Cary Grant is most recognized for his charming presence in popular destinations in sunny California and stylish nightclubs in New York. However, various screenings and special events this month will highlight a lesser-known aspect of his life – his humble beginnings in Bristol, England.
A sneak peek of the biographical film “Archie” about Grant, with Jason Isaacs in the challenging role of portraying one of the most renowned movie stars, will be shown in Bristol before it airs on ITVX. Additionally, a new guided tour showcasing Grant’s former favorite spots in the West Country city of Bristol will be available.
A screening of his movie “An Affair to Remember” will take place at a charming vintage theater near Bristol. The event will include a red carpet, pink champagne, and a live jazz band. Additionally, an audio production exploring Grant’s trials with LSD has been released.
Charlotte Crofts, a cinema arts professor at UWE Bristol and considered an expert on Cary Grant in the city, believes that Bristol should celebrate Grant every day. However, even some of his fans tend to only see him as an American actor.
According to Crofts, although Cary Grant, who gained American citizenship through naturalization, passed away 37 years ago and will not celebrate his 120th birthday until next year, he is currently experiencing a surge of popularity in Bristol. Crofts believes that there is a timeless quality to Cary Grant that still resonates with modern audiences.
Archibald Leach, later known as Grant, was born in the peaceful suburb of Horfield in Bristol. However, his upbringing was marked by financial struggles as he grew up in the impoverished St Pauls neighborhood in the city. At the age of 14, he joined a group of acrobats and performers and traveled with them to New York in pursuit of success and wealth.
Crofts expressed curiosity about the influence of Bristol on Grant’s identity in present times. She attributed this to the city’s lively arts community, including its cinemas and theaters, which played a significant role in shaping Grant’s growth from Leach to Grant. She noted that this has the potential to broaden one’s perspective.
According to Barnaby Eaton-Jones, who directed Cary On, a play about the actor’s experiences with LSD, many are taken aback by the fact that Cary Grant was actually born as Archibald Leach in Bristol. It seems that most people assume he is American, or they have a faint idea that he was British and relocated to America, but he actually made numerous visits to Bristol after achieving fame.
Eaton-Jones mentioned that Grant’s reputation in Bristol has been improving, largely due to the biennial festival organized by Crofts since 2014, which will next take place in 2024. However, his enigmatic aura remained a significant factor in his appeal.
He stated that in today’s culture of fame and attention-seeking, even the smallest aspects and flaws are revealed for publicity. Therefore, Cary Grant’s mysterious approach to maintaining privacy will always be intriguing.
All tickets for the guided tours of locations in Bristol related to Grant, such as theaters, hotels, shops, and restaurants, have been sold out. Additional tours are scheduled for next year.
According to Sheila Hannon, creator of the walks, Archie may have left Bristol at 14, but he had a strong fondness for the city and frequently returned despite his complicated family dynamics. The new walk aims to uncover some of the difficult experiences he faced in Bristol during his youth that continued to affect him. While people may know he is from Bristol, they may not fully understand the significance it held for him and how it greatly influenced the person portrayed in films.
The city’s Millennium Square features a statue of Grant, but it may not be easily noticeable. According to Hannon, it should be located in front of the Hippodrome, where Grant used to work backstage before joining Bob Pender’s troupe.
When questioned about his lasting charm, Hannon listed his attributes: “Being the most stylish man, incredibly rich and attractive, the most renowned actor of all time, desirable to both women and men, enigmatic and intriguing, starting from humble beginnings and achieving great success, creating his own image, and still leaving many wondering about his true identity.”
Can you tell me about Cary Grant?
Archibald Leach, who was born in Bristol in 1904, was told conflicting stories about his mother’s whereabouts as a child. It was not until later in life that he discovered she was still alive but being treated in a mental institution. Due to the challenges of his upbringing, Grant became interested in performing at a young age. He even learned how to stiltwalk and joined a stage troupe when he was a teenager. He was eventually expelled from school at 14 and joined the troupe on a permanent basis.
In 1920, Grant initially arrived in the United States with his troupe and they had a prosperous vaudeville tour. At 17 years old, he decided to remain in the country after the tour ended in hopes of finding success. Grant then transitioned from stiltwalking to performing in stage musicals, receiving praise for his roles as a young actor. His breakthrough role as a romantic lead in the Broadway production of “Nikki” caught the attention of Hollywood. After a successful screen test, Grant signed a five-year deal with Paramount Pictures, officially adopting the name Cary Grant.
Although he had reservations about the roles he was given, Grant quickly gained attention for his talent in portraying a charming yet non-threatening character. He appeared as a suave playboy alongside some of the leading female stars of the time, such as Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus, Tallulah Bankhead in Devil and the Deep, and Mae West in I’m No Angel.
Despite being dropped from his studio agreement, Grant made a bold decision for the time by choosing to work independently through shared contracts with various studios. This led to a string of highly successful comedies starting with Topper and The Awful Truth in 1937, followed by iconic screwball comedies such as Bringing Up Baby (1938), His Girl Friday and The Philadelphia Story (both in 1940).
One year later, Grant landed a role in his first Alfred Hitchcock movie, playing a potentially murderous husband in the eerie thriller Suspicion. Despite the film’s later recognition, Hitchcock believed that Grant’s charming image had influenced him to alter the character from its original dark nature. However, Grant collaborated with Hitchcock again after the war in Notorious, a thriller featuring a famous kissing scene between Grant and his co-star, Ingrid Bergman. The kiss lasted over two minutes but was divided into three-second increments to bypass a Hollywood prohibition on prolonged kisses.
Grant solidified his reputation with two notable films directed by Hitchcock, To Catch a Thief in 1955 and North by Northwest in 1959. In addition, he achieved great success with the war comedy Operation Petticoat in 1959. His last significant film was the spy thriller Charade, in which he starred alongside Audrey Hepburn. The film gained notoriety for its portrayal of a romantic relationship between their characters despite the 25-year age difference.
Grant had a complex history in his personal relationships, being married a total of five times. Among his marriages were to wealthy heiress Barbara Hutton and fellow actor Dyan Cannon, who was 33 years younger than him. There were ongoing rumors (popularized in Kenneth Anger’s book Hollywood Babylon) about Grant’s alleged long-term homosexual relationship with actor Randolph Scott, but these claims were consistently denied by his daughter. Additionally, in the 1950s, Grant became intrigued by LSD and used it regularly for approximately ten years.
In 1986, Grant passed away at the age of 82 due to a stroke during his rehearsal for a theatrical production of A Conversation with Cary Grant in Iowa.