Films

Movie Icons – Cary Grant

Written by Omair Alavi

Synopsis

Remembering the Hollywood icon Cary Grant on what would have been his 118th birth anniversary

If the word ‘cool’ had a face, it would have been exactly like Cary Grant’s. The British-American actor didn’t just have a successful career as an actor but was also known for his calm and debonair persona, which helped him rule Hollywood for four decades. Taschen honours Cary Grant with a book in their Movie Icons series that is laced with his quotes, ‘coats’, and rare photographs, and will surely make you want to know more about this Hollywood icon.

Movie Icons: Grant is the best way to trace back the career of a Hollywood legend who may have begun his career with an uncredited role, but ended up as an idol for many to follow. His fans know that Cary Grant was born as Archibald Alec Leach in January 1904, and began working in films after spending some time in theatre. However, not much is known about his career before he became the Cary Grant we love. This book details his earlier flicks that are not known to many, but which helped him find a footing in Hollywood and enabled him to become the first freelancer in the studio-controlled world.

According to this book, Cary Grant was a self-invented man in movies, second to only Charlie Chaplin. The similarity between the two didn’t end here – they both grew up poor, trained as acrobats, and had loads of confidence, which helped them when they decided to enter showbiz. However, this book adds that Cary Grant had a better tailor, which is why he managed to stay around from the 1930s till the 1960s without losing his touch. The many stills from Cary Grant’s films used in this book are a testament to that!

And since he was ‘acrobatic’, he was mostly selected for roles that required light-footedness, as well as suavity that was missing in his contemporaries. Be it stealing a heart or a piece of jewellery, he was so good that he set benchmarks with his performances. Not only will the readers see images from An Affair to RememberNotoriousNorth By Northwest, and To Catch a Thief, this book also features some noteworthy quotes from the man himself, as well as what others said about him. These quotes make the readers realise that Cary Grant was not just a good actor, but a performer par excellence, who was in fact playing ‘Cary Grant’ when onscreen.

Although he left the scene when he thought it was time for others to take over, he achieved a lot during his career. Most of his fans must have seen his four films with Alfred Hitchcock – Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955), and North by Northwest (1959) – besides a Hitchcock-like Charade (1963), but this book clearly labels North by Northwest as a ‘James Bond flick’ before there was a James Bond flick! In fact, had he been a young man when James Bond was being chosen, he might have had given a tough time to the younger Brits Sean Connery and Roger Moore.

If you didn’t know how Cary Grant was instrumental in the revival of colleague Katherine Hepburn’s career, how his life was affected by the return of his presumed-dead mother, or what made him become the first leading man in Hollywood to play cupid, you need to know a lot more about the actor. He was at ease while working in a comedy, a war film, an adventure movie, or even a suspense thriller, and that’s one of the reasons why he is still alive despite his death 35 years ago.

This book (as well as the entire series) can’t be categorised as an autobiography, biography, or pictorial because it’s a mixture of all three. What’s even better is that it features both the text and captions in three different languages – English, French, and German, and isn’t just limited to those who can read English only. That way, readers in three major languages can learn all there is to know about the actor who had the distinction of working with every femme fatale in the business, from Mae West to Sophia Loren, and all those who came in between.

Cary Grant might never have won the Academy Award but was nominated as Best Actor on a couple of occasions, and those films alongside others get mentioned in these 192 pages. The book also features a chronology of Cary Grant the person and filmography of Cary Grant the actor, besides over 100 high-quality portraits, nearly-forgotten posters, and magazine covers that featured the actor. Some images are stretched on two pages and sometimes, two images are there on one page; whatever the case, the more Cary, the better.

About the author

Omair Alavi