There’s our man above with a familiar costar. Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn made four pictures together including one of the most infamous box office bombs of the 1930’s.
Sylvia Scarlett is director George Cukor’s idea of a light comedy based on a novel about a girl disguised as a boy to help her errant father escape an embezzlement charge. In 1936 cross dressing was rough stuff, but Hepburn relished the part.
Producer Pandro Berman hated the picture, and was outraged that his suggestion for the Brian Aherne part — a young Errol Flynn — was summarily turned down by Hepburn.
Grant plays a cockney sharpster who manages to convince the principals to form a travelling vaudeville act. Hepburn has a romance in the picture — but it’s with with Aherne.
In any case, Sylvia Scarlett is considered the first time Grant is unleashed on film, a star as leading man with the skills of comedian who can also function as a character actor. Grant biographer Scott Eyman quotes Hepburn:
Grant’s performance in this picture was magic . He was his true self…slightly plump and full of beans. His energy was incredible, his laughter full and unguarded . Teddy Gwenn and I were his stooges.
Archie Leach’s career as Cary Grant was off and running.
Ok, on the answers to our Cary Grant Quiz.
Question 1: Was Cary Grant a) strictly heterosexual? b) Was he bisexual? c) Was he a closeted gay man; or d) was he asexual?
Answer: Grant biographer Eyman writes: In recent years, most discussion about Grant has moved …to the matter of his sexual identity — his years of living with Randolph Scott, insinuating comments by people like Arthur Laurents, who called him ‘bisexual at best.’ Gays have been eager to claim Grant as one of their own, while straights have been every bit as insistent about his presumed heterosexuality. Caught in the middle are sceptics, who ask why a supposedly gay man would marry five times….So much talent, so many mysteries.
Question 2: The subtitle of Eyman’s biography is “a brilliant disguise.” What does this say about the actor? a) That he was bipolar; b) That Archie Leach was really not how Grant wanted to be identified; c) That in many respects Grant was a phony; or d) None of the above.
Answer: d) None of the above. The Archie Leach, who emerged from the vaudeville and music halls of Bristol, England, always liked to say that Cary Grant is ‘a completely made up character and I’m playing a part. It’s a part I have been playing a long time , but no way am I really Cary Grant….I’m just a vaudevillian named Archie Leach….So I think Cary Grant has done wonders for my life and I always want to give him his due.
Question 3: No question that Grant’s early career was boosted by his casting in two Thirties features starring Mae West. But is it true that he also had an intense personal affair with her? a) Yes; or b) No.
Answer: b) No. While Mae did indeed provide an early boost to Grant’s career, he regarded her skeptically, as amazingly tiny (barely five feet tall), and not at all svelte. What’s worse? She sported a “flabby belly” and “was actually a prude.”
Question 4: Grant began experimenting with LSD in the Fifties. He regarded the drug positively at first and continued taking it in the Sixties. Taking LSD was an utterly foolish thing to do, he finally said. His drug-taking experimentation ruined at least one of his marriages. Which one? a) To Virginia Cherrill; b) To Betsy Drake; c) To Barbara Hutton; or d) To Dyan Cannon.
Answer: d) To wife No. 4, actress Dyan Cannon, a union which ran from 1965 to 1968, and produced a daughter Jennifer, whom Grant cherished.
Question 5: Grant was pretty healthy most of his life, lasting 82 years. What killed him and where?
Answer: In his final years, Grant put on a travelling show about himself — A Conversation With Cary Grant. During a stop in Davenport, Iowa in November 1986, he suffered a stroke — a “massive intracerebral hemorrhage”, the doctors concluded.