By Declan Fitzwilliam
Hollywood heart-throb, Cary Grant was born Alec Leach on 18th January 1904 in Bristol, England. His mother was Elsie Maria, his father Elias James Leach who worked in a factory. Although Cary left school at 14, he was an avid reader all his life. In his youth he joined a troupe of knockabout comedians, where he learnt acrobatics and pantomime. After performing in London Music Halls, in 1920 he emigrated to the US where he appeared on Broadway in the show “Good Times”.
Cary Grant was a big Hollywood star in the 1950s and early 1960s, starring with Grace Kelly in “To catch a Thief” in 1955. He worked with the acclaimed Hollywood director Alfred Hitchcock. His biggest box office success, produced by Hitchcock, was “North by Northwest” (1959) in which he starred with Eva Marie Saint. His best known films include “Bringing Up Baby” (1938), “The Philadelphia Story” (1940), “An Affair to Remember” (1957) and “Charade” (1963). Cary Grant also joined the prestigious film boards of MGM and Hollywood Park.
Yet amazingly he turned down the coveted role of James Bond in “Dr. No”. However, at the age of 58 he believed he was too old for the part, so Sean Connery snapped it up instead.
It is a little known fact that Cary Grant was a great fan of Elvis Presley, attending his Las Vegas shows, and was pictured on a USA commemorative postage stamp in the “Legends of Hollywood” series, issued in October 2002. He did most of his own stunts, and in 1957 accepted the Oscar for “Best Actress in a Leading Role” on behalf of Ingrid Bergman, who was unable to attend the important awards ceremony.
Interestingly, Cary Grant always wore a St Christopher medal on a gold chain around his neck. He was once considered one of the best dressed men in America.
Cary Grant toured the US as a one man show, entitled “A Conversation with Cary Grant”. The famous show included clips from his films and answering questions from the audience.
During his lifetime he enjoyed good health, until he had a mild stroke in October 1984. Then sadly, just two years later, Hollywood heart-throb Cary Grant died of a brain hemorrhage in Davenport, Iowa on 29th November 1986. After his death, in 1999 the prestigious American Film Institute named him “The second male Star”, after Humphrey Bogart, of the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema.