It’s incredibly hard to think of anything to say about Cary that hasn’t been said a million times, but one thing about him, which I find always interesting, is that the idea of Cary Grant - you know, suave, charming, unruffleable, amused by the world - is only one part of him, and one side of his acting, and the roles he plays. It’s got a lot to do with Hitchcock, of course, 1950s Hitch in particular, as well as a lot of those later-career roles (Charade, Indiscreet). And that Cary is awesome, obviously, but oh I do like the other Carys as well.
There’s screwball Cary, of course, overwhelmed by Kate H, squawking through Arsenic and Old Lace, trading jibes and zingers with Rosalind Russell. But inbetween these two extremes there are a lot of enjoyable and interesting variations. The trouble with Cary is that he makes the suave and the screwball look so easy, and it’s a short leap to then think, well, he’s not really acting that much is he? He’s just being Cary Grant.
But he is acting, and what’s more, he’s damn good. Comic acting is as much - if not more of - a skill than dramatic acting. Timing, lightness of touch, underplaying - all of these things count a great deal. And he’s adept at mixing comedy into his dramas, and vice versa - look at The Bishop’s Wife or Talk of the Town (both ace, watch those); and of course look at the other Hitch films, the 1940s ones. Really, look at them, because they’re terrific. Cary is pretty much always a joy to watch, but there’s a real sense of something greater, more interesting, in those films.
Favourite Role: Johnny Case in Holiday (1938) which is my fave of the Grant/Hepburn films (seriously, why isn’t is as well feted as Bringing Up Baby or The Philadelphia Story?) - it manages to be a philosophical, anti-materialistic romantic comedy that is a constant delight. It has an awesome cast (shout out esp to Lew Ayres as the adorable Neddy) and a corker of a script, and is not afraid to think, as well as entertain.
Another good place to start: if you ignore the studio-enforced ending, then Suspicion (1941) is one of the best roles and performances of Cary’s career. Who better than Cary to play the most charming of sociopaths? None, that’s who. Plus Joan Fontaine (*heart eyes*) and a wonderful Nigel Bruce. It’s tainted by the ending, and so never quite makes the list of top HItch films, but it’s terrific. (Notorious, of course, is also all round terrific, but I always rec that.) Also Indiscreet (1958) which re-teams him with Ingrid Bergman for a sassy, snappy, adult romantic comedy. Some of Cary’s later roles are a bit squicky, as he’s the romantic lead still to an increasingly younger female co-star. But Ingrid is his age, and his equal, and of course fucking amazing, and it’s a joy of a film.