Modern Matinees: Mr. Cary Grant

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Cary Grant (American, b. Great Britain, 1904–1986) has always been described as a versatile actor. He possessed a keen wit and comic timing that made him a natural with the rapid banter of screwball comedies, and his charm and elegant good looks propelled him into the rarified company of cinema’s great leading men. From the start of his film career, in 1932, to its conclusion, in 1966, Grant worked with a who’s-who of iconic directors—from George Cukor to Alfred Hitchcock—on everything from outrageous physical comedies to intense dramas and thrillers.

The Bristol, England–born Archibald Leach was spellbound by vaudeville, and joined an acrobatic act called The Penders as a stilt walker. In 1920, Leach arrived in New York, where The Penders performed at the Hippodrome, and he remained in the States for several years. An uninspiring screen test at Paramount Pictures in 1931 nonetheless garnered him a contract—and a demand by studio head B. P. Schulberg that he change his name. Thus Cary Grant was born.

Elegant, mischievous, good-humored, masculine, cheeky, and sensual but never overbearing or pompous, Grant’s greatest gift was his peerless versatility. This series demonstrates that range with highlights from Grant’s three decades in American cinema, drawn primarily from MoMA’s collection. All films are from the US and star Cary Grant.

Organized by Anne Morra, Associate Curator, Department of Film.