He is a classic movie icon. World famous. Legendary.
He is the best and most important actor in the history of the cinema, writes British critic David Thomson.
But how much do you really know about him? Well, let’s see if we can stump you.
But let’s get one thing out of the way first.
Rumors about Cary Grant’s sexual preferences did and still do swirl about his life story to this day. 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? (Our view? No.)
Grant certainly made his share of trips to the altar.
When he was a supremely well preserved 61-year-old, the former Archie Leach, wed a fresh-faced and saucy 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 marriages, 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.
Make of this what you will. Now, on to our Cary Grant Quiz:
1) Question: Born in Bristol, England in 1904, Grant came to America in 1920 after a stint with a British circus/carnival a) as the carnival barker; b) as a trapeze artist; c) as a clown; or d) as a tumbler.
Answer: d) a tumbler. That meant that the young, acrobatic Archie Leach was in great physical shape, something that Grant maintained for his entire professional life.
2) Question: Grant made his first Hollywood movies in the early Thirties. Which of his female costars was most instrumental in propelling his film career? a) Marlene Dietrich; b) Thelma Todd; c) Sylvia Sidney; or d) Mae West.
Answer: d) Mae West, who recounted that while walking on the Paramount lot, she spotted “a sensational-looking young man.” Told that he was Cary Grant, who hadn’t made a picture yet, West ordered that he be called over for a chat. “If he can talk, I’ll take him” as a leading man. Cary did, and so did Mae. They costarred in the hit comedies She Done Him Wrong and I’m No Angel. Grant’s career was off and running.
3) Question: Grant wasn’t upstaged in many of his movies, but he was for a particular reason in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1941 thriller Suspicion. Why? a) His costar was Joan Fontaine at the top of her career; b) Hitchcock took a dislike of Grant and undermined him in many scenes; c) Grant alienated the set technicians with fussy demands about his lighting; or d) He failed to realize that Fontaine’s part was the film’s major role.
Answer: d). For the answer we turn to Fontaine’s autobiography. His only mistake, she wrote, was not realizing that the part of Lina (the mousy wife, played by Fontaine) was the major role. It was through her eyes that the story unfolded. She had all the sympathy.
4) Question: Grant never won a best actor Oscar. a) True; or b) False?
Answer: a) True. Grant was nominated as best actor for two of his Forties titles — Penny Serenade and None But the Lonely Heart — but he never won. In 1970 he was presented with an honorary Oscar. A conclusive failure of the Oscar system, wrote British critic Thomson.
5) Question: Later in his life, Grant dabbled in drugs. a) True; or b) False.
Answer: a) True. Grant began experimenting with LSD in the 1950’s. He regarded the drug positively at first but discontinued taking it in the Sixties. Taking LSD was an utterly foolish thing to do, he said. (Grant died of a stroke in 1986 at the age of 82.)
Why have we broken with tradition and given you the questions and answers on the same day? Because, dear readers, we’re taking a little summer break and for the month of August we’ll only be posting Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But fear not! In September we’ll return to our Monday to Friday format. See you here Wednesday.