The Man Who Couldnt Dream


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Though he remained a top box-office star, Cary Grant fell on evil days. From the first frame, it was as clammily contrived as anything that Paramount had shoved him into, and in one pathetically insensitive sequence Grant and Rogers are mistaken for Jews and held in a concentration camp.

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His performance is frequently atrocious: he twinkles with condescending affection when the nitwit stripper develops a political consciousness and helps a Jewish hotel maid escape from danger. Escorting Shirley Temple—wearing his shirt open and acting like an adolescent—Cary Grant is degradingly unfunny. When the artist is accused of being a skirt-chaser, it seems like some kind of mistake. They remained unexplored. The unrealistic casting of this inert, horribly pristine film is the trick: the appeal to the audience is that these two glamorous stars play an ordinary couple and suffer the calamities that do in fact happen to ordinary people.

Grant, who got an Academy Award nomination, could hardly have been better. Using his dark eyes and his sensuous, clouded handsomeness as a romantic mask, he gave his role a defensive, not quite forthright quality, and he brought out everything that it was possible to bring out of his warmed-over lines, weighting them perfectly, so that they almost seemed felt. He was able to keep his independence because he had a good head for business. Within a short time of leaving Paramount, he could command a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a picture, and that was only the beginning.

Later, he formed partnerships and produced his pictures through his own corporations—Grandon, Granart, Granley, and Granox.

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He was too self-aware for that; he was a lonely holdout in the period when even Frank Sinatra turned cowpoke. He got the loquacity without the wit. Considering that he selected his roles, these choices indicate one of the traps of stardom. They look for roles that seem a little more worthwhile than the general run. It seems reasonable to assume that he attained something so close to the highest aspirations of his youth that, as far as acting was concerned, he had no other goals—and no conflicts.

Ernie grew up in oppressive poverty, but he wants to make life better for his mother, who runs a grubby antiques and secondhand-furniture shop. Eccentric but hardy and self-sufficient, she had a whole new life after that twenty-year incarceration. She lived into her mid-nineties, and until she was in her late eighties she did all her own shopping and housework, and occupied her days with antiquing—driving fierce bargains when she spotted something she wanted. The outbreak of the Second World War must have brought his English past even closer to him; he was still a British subject, and in he became involved in activities to aid the British.

Later, when the United States was in the war, he went on trips to entertain the troops and on bond-selling tours. In one routine, he played straight man to Bert Lahr. In June, , less than two weeks before his marriage to Barbara Hutton, he legally changed his name and became an American citizen. Too much of it, however: the dirgelike, mournful, fogged-up atmosphere seemed fake and stagy. She played his mother, and her great, heavy eyes matched up with his.

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Not this time, though. In a few scenes, she and Grant touched off emotions in each other which neither of them ever showed on the screen again. Grant is not as vivid in the memory as Ethel Barrymore is. Of the profusion of themes in the film, the deeply troubled bond of love between the mother and the son must have been a strong factor in his original decision to buy the book. Part of his charm is that his angers are all externally provoked; there are no internal pressures in him that need worry us, no rage or rebelliousness to churn us up.

If he reacts with exasperation or a glowering look, we know everything there is to know about his reaction. A movie star like Cary Grant carries his movie past with him. He becomes the sum of his most successful roles, and he has only to appear for our good will to be extended to him. We smile when we see him, we laugh before he does anything; it makes us happy just to look at him. As far as one can judge, he never looked back. He remained a lifelong friend of Clifford Odets; he was proud to be accepted by Odets, and Odets was proud that the handsome, tanned idol was there at his feet.

It was his one creation, and it had become the only role for him to play—the only role, finally, he could play. But how can one tell?

Working within the framework of commercial movies, James Mason, who at one time also seemed a highly specialized star, moved on from romantic starring roles to a series of deeper character portraits. His bargaining power was probably more important to him than his development as an actor; he was a tycoon. The thought of him in Biblical sackcloth or in a Roman toga or some Egyptian getup is grisly-funny.

Grant never quite created another character—not even in the limited sense that screen stars sometimes do, using their own bodies and personalities as the base for imaginative creations. There are no Fred C.

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Dobbses or Sam Spades in his career. Composing song after song, his Cole Porter appears to have less music in his soul than any other living creature. A sense of fun breaks through when he shows off his vaudeville skills—a confident, full-hearted exhibitionism. He frequently plays the piano in movies—happily and enthusiastically—and he does off the screen, too. Grant has had an apparently wide range of roles, but only apparently.

Even in the era when he became a star, his sexual attraction worked only with a certain type of co-star—usually playing a high-strung, scatterbrained heroine, dizzy but not dumb. He would have been a disaster opposite Joan Crawford. With her gash smile, thick-syrup voice, and enormous tension, she required a roughneck titan like Gable to smite her; she would have turned Cary Grant into Woody Allen.

It was always I implicit that she had something going on her own; she was a free lance. She gave the same intensity to everything she did; she inspired awe. Once Grant became a star, there was a civilized equality in his sex partnerships, though his co-star had to be not only a pal but an ardent pal. In dramatic roles, the women stars of the thirties and forties could sometimes triumph over mediocre material. This has been one of the saving aspects of the movie medium: Garbo could project so much more than a role required that we responded to her own emotional nature.

Her uniquely spiritual eroticism turned men into willing slaves, and she was often at her best with rather passive men—frequently asexual or unisexual or homosexual though not meant to be in the course of the films. But for a time in the late twenties and early thirties, when she leaned back on a couch and exposed her throat, the whole audience could dream away—heterosexual men as much as the homosexuals whom she was, indeed, generally seducing in her movies. Something similar operated, to a lesser extent, with Katharine Hepburn.

Chapter 10 - Dreams

In the thirties, she was frequently most effective with the kind of juveniles who were called boys: they were male versions of sensitive waifs, all cheekbone. And, despite the camaraderie and marvellous byplay of her later series with Spencer Tracy, she lost some of her charge when she acted with him. She was humanized but maybe also a little subjugated, and when we saw her through his eyes there seemed to be something the matter with her—she was too high-strung, had too much temperament.

Tracy was stodgily heterosexual. Cary Grant could bring out the sexuality of his co-stars in comedies. He wants always to be searching for how he feels; he wants to waffle charmingly. Nobody else has ever been able to do that. When the sexual psychology of a comedy was right for Grant, he could be sensational, but if it was wrong and his energy still came pouring out, he could be terrible.

In drag scenes—even in his best movies—Grant also loses his grace. He is never so butch—so beefy and clumsy a he-man—as in his female impersonations or in scenes involving a clothes switch. The beautifully tailored clothes that seem now to be almost an intrinsic part of the Cary Grant persona came very late in his career. Decked out in the pinstripes, wide lapels, and bulky shoulders of the early forties, Grant, with his thick, shiny black hair, often suggested a race-track tout or a hood.

He was a snappy dresser, and when he was playing Ivy League gentlemen, his clothes were often kingpin flashy, in the George Raft manner. But sometimes his slouch hats and floppy, loose-draped jackets seemed to dominate the actor inside. His strutting appearance was distracting, like a gaudy stage set.

The Man Who Couldnt Dream The Man Who Couldnt Dream
The Man Who Couldnt Dream The Man Who Couldnt Dream
The Man Who Couldnt Dream The Man Who Couldnt Dream
The Man Who Couldnt Dream The Man Who Couldnt Dream
The Man Who Couldnt Dream The Man Who Couldnt Dream
The Man Who Couldnt Dream The Man Who Couldnt Dream

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