Let’s bust two Cary Grant myths and confirm another, shall we?
He never said “Judy, Judy, Judy” on screen.
He didn’t respond to a reporter’s telegram asking, HOW OLD CARY GRANT? with OLD CARY GRANT FINE. HOW YOU?
But he did take LSD (therapeutically) about 100 times in the 1950s.
Wait – Cary Grant dropped acid? (Didn’t see that one coming!)
In truth, Hollywood’s drop-dead-gorgeous legend was a complicated man who reinvented himself as a suave superstar. Archibald Leach was born on January 18, 1904 in Bristol, England. His father Elias was a pants presser – and alcoholic. Mother Elsie vanished when Archie was nine. Relatives claimed Elsie was dead. That was a lie: Elias had committed her to a sanitarium for depression. (Archie learned Elsie was alive – and they reunited – when he was 30.)
At 13, Archie fell in love...with show business. He ran lights for a local theater, and at 14, ran away from home to join a vaudeville troupe, where he mastered tumbling and pantomime. (Check out his back flip in the film, Holiday.) At 16, Archie crisscrossed America with the act. When the group returned to England, he stayed in New York to pursue stage roles.
Like most aspiring actors, Archie worked odd jobs, like stilt-walking at Coney Island. Eventually, he scored his first Broadway show in 1927, but flunked his first screen test in 1929. The Fox talent report noted: “He’s bowlegged and his neck is too thick.” Paramount executives disagreed. They signed him to a contract, changed his name to Cary Grant and predicted, “We’ve got another Gable.”
From 1932 to 1966, Cary conquered every film genre – except Westerns – with such hit pics as The Awful Truth, Bringing Up Baby, Gunga Din, The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, Penny Serenade, Notorious, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, To Catch a Thief, An Affair to Remember, Operation Petticoat and North by Northwest.
Audrey Hepburn captured Cary’s timeless appeal in Charade: “Do you know what’s wrong with you? Nothing.” He once quipped, “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.” But there were three dreams even Cary Grant couldn’t make true until he retired from movies: an Academy Award (for lifetime achievement), a child (Jennifer, born in 1966), and a happy marriage (to Wife #5 Barbara).
On November 29, 1986, Grant died suddenly in – of all places – Davenport, Iowa while touring with his one-man show. To paraphrase writer John O’Hara’s reaction to George Gershwin’s death, “Cary Grant died, but I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.”