whatever he asks and stay with him as long as he needs you.
Morpurgo did just that. He met the couple at the airport, installed them in a second floor apartment that was high-ceilinged and spacious, with a fireplace in the living room and ruigs scattered on the hardwood floor.
Grant told Morpurgo he and his bride would be staying in Paris for only four days, and asked that the publicist be with them at all times.
Morpurgo was puzzled. Why would they want a third person traipsing along?
He concluded that besides having the services of an assistant — making reservations in restaurants and such — Grant was uncomfortable alone with Dyan. He saw her as a child bride and had married her for only one reason – to provide him with his first (and only) progeny. The couple’s daughter, Jennifer, was born nine months later, Morpurgo noted.
Turns out that he had met Grant a few years before their Paris encounter, on the London set of Stanley Donen’s The Grass Is Greener costarring Jean Simmons, Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum.
During a dressing room chat with Grant back then, he remarked on the way I was holding my hands folded together.
‘You know, that’s a very good sign about your character. It shows that you are a properly balanced person — equal part male and female.’
Later Morpurgo wondered if Grant was inferring I could be bisexual… I wasn’t. (But) it does seem to indicate Cary’s own sexual interests.