Born Archibald Alexander Leach in Bristol, Gloucestershire, England in 1904; died 1986 in Davenport, Iowa.

Grant had a tragic childhood - his mother was committed to a mental institution when he was nine years old. At age 14 he joined the Pender troupe of traveling comedians, where he learned the acrobatics and tumbling that made him so deft at physical comedy in the movies. The troupe performed on Broadway and when the run was over, Grant stayed in America. His film break came in 1931 with an uncredited role in Singapore Sue.

GQ magazine once referred to Cary Grant as the pinnacle of Western civilized man, and I don't think they were far off.

Note: you'd think the movie Only Angels Have Wings, with Cary Grant as a dashing pilot and Jean Arthur as the spunky love interest couldn't fail, but somehow it does. Don't bother renting it. It is strange and bad.

Cary Grant, whose name was originally Archibald(Archie) Leach, was born on January 18th, 1904 to Elias and Elsie Leach in Bristol. Cary would have had an older brother named John, but the child died shortly before the first birthday. Unfortunately for Cary, it is believed that the unexpected death led his mother to become neurotic, and in turn she was always very harsh with him. Elias was known as a notorious womanizer, and would frequently be absent from his son's life. It is an understatement to say Cary did not have a nurturing environment which to grow up in.

Cary did have one escape: the theatre. His father and mother both loved the theatre. However their tastes differed. While his father would take him to see the unruly Metropole and pantomimes, his mother would take him to see the more refined Claire Street Cinema. He would also go on his own to the smaller theatres with his friends whenever he had the time.

His mother thought he was gifted and it turns out she was right, he won a scholarship to the Fairfield Grammar School and began attending in 1915. One day, returning from the Boy Scouts he found his mother was gone. Over the years he was told several things to cover up the truth, which was she was committed to "Fishponds Country Home for Mental Defectives" by his father. It was not until years later that he learned the truth.

Shortly after starting to attend Fairfield, a science lab assistant befriended Cary and got him a job working backstage at the newly built Bristol Hippodrome. Cary wasn't paid for the work, but he loved what he did so he stayed on. However, after a few months, he was fired for letting a spotlight wander during a performance of David Devant, a popular magician of the time. Shortly after this incident, Cary was publicly expelled from Fairfield. There are conflicting stories as to why, but the one that Cary himself told, was that he was found in the girls lavatory. With nothing else to do, he joined the Pender Troupe, a theatre troupe based in Manhattan.

Cary toured Britain with the Pender Troupe for two years when at the age of 16, Bob Pender selected him, along with seven other boys to travel to America. This was in 1920. Unfortunately for Cary, he was sick with Rheumatic Fever for the first six weeks of the run of performances in America. So sick in fact that he was unable to do anything but lie in bed the whole time. By the time he had recovered, the Penders had run out of American bookings, so they were going to head back to Britain. Several of the members, including Cary, decided that they wanted to stay. Everyone who stayed was given enough money for a fare home in case they changed their minds, and that's how Cary Grant came to live in America.

In order to pay for the flat he shared, Carey performed various jobs. Most prominently he would walk on stilts with sandwich boards and a megaphone and promote various events. He did this primarily in Times Square, and Coney Island. Cary absolutely despised Coney Island, something he would never fully forget. The stilts were larger than he had been used to, and walking through the throng was much more difficult than walking on the stage.

Cary got his first real break when he got a part in an act called "The Walking Stanleys." The show only ran from May 1922 until April 1923, but Cary had gotten his first taste. Unfortunately a taste doesn't always get you the job you want. He spent the next few years traveling all over America with some of the other members from the Pender Troupe who stayed behind. He also worked for a bit as a comedian's straight man.

Finally in 1927, he got his first part in Broadway, in the Hammerstein's Golden Dawn. It wasn't much of a success, but is was the break Cary needed. From there he was cast in Polly and then the hit musical Boom-Boom. He performed in a various amount of other musicals until finally in 1932, he landed his first part in the medium he would be best remember for: film. In 1932 he played a part of a sailor in the 10 minutes short film, Singapore Sue.

In 1932, at the age of 28, Cary Grant was officially born. Paramount purchased his contract, but part of that contract stipulated that he change his name. They gave him a list of Anglo-Saxon sounding surnames, and the man formally known as Archie Leach became Cary Grant. Cary worked non-stop for the next year playing small roles in Paramount films. That same year Paramount went bankrupt, however it turned out to be lucky for Grant. Since Paramount had to release most of its more expensive contracts, there was a void to be filled for stardom. Cary getting a lot of good reviews from critics was one of the forerunners of the replacements. So in 1933, Cary Grant became a star.

Paramount decided to capitalize on this and flung Cary into a variety of roles over the next three years. In 1933 alone he starred in 6 films alone, a feat unheard of today. Cary was getting moody with all the work and was starting to get frustrated with Paramount over this. Paramount desperate for money at one point even cast him in a part where his face was never seen, it was always behind a mask in Alice in Wonderland. Anyone with a decent singing voice could have taken the part But Paramount, trying to capitalize on his box-office draw, cast him instead.

Cary frustrated with the whole thing decided to take a holiday and went off to England with his girl at the time, Virginia Cherrill. He came back a married man in February 1934. Still, this didn't help matters much. Paramount pushed him right back into role after role as soon as he returned, and his marriage took its toll. After barely a year had passed, Virginia had filed for divorce. Some claim that Grant tried to commit suicide to persuade Virginia to stay, but Cary always denied the rumor. Whether he did or not, they were divorced in March of 1936.

A single man again, Cary decided to take care of the Paramount business. He was mad that they kept casting him in bad parts, and wanted more money as well as a decision on what parts he would take. Paramount offered him 3,500 a week (1,000 more than he was making), but they would not agree to let him choose his own parts. So Cary took a chance, bought out his contract, and decided to freelance on his own, tied to no one but himself.

1936 and 1937 was very kind to Cary Grant. At first he wasn't sure what to do, as he didn't know what sort of character he wanted to be portrayed as. Eventually he made a film called Topper which was a huge success with the audience. The character he portrayed in Topper, Mr. Kerby, was what he was associated with for the rest of his life. He was charming, and witty, and had a great sense of style. with such success, Colombia and RKO both agreed to financially lucrative deals which would net him upwards to $75,000+ per each of 7 films over the next two years.

Cary Grant was now a superstar. By 1938 he even had his own fan clubs, but the next few years were a roller coaster ride. He continued to enjoy success in the theatres, the public adored him. However his love life never seemed to find any balance. He was engaged to Phyllis Brooks, and even traveled around with her for some time, but it was not meant to be. Eventually he wed again, this time to Barbara Hutton in 1942.

Throughout this period, Cary received some of his worst criticism yet. Why was he in Hollywood when his country was at war? He thought about joining the army, but figured he would be labeled as another actor trying to get publicity. There was already some speculation actually that he was working for the British Secret Service as an agent in Hollywood trying to find ties with Nazi Germany. Those speculations were never proven one way or the other. Still, feeling like he had to do something more, he donated his salary for Arsenic and Old Lace to the British war fund.

During this time he also received a couple of Oscar nominations. One for Penny Serinade and another for None But The Lonely Heart. However, towards the end of 1944-1945 things took a turn for the worse. Grant had two commercial flops in a row in Once Upon a Time and None But the Lonely Heart, and his wife of three years, divorced him in July of 1945. Coinciding neatly with the end of the war.

In 1949, Cary met Betsy Drake, a girl that was starring in a play in London that he saw while visiting. This would end up being Cary's 3rd wife. She was coming over to the States, so he helped her get established and tried to help along her film career. Cary was determined to make this marriage work, and any time there seemed to be any problems, he often took off long periods from work to be with her. Betsy in turn seemed to be smitten with Cary as well, often taking care of him while sick.

On one particularly bad occasion, Grant was diagnosed with having infectious hepatitis while filming in Germany for I Was A Male War Bride in 1948. Betsy nursed him back to health over the next couple of weeks, but he would fall ill again a few more times with the recurrence of hepatitis later in his life.

Over the next 8 years, Cary entered the worst slump of his life film wise. He put out a series of films that did not perform well in the theatres at all. They would either flop money-wise like Monkey Business, or in cases like People will Talk, appeal to the critics, but not to the audience. With so many "failures" recently, Cary was becoming unhappy, he was becoming worried about his future. Betsy even went so far as to try and hypnotize Grant, but it did not work. So in 1953, Cary Grant retired, and set off for a long trip with Betsy to the Orient.

Upon their return over a year later, Grant seemed more at peace, yet he was restless. He was chaffing to act once again, and decided if the right role came along, he would do so once more. That film came, and it was called To Catch a Thief with him along side Grace Kelly. Cary says he realized that the film would be special from the beginning, some of the scenes were perhaps his best work ever. He was right, and it went along to become one of year's most profitable movies, and is considered by many to be one of the best love stories.

Proving that his acting days weren't over, he went on a five-year streak until 1960 where everything he touched turned to gold. He had one critical success after the other, unfortunately like always, his love life started to turn to the worse, and then to the tragic.

During the filming of The Pride and The passion, Cary met a young actress named Sophia Loren whom he fell in love with. It came to the point where he would court Sophia openly in front of his wife Betsy. On a set in Spain, Grant would rendezvous with Sophia with Betsy in the other room. Disgusted, Betsy left for Hollywood, on the ill fated Andrea Doria which struck another boat and sank. Fifty people died, but Betsy was one of the survivors. On the eve of the collision, Cary stirred up trouble of his own. He proposed to Loren, but Sophia turned him down.

After hearing news about the accident Carey flew back to be with Betsy, but she was traumatized by the whole ordeal. From this point on, Cary would still enjoy box-office success, but his life would suffer greatly outside the theatre.

During the filming of Houseboat, Cary agreed to an experimental program that seemed to help Betsy's trauma, and hoped it would help him as well. This began a two-year period where LSD was administered in attempt to break memory blocks. At first it seemed to help each of them with their individual problems but not with each other. By the end of 1958, they had separated. During this time Grant also proposed to Sophia again, and was again turned down, and this caused them to become further estranged. Betsy's and Cary's separation lasted for about four years, and by 1962, they were divorced.

One of the most desired men in Hollywood, could not find his love.

Perhaps it would be with Dyan Cannon. At 26, she was 35 years his junior, but they seemed to hit it off. In July of 1962 Cary released That Touch of Mink and broke several box office records. He became the star with the most films to ever play at New York's Radio City Music Hall with 25, which ran for a total of 99 weeks, which was also a record. He received a trophy for "All time box office champion".

Cary and Dyan did not seem to be the perfect couple, often breaking their relationship off and on at a moment's notice, but in 1965, they were wed. She was 26, and he was 61. They managed to slip off to England to honeymoon for a while until reporters found them and they had to flee.

Cary was set to work on what would be his lat film in 1965, when Dyan told him the news. She was pregnant. At 62 years old, Cary Grant would be a father. The previous Hollywood record holder being Clark Gable at 59. In February of 1966, Jennifer Grant was born. Cary doted on his new daughter, but Dyan was not doting on Cary. After a four-month trip to Europe, it became apparent that all was not well, and in 1967 he was separated once more.

Having unrestricted visiting rights, he followed Dyan off to New York to be closer to his daughter. However this only caused more problems, as the two often argued on how best to raise Jennifer. They tried at reconciling a few times but it never worked out, and in 1968 Grant was divorced once more.

Cary had long since retired by this point. He hadn't made a film in over five years, and his only concern was his daughter. In 1970, the Academy presented him with a special Oscar. It was true, Cary would never appear in another film again.

He spent his retirement looking after his daughter, and he was also appointed to the Board of Directors of Western Airlines which he stayed on at for a time. As for romance, he had a few more. One with Vicki Morgan in his 60's, and another with Maureen Donaldson in his Early 70's. He had no more children with either. He lived a quiet life mostly after that, and passed away on November 29th, 1986 after suffering from a stroke that evening.

Interesting Facts:

Ian Fleming based the character of James Bond after Cary. He also turned down the role.

Had a great respect for Alfred Hitchcock.

Except for the honorary award, he never received an Oscar for his acting.

Shared a house in the 30's with Randolph Scott for many years.

Film Credits:

Movie listings taken courtesy of

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