Cary Grant

Cary Grant

Birth: January 18, 1904
Bristol, England

Death: November 29, 1986
Iowa, United States


Cary Grant was born in 1904 in Bristol, England as Archibald Alexander Leach. Four years before he was born his parents had lost their first child, who died two days before his first birthday.According to reports, this left his mother Elsie withdrawn and depressed. When Archie, as he was called, was nine he came home to find his mother gone. His father had sent her to a mental institution and told his son she had gone on a long holiday. For years Archie assumed that she had passed away. They went to live with his grandmother, who Archie later remembered as ‘a cold, cold woman’.  His father secretly married his mistress and had another baby, but Archie didn’t find out about this until his father’s death in 1935.

He rarely saw his father and did not have a lot of money. In his teens Archie got a job backstage at a local variety theater, which fueled his love for the stage. When he was fourteen he was expelled from school for unknown reasons. Meanwhile he joined a group of comedians called ‘The Bob Pender Stage Group’. They travelled to the United States to do a tour when he was sixteen. When the group had to return to England, Archie decided to stay and continue his stage career. He took vocal lessons and started getting roles on Broadway.

Becoming Cary Grant

In 1931 he decided to go to Hollywood and after a screen-test he signed a contract with Paramount Studios. However, Archie needed to change his name. His suggestion was Cary Lockwood, the name of a character he had played, but there was already an actor with a similar last name. He got a list with last names from the studio and decided to go with Grant. From that moment on, he would forever be known as Cary Grant. He created a persona around the name, later stating: ‘I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be and I finally became that person. Or he became me. Or we met at some point’. He soon got his big break when he played opposite icon Mae West in two of her most successful movies: ‘She Done Him Wrong’ and ‘No Angel’. During this time Cary find out his mother was alive and living in a mental hospital. He bought her a home and visited her regularly.
In 1934 Grant married actress Virginia Cherill, but they divorced a year later. Meanwhile, he was unhappy with the movies Paramount chose for him. So he decided not to renew his contract and work freelance. A risky move in those days. But with ‘Topper’ and ‘The Awful Truth’ in 1937 he established himself as a successful leading man in comedies.

The following years he appeared in several classics, like ‘Bringing Up Baby’ and ‘The Philadelphia Story’, and was the most popular male star in Hollywood. By 1940 World War II had begun and people wanted to see different kinds of movies then the screwball comedies Cary was known for. He made the drama ‘Penny Serenade’ which earned him his first Oscar nomination. In 1941 he made ‘Suspicion’, the first of his four collaboration’s with Alfred Hitchcock. He was supposed to play the murderer but he feared that this would damage his image, so they changed the ending. Still, the movie was a huge success.
In December 1941, he legally changed his name to Cary Grant and applied for American citizenship. The following year he married heiress Barbara Hutton. In 1944 Grant made his most personal project: ‘None But The Lonely Heart’, the story was a gesture towards his own roots. Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t a success. Another disappointment was his divorce the following year.

A New Man

In 1945 he starred in one of his most legendary movies: ‘Notorious’, co-starring his friend Ingrid Bergman. He also found love again; on one of his trips to Europe he met actress Betsy Drake. In 1949 the 45-year old Grant married 26-year old Betsy on Christmas day.
Betsy opened new worlds to him in philosophy and self-knowledge. Cary was in search of his identity and later claimed that taking LSD, which was a government-licensed experiment at the time, had helped him. He even announced his retirement but started working again in 1954 on the movie ‘To Catch A Thief’ with Alfred Hitchcock. During the filming of ‘The Pride And The Passion’ in 1956 he reportedly had an affair with co-star Sophia Loren. At the same time, his wife Betsy was one of the survivors when her ship sank on its way back to the United States, which left her traumatized. In the following years he made some of his most successful movies, like ‘An Affair To Remember’, ‘North By Northwest’ and ‘Operation Petticoat’. In 1962 he divorced Betsy after thirteen years, but they remained friends. During that period he started dating actress Dyan Cannon, who was 33-years his junior. While they were dating, Cary shot the classic ‘Charade‘ co-starring Audrey Hepburn. In 1965 Cary married Dyan and a year later their daughter Jennifer was born.

Cary was over the moon about the birth of his first child and decided that the movie ‘Walk, Don’t Run’ would be his last.

A Dedicated Father

After 72 movies, Cary Grant retired from acting. He called his daughter Jennifer ‘his best production’ and wanted to focus on raising her and provide a sense of permanency and stability in her life. Although he didn’t act anymore, Grant kept busy. In 1968 Grant became a board member of Rayette-Fabergé. In that same year he and Dyan divorced, the custody fights over their daughter would last for almost ten years. In 1970 he received an Academy Award For Lifetime Achievement, presented to him by Frank Sinatra ‘for his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues’. In the 70’s he joined the boards of Hollywood Park, The Academy of Magical Arts (The Magic Castle, Hollywood, CA), Western Airlines (now Delta Air Lines), and MGM. He was involved with 26-year old journalist and photographer Maureen Donaldsen, but they split in 1977. In 1981 Grant married pr-agent Barbara Harris, who was 47 years his junior. His daughter was and still is very fond of her stepmother, who she calls ‘belle mere’ which means ‘beautiful mother’.

From 1982 to 1986 Grant toured the United States with a one-man show called A Conversation with Cary Grant. He showed clips from his films and answered questions from the audience. This was a big departure for him, as he was always known as a very private man. He was preparing for a performance in Iowa when he died of a stroke on November 29, 1986.

See his life in pictures in the Cary Grant Gallery.


Walk Don’t Run 1966
Sir William Rutland

Father Goose 1964
Walter Christopher Eckland

Charade 1963
Peter Joshua

That Touch of Mink 1962
Philip Shayne

The Grass is Greener 1960
Victor Rhyall, Earl

Operation Petticoat 1959
Matt T. Sherman

North by Northwest 1959
Roger O. Thornhill

Houseboat 1958
Tom Winters

Indiscreet 1958
Philip Adams

Kiss Them for Me 1957
Andy Crewson

The Pride and the Passion 1957

An Affair to Remember 1957
Nickie Ferrante 

To Catch a Thief 1955
John Robie

Dream Wife 1953
Clemson Reade

Monkey Business 1952
Dr. Barnaby Fulton 

Room for One More 1952
George ‘Poppy’ Rose

People Will Talk 1951
Dr. Noah Praetorius 

Crisis 1950
Dr. Eugene Norland Ferguson

I was a Male War Bride 1949
Capt.  Henri Rochard

Every Girl Should Be Married 1948
Dr.  Madison W. Brown

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House 1948
Jim Blandings

The Bishop’s Wife 1947

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer 1947

Notorious 1946

Night and Day 1946
Cole Porter 

None But The Lonely Heart 1944
Ernie Mott

Arsenic and Old Lace 1944
Mortimer Brewster

Once Upon a Time 1944
Jerry Flynn

Destination Tokio 1943
Capt. Cassidy

Mr.  Lucky 1943
Joe Adams/Joe Bascopolous

Once Upon a Honeymoon 1942
Patrick ‘Pat’ O’Toole

The Talk of the Town 1942
Leopold Dilg – Joseph

Suspicion 1941

Penny Serenade 1941
Roger Adams

The Philadelphia Story 1940
C.K  Dexter Haven

The Howards of Virginia 1940
Matt Howard 

My Favorite Wife 1940
Nick Arden 

His Girl Friday 1940
Walter Burns 

In Name Only 1939
Alec Walker

Only Angels Have Wings 1939
Geoff Carter 

Gunga Din 1939

Holiday 1938
Johnny Case

Bringing up Baby 1938
Dr. David Huxley

The Awful Truth 1937
Jerry Warriner 

The Toast of New York 1937
Nick Boyd

Topper 1937
George Kerby

When You’re in Love 1937
Jimmy Hudson 

Wedding Present 1936
Charlie Mason

The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss 1936
Ernest Bliss

Fashions in Love (Short) 1936

Suzy 1936

Big Brown Eyes 1936
Det. Sgt. Danny Barr

Sylvia Scarlett 1935
Jimmy Monkley

The Last Outpost 1935
Michael Andrews

Wings in the Dark 1935
Ken Gordon

Enter Madame 1935
Gerald Fitzgerald

Ladies Should Listen 1934
Julian De Lussac

Kiss and Make-Up 1934
Dr. Maurice Lamar 

Born to be Bad 1934
Malcolm Trevor

Thirty Day Princess 1934
Porter Madison III

Alice in Wonderland 1933
Mock Turtle

I’m No Angel 1933
Jack Clayton

Gambling Ship 1933
Ace Corbin

The Eagle and the Hawk 1933
Henry Crocker

The Woman Accused 1933
Jeffrey Baxter

She Done Him Wrong 1933
Captain Cummings

Madame Butterfly 1932
Lieutenant B.F Pinkerton 

Hot Saturday 1932
Romer Sheffield

Blonde Venus 1932
Nick Townsend

Devil and the Deep 1932
Lt. Jaeckel

Merrily We Go to Hell 1932
Charlie Baxter/’DeBrion’ in play

Singapore Sue (short) 1932
First Sailor (uncredited)

Sinners in the Sun 1932

This is the Night 1932
Stephen Mathewson

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