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A Tall Drink of Water

Stars we love at the Paramount Summer Classic Film series

By Michael King, Fri., May 16, 2014

<i>Notorious</i>
Notorious

Being Cary Grant

"Everyone wants to be Cary Grant," Cary Grant once reportedly said. "Even I want to be Cary Grant." Or, he might have added, to be in the arms of Cary Grant. This summer's series offers no less than four occasions to imagine such a metamorphosis, certainly no more magical than the one that took Bristol-born orphan Archibald Leach to Hollywood, where: "I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until I finally became that person. Or he became me."

Pretense is a variation that runs through many of his films. He was lucky in directors and writers, but they were very lucky to have him. In The Philadelphia Story (1940), he's society playboy C.K. Dexter Haven, who's seemingly to one side of the main action until he offhandedly re-wins the girl (Katharine Hepburn). In the farcical Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), he's Mortimer Brewster, a panicky nephew who discovers his maiden aunts are kindly serial murderers – and after many hysterical complications, is reassured to learn he was a foundling. In Alfred Hitchcock's postwar spy mystery Notorious (1946), his T.R. Devlin is both secret agent and disappointed lover – and must outwit the enemy and win back the woman (Ingrid Bergman).

Finally, in Hitchcock's iconic North by Northwest (1959), the advertising executive Roger Thornhill becomes (by mistake) another secret agent, who then exploits the double identity to outwit his enemies and, once again, win the girl (Eva Marie Saint). Hitchcock, who considered most actors to be props (or "cattle"), called Grant "the only actor I ever loved."

Even Hitch wanted to be Cary Grant. On the big Paramount screen, here's your chance.

Arsenic and Old Lace: Tue., June 10, 9pm; Wed., June 11, 7pm (P)

The Philadelphia Story: Sat., Aug. 2, 9pm; Sun., Aug. 3, 2pm (P)

Notorious: Tue., Aug. 12, 9:45pm; Wed., Aug. 13, 7:15pm (S)

North by Northwest: Sat., Aug. 16, 2pm & 6:50pm; Sun., Aug. 17, 4:20pm (P)

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