best film:   On the last update of the top 500 films of all-time, Cary Grant had three (3) films in the top 109 slots (including two Alfred Hitchcock collaborations) – and they were all cluttered together. North by Northwest leads the way at #103, Notorious at #105 and Bringing Up Baby and #109. The next tier down includes His Girl Friday, The Philadelphia Story and To Catch a Thief.


from the finale Mount Rushmore set piece to the justifiably iconic crop-duster sequence – Cary Grant is the perfect vehicle for Alfred Hitchcock’s wrong man scenario in 1959’s North by Northwest


best performance:   North by Northwest. There are many facets to Cary Grant’s physical skills and on-screen personas – more on these in the trait section below – but Grant’s work in North by Northwest is his strongest performance because it combines the suave leading man with the dexterous comedian. In North by Northwest there are long stretches where Grant is the self-assured leading man. There are entire films where he is serious like this — the entirety of Charade, Suspicion and Notorious.  But he is categorically stiffer in these three films (those are still fabulous performances) than North by Northwest (by design of course). There are sections in North by Northwest when he gets to show off his lighter side (the drunk sequence, scenes with his mother, the entire wrong man setup – which Hitchcock loved and kept redoing over his career until he perfected it here) assuming he is someone else or knows what is going on and he does not. These sections are just enough to show off the actor that was so brilliant in all of those comedies from The Awful Truth (the true start of “Cary Grant”) on down.


The case could definitely be made for Bringing Up Baby as his best work. Hard to argue with that – it is just tough there because he shares the screen so much (certainly not the case with North by Northwest) with the out-of-her-mind Katharine Hepburn who was also at the height of her comedic powers.


stylistic innovations/traits:   There are at least three Cary Grants. There is the impeccably dressed and debonair – painfully handsome, leading man. That is one. There is also the immensely gifted actor with comic chops (both physically – the background as an acrobat – and verbally – with that unplaceable trademark accent). It is a distant third, but he could also play a very decent swashbuckler macho hero (Gunga Din, and a bit in Only Angles Have Wings). One could add another category, the fourth “Cary Grant” is that early 1930s beefcake and pretty face. This is the guy before The Awful Truth. He sort of plays the dumb blonde eye-candy for Mae West and Marlene Dietrich. Admittedly, it is a little difficult to spot the genius here yet. He is good-looking and smooth – but he clearly has not found it yet. Cary Grant has twenty-seven (27) archiveable films and just two (2) Oscar nominations. The Academy did not appreciate Grant as evidenced by these two nominations coming in dramas None by the Lonely Heart and Penny Serenade (not his strength) – not in his one of his best ten (10) performances.  Grant often worked with the great Katharine Hepburn (four times – and all before she started working with more regular sparring partner Spencer Tracy) and, of course, famously shared the screen with Ingrid Bergman (Notorious), Grace Kelly (To Catch a Thief) and Audrey Hepburn (Charade) in some of their most memorable films.


Grant and Howard Hawks made the most of their three (3) archiveable films together – here in 1939’s Only Angels Have Wings with Grant opposite Jean Arthur


directors worked with: Alfred Hitchcock (4), George Cukor (3), George Stevens (3), Howard Hawks (3), Leo McCarey (2), Stanley Donen (2), Josef von Sternberg (1), Frank Capra (1)


four (4) films between Cary Grant and the great Alfred Hitchcock (here from Notorious)  just like the four Hitchcock made with James Stewart


top ten performances:

  1. North by Northwest
  2. Bringing Up Baby
  3. Notorious
  4. Only Angels Have Wings
  5. His Girl Friday
  6. The Philadelphia Story
  7. The Awful Truth
  8. Charade
  9. To Catch a Thief
  10. Arsenic and Old Lace


Grant here along with Rosalind Russell in Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday. This is the epitome of the breakneck pace fast and furious dialogue screwball comedy.



archiveable films

1932- Blonde Venus
1933- I’m No Angel
1933- She Done Him Wrong
1935- Sylvia Scarlett
1937- The Awful Truth
1937- Topper
1938- Bringing Up Baby
1938- Holiday
1939- Gunga Din
1939- Only Angels Have Wings
1940- His Girl Friday
1940- My Favorite Wife
1940- The Philadelphia Story
1941- Penny Serenade
1941- Suspicion
1942- The Talk of the Town
1944- Arsenic and Old Lace
1944- None but the Lonely Heart
1946- Notorious
1947- The Bishop’s Wife
1948- Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
1955- To Catch a Thief
1957- An Affair to Remember
1958- Indiscreet
1959- North by Northwest
1959- Operation Petticoat
1963- Charade