Cary Grant

Yesterday on Tuner Classic Movies’s Summer of the Stars, Cary Grant was the feature star.  I love Cary Grant. In my opinion, there has never been, before or since, an actor as handsome and with such charisma as Cary Grant. In honor of Grant, I wanted to write a post about him.

A master of the screwball comedy.

Archibald Alexander Leach, better known by his stage name Cary Grant. With his distinctive mid-Atlantic accent, he was noted as perhaps the foremost exemplar of the debonair leading man, not only handsome, but also witty and charming. He was named the second Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute. Grant starred in some of the classic screwball comedies. His popular classic films include The Awful Truth (1937), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Gunga Din (1939), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Suspicion (1941), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Notorious (1946), To Catch A Thief (1955), An Affair to Remember (1957), North by Northwest (1959), and Charade (1963).  From the beginning of his career to the end, I have never seen a bad or even mediocre, Cary Grant movie.  They have all been some of my favorite movies.

With Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday

At the 42nd Academy Awards the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored him with an Honorary Award “for his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues”.

Cary Grant embodied the elegance, charm, and sophistication of Hollywood in its golden years. His good looks, charisma, and ambiguous sexuality enchanted women and men alike. As the star-struck comedian Steve Lawrence once said, “When Cary Grant walked into a room, not only did the women primp, the men straightened their ties.”

Grant was married five times. He wed Virginia Cherrill on February 10, 1934. She divorced him on March 26, 1935, following charges that Grant had hit her. In 1942 he married Barbara Hutton, one of the wealthiest women in the world, and became a father figure to her son, Lance Reventlow. The couple was derisively nicknamed “Cash and Cary”, although in an extensive prenuptial agreement Grant refused any financial settlement in the event of a divorce. After divorcing in 1945, they remained lifelong friends. Grant always bristled at the accusation that he married for money: “I may not have married for very sound reasons, but money was never one of them.”

On December 25, 1949, Grant married Betsy Drake. He appeared with her in two films. This would prove to be his longest marriage, ending on August 14, 1962. Drake introduced Grant to LSD, and in the early 1960s he related how treatment with the hallucinogenic drug—legal at the time—at a prestigious California clinic had finally brought him inner peace after yoga, hypnotism, and mysticism had proved ineffective. (In 1932, Grant had also met the Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba.) Grant and Drake divorced in 1962.

Grant and Cannon

He eloped with Dyan Cannon on July 22, 1965 in Las Vegas. Their daughter, Jennifer Grant, was born prematurely on February 26, 1966. He frequently called her his “best production” and regretted that he had not had children sooner. The marriage was troubled from the beginning and Cannon left him in December 1966, claiming that Grant flew into frequent rages and spanked her when she “disobeyed” him. The divorce, finalized in 1968, was bitter and public, and custody fights over their daughter went on for nearly ten years.

On April 11, 1981, Grant married long-time companion Barbara Harris, a British hotel public relations agent, who was 47 years his junior. They renewed their vows on their fifth wedding anniversary. Fifteen years after Grant’s death, Harris married former Kansas Jayhawks All-American quarterback David Jaynes in 2001.

With Randolph Scott

Some, including Hedda Hopper and screenwriter Arthur Laurents have said, that Grant was bisexual, the latter writing that Grant “told me he threw pebbles at my window one night but was luckless”. Grant allegedly was involved with costume designer Orry-Kelly when he first moved to Manhattan, and lived with Randolph Scott off and on for twelve years. Richard Blackwell wrote that Grant and Scott were “deeply, madly in love”, and alleged eyewitness accounts of their physical affection have been published. Alexander D’Arcy, who appeared with Grant in The Awful Truth, said he knew that Grant and Scott “lived together as a gay couple”, adding: “I think Cary knew that people were saying things about him. I don’t think he tried to hide it.” The two men frequently accompanied each other to parties and premieres and were unconcerned when photographs of them cozily preparing dinner together at home were published in fan magazines.

Grant and Scott

Barbara, Grant’s widow, has disputed that there was a relationship with Scott. When Chevy Chase joked about Grant being gay in a television interview Grant sued him for slander; they settled out of court. However, Grant did admit in an interview that his first two wives had accused him of being homosexual. Betsy Drake commented: “Why would I believe that Cary was homosexual when we were busy fucking?”

In 1932 he met fellow actor Randolph Scott on set, and the two shared a rented beach house (known as ‘Bachelor Hall’) on and off for twelve years. Rumours ran rampant at the time that Grant and Scott were lovers. From 1933 onwards, Cary Grant occasionally shared a house with Randolph Scott. There were many rumors about their relationship. Scott often referred to himself, jokingly, as Grant’s wife. Many studio heads threatened not to employ them unless they lived separately.

Grant and Scott

In their biographies of Grant, Marc Eliot, Charles Higham and Roy Moseley contend that Grant was bisexual. Higham and Moseley claim that Grant and Scott were seen kissing in a public car park outside a social function both attended in the 1960s. In his book, Hollywood Gays, Boze Hadleigh cites an interview with homosexual director George Cukor, who commented on the alleged homosexual relationship between Scott and Grant: “Oh, Cary won’t talk about it. At most, he’ll say they did some wonderful pictures together. But Randolph will admit it—to a friend.” (It should be noted that there is substantial disagreement as to the veracity of Hadleigh’s works.) It has even been suggested that Grant and Scott were married in a secret ceremony in Mexico. Randolph Scott’s son Christopher refuted these rumors. Following the death of his father in 1987, Christopher wrote a book, Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott?

Grant and Scott

According to screenwriter Arthur Laurents, Grant was “at best bisexual”. William J. Mann’s book Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969 recounts how photographer Jerome Zerbe spent “three gay months” (his words) in the movie colony taking many photographs of Grant and Scott, “attesting to their involvement in the gay scene.” Zerbe says that he often stayed with the two actors, “finding them both warm, charming, and happy.” In addition, Darwin Porter’s book, Brando Unzipped (2006) claims that Grant had a homosexual affair with Marlon Brando.

Grant and Scott

Whether Cary Grant was heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual doesn’t really matter to me, he was a great actor.  His former wife, Dyan Cannon was thrust into the Hollywood celebrity whirlpool in 1965 when, at 28, she married superstar Cary Grant who was 35 years her senior. It was Cannon’s first marriage and Grant’s fourth. She has always been adamant when asked about Grant’s sexuality saying “I can tell you there isn’t an iota of truth to those ugly rumors. They would never have written that drivel when Cary was alive. He’d have sued the pants off those cowards. Cary can’t defend himself from the grave but I will go to mine insisting he was every ounce a straight man.”

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

8 responses to “Cary Grant

  • Writer

    I'm happy that they world has changed enough that those "ugly rumors" aren't really ugly anymore. Though that Cary would feel the need to "sue the pants off" someone for even suggesting it is now the ugly thing. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Having read once of your other posts where you wrote the beautiful line about the fluidity of gender and sex, I’m content to believe that Cary Grant lived his life somewhere on the continuum. Having seen some photos of him with Randolph Scott, there is a palpable intimacy between them, whether it was sexual or not. It’s fascinating to speculate and I hope whatever Cary Grant’s truth was, he had many hot and satisfying times. I also find it insulting that people get so overwrought about “defending” persons “against charges” of homosexuality. He was sexual and a human being.ciel

  • txboyalone

    So enjoyed watching the Philadelphia Story this weekend on TBS. I consider it one of his best along with Katharine Hepburn, James Steward,& Ruth Hussey. They were all so young and vital. Love your blog so amazed you can find the time to keep up two blogs. Thanks for sharing with us. Mark W.

  • silvereagle

    Well, whether he was or wasn't, we may never know….but we do all know and agree he was a fantastic addition to the movies! Need more like him for sure!A good article. Thanks

    • bj4u2.69

      From one silvereagle to another silverhawk…lol I so agree, I as well watched it for about the umphteen time and still cry on the same parts of the movie….but it is worth it. Have a great day. John.

  • Jay M.

    I love Cary Grant and his movies. Perhaps not at the top of my list, but way up high. Cool post, I enjoyed getting to know the man better.Peace <3Jay

  • WranglerMan

    Cary Grant is synonymous with elegance, grace, and style.As Writer wrote above, I am glad that we are moving beyond the "ugly rumors" types of comments. We aren't there yet though.I loved Grant in so many movies. We must remember that he was a product of the studio system. They controlled his image. Hence the pictures of him with Randolph Scott. They were meant to project the idea of two bachelor buddies, but they must have elicited questions in the thirties and forties. Grant, in the end, played by the rules of the system. Bill Haines, whom Mann has written about, did not. His movie career went kaput, but he would not forsake his lover.Do actors still hide their sexuality today? Oh, yes. Image still trumps reality!BTW, my friend, hit me up with an e mail. My computer died.

  • JoeBlow

    Writer, that is so true, but there still are a lot of actors in the closet.Ciel, I'm like you, I do hope that his sexuality had the fluidness that I think we all experience at one time or another.Mark, Philadelphia Story is one of my favorites. Grant was always great with Hepburn. Thanks, and I am glad that you enjoy my blogs.Silvereagle, he truly was one of the greats.Same here, Jay. I just can't think of a male actor that I like more than Grant.Wranglerman, you summed it all up with "Cary Grant is synonymous with elegance, grace, and style." And you are absolutely right about the studio system, but their campaign with Grant and Randolph seems to have backfired even back then. I'll send you an email tonight, TTYL.

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