Of many leading ladies, Cary Grant called Grace Kelly his favorite (NUMBER 1)

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Perhaps because several Cary Grant movies — “My Favorite Wife,” “Night and Day,” “Destination Tokyo,” “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” and “The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer” — will make their DVD debuts Tuesday, old Cary Grant stories are swirling in trade papers.

In one, Grant (1904-86) identifies Grace Kelly, who co-starred with him in Alfred Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief,” as his favorite leading lady.

When he announced his selection many years ago, it was a surprising choice considering his eminently suitable co-stars included Katharine Hepburn (four films), Audrey Hepburn (one), Sophia Loren (two), Irene Dunne (three), Deborah Kerr (three), Eva Marie Saint (one), Myrna Loy (three) and his great friend Ingrid Bergman (two).

“I’ve worked with many fine actresses,” Variety quotes Grant as telling Interview magazine, “but in my opinion the best actress I ever worked with was Grace Kelly. Ingrid, Audrey, Deborah Kerr were splendid, splendid actresses, but Grace was utterly relaxed — the most extraordinary actress ever.

“Her mind was razor-keen, but she was relaxed while she was doing it. I appreciated that.”

I remember Grant identifying Kelly as his favorite at least 20 years ago — he must have been responding to the question nightly in his “Evening With Cary Grant” presentation — but on that occasion he explained that it was because she had managed to make so appealing a character in “To Catch a Thief” who was an unregenerate snob.

Every actress may have wanted to be one of Grant’s leading ladies, but not all enjoyed the experience.

He and Joan Fontaine reportedly did not get along well on “Suspicion.”

He and Doris Day, teaming in “That Touch of Mink,” both believed they looked better from the same side, which created problems photographing them together in most of the romantic comedy’s scenes.

Day spent much of one day in tears when they could not come to an agreement over who would sit on which side during a vehicle-backseat scene. Grant finally acquiesced.

Hitchcock, whom even Grant believed wanted to be Grant, used him in four pictures (“Suspicion,” “Notorious,” “To Catch a Thief,” “North by Northwest”) but reportedly resented his high salaries, which finally included even a percentage of the gross.

Paradoxically, Hitchcock wanted Grant for at least six pictures that were among the countless dozens on which Grant passed: “Spellbound” and “The Paradine Case” (both finally played by Gregory Peck), “Rope” (the first of four Hitchcocks for Jimmy Stewart), “I Confess” (Montgomery Clift), “The Birds” (Rod Taylor) and “Torn Curtain” (Paul Newman and Hitchcock became notoriously unhappy collaborators).

Conversely, Grant very much wanted to play the murder-planning husband in “Dial M for Murder” for Hitchcock, but Warner Bros. balked at the actor’s salary demands, and Ray Milland got the part.

At least one biography of Grant asserts that he refused to let his co-stars wear bright red lest their outfits pull the eye.

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