Bringing Up Baby 1938 Adapted from a short story by Hagar Wilde. Directed by Howard Hawks. One of the great screwball comedies. Single-minded, mild-mannered paleontologist David Huxley (Cary Grant) is missing one bone to make his career-cinching skeleton of a Brontosaurus complete. The day before his wedding to sour Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker), he meets scatterbrained heiress Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn). Susan’s brother has sent her a leopard named Baby from Brazil. The beast can be controlled by singing “I Can’t Give you Anything But Love.”
Susan thinks David is a zoologist. She contrives to have him help take Baby to Connecticut, then, having fallen in love, does everything she can to keep him there. Baby gets free, an escaped circus leopard confuses everyone, Alice discovers David in a compromising state, Susan’s dog commandeers his dinosaur bone. A lark. In one scene, David wears a woman’s maribou- trimmed robe. When asked why, he replies, “Because I just went gay all of a sudden!” What was meant, one wonders. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Only Angels Have Wings (1939) Directed by Howard Hawks, based on a story by him. Grant is Geoff Carter, tough head of a struggling, South American air freight service carrying mail through The Andes. Showgirl Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur) loses her transportation by mishap and ends up stranded, a stay she prolongs with infatuation of Geoff. Her presence is complicated by the arrival of unstable pilot Bat MacPherson (Richard Barthelmess) and his wife Judy (Rita Hayworth), a former flame of Geoff’s. The women vie for him. Peril in the air, manly integrity, implied sex, romance. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Penny Serenade 1941 Directed by George Stevens. A delicate melodrama depicting the struggles of Julie Gardiner (Irene Dunne) and Roger Adams (Cary Grant) as they impetuously marry, move to Tokyo for Roger’s job, lose a baby in the 1923 earthquake, and return to California despondent until a friend suggests they adopt. Roger starts a local newspaper, Julie deep dives into motherhood, but happiness is once again sabotaged by fate. The couple are breaking up as she remembers their lives in flashback… Grant was nominated for an Academy Award for his tender performance. Free with Amazon Prime.
Mr. Lucky 1943 Directed by H.C. Potter. Gambler Joe “the Greek” Adams (Cary Grant) dodged the draft by assuming the name of a dead underling. In order to subsidize his anchored gambling ship, he convinces Captain Veronica Steadman (Gladys Cooper), head of local War Relief, to let him run a “charity” casino for the cause. Games will be fixed; he and his partners will abscond with house money. The only impediment is suspicious socialite volunteer Dorothy Bryant (Laraine Day) – until he charms her too. “Joe’s the first man I’ve ever met I’m afraid of. It’s exciting,” she tells her grandfather.
When Joe receives a letter from the Greek mother of the man he’s impersonating, he reexamines his life and tries to change course. In a fight over the loot, one man gets killed, one shot. Dorothy witnesses the scuffle and assumes the worst. When she discovers Joe is alive, she begs to go with him. He tells her she deserves better. The ship is torpedoed on its return. But it doesn’t end there. Predictable, but appealing in its innocence. Rent on Amazon Prime.
None But the Lonely Heart (1944) Adapted and directed by Clifford Odets from the novel by Richard Llewellyn. Ernie Mott (Cary Grant), a lazy, young drifter, returns home after years of silence as well as absence. Warily welcomed by his elderly Ma (Ethel Barrymore in top crotchety, tender hearted form) who owns a bric a brac shop, his intention is to earn a fast buck and leave. To this end, Ernie gets involved with local gangsters, inadvertently falling for the head man’s girlfriend, Ada Brantline (June Duprez). Always-there-when-he-needs-her Aggie Hunter (Jane Wyatt) looks on.
When Ernie discovers his mother is secretly very ill, choices must be made, consequences endured. Understated and excellent. The line spoken by “Ernie” to his mother, “you’re not going to get me to work here and squeeze pennies out of little people who are poorer than I am,” was cited as an example of Communist propaganda. Rent on Amazon Prime.
To Catch a Thief 1955 Based on the novel by David Dodge. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Retired jewel thief John “The Cat” Robie (Cary Grant) lives beautifully and quietly on The French Riviera until a series of copy-cat robberies cause the police to make assumptions of his guilt. His old gang are, in fact, all under suspicion. The only way to clear everyone is to catch the Cat. Slipping through police hands, he secures a list of expensive jewelry owners and installs himself at the best hotel.
Wealthy American widow Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) and her daughter Frances (Grace Kelly) top the list. Robie charms the ladies under an assumed name, but Frances divines who he is. Bored and looking for adventure, she offers herself as accomplice. He demurs. When Jesse’s jewels are stolen, however, Robie must again disappear. A stranger with whom he grapples in the dark turns out to be an old gang member who couldn’t possibly have been the thief. A trap is set. Full of attractive people and places, though less suspenseful than much of Hitchcock. Free with Amazon Prime.
Of the same ilk is 1963’s Charade Directed by Stanley Donen. A mystery/romance featuring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant: no honor among thieves – three of whom chase money assuming the widow of the fourth knows where it is – the CIA, Paris, and, of course, eventual coupling of attractive leads. Free with Amazon Prime.
An Affair to Remember 1957 Directed by Leo McCarey. The American Film Institute considers this the greatest romance of all time. Infamous playboy, Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant), flirts with former singer Terry McKay (Kerr) on a transatlantic crossing where, because of his notoriety, they’re plagued by gossip. (Repartee is grand.) He’s on his way home to socialite fiancé, Lois Clark (Neva Patterson), she to businessman fiancé, Kenneth Bradley (Richard Denning), a man who’s played Pygmalion in her life.
Their fate is sealed on a touching visit to Nickie’s grandmother (Kathleen Nesbitt) at Villefranche-sur-Mer. This scene will get to you. In love, but otherwise entangled, the incipient couple agree to meet atop the Empire State Building after six months, both breaking off from their intendeds. Terry goes back to performing (elsewhere), Nickie tries to earn a living as a painter. (Formerly a hobby.) When she doesn’t keep the date, he’s unaware she’s been in a car accident running to meet him and grows bitter.
Terry disappears, taking a teaching job at an elementary school, unsure whether she’ll walk again. They get a glimpse of one another at theater, but he doesn’t see her wheelchair. Terry is heartbroken, but proud. Serendipity leads Nickie to the truth (at Christmas!) and a happy ending. Get out your handkerchiefs! Critics were not kind looking at the piece measuring its realism. The public disagreed. Grand chemistry. Manages to be both sophisticated and deeply romantic. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Indiscreet 1958 Based on Norman Krasna’s play Kind Sir. Directed by Stanley Donen. A delightfully sophisticated romantic comedy. Successful, London based actress Anna Kalman (Ingrid Bergman) has settled into a single life with resignation and grace. One night, her sister Margaret (Phyllis Calvert) and brother-in-law Alfred Munson (Cecil Parker) introduce economist Philip Adams (Cary Grant) with whom Alfred has business. Anna is immediately attracted and proposes a date. Prior to accepting, Philip tells her he’s married and unable to divorce. She lets it slide.
The two become constant companions whenever the economist is in town. At the same time Philip learns his work with NATO means temporarily transferring to New York and Alfred discovers his friend is not actually married. Confronted with the deception. Philip admits he’s wanted to play the field without ties. He is, however, in love with Anna and plans to tell her. Before he can, Anna discovers the truth. Furious, she plans revenge. It was originally announced that the film would be made with either Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield. Imagine the difference! Rent on Amazon Prime.
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