Happy Birthday, Cary Grant!

Former acrobat Archie Leach, who would go on to worldwide fame as the suave leading man Cary Grant, was born 112 years ago today in Horfield, a suburb of Bristol, England.

Grant was born into a troubled family. His father was an alcoholic and his mother was placed in a mental institution, though young Archie was first told she’d gone off to a seaside resort and later that she’d passed away (she hadn’t), and he wouldn’t see her again for some 20 years.

Archie was active in theatrics as a child, performing with a group of acrobats known as the Bob Pender Stage Troupe. He traveled extensively with the troupe, eventually landing in NYC where the troupe performed on Broadway. When the show closed, Grant decided not to return to England, instead remaining in NYC and touring as a vaudeville performer before eventually moving up to the legitimate theatre. He signed with Paramount Pictures in 1932, and after selecting a new name (with the input of Fay Wray, with whom he’d appeared in a Broadway play called Nikki), he debuted in This Is the Night (1932), opposite Thelma Todd and Lili Damita. Grant wasn’t happy with that film, but the critics praised his performance and he was off and running on his way to a legendary career.

Cary Grant is one of our favorites (and surely one of yours, too), and we wish him a happy birthday, wherever he may be.

Cary Grant

Joe E. Brown, with Just a Touch of Marx Madness

We’ve dedicated ourselves to watching a few Joe E. Brown pictures of late, to see if he perhaps will grow on us (after seeing one or two of his films years ago, we had written him off).

Broadminded (1931), which we watched today, is our favorite so far, perhaps not surprisingly given that it was written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, who did stellar work with the Marx Brothers.

Another thing this picture also has going for it (in addition to the presence of the always-welcome Thelma Todd—another Marx Brothers connection)? Béla Lugosi as something of a foil for Brown’s misadventures. Best of all, Lugosi plays a character named Pancho Arango who, when asked what country he’s from, responds, “South America!”

A movie poster from Broadminded, featuring Joe E. Brown and Thelma Todd