When it comes celebrities, there are sometimes two different people: the real person and the persona created by the public relations department.
Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise, by Scott Eyman was published last October. On screen, Cary Grant, was charming, affable, and an audience favorite for decades. But the actor movie fans thought they knew and the man who walked off the soundstage was two different things entirely. Grant (nee Archie Leach) was born in 1904 in Bristol. To say that his childhood was not easy is an understatement. His father preferred the bottle to his son and his mother was committed to an asylum before her son was a teenager.
His ticket out from his miserable childhood was to join a theater troupe as an acrobat. Eventually, Archie became Cary and the movie star we know him to be. But behind the scenes, the trauma from his youth was never far behind. Married five times, the inner conflict was just beneath the surface, but hidden from those who flocked to see him in the movie theaters.
I loved this book. I’ve been a fan of his since I was a teenager, but I was not aware of the man behind the screen. In digging into both Cary/Archie’s personal life and career, Eyman gives the reader an insight into the person, not just the actor.
Being the child of famous actors is not easy, nor is it a golden key to success as a performer.
The television series, Movie Stars, aired for one season at the turn of the new millennium. Reese Hardin (Harry Hamlin) and Jacey Wyatt (Jennifer Grant, daughter of Cary Grant) both have successful careers in the entertainment industry. Reese and Jacey have two children of their own in addition to Jacey’s daughter from her previous marriage. Life is chaotic and busy, as it only can be when your part of a family of movie stars.
The problem with this show is that it was like a rocket without fuel. While the concept seems ok on paper, both the narrative and the character arcs were woefully underdeveloped.
Parenthood, especially single parenthood is never easy.
In the 1958 movie, Houseboat, Tom (Cary Grant) is a single father doing his best to raise his children after the death of his wife. Cinzia (Sophia Loren) has left the comfortable life and her overprotective father for a life of freedom and independence. She agrees to work for Tom, but as expected, things go, well not as expected.
The narrative is almost like The Sound Of Music, but downgraded. Despite the notable names of Cary Grant and Sophia Loren, the film is merely ok. The only thing that stands out in regards to Houseboat is the off-screen drama. Cary Grant was married at the time to Betsy Drake (who wrote the original screenplay and hoped to star opposite her husband). Infatuated with his co-star and having an affair with her, Grant had the screenplay altered, taking the screenwriting credit away from his wife and cast Loren instead of Drake in hopes of continuing the affair. While there was a happy ending on-screen, the ending off-screen was different. Loren returned to Italy and to the man who would become her husband, Carlo Ponti.
Perception is one-sided. When we think of Hollywood and movie stars, as audience members, we have one perception. Those who knew them best have another perception.
In 2011, Jennifer Grant, the only child of the late movie star Cary Grant wrote a memoir of what is was like to grow up with a movie star father. Entitled Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant, she writes of a loving and giving father. Despite the fact that he and Jennifer mother’s, Grant’s 4th wife, Dyan Cannon, divorced when Jennifer was a baby, Ms. Grant writes about being raised in supportive, nurturing environment.
I wanted to like this book. I really did. It’s always fascinating to see how the other half lives, especially when the other half is Hollywood royalty. The problem is that I could not get into the book and I felt disconnected from the story, even though I knew it was a memoir.
Sometimes, the simplest narratives are often times the best. Especially when layered with the perfect comedic sensibility.
In the 1940 movie, His Girl Friday, Walter Burns (Cary Grant) has lost touch with his ex-wife and former employee, Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell). Now she is back in his life and about to re-marry. His plan is to keep Hildy from marrying her fiance, Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy) and once more disappearing from his life. Will he succeed?
The movie is based on a 1920’s play, The Front Page by Ben Hecht. When the film was adapted for the screen, the character that Rosalind Russell played was changed from a male character to a female character. This movie is absolutely brilliant for a number of reasons, including the subversive feminist statement of Hildy being a working woman in the early 1940’s.
The best scene is the first scene, it never fails to make me laugh.
There are romantic comedies and then there are romantic comedies. Some are so horribly predictable and forgettable that it makes bad, predictable action films look good. Then there are the classics, that after generations, still make audiences laugh and are still as highly regarded as they were when they first hit theaters.
Good natured Dr. David Huxley (Cary Grant) is a paleontologist and a professor who has spent the last four years putting together a Brontosaurus skeleton. With the skeleton completed, he needs only the intercostal clavicle bone and one million dollars to complete the project. Wealthy and widowed Mrs. Random (May Robson) can provide the money, but first David has to go through Mrs. Robson’s lawyer, Alexander Peabody (George Irving). In addition to getting past Mr. Peabody, David also has to deal with Susan Vance (Katherine Hepburn), Mrs. Random’s ditzy niece who always seems to make trouble for David and make him look bad. Susan has recently adopted a leopard, named Baby, who seems to get David in as much hot water as his human mother.
Can David finish the project or will Susan (and his slowly to burn affection for her) for her stop him from seeing the skeleton in its complete form?
This movie is one of the essential romantic comedies. It is funny, it is charming and it has two of the best actors of the era playing the leading characters. Cary Grant was one of those actors whose good looks belied a comedic sense that is often repeated today, but never duplicated. Katherine Hepburn was not just a smart and independent woman off camera, but on camera as well. There are very few performers, especially female performers, who have the ability to smartly play down their intelligence to play up the comedy. Katherine Hepburn was one of those performers.
There is something wonderful and satisfying about a love story done right. The anticipation, the wonder and finally, the happy ending. Even those of us who are skeptical about love can’t help but shed a tear and smile.
The film Love Affair (1994), is not the first time this familiar narrative has been seen on the big screen. Audiences were first introduced to the story in 1939’s Love Affair, starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer and then in 1957’s An Affair To Remember starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.
In 1994, the narrative was revived a third time with IRL couple Annette Bening and Warren Beatty. Simply by pure luck, Mike Gambril (Beatty) and Terry McKay (Bening) purchased a plane ticket for the same flight. When the plane is forced to land midway through the flight, the passengers are ferried back to safety on a ship. Despite the fact that both Mike and Terry have significant others waiting for them, there is an obvious spark between them. To test if the attraction is real (and potentially long term) or a momentary twist of fate, they agree to meet up in New York City three months later. When one of them does not show up for their previously agreed upon appointment, doubts begin to form. Are Mike and Terry meant to be or just two ships in the night, just passing by each other?
What I appreciate about this movie is that despite the fact that it has two predecessors, it stands on its own two feet. It’s the kind of love story that I can appreciate. It has all of the highs and lows of the genre, without being too over the top or mushy.
Nick (Cary Grant) lost his wife Ellen (Irene Dunne) seven years ago. Presuming her to be dead in a shipwreck, he has just gotten married again, to Bianca (Gail Patrick). Ellen returns to her husband and her family, but she is not alone. Traveling with her is Burkett (Randolph Scott), with whom she was stranded on deserted island with for seven years. The question is, will Nick stay married to Bianca or will he go back to Ellen?
Jerry (Cary Grant) and Lucy (Irene Dunne) are in the process of ending their marriage. But before the ink is dry on the divorce papers, they decide to have a little fun by ruining their soon to be ex’s new relationships.
I highly recommend both of these movies. While the plot are deceptively simple, both movies are hilarious. Now these are what I call movies.
The term chick flick is associated with a certain type of film. Sometimes these films may require it’s audience to have a Kleenex nearby. This, gentle readers, is the subject of this Throwback Thursday Post.
CC Bloom (Bette Midler), an entertainer and Hilary Whitney Essex (Barbara Hershey), the daughter of a San Fransisco WASP family, meet as children in Atlantic City. Keeping in touch through letters, they reunite as adults when Hilary moves in with CC. While they have ups and downs in their relationship, including falling for the same man, their relationship endures to the very end.
This movie requires a box of Kleenex. I love that the core of this movie is the enduring friendship between CC and Hilary. It’s just one of those movies that is so life affirming and reminds it’s audience about the power of friendship.
Fate sometimes works in strange ways. Nicky Ferrante (Cary Grant) and Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) meet on a cruise ship and start to fall for each other. The only hitch is that they are engaged to other people. They agree to reunite in six months at the top of the Empire State Building. But when Terry does not appear at the agreed upon date, Nicky is concerned that she has either married or forgotten him.
This is one of my favorite movies from the 1940’s. It’s pretty typical World War II movie, where the Allies are the heroes and the Nazis are the villains. The two leads, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall have this magnetic, sexual chemistry. It’s no wonder they were married for twelve years. This movie is a perfect example of creating sexual chemistry between characters without resorting to removing of clothes.
Now this is how a rom-com and a office comedy should be. Cary Grant is the editor of a newspaper. Rosalind Russell is his ex wife and ex-employee. She is getting married again and Cary Grant’s character is looking to find a way to keep her on the paper and in his life. If nothing else, just watch the opening scene. An interesting aspect of this movie is that it was based upon a play, in which Rosalind Russell’s character was originally a man and changed to a female, which poses an interesting feminist twist, twenty years before the second wave of the feminist movement.
This movie is perfection. This movie should be required viewing for every filmmaker. Carole Lombard and Jack Benny are the lead performers in Polish theatrical troupe during World War II. They indirectly join the war when they work with a soldier to track down a German spy. Like His Girl Friday, I highly recommend to watch the opening scene if you don’t see the entire movie. The comedy timing is perfect, Lombard is one of the greatest actresses and comedienne’s of her era. The irony of this movie is that Jack Benny (born Benjamin Kubelsky) was Jewish. It takes balls to make a movie of this type during this period with a Jewish leading man. There is also a re-boot, made in the early 1980’s by Mel Brooks. As much as I love the re-boot, which is most certainly a Mel Brooks movie, the original just stands the test of time.