46 films later, I think I've seen every film Cary Grant appeared in that is also in print. Mind you, that still leaves me 27 films short, but 17 of these films are from 1936 or earlier, before Grant started to see really significant success as a lead actor in films like 1937's "The Awful Truth" and "Topper." If Grant's early output is similar to the pre-1937 films that I have seen, I suspect I've seen enough to be able to draw conclusions about his filmography. My opinion of Cary Grant at the end of this personal film history journey is not significantly different than it was at the beginning. He remains an actor who has an almost supernatural personal appeal. Charming, suave, funny, believable, authentic. It's no wonder that his career took on its independent, self-directed shape and character. There was no actor who was his equal across so many different kinds of pictures throughout his career. They were not all good films, however...nor was he great in everything. Generally, he brought a film up and was rarely to blame for a film's lack of success.
There has always been talk about Grant's appeal as the romantic lead in films like "Charade" or "An Affair to Remember," and his performances are quite memorable in these films. It would be a mistake, however, to see him as having just that one-trick. His work in "North By Northwest" and "Notorious" supports the argument that he could always be relied upon to bring extra gravitas to a suspense thriller. He was also believable as a war hero in films like "Destination Tokyo" and in "Operation Petticoat" (where at least I think he was overshadowed by Tony Curtis). And it only takes one viewing of "Arsenic and Old Lace" or "Bringing Up Baby" to realize that Grant was a skilled comic actor (or straight man) with the physical comedy chops and reactivity of a Vaudvillian. Many of these films have found their way into my permanent collection.
Now that I've done the CG thing, the next assignment I'm giving myself is to bring my documentary film education up to snuff. There doesn't appear to be an AFI Top 100 documentaries, so I'm going to aggregate a variety of lists into a Top 50 or 100 and go from there.
What follows is a few lists of Grant's work based on the ten-point film assessment I discussed in a previous Bricole post. In short, the ten components of a film that I look at are: lead acting, supporting acting, direction, cinematography, production design, plotting, dialogue, character development, sound design and ephemera (for things that matter, but that aren't part of the other categories). Each category gets a score of +1 (for excellence), 0 (for averageness) or -1 (for dreadfulness). The highest score a film could earn is 10; the lowest -10. A film that is average would earn a 0.
I would be shocked if there was any argument with the two films that earned perfect 10s for me. The other films in the Top 10 might generate some objection or conversation. I hope so, at least!
North By Northwest
1. Charade (10)
2. North By Northwest (10)
3. The Philadelphia Story (9)
4. Bringing Up Baby (7)
5. Arsenic and Old Lace (7)
6. Notorious (6)
7. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (6)
8. To Catch A Thief (6)
9. Born To Be Bad (6)
10. That Touch of Mink (5)
1. People Will Talk (-5)
2. The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss (-4)
3. Father Goose (-2)
4. Indiscreet (-2)
5. Wings in the Dark (-2)
6. Hot Saturday (-1)
7. Thirty-Day Princess (0)
8. Wedding Present (0)
9. Kiss Them For Me (0)
10. Once Upon A Time (1)
Grant's -1s for lead acting
Father Goose (tired acting of tired material)
Wings In The Dark (unbelievable)
Co-stars Who Outacted Grant (in alphabetical order)
Tony Curtis (Operation: Petticoat)
Sophia Loren (Houseboat)
Myrna Loy (The Bachelor And The Bobby-Soxer)
Frank Sinatra (The Pride And The Passion)