Cary Grant, famously seen as a charming regular at sunny California hotspots and posh New York clubs, is being highlighted this month through various viewings and special occasions. These will bring attention to a lesser-known aspect of his life: his humble beginnings in Bristol, England.
A sneak peek of a biographical film about Grant, titled “Archie”, starring Jason Isaacs in the challenging role of portraying one of the most renowned movie stars, is being shown in Bristol before its airing on ITVX. Additionally, a new guided tour of Grant’s previous hangouts in the city of Bristol is being introduced.
A screening of the movie An Affair to Remember will take place at a charming vintage theater near Bristol, featuring a red carpet, pink champagne, and live jazz music. Additionally, an audio production delving into Grant’s exploration with LSD has been released.
Charlotte Crofts, a cinema arts professor at UWE Bristol and considered an expert on Cary Grant in the city, believes that every day should be dedicated to the actor in Bristol. However, despite his fans, Grant is often only thought of as an American.
Grant, who was naturalized as an American citizen, passed away 37 years ago. The 120th celebration of his birth will not be until next year, but he is currently gaining attention in Bristol. Crofts stated, “There is an enduring relevance to Cary Grant that appeals to modern audiences.”
Grant was born Archibald Leach in Horfield, a leafy Bristol suburb, but grew up in poverty in the St Pauls area of the city. Aged 14, he joined a troupe of acrobats and entertainers and headed with them to New York in search of fame and fortune.
Crofts expressed curiosity about the impact Cary Grant has on the citizens of Bristol at present. She believed that growing up in Bristol and becoming Cary Grant has a significant significance. She attributed this to the city’s lively artistic culture, including its cinemas and theaters, which aided in the transformation of young Leach into Grant. She noted that this has the power to broaden one’s perspectives.
According to Barnaby Eaton-Jones, the director of the play “Cary On” which showcases the actor’s experiences with LSD, many people are unaware that Cary Grant was born as Archibald Leach in Bristol. He believes that most people assume he is American or have a general idea that he was British and moved to America, but in reality, he frequently returned to Bristol even after achieving fame.
Eaton-Jones mentioned that Grant’s reputation in Bristol was improving, largely due to a festival that Crofts has been organizing every two years since 2014. The next festival will take place in 2024. However, part of Grant’s charm comes from a sense of mystery that surrounds him.
He stated that in today’s society focused on celebrity, where even the smallest details and flaws are revealed for publicity, Cary Grant’s mysterious approach to maintaining his privacy will always be intriguing.
All tickets for the guided tours of Bristol’s Grant-related locations, such as theaters, hotels, shops, and restaurants, have been purchased. Additional tours will be offered next year.
According to Sheila Hannon, the creator of the walks, Archie had a strong attachment to Bristol despite leaving at the age of 14 and regularly returned to the city. The new walk aims to uncover some of the difficult experiences he faced in Bristol during his youth, which continued to affect him. It is possible that people may know he is from Bristol, but are unaware of the significance and impact it had on him and how it shaped his character in the movies.
In the city’s Millennium Square, there is a statue of Grant that may go unnoticed due to its tucked away location. Hannon suggested that Cary should be positioned in front of the Hippodrome, where he used to work backstage before joining Bob Pender’s troupe.
When asked about what makes him so appealing, Hannon provided a list of reasons: Being considered the most well-dressed man in the world, being incredibly wealthy and attractive, being the most renowned movie star ever, being alluring to both women and men, having a complicated and enigmatic persona, rising from poverty to wealth, creating his own identity, and still leaving many uncertainties about his true identity.
Who is Cary Grant?
Born Archibald Leach in Bristol in 1904, Grant was variously told as a child that his mother had left home or died; he only found out years later that she was still alive and been confined to a psychiatric hospital. Perhaps in reaction to his difficult home life, he was bitten by the performing bug early, learning to stiltwalk and touring with a stage troupe from his early teens; he was expelled from school at 14 and joined the troupe full time.
In 1920, Grant arrived in the US with his troupe and they had a successful tour in vaudeville. At the age of 17, he chose to stay in the US after the tour ended to see if he could make it. He went from performing on stilts to being in stage musicals, where he gained recognition for his roles as a young actor. His role as a romantic lead in the 1931 Broadway musical Nikki caught the attention of Hollywood and he was offered a five-year contract with Paramount Pictures. It was at this point that he adopted the name Cary Grant.
Although hesitant about the roles he received, Grant quickly made a strong impression with his talent for exuding a charming and non-threatening persona. He appeared as sophisticated playboy characters alongside some of the leading female actresses of the time in films such as Blonde Venus (with Marlene Dietrich), Devil and the Deep (with Tallulah Bankhead), and I’m No Angel (with Mae West).
Unfortunately, Grant’s studio contract was terminated and in a bold move for the 1930s, he chose to work independently through shared contracts with multiple studios. In 1937, Grant started a highly successful streak of comedies including Topper and The Awful Truth. He then went on to star in the iconic screwball comedies Bringing Up Baby (1938), His Girl Friday, and The Philadelphia Story (both in 1940).
One year later, Grant was chosen for his debut role in an Alfred Hitchcock movie, playing a potential murderer in the unsettling suspense film Suspicion. Despite the film’s later recognition, Hitchcock believed that Grant’s charming image had required him to modify the character from its original villainous nature. Nevertheless, Grant collaborated with Hitchcock again after the war in Notorious, a thriller featuring a famous kissing scene between Grant and his co-star, Ingrid Bergman, lasting over two minutes. To bypass a Hollywood restriction on lengthy kisses, the scene was divided into three-second segments.
Grant would go on to cement his reputation with Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief in 1955 and North by Northwest in 1959; he also had a huge hit in 1959 with the war comedy Operation Petticoat. His final substantial film was the Hitchcock-esque spy thriller Charade opposite Audrey Hepburn, now notorious for the 25-year age-gap romance between their characters.
Grant had a complex personal history, with five marriages under his belt. Among his spouses were heiress Barbara Hutton and actress Dyan Cannon, who was 33 years younger than him and with whom he had his only child, Jennifer. There were rumors for many years, particularly mentioned in Kenneth Anger’s book Hollywood Babylon, that Grant had a long-standing romantic relationship with fellow actor Randolph Scott. However, his daughter always refuted these claims. In the 1950s, Grant also developed an interest in LSD and consumed it on a regular basis for at least ten years.
In 1986, at the age of 82, Grant passed away from a stroke while practicing for a production of A Conversation with Cary Grant at a theater in Iowa.