And so my series comes to a close with this hilarious portrait of Cary Grant as Charlie Chaplin for LIFE magazine. I adore this image because, silly as it is, it hints at the way Grant assimilated many of the best traits of the silent comedians… and combined them with the wit and suaveness of talking comedy. He was a treasure and always will be.
Image scanned from LIFE Goes to the Movies (Time-Life Books, 1975).
Cary Grant, 1950s. This image has been part of my family for over a decade. My parents and I bought it, already shellacked onto a plaque, at a yard sale. It has hung on our wall ever since. At this point, he’s part of the family.
An iconic portrait of Cary Grant, photographed by Robert W. Coburn in 1935 to promote George Cukor’s Sylvia Scarlett. Although the film flopped at the box office, it proved a surprising triumph for Cary, singled out by critics for showing the raffish flair he’d never had a chance to display through a parade of sophisticatedly dull early 1930s roles.
Cary would later confirm the importance of the movie in his career and express his fondness for the Cockney shyster he portrayed, saying, “Sylvia Scarlett was my breakthrough. It permitted me to play a character I knew.”
Scanned from The Image Makers: Sixty Years of Hollywood Glamour by Paul Trent (McGraw-Hill, 1972).
Cary Grant in Hollywood, November 1934, photographed by George Hoyningen-Huené for Vanity Fair.
Most of the images I’m scanning for this series are publicity photos, intended by the studio that created them to be reproduced and shared. However, since this one comes from a more exclusive publishing context, I have watermarked it with the copyright. Operating within Fair Use guidelines is important to this blog!
Scanned from Vanity Fair: Photographs of an Age (Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1982).
In 1932, Modern Screen magazine ran an article on a newcomer called Cary Grant, entitled, “Will He Follow in Valentino’s Footsteps?” This publicity portrait taken around the same time certainly presents our hero in the smoldering matinee idol vein.
However, by his own admission, Cary felt inadequate at this point in his career. He recalled, “I copied other styles I knew until I became a conglomerate of people and ultimately myself… When I was a young actor I’d put my hand in my pocket trying to look relaxed. Instead, I looked stiff and my hand stuck in my pocket wet with perspiration. I was trying to imitate what I thought a relaxed man looked like.”
Note that he has his hand in his pocket here…
Scanned from Hollywood Movie Stills: Art and Technique in the Golden Age of the Studios by Joel W. Finler (Reynolds & Hearn Ltd, 1995).