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My Top 10 Favorite Cary Grant Movies
One of my absolute favorite actors is Cary Grant. Some of these films are more popular than others, but all are truly amazing. Grant was an exceptional leading man starring alongside screen legends like Katherine Hepburn, Irene Dunne, Grace Kelly, to name a few. He proved time and again that he could take and excel at a hilariously comedic role or a stern dramatic one.
Grant began his Hollywood career in 1931, when he signed with Paramount Pictures. Born Archibald Alexander Leech in Bristol, England, Grant took on the name Cary Lockwood. Studio heads were unimpressed with this particular stage name and changed it to Grant, after browsing a studio list of approved surnames. He chose Grant due to the fact that the initials C and G were proven lucky for Clark Gable and Gary Cooper, two of Hollywood's biggest movie stars. The rest was history.
If you've never seen these film treasures, be sure to check them out.
The Philadelphia Story (1940)Click thumbnail to view full-size
This romantic comedy film is one of my favorites of all time, specifically because it stars two other stars I adore, Katherine Hepburn and James Stewart. Based on the Broadway play of the same name, the film is about Tracy Lord, a Philadelphian socialite (Hepburn), whose wedding plans to a rich bachelor (John Howard) become complicated after the arrival of her ex-husband (Cary Grant) and two snooping reporters (James Stewart and Ruth Hussey).
The Philadelphia Story went on to be nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Stewart won for Best Actor and Donald Ogden Stewart won for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1941.
Philip Barry wrote the Broadway play specifically for Katherine Hepburn. Wanting to remake the image of being "box office poison', Howard Huges bought the film rights of the play for her. She then sold the film to Louis B. Mayer in return for having veto over producer, director, screenwriter and cast, making her a powerful woman on set.
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)Click thumbnail to view full-size
I remember exactly where I was the first time I saw this film. My 7th grade classroom. This was my history teacher's favorite film. In connection with studying Theodore Roosevelt's presidency, she played this film for us.
Directed by Frank Capra, Arsenic and Old Lace stars Grant as Mortimer Brewster, a writer who married girl next-door Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane). A day after their wedding, Mortimer visits his elderly aunts Abby (Josephine Hull) and Martha (Jean Adair), who are caring for his brother Teddy (John Alexander).
Teddy believes he is Theodore Roosevelt. Much of the funny moments in this film are because of him, specifically the running gag when he yells “Charge” every time he runs up the stairs, imitating Roosevelt running up San Juan Hill. When Mortimer finds a corpse hidden in a window seat, he believes Teddy has committed murder, but his aunts explain that it was they who killed this lonely old bachelor, explaining their process and that there are more bodies in the cellar.
An eerie element in this film is when Mortimer’s psychotic killer brother, Jonathan (Raymond Massey), arrives with his accomplice and plastic surgeon, Herman Einstein (Peter Lorre). In order to escape the grasp of the police, Jonathan returns to his aunts’ house to dispose of his latest victim. More hijinks ensue for Mortimer as he tries to deal with his family in this screwball comedy.
The role of Mortimer Brewster was originally intended for Bob Hope. He was not able to take the role, due to his contract with Paramount.
To Catch a Thief (1955)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Alfred Hitchcock is my favorite director of all time, so it's fitting that Cary Grant was his leading man in 4 movies: Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955), and North by Northwest (1959).
In To Catch a Thief, Grant plays John Robie, a retired thief, who becomes the prime suspect of committed robberies occurring in the French Riviera. In order to prove his innocence, Robie sets out to catch the burglar befriending an American heiress played by Kelly.
To Catch a Thief was the last film and third film Alfred Hitchcock and Grace Kelly worked on together. She married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956 and retired from acting.
Bringing Up Baby (1938)Click thumbnail to view full-size
In my opinion, this classic screwball comedy shows Cary Grant at his comedic best. Directed by Howard Hawks, this film tells the story of David Huxley, a paleontologist played by Grant. A day before his wedding, David meets Susan Vance (Katherine Hepburn) and soon learns of her unique and severe personality. Believing that David is a zoologist, she wants him to care for Baby, the leopard her brother sent her from Brazil. Throughout the film, Susan keeps getting David into more and more predicaments, causing him to leave
One of my favorite moments is when Susan sends David's clothes to the cleaners causing him to parade around in a woman's negligee. When questioned as to why he was wearing it, David yells, "Because I just went gay all of a sudden!", leaping into the air on the word "gay".
At the time of its release, Bringing Up Baby was a box office disaster, which RKO firing Hawks from his next movie and forced Hepburn out of her contract.
In 1990, the National Film Registry selected the film as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
That Touch of Mink (1962)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Doris Day stars as Cathy Timberlake, who meets the man of her dreams, Philip Shayne (Grant), on her way to a job interview when his car splashes her dress with mud. Philip takes Cathy, wining and dining around New York City and even to a Yankees game. Guest appearances were made by Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Yogi Berra, who all played themselves. Philip simply wants an affair, while Cathy holds out for marriage.
This romantic comedy was the last time Grant played the
pursuer of a younger female lead. He felt uncomfortable at his age (58) to being seen as an older gentleman going after a younger woman. Doris Day was 40 at the time of filming.
Notorious (1946)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Grant’s second film with Hitchcock was suspenseful thriller, Notorious, starring Ingrid Bergman as the daughter of a convicted Nazi spy, Alicia Huberman, who is recruited by Grant’s T.R. Devlin, a government spy, to infiltrate a group of Germans in Brazil. Working closely together, Alicia and Devlin fall madly in love. When the government assigns Alicia to seduce Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), a member of the group, puts up a front causing Alicia to believe he was just faking his feelings for her.
Soon enough, she marries Alex and upon returning from their honeymoon, she realizes the key ring her husband gave her opens the wine cellar, where her and Devlin discover uranium, but not before breaking a bottle, leaving a trace in which Alex finds. After discussing what he should do with his mother, they begin to poison her coffee. After not seeing Alicia in their next meeting, he finds her and carries her out of the mansion. They drive away and leave Alex to face his Nazi counterparts.
Due to Production Code’s ban on kisses longer than three seconds at the time, Hitchcock found a way around this. He had his actors disengage every three seconds, nuzzle each other, and start again. In a memorable scene of the film, Grant and Bergman have a two and a half minute kiss
Walking along, nuzzling each other with the camera trailing behind them, seemed 'very awkward' to the actors during filming, according to Bergman. 'Don't worry,' Hitchcock assured her. 'It'll look right on the screen."
Penny Serenade (1941)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Cary Grant was nominated for his first Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in film drama, Penny Serenade. Roger Adams and Julie Adams (Irene Dunne) star as a young couple, who despite a miscarriage, choose to adopt a baby girl. Throughout the film, they struggle to make ends meet , dealing with married life, a little girl, and Roger’s unemployment. The film uses a unique element in which songs mark the transition of action.
Irene Dunne and Cary Grant have starred in 3 films together: The Awful Truth (1937), My Favorite Wife (1940), and Penny Serenade (1941).
North by Northwest (1959)Click thumbnail to view full-size
One of Hitchcock’s memorable suspense films, North by Northwest is a tale of mistaken identity, in which an innocent advertising executive, Roger Thornhill (Grant), must go on the run from agents of a mysterious organization, who want him to stop interfering in their plans to smuggle out a microfilm containing government secrets. Eva Marie Saint plays the lover of one of the agents trying to kill Thornhill.
James Stewart was Hitchcock’s original choice to play Thornhill, but as the script developed he realized the character was more of a Cary Grant type.
The gray suit worn by Cary Grant's character throughout the entire film was called the best suit in film history and the most influential on men's style by a panel of fashion experts assembled by GQ magazine. It has been copied for Tom Cruise's character in Collateral and Ben Affleck's character in Paycheck.
His Girl Friday (1940)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Walter Burns (Grant) is a hard hitting editor for The Morning Post, who learns that his ex-wife and former star reporter, Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell), is going to marry insurance man, Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy). Walter is determined to ruin these plans by getting Hildy to agree to cover one last story, the execution of murderer Earl Williams (John Qualen).
Throughout the film, Grant ad-libbed several "inside" jokes in the film. One in particular was poking fun of his birth name. When his character, Walter, is arrested for a kidnapping, he describes the horrendous fate suffered by the last person who crossed him: Archie Leach.
Only Angels Have Wings (1939)Click thumbnail to view full-size
In his second film working with Howard Hawks, Grant played Geoff Carter, a pilot, in Barranca, Colombia, who manages an air service business. He soon becomes the object of affection for Bonnie Lee, played by Jean Arthur. Things become complicated when Bat Kilgallen, a former pilot, returns to Barranca with his wife (Rita Hayworth), in search of a job working for Geoff. He is shunned by the other fliers becoming a social pariah because a few years back, he bailed out of a plane, leaving his mechanic, Geoff's best friend's brother, to be killed. After much begging by Judy, Geoff reluctantly hires Bat, all while trying to deter Bonnie's advances.
Throughout filming, Howard Hawks and Jean Arthur constantly butted heads. When Hawks suggested that Arthur play Bonnie in a more seductive manner, Athur said she couldn't do that. Hawks told Arthur at the end of the shoot, "You are one of the few people I've worked with that I don't think I've helped at all. Someday you can go see what I wanted to do because I'm gonna do this character all over again."
Years later, Hawks found Arthur at his doorstep. She had just seen To Have and Have Not and confessed that she had wished "I'd done what you'd asked me to do. If you ever make another picture with me, I'll promise to do any goddamn thing you want to do. If a kid [Lauren Bacall] can come in and do that kind of stuff, I certainly could do it", but Hawks and Arthur never collaborated again.
Bonus: An Affair to Remember (1957)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Nickie Ferrante (Grant), is a well know playboy when he meets Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) en route from Europe to New York. After a number of chance meetings, they form a friendship. Soon enough, their friendship blossoms into love.When their ship reaches New York, they agree to meet at the top of the Empire State Building in six months if they succeed in ending their relationships.
In a rush to meet Nickie on their meeting day, Terry is struck by a car and gravely injured. Meanwhile Nickie, unaware of the accident, believes that she has rejected him. Because she of paralysis, Terry does not want to contact Nickie and reveal her illness. Another six months passes by and they see each other at the ballet. Nickie, then, makes a surprise visit to her home, discovering the reason behind why she never met him.
Ingrid Bergman was the first choice to play Terry McKay.
Sleepless in Seattle by Nora Ephron was inspired by An Affair to Remember, specifically when the two characters played by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan agree to meet on the top of the Empire State building.
Which one is your favorite?
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