Cary Grant was the definitive leading man –handsome, debonair and funny, he had the ability to mock his own persona without losing his dignity. His comic timing was impeccable, yet he transitioned into dramas, particularly those directed by Alfred Hitchcock, with ease and flare.
Born January 18, 1904, in Bristol, England as Archibald Alistair Leach, he was the second son of Elias and Elsie Leach. His childhood was an unhappy one, with the one bright spot being the song-and-dance lessons his mother arranged for him. As a teenager, he joined a vaudeville troupe. Eventually that led to roles on stage and brought him to the attention of film producers.
In the 1930s and 40s, Grant established himself as the premiere comedic leading man, starring in dozens of films, including such classics as The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday and The Awful Truth. He was one of the most sought-after actors for just about any romantic comedy made during that time.
In the 40s he began working with Alfred Hitchcock, and over the years starred in several of that great director’s films, including Notorious and North by Northwest.
His last film was Walk Don’t Run (1966), a remake of the classic The More the Merrier, in which he reprised the role originally played by Charles Coburn.
Incredibly, Grant never won an Academy Award for any of his performances. In 1970 he received an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and in 1981 he was given Kennedy Center Honors.
In his later years, he toured the country with his one-man show, A Conversation with Cary Grant, in which he played clips from his films, talked about his career, and answered audience questions. It was while preparing for his show in Davenport, Iowa on November 29, 1986, that he suffered a severe stroke and shortly thereafter died.
Despite his classic good looks and suave demeanor, Grant had an on-screen manner of an ordinary man, never relying on his appearance for success. Those closest to him say that was also how he lived his life. It is perhaps one of the key factors in his success, other than, of course, an incredible talent and presence.