CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Cary Grant’s Later Years

 For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

In celebration of the birthday anniversary of Cary Grant we continue last week’s examination of the legendary actor’s career.

Following his own personal dissatisfaction with The Philadelphia Story, Grant appeared in the first of four movies under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock in 1941’s Suspicion.  Like the former flick, Grant did not get along well with his co-star Joan Fontaine and would never work with her again.  Hitchcock was also critical of Grant, citing it was a mistake to cast him in the role.  Ironically enough, Hitchcock would later criticize James Stewart with the same offense 17 years later and referred to Stewart as “no Cary Grant.”

That same year, Grant received his first Oscar nomination for Penny Serenade.

According to Turner Classic Movies, Grant also benefited largely from the film industry’s production code for the 1944 dark comedy Arsenic And Old LaceThe movie was based largely on the stage play but the film code would not allow for certain scenes to be shown.  In its place, Director Frank Capra would substitute loosely scripted exchanges where Grant would just have to go “over the top” and playup a made-shift scene instead.  

The biggest example of this is at the film’s climax.  The film code (in the 1940s) would never allows for murderers to get away without punishment in a comedic film, so the scene in which the “old ladies” are given poisonous wine to the police was replaced with Grant kissing his finance, running around the house exuberantly and running out into the street yelling “Charge!” (a humorous reference to a recurring joke throughout the film).

According to the Graham McCann autobiography Cary Grant: A Class Apart, Grant would later say “Arsenic” was the worst performance of his career and he hated the dark subject matter (his character’s family was all insane).  This might be because his real life mother was also institutionalized early in Grant’s childhood.  His father also left him on his own as a teenager when he found a higher paying job in another city.

Two of Grant’s most memorable roles occurred in 1946’s Notorious (co-starring Ingrid Bergman and directed by Hitchcock) and 1947’s The Bishop’s Wife (with Loretta Young and David Niven).  The following year Grant was named the fourth highest box office draw in the world, but his failure in films like Monkey Business and Dream Wife led to the idea that his days as a leading man were over. Cary then left the film industry and didn’t work at all for several years.

His fortunes changed in 1955 when Alfred Hitchcock complained about Stewart’s performance (for the first of two times) in the rebooting of his own film, The Man Who Knew Too Much.  Grant would star in two Hitchcock-directed film classics, playing his usual suave, leading man persona, in To Catch A Thief and North by Northwest.

Ian Fleming then approached Cary Grant about playing James Bond in 007’s film debut, Dr. No, ironically after Grant’s former co-star, David Niven turned down the role. But Fleming had to withdraw his offer when Grant said he would only portray the super spy in one film and would not commit to a lengthy film series.

After starring in Charade and Father Goose, he had become increasingly disillusioned with cinema in the 1960s, rarely finding a script which he approved of. He remarked: “I could have gone on acting and playing a grandfather or a bum, but I discovered more important things in life” and dedicated his time to his daughter and grandchildren.  According to Gary Morecambe and Martin Sterling’s book, Cary Grant: In Name Only, they would go on to say that Grant knew after he had made Charade that the “Golden Age” of Hollywood was over.

Twenty-three years later, just hours before he was scheduled to appear on stage talking about his life, he suffered a stroke.  Despite medical personnel on the site, Grant refused any treatment and died a few hours later.  He was 82.

Grant is regarded as one of the greatest Hollywood actors ever. To this day, he frequently is positioned in the top two or three spots in various film critics and media outlets “all-time” greatest actors’ listings.

Be sure to check out some of Cary Grant’s legendary performances in Charade, His Girl Friday, and other classic films on RCN-TV.  To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.
Chris Michael About Chris Michael

Chris handles play-by-play for RCN sports events, including baseball, football & basketball games and produces/hosts the station’s 60-minute live call-in show. Among Chris’s other responsibilities include reporting on local news & sports stories, conducting “Take 5” interviews with community and political leaders, producing commercials, voiceovers and promos; and generating blog entries and videos on the internet. Click here to listen to the weekly Sports Talk podcast.

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