It's never a bad time to talk about Cary Grant

Posted on January 7, 2008

Because the main character in Evernight loves classic black-and-white movies, I thought I’d like to this great article about Cary Grant.

Grant was, of course, a beautiful, beautiful man. He was also a fantastic actor. But there’s another reason why Bianca idealizes him in Evernight, though she isn’t entirely conscious of it —

Cary Grant was, simply, the single actor in all of Hollywood history who spent the least time pursuing women onscreen and the most time being pursued by them.

A lot of this sprang from Grant’s self-consciousness about playing a romantic lead as he grew older, particularly when he starred with younger women. (Which was a bit ridiculous, really — we hear a lot of talk about men “aging gracefully,” which 99% of the time means that society allows men to show their age but doesn’t allow women the same courtesy. Grant was in the other 1%, a man who genuinely, damnably continued to look spectacular into his 60s. However, when you look at the current crop of older Hollywood actors, who seem to believe nobody will notice the botox or eye lifts, Grant’s modesty becomes as appealling as it was unnecessary.) After a certain point in his career, Cary Grant insisted, wherever possible, that the women in the story should be the ones chasing him.

And so Grace Kelly sets traps in “To Catch a Thief,” and Audrey Hepburn’s on the prowl in “Charade.” Eva Marie Saint’s motivations in “North by Northwest” are trickier, but there’s no question that once she lays eyes on Cary Grant, she’s not wasting any time.

But Cary Grant was the object of female desire even from the beginning of his career. He first became famous starring opposite Mae West, who was the predator in every one of her films and liked it that way. In many of his screwball comedies, he’s running in the other direction until the woman in question charms him into allowing himself to be caught.

If he were playing passive characters, or men who simply refused to commit so they could play the field, it wouldn’t be nearly so attractive. But Grant’s characters usually like women — but most of all, they like seeing what women will do. (Even Grant’s main misogynist, the tormented Devlin in “Notorious,” wouldn’t want Alicia to be a shrinking violet.) His men listen to women. They enjoy female company whether as lovers, family or friends. And they bring out what’s fiercest, bravest, funniest and best in the women who love them.

How does all that relate to Bianca? She’s certainly not on the prowl for a guy in Evernight, but when the book starts, she’s very sheltered and uncertain. In some ways, she begins as a very passive character. I think her enthusiasm for Cary Grant is, in some ways, a reflection of her own unconscious desire to start taking action — and to find a guy who will bring out her own fiercest, bravest and best self.

4 Responses to “It's never a bad time to talk about Cary Grant”

  1. joylee56

    I’ve been looking forward to reading Evernight just because it’s yours, and hey, vampires too. What’s not to like? Even if I am… more than a couple of decades removed from your projected demographic. And then you throw out a little tidbit like this.

    Ye Gods, Woman, you’ve written a vampire story featuring my BFF from high school? Well, probably without the big hair and short shorts, but still.

    Now, I can’t wait. Did someone mention Amazon is taking advanced orders?

  2. kerlin

    His men listen to women. They enjoy female company whether as lovers, family or friends. And they bring out what’s fiercest, bravest, funniest and best in the women who love them.

    I love this. I fall back thinking immediately of The Philadelphia Story, which I know you dislike, but the Dext/Tracy relationship is so true to this view of Cary’s characters. Because it’s a movie, at its heart, about really forcing Tracy to be human and to be her own best person, not just a construct of what she thinks she ought to be. And Dexter really does spend the movie pushing Tracy toward that, and really understanding the heart of her. Holiday is also similar. It’s one of the reasons Cary Grant was my favorite foil for Katharine Hepburn.

    His Girl Friday, of course, being the epitome of this theme.