Happy Birthday, Archie Leach

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I first saw the light of day — or rather the dark of night — around 1:00 a.m. on a cold January morning, in a suburban stone house which, lacking modern heating conveniences, kept only one step ahead of freezing by means of small coal fires in small bedroom fireplaces; and ever since, I’ve persistently arranged to spend every possible moment where the sun shines warmest.

Cary Grant

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In honor of Cary Grant’s birthday, some links and stories and reposts (full archive of stuff here):

To start with, one of my favorite quotes from the man himself, and a perfect rejoinder to those who say, “He was just playing himself in that movie” in regards to, oh, Cary Grant, John Wayne, Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper, take your pick. As though “playing yourself” is easy, first of all, and as though that’s all these people did? But I’ll let Grant take it from there: Grant said (and this is brilliant and fascinating):

To play yourself — your true self — is the hardest thing in the world. Watch people at a party. They’re playing themselves … but nine out of ten times the image they adopt for themselves is the wrong one.

In my earlier career I patterned myself on a combination of Englishmen — AE Matthews, Noel Coward, and Jack Buchanan, who impressed me as a character actor. He always looked so natural. I tried to copy men I thought were sophisticated and well dressed like Douglas Fairbanks or Cole Porter. And Freddie Lonsdale, the British playwright, always had an engaging answer for everything.

I cultivated raising one eyebrow and tried to imitate those who put their hands in their pockets with a certain amount of ease and nonchalance. But at times, when I put my hand in my trouser pocket with what I imagined was great elegance, I couldn’t get the blinking thing out again because it dripped from nervous perspiration!

I guess to a certain extent I did eventually become the characters I was playing. I played at someone I wanted to be until I became that person. Or he became me.

What is so unique about him, so extraordinarily unique is that he looked like that, first of all, but that he also had to create this persona from the ground up. And he did. He worked it like a job until it was second nature. One of the most self-conscious (and in the best sense) stars. That guy we all love was created, not by the studios, but by him. And that he worked it so specifically – how to put your hands in your pockets, how to cross your legs. A man who had been abandoned by his mother (so he thought), a man who ran away and joined the circus at a young impressionable age, he had to cultivate things that came naturally to others. He was not born to privilege or status, and yet eventually he became the symbol of all of that: tuxedos on ocean liners and everything. What is amazing is how naturally it came to him once he got the hang of it. Dude was a genius.

Grant spoke about his influences, and what it was like traveling around the provinces as a teenager, learning tumbling and being the “straight man” to the comics:

Touring the English provinces with the troupe, I grew to appreciate the fine art of pantomime. No dialogue was used in our act and each day, on a bare stage, we learned not only dancing, tumbling, and stilt-walking under the expert tuition of Bob Pender, but also how to convey a mood or meaning without words. How to establish communication silently with an audience, using the minimum of movement and expression; how best immediately and precisely to effect an emotional response — a laugh or, sometimes, a tear. The greatest pantomimists of our day have been able to induce both at once. Charles Chaplin, Cantinflas, Marcel Marceau, Jacques Tati, Fernandel, and England’s Richard Herne. And in bygone years, Grock, the Lupino family, Bobby Clark, and the unforgettable tramp cyclist Joe Jackson; and currently Danny Kaye, Red Skelton, Sid Caesar, and even Jack Benny with his slow, calculated reactions.

Surprisingly, Hitchcock is one of the most subtle pantomimists of them all.

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Garson Kanin said:

Cary was not one of those movie stars who gets out there just because he’s handsome and has a flair for playing one key or another. He worked very hard. I remember that indelibly. Almost more than any other quality was his seriousness about his work. He was always prepared; he always knew his part, his lines, and the scene. And he related very well to the other players. He took not only his own part seriously; he took the whole picture seriously. He’d come and look at the rushes every evening. No matter how carefree and easygoing he seemed in the performance, in reality he was a serious man, an exceptionally concentrated man. And extremely intelligent, too. Still, he played far more on instinct than he did on intellect. I don’t recall him ever intellectually discussing a role or a scene or a picture or a part. He trusted his own instincts, which had worked for him so well. He just polished that up and used it.

My 5 for the Day at House Next Door.

“He had a hard-boiled egg ….”

Excerpt from Peter Bogdanovich’s interview with Howard Hawks:

PB: By the end of the film, would you say that [Cary] Grant has abandoned his scientific life?

HH: Well, let’s say he mixed it. He had an awfully good time and if anyone had to choose between the two girls, they’d certainly choose Hepburn. We start off, as I said, with a complete caricature of the man and then reduce it to give him a feeling of normality because he certainly wouldn’t have had any fun going through life the other way, would he? You’ve got a rather happy ending. You have to almost overdo it a little in the beginning and then he becomes more normal as the picture goes along, just by his association with the girl. Grant said, “I’m kind of dropping my characterization.” I said, “No, she’s having some influence on you. You’re getting a little normal.”

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Cary Grant in HOT SATURDAY, 1932

An old love affair: “Brooksie” remembers.

My appreciative piece on Penny Serenade.

Jimmy Stewart said, of the great drunk scene in Philadelphia Story:

I play a writer who falls in love with Katharine Hepburn. The night before her wedding I have a little too much to drink. This gives me the courage to go and talk to Cary, who’s playing her ex-husband. So I go to Cary’s house and knock on the door. It’s obvious I’ve had too much to drink, but he lets me in.

It was time to do the scene, and Cary said, “George, why don’t we just go ahead? If you don’t like it, we’ll do it again.” So, without a rehearsal or anything, we started the scene. As I was talking, it hit me that I’d had too much to drink. So, as I explained things to Cary, I hiccuped. In answer to the hiccup, Cary said — out of the clear blue sky — “Excuse me.” Well, I sort of said, “Ummm?” It was very difficult for me to keep a straight face, because his ad-libbed response had been so beautifully done … Cary had an almost perfect humor.

Irene Dunne said:

I loved working with Cary — every minute of it. Between takes he was so amusing with his cockney stories. I was his best audience. I laughed and laughed and laughed. The more I laughed, the more he went on.

Cary Grant said:

Comedy holds the greatest risk for an actor, and laughter is the reward. You must be laughed at. You know right away that you’re a flop if no one laughs. An actor in a drama doesn’t get that kind of immediate feedback. Unless it’s a great tearjerker, you can’t tell how you’re doing. People think it’s easy to get a laugh. It’s not. There’s a story about a dying actor who was asked how it felt to die, and he said, “Dying’s easy; comedy’s hard.”

I liked making comedy films even though there was little flexibility. Your timing had to be modified for the screen. Since a laugh rolling up the aisles of a big city movie theatre took longer than one bouncing off the walls of a tiny rural vaudeville house, you had to time what you thought would please all audiences. And you had to think about theatre audiences because the film crews don’t laugh. They are too busy doing their own jobs.

Rosalind Russell wrote in her autobiography about filming His Girl Friday:

Hawks was a terrific director; he encouraged us and let us go. Once he told Cary, “Next time give her a bigger shove onto the couch,” and Cary said, “Well, I don’t want to kill the woman,” and Hawks thought about that for a second. Then he said, “Try killin’ ‘er.”

And once Cary looked straight out of a scene and said to Hawks (about something I was trying), “Is she going to do that?” and Hawks left the moment in the picture — Cary’s right there on film, asking an unseen director about my plans.

Gene Wilder tells a funny story in his memoir:

Silver Streak was a big hit and was chosen as the Royal Performance for the queen of England and the royal family. I couldn’t go to London because I was filming The World’s Greatest Love at the time, but a month later, when Prince Charles came to visit 20th-Century Fox, I was invited to attend a luncheon in his honor, to be held in the Fox commissary.

As I was walking along the small street that leads from the office buildings to the commissary, a taxi pulled up and I heard someone shouting, “Oh, Mr. Wilder! … Mr. Wilder!” I turned and saw Cary Grant stepping out of the taxi. My heart started pounding a little faster, but I didn’t throw up this time, as I did when I met Simone Signoret. Cary Grant walked up to me, and after we shook hands, he said, “I was sailing on the QEII to England with my daughter, and on the second day out she said, ‘Dad-dy, I want to see the Silver Streak — they’re showing it in the Entertainment Room.’ And I said, ‘No, darling, I don’t go to movies in public.’ And she said, ‘Dad-dy, Dad-dy, please – I want to see the Silver Streak.’ So I took her to see your film. And then we saw it again the next day, and the next. Tell me something, will you?”

“Of course.”

“Was your film in any way inspired by North by Northwest?”

“Absolutely! Collin Higgins, who wrote the film, loved North by Northwest. It was one of his favorites. I think he was trying to do his version of it.”

“I thought so,” Mr. Grant said. “It never fails! You take an ordinary chap like you or me … (An ordinary chap like you or me? Didn’t he ever see a Cary Grant movie?) … put him in trouble way over his head, and then watch him try to squirm out of it. Never fails!”

Yeah, you know. An “ordinary chap”.

Mm-hm. Completely an Everyman, isn’t he?

But that was part of the genius going on here, the trick of it that can never again be replicated because there is only one Cary Grant. There is nothing more “ordinary” than poor David Huxley just trying to survive the night in the company of insane Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby. He wasn’t smooth or elegant. He COULD be, but he was funnier when he TRIED to be smooth, and somehow ended up slapping a woman on the ass with his top hat in the middle of a crowded nightclub. But then, when he got to be smooth, no one was smoother. I believe that Cary Grant has an almost otherworldly element to his talent. It is so conscious, so engineered, and yet also so innate. It exists on both levels simultaneously. Almost impossible to pull off, and nearly unheard of in a man who looks … well, like THAT.

Excerpt from Marc Eliot’s biography of Cary Grant

Just as amazing, if not even more impressive, the film career of the actor whom Time magazine once described as “the world’s most perfect male animal” began relatively late, according to Hollywood’s quick time clock. Grant was twenty-eight years old when he first went west to seek his fortune in films, having spent the better part of his twenties as a steadily rising leading man in a succession of Broadway musicals and comedies.

Over the next three and a half decades, his impact on movies was so enormous, he would virtually redefine the cinematic image of the romantic American male. In the hands of Hollywood’s immigrant-bred, mostly Jewish studio moguls endlessly obsessed with female WASP beauty, British Archie Leach was reborn as the projection of their own idealized American selves and presented to the world as Cary Grant.

Yet, despite his physical beauty (and that was, with rare exception, all the moguls ever really required of him), Grant early on sensed something was lacking in his acting, that there was an internal disconnect between his manufactured cinematic image and his inner being. Indeed, without a masterful script to provide a compelling character, without a brilliant costume designer to dress him up, without an artful makeup man to apply the sheen to his skin, without a tasteful set designer to enshrine him, without a skillfuyl editor to exact his comic timing, without a sharp-eyed cameraman to place him in the most favorable light, without a beautiful costar to externalize desire, and without a director to impose his own unifying personality, Grant feared that, at heart, he was less than the sum of his movie-star whole, a spiritless cinematic symbol.

Moreover, once a performance was constructed and frozen on film, he knew he would forever have to compete with that symbol in a battle against time in reality he could never win. That is why, in to the fifties (both his own and the century’s), he became increasingly more selective in his choice of screen roles and directors, choosing only those parts and the men who guided him in them, directors who best knew how to help him perform that special Grant sleight-of-hand on audiences over and over again without ever once giving the trick away.

He is my favorite actor.

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23 Responses to Happy Birthday, Archie Leach

  1. amelie says:

    LOVE this, every year!

    Over Christmas break I watched Arsenic and Old Lace, and I remembered reading somewhere that that was his least favourite of his films, because he thought he was too over-the-top. I wondered if I read that in your archive (probably!) and since I can’t remember for sure, it’s probably a good time to start rereading it all!

    (which is a roundabout way of thanking you for providing an online Cary Grant encyclopedia of sorts!)

    love the excerpt from Rosalind Russell — were they only in His Girl Friday together? I feel like she’s referring to that movie — I can picture that line of his — but I honestly can’t remember for sure if they were in anything else together.

  2. Charles J. Sperling says:

    Alfred Hitchcock made four movies with Cary Grant and four with James Stewart, and he was asked the difference between the two.

    His reply was that a Cary Grant movie would be lighter and warmer than one with Stewart; you’d be gripped, but you’d be certain that it’d all end well. With Stewart, it would be darker and edgier: you wouldn’t be sure that the outcome would be as gratifying or as sunny. (Anthony Mann gets a lot of credit for that with the five Westerns he made with Stewart; however, Hitchcock may have gotten in on the ground floor with that with “Rope” in 1948, along with Henry Hathaway that same year in “Call Northside 777.”)

    For a long time, I thought that said it all, but in looking over your “What’s in the Glass?” post (“She was humming ‘Suspicion,’ that’s the song she liked best…”), and after several listens to a Smithsonian/Radio Spirits collection of Grant’s radio work (Stewart has one, too), I’m not so sure. Grant could be a cantankerous soul on occasion as Geoff Carter proves, and Alec Walker in “In Name Only” is most certainly not happy over being married to Kay Francis (who neither loves him nor whom he loves) when he’s in love with Carole Lombard. (His Walter Burns isn’t Adolphe Menjou’s in the 1931 “Front Page,” but you can understand why Hildy divorced him.) Joe Adams in “Mr. Lucky” is a criminal and a draft dodger, and the other three Hitchcock characters are paragons by no means: Roger Thornhill is twice-divorced; John Robie was an actual thief; and Devlin at times makes Claude Rains’s Alexander Sebastian seem as lovable as Captain Renault in “Casablanca.” (Just get him away from his mother and you’ll live happily ever after, Alicia!)

    Which makes it all the more annoying to me that as Johnnie Aysgarth Grant didn’t get the chance to be the charming, deadly sociopath Frances Iles wrote him as in *Before the Fact.* I know that Joan Fontaine’s Lina wants to live, but so did Susan Hayward’s Barbara Graham, and she didn’t. Yet Lina does: she goes from a woman prepared to be an Accessory Before the Fact to someone whose “suspicion” was misplaced.

    It particularly galls me because I gather that there was some idea of an ending in which Johnnie would go through with it — only Lina, before her death of flu (people do die of it, you know), would have written a letter revealing his guilt which she’d ask him to mail after the deadly milk. Johnnie would agree to it and the movie would end with a whistling Cary Grant posting the letter which will send him to the gallows.

    I’d rather have seen that. Or some ending derived from Iles’s other “inverted” mystery novel, *Malice Aforethought,* wherein the postman does ring twice for Dr. Bickleigh after he murders his wife. (Hitchcock dabbled with a radio series called “Once upon a Midnight” in 1945: the one surviving episode of it is an adaptation of *Malice Aforethought,* covering about half the novel.)

    Grant plays the lead in two Cornell Woolrich adaptations on the Smithsonian/RSI set: “The Black Curtain” (amnesia victim trying to fill in what he’s lost) and “The Black Path of Fear” (man framed for murder in Havana). He’s not what you’d expect in either — in the latter, he’s downright vengeful — and yet it’s of a piece with his work in “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” and as a fill-in in for Robert Montgomery in an adaptation of “Here Comes Mr. Jordan.” Thus, for me, his Johnnie disappoints: there are movies which deviate from the source material in the end but still seem true to it (“Nightmare Alley” and “A Streetcar Named Desire” come first to mind). This one doesn’t, and given the talents of Grant, Fontaine, Bruce and Hitchcock, it should have.

    Sorry for that, but I couldn’t get the system to accept it with the “Glass” post and had to get it out. For the rest, I can merely echo Jerry/Daphne over Joe/Josephine’s accent as Shell Oil, Jr.: “And that accent! Nobody talks like that!” At least one actor did, and thank heavens that he did!

    Oh…did you know that Grant played a fifth Hitchcock role? “Lux Radio Theater” adapted “I Confess” in 1953, and Montgomery Clift didn’t reprise his role as Father Logan. It was Grant who had to struggle with the seal of sacrament.

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  4. sheila says:

    Charles:

    // as Johnnie Aysgarth Grant didn’t get the chance to be the charming, deadly sociopath Frances Iles wrote him as in *Before the Fact.* //

    I have not read the book, but I can feel that in the film. The film is at war with itself. The ending is a cop-out. I believe Grant had it in him, too – it would have been interesting to see. His looks are actually quite disorienting. People are more forgiving towards those who look like that. Grant seemed to understand this and used it to his advantage – brilliantly. He never came off as a player, or as someone too smooth – he was more remote (the word Ebert used to describe the moment after the kiss in Notorious). But because of those looks, audiences (women AND men) project things onto him. And he allowed it beautifully. That creates the great and weird disturbance in the atmosphere that IS Cary Grant – and either it comes off as hilarious (David Huxley has ZERO idea of how handsome he is) or slightly damaged (Geoff Carter, Mr. Lucky, and others). I still think that Penny Serenade stands out in his body of work as the one time he really did play just a regular guy. But even there, he managed to suggest other stuff going on beneath the surface. He was, after all, a wonderful actor. That character is irresponsible, doesn’t want to grow up, and spends money like he has an endless supply. But aside from that, he’s a pretty straight-up guy, who loves his girl, loves his daughter, wants to have a job he loves – he’s pretty healthy. Anyway, to me, that one really stands out.

    I have to think more about that Hitchcock quote (which I have heard before). He was able to bring out a neuroticism in both of these giant movie stars which is unbalancing to witness to this day.

    Jimmy Stewart could be quite sexy, but it was a different kind of sexy than Grant’s. I can’t picture Stewart as Geoff Carter, for example. That is certainly Grant’s sexiest performance (I’m biased), and it is his particular brand of cranky remoteness which is absolutely irresistible unfortunately. Pauline Kael was brilliant in her essay The Man From Dream City about the “ungettable” nature of Grant – and Richard Schickel picked up that theme in his book about Grant – and I’m paraphrasing, but he says, in regards to Grant as Geoff Carter (and this, I think, is significant): “He’s not playing hard to get. He is hard to get.”

    That removes any sense of manipulation in him – he is actually remote, he actually doesn’t want involvement.

    I love it best when he plays damaged, like in Notorious. That guy is a wreck. He makes Ingrid Bergman look healthy. HE’S the one in deep pain (“I was a fat-headed guy full of pain” – that is Grant’s best acting moment, bar none) – but he never makes a big deal of it. His COVER is so convincing.

    God, the guy is fascinating.

  5. sheila says:

    amelie – yes, that quote is about His Girl Friday. If you watch the film again, look for that moment. He looks right out beyond the camera and asks, “Is she going to do that?” Hysterical.

  6. Bill Peschel says:

    Great post about a wonderful man. Reminds me of Pauline Kael’s assessment of the man, only a wee bit more understandable to this dunderhead.

    I’m saving the “His Girl Friday” anecdote for my (I hope) next book. Thanks so much for putting quite a bit of effort into this essay. It’s wonderful.

  7. Charles J. Sperling says:

    George MacDonald Fraser, from *The Light’s on at Signpost*:

    “…indeed, only once did I see heads turn in the commissary, when a tall, bronzed, silver-haired man slipped unobtrusively down the side of the great room to the door, and the whisper went round: ‘Cary Grant!’ Hollywood isn’t usually a a star-struck place, but there are exceptions.”

    Deservedly so!

    Fascinating indeed.

    Stewart wanted the “North by Northwest” lead and Hitchcock didn’t want to give it to him — so he stalled him until Stewart was committed to “Anatomy of a Murder.” It’s impossible to think of him as Roger Thornhill — though, to be fair, I can’t see Grant as Scottie Ferguson in “Vertigo.” (Or as Geoff Carter.)

    Your recent time in the Sergio Leone and the Inflield Fly Rule Treehouse, coupled with my New Year’s Eve second look at “Once upon a Time in the West,” set me to musing on the supposed shock value of seeing a heroic icon in a villainous role. Fortunately, I didn’t let it take me to the point of imagining Grant saying: “Well, since you used my right name…” and then blowing away the younger McBain boy.

    Damn, I wish I’d caught “Charade” during the salute to Stanley Donen, along with “The Grass Is Greener” and “Kiss Them for Me”!

  8. bybee says:

    I’ll always be charmed and dazzled by Mr. Leach. A couple of months ago, I was watching “Charade” and I leaned back to fully savor a close-up of Cary Grant. The chair back gave way and I fell backwards but jumped up quickly so I wouldn’t miss a moment.

    There’s a movie of his I want to see, but the title escapes me. It was made sometime in the 1940s and he plays a Cockney. I’ve heard it’s really different than his other work.

  9. Charles J. Sperling says:

    Bybee:

    The movie is “None But the Lonely Heart” from 1944. Cary Grant played Ernie Mott, and Ethel Barrymore won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as Ma Mott.

    It derives from a novel by Richard Llewellyn, without whom there’d have been no “How Green Was My Valley” in 1941, and the writer/director is Clifford Odets,.

    Contrary to what you might think, it’s not the only movie Odets directed. He did one more, “The Story on Page One,” in 1959. Perhaps working on “Sweet Smell of Success” made him miss the movies.

    He also wrote the screenplay for the one movie Harold Clurman directed, “Deadline at Down.”

  10. sheila says:

    None But the Lonely Heart is VERY interesting. You see Cary as Cockney (although he was Cockney in Sylvia Scarlett, too – his breakthrough), and Ethel Barrymore is in it, and it’s all very maudlin and moody. Odets gives the film a GREAT look and makes me wish he had directed more. London is deep and dark with shadows, it’s got a great noir feel – which is in direct contrast to the more realistic working-class gritty drama going on. It’s not my favorite Cary, but he himself loved it – it gave him a chance to speak the way he was born speaking, to pay homage to his upbringing.

    Speaking of Deadline at Dawn (bless you, Charles), which I loved – I reviewed it here. Great to see the old Group Theatre colleagues (including a great cameo by Roman Bohnen) collaborating.

  11. Robert says:

    Was intrigued by the mention of Cary Grant as “cantankerous” Geoff Carter. Didn’t know what movie that was. IMDB tells me it’s Only Angels Have Wings, the giantest of giant holes in my Cary Grant AND Howard Hawks viewings — and the movie that happens to be waiting patiently for me on my DVR at home. (Thank you TCM!) Looking forward to that!

  12. sheila says:

    Oh Robert you are in for such a treat. It’s my favorite movie.

  13. Charles J. Sperling says:

    Sheila:

    Blessed? Did I sneeze?

    Since “Deadline at Dawn” derives from Cornell Woolrich…

    And since Raymond Chandler called Woolrich the best ideas man in the mystery field, while adding that you had to read his work quickly (if you read it at a leisurely pace, the implausibilities would became too obvious. To quote Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op on the plot of a thriller he reads in “The Gutting of Couffignal”: “it sounds dizzy here, but in the book it was as real as a dime”)…

    I should mention that Chandler’s pick to portray Philip Marlowe was Cary Grant. It struck me as a peculiar choice when I read it; however, after seeing James Garner in “Marlowe” (the 1969 adaptation of *The Little Sister*), I thought I saw his point: Ann Riordan in *Farewell, My Lovely* calls Marlowe “an almost-heel,” while Marlowe himself would recognize that while “it wasn’t a game for knights” (*The Big Sleep*), he’s still enough of a romantic to respond to a cry for help where others would turn up the sound on the television (*The Long Goodbye*).

    Yes, Grant would have made a fine Marlowe.

    Lest I break into the “All I Have to Dream”/”A Summer Song” medley, I turn to the Brontes, as seen by Denise Giardina:

    “Do not chide me for my dreams,” Charlotte said softly to the mirror. “They are all that I have.”

    Emily, who spent so much time in her own fantasy world, had no heart to chide anyone for dreaming. she merely said, “Your dreams are not based in reality.”

    Charlotte began to laugh. “Sister!” she said. “Do you hear what you say? It makes no sense!”

    Then Emily began to laugh as well…

    Put down the bottle, Marty Augustine!

  14. jennchez says:

    He is my favorite actor also. Well tied with Barbara Stanwyck actually :)
    I loved him and Irenne Dunne together, anytime I’m feeling down I pop in The Awful Truth and its better than any antidepressant! Loved this essay, thank you Sheila.

    My husband is so tired about me talking about the Stanwyck book your friend is writing I’ve been banned from talking about it tell it comes out!

  15. sheila says:

    Jennchez – I so agree that Grant and Dunne together is magical.

    Oh, and to whet your whistle: Here’s a review Dan (the author) did of the Barbara Stanwyck Signature Collection: http://www.slantmagazine.com/dvd/review/barbara-stanwyck-signature-collection/1242

    I believe the book will go somewhat in that direction. If I’m not mistaken, it’s being published by the very reputable Univ of Mississippi Press (they do the “Interviews with …” series that I’m so addicted to – interviews with different directors over the years) – they have a great collection of film books, and I’m so pleased for Dan. I can’t wait either!!

  16. seang says:

    Hi Sheila,

    Thanks for the Cary Grant post. I just saw Holiday and was completely blown away. And then I saw Leo McCarey’s An Affair to Remember (1959) and thought it was complete shite–no chemistry between the actors, crappy dialogue, and Grant seems uninspired and bored. And I love McCarey ! Maybe I was in the wrong mood, but have you seen that movie and what’s your take on it?

    Thanks,
    Sean

  17. seang says:

    Ya know I was checking some comments on IMDB about that movie and one of the commenters said “The English Patient” was one of his/her favorite movies. So maybe I’m right in thinking this movie was shite. I mean the “English Patient” was horrific. I walked out towards the end.

  18. sheila says:

    Seang – haha!! I share some of your feelings about Affair to Remember – I actually find it to be a Catholic propaganda piece more than anything else (McCarey was very religious) – that last scene does make me cry, and it is because of how Grant plays it (the pause when he sees the portrait, etc.) – but theres a lot that is quite distasteful about that movie. The dancing black children, especially. I wrote a post about them. Let me see if I can find it.

  19. sheila says:

    The scene of the two of them praying in the chapel at his mother’s in Italy is pretty gross. But I think that Grant knew the traps there ,and did try to underplay it. Okay, looking for my “hated the dancing black children” post now.

  20. sheila says:

    Seang – here it is. I analyze something Grant does in the chapel scene that I think was a deliberate choice on his part as an actor, to underplay/downplay the maudlin religious message.

    But mainly I just bitch about the trotting out of the black children to sing and dance.

  21. Robert says:

    Watched OAHW on Saturday. Grant at first struck me as too young for his role, but he filled it quickly with his presence — and he made me believe. My mind kept involuntarily (and comically) comparing the flying scenes with Top Gun. You know, the flying scenes in Top Gun and its like are more “pulse pounding” thanks to editing, music and special effects. But you can’t deny that the scenes in OAHW are more *harrowing* thanks to actual characters in actual, cultivated human conflict. My wife, watching idly nearby, heard me gasp when Bat crash lands the plane near the end. I was embarrassed when she looked up and only saw an obviously fake plane break its obviously fake wing on an obviously fake tree. Well, there’s the power of story for you! Maybe I’m still too close to the movie, but even a couple of days later, it feels like Hawks’s most purely “Hawksian” movie. (Though Red River will probably always be my favorite of his movies, if only for the personal resonance of the central conflict.)

  22. sheila says:

    Robert – oh, I am so glad you saw it! Yes, the flying sequences are pretty incredible (the one where they land on the cliff to get the rescued miner is spectacular to this day) – and even the stuff with the obvious models is pretty well done. (one of the models was recently found, by the way, in some dude’s garage – I’ll see if I can find the link).

    I think it’s pretty pure Hawks, too. The male camaraderie, the wisecracking dame who has to prove she’s one of the boys …

    And Red River is amazing. Really powerful personal movie. Love that last sequence.

  23. sheila says:

    Robert – here’s the piece from Antiques Roadshow that was about the prop plane from Only Angels Have Wings.

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