A Few Thoughts On Five Cary Grant Movies

I do this thing when I read a book about someone or watch a documentary about them where I want to absorb as much of their art as possible. Usually, I can’t get to the material fast enough and something else catches my eye, but I’m trying to stay focused on watching Cary Grant movies after reading Marc Eliot’s book on the actor. I’ve borrowed a number of his films from the library and only watched half of one, but recently took advantage of several of his films appearing on TCM On Demand. In the last few months, I’ve come to realize that TCM doesn’t keep its films on there for very long, so I’m not sure if they’re still there. Hit the jump to read my quick roundups of To Catch A Thief, Mr. Lucky, Houseboat, Walk, Don’t Run and The Philadelphia Story!

Before I decided to finally read Eliot’s book, I watched To Catch A Thief on TCM On Demand. This was several months ago and, instead of Grant, the draw for me was director Alfred Hitchcock. I’m still embarrassingly uneducated when it comes to Hitch’s films, but I had a wonderful time watching this film from 1955 about Grant’s romance with Grace Kelly while the local cops attempted to figure out if the supposedly retired thief (Grant) was behind the recent string of high class robberies.

I didn’t take notes when I watched this one, but there are still very strong, striking visual memories I have of scenes like the famous driving bit, the picnic lunch, Grant in all his tan-orange glory swimming, Kelly and her mother’s ultra fancy room and the ultimate reveal of the thief. Of the bunch, I found this one to have the most meat on the bones, but that’s to be expected with Hitchcock. It’s also the only non comedy of the bunch, so I’m guessing I’ll take well to North By Northwest and Notorious.

The same weekend that I read Cary Grant in just a few days, I stumbled upon Mr. Lucky, directed by H.C. Potter and released in 1943. Right off the bat, I have to say that I didn’t finish this one, but I liked what I saw and hope to circle back around at some point (and hope that writing this bit here will help me remember in the future).

In this one, Grant stars as a real slick talker who’s looking to get his gambling boat off the ground. While trying to look for “investors” — people he can swindle out of their money — he meets the women running a war relief group. After posing as a volunteer (the scenes of him knitting still make me chuckle) he tries to get them to okay a gambling night. There’s also the matter of the draft, which he dodges by using a dead colleague’s exemption. Like I said, I didn’t see how it all shakes out, but between Grant and Laraine Day’s performances, plus the simmering menace of his partner, I’m excited to return.

In Eliot’s book, he writes about how madly Grant fell for Sophia Loren (which basically just means he had eyes). So, I grabbed Melville Shalverson’s Houseboat from 1958 when I saw it at the library. In this film, Grant’s estranged father swoops in to take care of his three children after their mom dies. He soon discovers that it’s tough work — no kidding — and hires Loren as his nanny after one of his sons escapes the house and meets her randomly on the street while she’s trying to escape her own life.

After the house they tried moving from one location to another gets hit by a train, they wind up on a broke-down version of the title conveyance and shenanigans ensue. This was another one I didn’t finish for a few reasons. First, it’s LONG or at least felt that way (it’s an hour fifty) and the other is it just didn’t grab me. I felt more peeved at them than interested in their lives. I know it’s supposed to be a light comedy, but Grant’s kind of a dick to his kids who JUST LOST THEIR MOTHER. As I write this though, I kind of want to give it another shot. There’s a funny scene at the symphony (if you forget about the whole dead mom thing) and the bit with the boy meeting Loren. Now that I think about it, I’ll get this back from the library and let you know how it worked for me on the whole.

Okay, I actually finished Grant’s last film, Walk, Don’t Run from 1966 and really enjoyed it. This one’s a straight-ahead comedy about a man who arrives in Tokyo early for the Olympic games and winds up staying with a woman played by Samantha Eggar. They’re soon joined by a third roomie, the American Jim Hutton.

This Charles Walters-helmed film balances fish-out-of-water gags (based on both the location and the living situation) with Grant trying to kindle the romance between his co-stars (hindered partially by Eggar’s fiance) and a somewhat more complicated subplot revolving around spies that leads not only to the funniest scene in the movie revolving around speed walking and their marriage.

Finally, I watched George Cukor’s 1940 The Philadelphia Story which features a love pentagon between former fiances Grant and Katharine Hepburn, her current fiance and the pair of reporters who showed up to cover a story about Hepburn’s scandaous father played by Stewart and Ruth Hussey.

I was doing some work while watching this one and definitely missed some of the finer plot points, but there’s something magical about watching a comedy featuring three of the biggest stars of all time, all of whom have these amazing, iconic voices that I’ve seen imitated my entire life. While I don’t always go in for the older romantic comedies (not because they’re bad, but because they have to play within the rules of archaic sexual mores that drive me crazy) this one features so many great, funny and tender moments that it easily earns its reputation as one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time.

So, after watching this batch of Carey Grant movies, I’m left with a few thoughts. First, he has one of the all-time best voices in the world. I could listen to him read my high school physics text book. Second, he’s just so damn entertaining. Without changing much he can seamlessly shift from a lovable rich guy in Philadelphia to a slick gambler in Mr. Lucky and ultimately evolve into a benevolent cupid as in Walk. Then you’ve got the Hitch films which play on Grant’s own personal torments and turmoils in ways that haven’t really been done in the other films of his I’ve seen. I’ve heard comparisons between Grant and George Clooney for years, but I really get it now. They’re both astonishingly handsome, charismatic leading men who can navigate comedy and drama with grace and sophistication. Oh and they also always look good in a tux!

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