My Favorite Cary Grant Comediesby Jan Peregrine
May 3, 2003 (Updated May 8, 2003)
The Bottom Line Watch for Part 2 by end of the month hopefully.
I just adore this man! He puts a grin on my face whenever I'm treating myself to one of his many, many movies. Here I've only included 15 of his comedies that I've managed to find, but Part 2 of unknown length will cover his thrillers, many directed by Alfred Hitchcock. This loving tribute is long overdone as the gentleman who grew up as Archibald Leach and fantasized his screen personality of Cary Grant passed on due to a stroke in 1986. I've read that much of his screen personality was inspired by his ghostly role in 1937's Topper, a screwball comedy it seems I'll need to buy on VHS since it's not on DVD.
Indeed Grant overwhelms one with his mystique and elegance, even in the midst of slapstick and high comedy that he so brilliantly executed throughout his thirty-year acting career and especially in these 15 movies. I can recommend them all extremely highly if you seek to lose yourself for a little while into the often zany, though sophisticated world of Cary Grant.
When he retired in 1966, the era of farcical wit and glamour indeed went with him. The world of cinema became edgier, heavy with stark realism and groping passion that, in effect, strangled his persona. Grant was still as popular as ever, but there was nothing for him to do but disappear from the scene as his ghost character did so long ago.
It's too difficult to rank them by preference, so this list will be by director. Why? Why not? Besides, next to Grant and the cast, the director makes the movie. However, to keep with the 10 Best theme of this category, Houseboat, Operation Petticoat, Once Upon A Time, Walk Don't Run and Gunga Din can be given Honorable Mention as compared to the others. I've just watched I'm No Angel from 1933 and will enthusiastically include it as well.
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) Frank Capra, director. Grant brings his fiancée to meet his aunts, to discover they are "compassionately" poisoning their lonely guests. Josephine Hull and Jean Adair play the sweet, crazy aunts, with Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff. It's a madhouse!
The Philadelphia Story (1940) George Cukor, director. Grant harasses his ex-wife, played by Katharine Hepburn, who is getting remarried. James Stewart, a nosey reporter, helps her to thaw out the night before the wedding (oops!). I also loved the remake in a musical form, High Society.
Operation Petticoat (1959) Blake Edwards, director. Grant, commander of a pink sub, has his hands full with a con-man first lieutenant (Tony Curtis) and a bevy of army nurses mucking things up.
Once Upon A Time (1944) Alexander Hall, director. Only Grant could pull off this kiddie fantasy starring a dancing caterpillar we never see until the end. It may have been a commercial and critical flop, but I loved it. See my long review.
Bringing Up Baby (1938) Howard Hawks, director. Grant is a nerdy paleontologist waiting for a bone in the mail, but a peppy dog, Katharine Hepburn and a pet leopard who loves the song "I'll Do Anything For You, Baby!" complicate matters!
His Girl Friday (1940) Howard Hawks, director. Reporter Grant vies for a top story with his reporter ex-wife (Rosalind Russell) who planned to leave her job to get remarried. This is based on a real newspaper story, The Front Page, from 1928. The path of true love was never more twisted.
Monkey Business (1952) Howard Hawks, director. Grant invents a youth serum in his laboratory and he, then his wife (Ginger Rogers) try it out with Marilyn Monroe as the flirty secretary who can't type. Oh to be a kid again!
My Favorite Wife (1940) Garson Kanin, director. Grant's first wife (Irene Dunne) returns after seven years on a desert island with a hunky man (Randolph Scott) and Grant, who has just remarried, is very suspicious of their relationship and spies on them, hehe.
The Awful Truth (1937) Leo McCarey, director. Grant again suspects his wife (Irene Dunne) of cheating and before their divorce is final, they banter and humiliate each other while dating people totally wrong for them. Another peppy dog, same one maybe.
Father Goose (1964) Ralph Nelson, director. Grant's lovable, alcoholic hermit character must watch for enemy jets from a deserted island, but a feisty teacher (Leslie Caron) with her precocious girls need protection after being abandoned.
The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (1947) Irving Reis, director. Grant runs into a no-nonsense judge (Mryna Loy) and then her kid sister (Shirley Temple) who flips over him so that Grant is ordered by the judge to date her until she regains her senses...or someone does!
I'm No Angel (1933) William Ruggles/Mae West?, director. Baby-faced Grant without a polished accent is the fella screenwriter Mae West, the original sexpot, falls for and agrees to marry, but it takes her quick wit in court to overcome obstacles for them. Mesmerizing, uncensored fun that scandalized proper society and Hollywood!
Houseboat (1958) Melville Shavelson, director. Grant, a widower gaining custody of his disappointed children, needs a dilapidated houseboat and sexy maid (Sophia Loren) to find his life again. Loren married Carlo Ponti by proxy despite married Grant's second proposal during filming. Tough acting happy after that, but he did.
Gunga Din (1939) George Stevens, director. Grant, Victor McLaglen and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. are like the Three Muskateers while stationed in India to stop a cult and their huge army. These guys really ham it up sometimes, but their love for each other was extraordinary!
Talk of the Town (1942) George Stevens, director. Grant escapes prison before being hung for something he didn't do and hides in a noted attorney's (Ronald Colman) home where he, Colman and his secretary (Jean Arthur) become friends before the cops find Grant. Biting commentary on the justice system.
Walk Don't Run (1966) Charles Walters, director. Grant's last film has him a matchmaker while on business in a crowded Tokyo during the 1964 Olympics. Samantha Eggar and Jim Hutton find love with Grant's pointers and help distracting her fiancée. Grant goes public in his underwear!
Mention should be made of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House with Myrna Loy, but I honestly can't remember how funny it was. Some of you may enjoy That Touch of Mink with virginal Doris Day, although it's a bit too implausible for even me! Many seem to find I Was A Male War Bride hilarious, but it just didn't impress me.
Cary Grant certainly loved beautiful ladies and had his share of them on and off screen, being married five times and a father to a daughter. He also was a loyal friend to both men and women; a devoted stepfather, father and occasionally husband; a joy to work with usually; an entertaining lecturer for some years around campuses; a prominent businessman after his film career; a recipient of an honorary Oscar; and a humanitarian.
He may have taken LSD to try to understand who he was through his dreams, and was able to quit smoking that way, but it only reveals how frustrated he was with taking on a second identity. Behind his persona, Cary was still a confused, insecure Archie Leach who twice referred to him in a movie, once as a name on a gravestone.
Archie, Cary, thank you. You're a Topper!
My review of Once Upon A Time
artbyjude's review of I'm No Angel