My Favorite Cary Grant Films
This week I want to celebrate Cary Grant by highlighting a few of my very favorite of his films!
As I was compiling this list, I realized he starred in soooooo many of the classic Hollywood films I love! I knew he was in a lot of my favorites, but still, seeing it on paper was surprising! Just reaffirmed for me how unique and talented Mr. Grant was, and what a shame it is that the Academy never recognized his talent and film contributions with an Oscar during his career. (Honorary Oscar came in 1970 during his retirement.)
I also realized that there is no one period of his film career that dominates my list—I have favorite films from the beginning, middle, and end of his career. Again, I think this speaks volumes of Mr. Grant as an actor: he was consistently amazing! And believe it or not, I had to be really choosy here! I did not want this to become a crazy long post, so I actually had to eliminate some films from it. Holiday, Suspicion, Notorious, North by Northwest, An Affair to Remember, People Will Talk, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, are also fantastic Grant films that I adore and hope you will catch next time they are on TCM!
My List of Thirteen
So here we go! Cary Grant films that deserve special mention in my book are:
1. Sylvia Scarlett (1935)
Ok, truly, not a great film, which makes it a little anti-climactic as the first on my list! But watch if only to see Grant and Katharine Hepburn in their first film pairing. They are both so young! And the chemistry is electric! You will wonder why on EARTH there is another guy in the film (Brian Aherne) that the Hepburn character is chasing when she has Cary Grant right there! Also novel to see Hepburn dressed as a man. She pulls it off too!
2. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Actually no baby in this film, that is the name of the pet leopard Katharine Hepburn has in this, the second Grant and Hepburn, film pairing. Screwball comedy at its best, Baby may be one of my favorite films of all time. Grant and Hepburn are truly flawless here. It is a shame that the pair didn’t go on to make more films of this kind—I personally think they put other screwball teams of the day to shame! Hepburn was labeled “box office poison” around the time of the film’s release though. As a result, one of screwball comedy’s most promising heroines never did another film like Baby again, and as a result we unfortunately lost out on any future Grant/Hepburn screwball pairings. Also, they sing in this one! “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” super cute, don’t miss it!
3. Gunga Din (1939)
Super fun adventure film based on the Rudyard Kipling poem of the same name (and Kipling’s Soldiers Three story collection). The film is set in colonial British India, and centers around three British soldiers and Gunga Din, their water bearer. Director George Stevens manages to strike an interesting and (thoroughly entertaining!) balance between comedy and adventure as the four heroes set out to conquer an Indian murder cult. Grant is somehow dashing, handsome, and swashbuckling at the same time that he is comical and screwball. Gunga Din also stars Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., the son of Grant’s movie star idol. (Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., is credited for inspiring Grant’s obsession with maintaining a “healthy tan” all year long.)
4. His Girl Friday (1940)
Classic! You’ve probably seen it, so I will try to make this short. Grant, teamed with Rosalind Russell, plays a newspaper editor trying to win his ace reporter wife (Russell) back before she marries someone else. What better way to do so than to convince her to cover one last story with him before her wedding? Ms Russell is fantastic here, but as a consummate Katharine Hepburn fan, I always wondered what this film would have been like with Kate in the Russell role. I will probably always fantasize about it. Anyway, it is a great film and you will root for Grant from start to finish to get his story and get his girl Friday! Yes, I went there. Couldn’t resist. (:
5. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Kate Hepburn’s return to the screen from Broadway, and comeback film after being labeled “box office poison.” Phillip Barry wrote the hit play of the same name for her, and Hepburn shrewdly bought the rights to it (she credits her good friend Howard Hughes for this wise decision) so she could star in the film version and revitalize her Hollywood career. MGM went for the film deal with her under Kate’s conditions that she star, and get her choice of co-stars. Hepburn wanted Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable for the male leads. I am sure they would have been great, but aren’t we lucky MGM vetoed, and she ended up with Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant? I can’t imagine it any other way! Well, ok, Gable would have been awesome, but I still think Grant and Stewart are perfection as Hepburn’s ex husband trying to stop her impending nuptials, and the reporter from the trashy magazine trying to cover it, respectively. The electric Grant/Hepburn chemistry is back, and stronger than ever here! Their bickering is spot on, and you hope against hope that Hepburn’s character Tracy will WAKE UP and realize C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) is “the one” for her.
6. Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)
Nazi spies, suspense, and Ginger Rogers! Grant and Rogers are a stellar team here in yet another film where the director (Leo McCarey this time) uses Grant’s ability for comedy amidst suspense to full advantage. And with Ginger by his side, who I think shared Grant’s talent for both comedy and drama (seriously, was there anything Ms Rogers couldn’t do?!), you will truly find yourself in stitches and on the edge of your seat, alternately. Next time this one is on TCM, don’t miss it!
7. I Was a Male War Bride (1949)
Hilarity with the sassy and spunky Ann Sheridan, yet another co-star who worked so well with Grant, but unfortunately Bride was their only screen pairing! (Unless you count Enter Madame, which I don’t. Sheridan was “Shipboard Friend” in this one…not exactly a lot of screen time…). Grant plays a French army officer and Sheridan an American Lieutenant in post-WWII Allied occupied Germany. After a rocky start, the two fall for each other, get married, and must find a way to get back to the US using the War Bride Act. As Sheridan’s character is the American, countless comedy dialogues and situations arise with Grant’s character technically falling under the “bride” definition in the War Bride Act, or at least how Grant and Sheridan’s characters need to use it to get back to the States! Great back and fourth between Grant and Sheridan at the start of the film when their characters hate each other, and the chemistry between the two continues throughout the film in all the ridiculous situations they find themselves in.
8. Monkey Business (1952)
Grant teams with Ginger Rogers once more and they are comedy gold as a married couple who drink “the fountain of youth” potion that Grant’s character, a scientist, believes he has invented. Actually, it was invented by the chimpanzee he has been testing his concoctions on, but hilarity ensues when Grant and Rogers begin acting like college students at first, and eventually children. Add a young Marilyn Monroe to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a film that has endless re-watch-ability. I have seriously watched this one countless times over the years, and each time I pick up on a new nuance or mannerism from Grant’s and Rogers’ performances that make me think they truly were acting geniuses.
9. To Catch a Thief (1955)
My favorite Grant/Hitchcock collaboration. AND GRACE KELLY!!!! Grant often referred to Ms Kelly as his favorite costar, and gave her compliments along this line throughout his life after making Thief with her. (He was one of her few Hollywood friends that continued to visit her in Monaco after she became Princess Grace, and right up until her untimely passing.) They are absolutely stunning together, and this film is such a visual treat. Filmed predominately in the south of France, Grant and Kelly are not the only eye candy!
10. Houseboat (1958)
Sophia Loren! Oh my gosh this film is the best, definitely an all time favorite. Grant is such a pro he manages not to be upstaged by the three adorable child actors playing his kids. (Mimi Gibson is so so cute! You may recognize her from One Hundred and One Dalmatians — she voices “Lucky.”) Sophia is stunning as ever and will make you wish you were in Italy! I absolutely adore Grant and Loren together, and this film will leave you wondering what a Grant/Loren marriage would have been like (they were madly in love prior to filming. Sophia called it off in favor of Carlo Ponti by the time Houseboat filming began, but you can tell Grant is still nuts about her.)
11. That Touch of Mink (1962)
Soooo cute! Doris Day! Cary Grant! Does it get any better? Some may think the premise of this film is pretty outdated—Grant is a businessman, Day an irresistible yet virtuous working girl who Grant chases—but hey, be careful talking negatively about any Ms Day film in front of me. (And what’s wrong with a female protagonist having morals? I think we need more characters like that in films these days!) In my eyes Doris can do no wrong, and Day and Grant are an amazing team. Enjoy the film for what it is, fun, light, 1960s froth!
12. Charade (1963)
Cary Grant finally teams with Audrey Hepburn, the costar he had avoided since he was asked to co-star with her in Sabrina (1954) and then again in Love in the Afternoon (1957). Grant had nothing against Hepburn, he was just afraid of coming off as a pedophile next to her, she was decades younger and had that gamine, innocence about her. Lucky for us, he finally relented in 1963, and they made Charade. And they enjoyed each other as much off screen as on! “The best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never made,” this thriller is so fun. Grant went for it only on the condition that the Hepburn character chase him, not the other way around. He thought that would make the age difference more acceptable. Personally, I would not have cared either way, this team WORKS, age difference or not. Too bad it was their only pairing!
13. Father Goose (1964)
LOVE LOVE LOVE! Such a cute film, another favorite. Co-staring Leslie Caron, Grant plays a beach bum (initially) unwillingly coerced in to helping the Allies combat the Japanese on a small island in the Pacific during WWII. Caron is a school teacher who ends up stranded on the island with her all-girls class after their plane goes down. The girls, Caron, and beach bum Grant must work together to avoid being captured. I am a big Leslie Caron fan, and she is as adorable as ever in Father Goose. Grant and Caron are another excellent team. I dream about the films this pair could have made together after this, had this not been the second to last film he made. Ms Caron opined in her autobiography that she felt Grant could have started a whole new phase of his career playing characters like Walter, his character in Father Goose, because he was so masterful in this film. Grant also once said that Walter was the closest character to his real self he ever played.
There you have it! My list of all-time-favorite Cary Grant films. I hope you have a chance to watch them sometime, and appreciate the spectacular—yet mysteriously overlooked by the Academy—talents of Cary Grant.
Next week I will unveil the second star I feel Oscar unjustly evaded throughout his/her career. Be sure to check back to find out who my mystery star is! (: