Archibald Leach, better known as Cary Grant, was born on this day in 1904 in Bristol, England.
A juggler-acrobat from his teens who entered films in 1932 from the musical comedy stage, Cary Grant received a career boost as a protégé of Mae West (it was Grant to whom she famously purred "Come up 'n see me sometime" in She Done Him Wrong). In a few short years Grant became the strutting, smiling, tuxedo-wearing personification of the charming, confident, effervescent, elegant male -- a distilled version of one facet of what 20th/21st century women seem to dream of in their mates.
He played comic-romantic leads most convincingly in comedies (such as Topper, 1937; Bringing Up Baby, 1938, and The Philadelphia Story, 1940, both with Katharine Hepburn; and Indiscreet, 1958), probably because it allowed his self-conscious incredulity about his status as a sex symbol to bubble to the surface as he poked fun at the slippery bachelors Hollywood asked him to play. Alfred Hitchcock used him to great effect in several films (Suspicion, 1941, with Joan Fontaine; Notorious, 1946, with Ingrid Bergman; To Catch a Thief, 1955, with Grace Kelly; and North by Northwest, 1959, with Eva Marie Saint), playing his jaunty persona against type and circumstance, and occasionally allowing him to show off his natural athletic prowess in action scenes.
Audiences never tired of seeing him play the youthful romance hero, and he continued to do so, after a fashion, into his 60s; this despite a troubled personal life, marked by parental abandonment and poverty in his early years, 5 marriages (heiress Barbara Hutton was his second wife; his 4th marriage was to actress Dyan Cannon), a rumored flirtation with LSD during the 1960s and a relentless search for an emotional panacea in one faddish treatment after another.
He retired from films in 1966 and entered the business world, but emerged from seclusion to tour the U.S. giving lectures about his Hollywood career; he died in Davenport, Iowa of all places, during the lecture tour, on November 29, 1986.
"In parts that could easily become foppish or foolish in less skilled hands, there is always a suggestion of inner strength which makes believable the 'wary rapacity' with which he approaches his leading ladies." -- Richard Schickel.