“I was emotionally immature,” Grant says humbly “I persisted in my stupidities.”

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For the last 25 years, a tall, dark, handsome and apparently ageless fellow has sauntered through the dreams of female moviegoers. His brow and chin are cleft sharply, as if by a sabre cut. He has spindle shanks, a muscular torso, a perpetual tan (beach in summer, sun lamp in winter), dazzling white teeth, and coarse iron-gray hair. His voice is pleasantly rough, with nasal overtones; his eyes are black, deep-set, and usually worried.

Cary Archibald Alexander Leach Grant is able to use these physical attributes with all the dexterity of a magician flipping a card out of the air.

A shrug and a grin, he is boyishly irresistible. A frown and a tightened cheek-muscle, he is the stout adventurer. A yell and a sprawl, he is the uproarious comedian. A whisper and a twinkle, he is the romantic lover.

 

“Of course, sex appeal, looks and all that get mixed up in it,” he says disarmingly, “but really, the director who hires me gets the large, economy package of acting. I’m still on top simply because I save the studios money.”

Grant explains this curious claim with an expert pantomime of what he means. “suppose I’m doing the simplest thing: speaking a line to someone off-camera. The director tells me to take a drink of iced tea at the same time. That presents a thousand problems.

“If I bring the glass up too soon, I sound like a man hollering into a barrel. If I put it in front of my mouth, I spoil my expression. If I put it down hard, I kill a word on the sound track; if I don’t, I make it seem unreal. I have to hold the glass at a slight angle to keep reflections out of the lens. It has to be absolutely still to keep the ice from tinkling since you can’t use cellophane substitutes in the close-ups. And finally, I have to remember to keep my head up because I have a double chin!”

He points out that using a movie novice who didn’t know all this — however experienced an actor he might be otherwise — could cause a delay of hours in shooting time where each lost minute runs into thousands of dollars.

Grant, who gets $300,000 a picture, has been in the high tax brackets for the last 18 years. “Out of each $100,000,” he says, “I take home exactly $13,000. Even at those bargain prices I like to work. I’m proud of being an expert screen actor.”

The kind of poise that Grant typifies on the screen has not been easy for him to come by. A sensitive man, inclined to be wary of the world but desperately wanting to be friendly, he has come to the conclusion, after more than 60 movies, that privacy is the single luxury a movie star cannot afford.

 

As an actor, however, he is anxious to have the public on his side.  In the early days of his career, he fretted away his evenings in cheap hotel rooms, trying to analyze why people laughed or sighed at certain words and gestures.  Later, as a star, he made it a habit to sneak into the back row at one of his own pictures and discover firsthand exactly what bits of theatrics got a good response.

“I’ve got a whole headful of push-button tricks,” he says.  “But the best way to get the sympathy of an audience is to get yourself into a jam and let them help you wangle your way out.  A kindly chuckle is the actor’s best old-age insurance.”

On the other hand, Grant loathes the individual parts of an audience.  Assailed by autograph fans, he has been known to deliver a short, impassioned address urging them to go back to kindergarten, then sullenly sign his name.

He has an easily roused temper and is capable of such great concentration that it often appears to be an exhibition of selfishness.  Grant thinks his two marriage failures — his first to an actress, Virginia Cherrill, in 1934, and to Barbara Hutton, one of the world’s richest girls — can be attributed to the fact that “I thought too much about my career and not enough about them.”
The muscular Grant torso is made more so by chinning on a staircase at home.

“I was emotionally immature,” Grant says humbly.  “I persisted in my stupidities.”  It is on such occasions that he exhibits an unnatural gallantry toward the other sex — a trait which seeps through on film and endears him to all women.

As for the three-year Hutton affair, the accepted explanation is that “the socialities around the heiress couldn’t take the actors around the husband.”  Whatever broke up these romances, it did not create the usual aversion.

The rebound from the Hutton fiasco was three years behind him when he saw a young actress-writer, Betsy Drake, playing in a London hit show, Deep Are the Roots.  Her evocative performance impressed him.

Grant got her the lead opposite himself in his next picture.  He astounded the camera-conscious crowd by allowing her to fudge most of the footage.  They were married in Arizona on Christmas Day, 1949, with Howard Hughes – and old friend – as best man.  The match has been a highly successful one ever since.

His pert, attractive wife – with the personality of a dedicated pixy – has had much more influence on Grant than most people know.  She has settled him down to less drinking and practically no smoking.  She has given him a stability and comfort that he never knew.

At their unpretentious Palm Springs house, Grant spends a good deal of time soaking up the sun and getting his tan, exercising his undeniably excellent physique, and chivvying his wife about her writing – something she has been working at earnestly.  He is openly proud of her efforts in this direction.  His wife smiles mysteriously and says little, a fact that occasionally makes her voluble and efficient husband apprehensive.

The fact is that Grant is precise and methodical enough to make him a hard customer to live with.  He does not care to have bits and pieces lying around – everything he does, from perfectionism in acting to dandyism in the way he dresses, fulfills this complex of tidiness, which is possibly a reaction to the helter-skelter commencement of his career.

Though he was born on January 18, 1904, in the respectable suburbs of Bristol, England, in a well-to-do family, he likes to think of himself as a cockney.  He can shift effortlessly from classic English to a spray of aspirates.  He has a habit of emitting low greetings to people high in his estimation – such as ” ‘Ow are’e, Jymes?” or “Gor bless ‘e, Al; ‘ow’s the mussus?”  This knack dates back to his first theatrical job, that of a knockabout comedian in an English vaudeville troupe.

by Movies

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