City Cinemania: BAM Honors Cary Grant

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I have a thing for Archie Leach. And it appears so does the BAM Cinematek. Cary Grant (born Archibald Leach) can arguably be described as one of the most definitive screen presences in the history of cinema. In his 35 year career, he constantly dazzled audiences with his dapper demeanor from goofy screwballs to Hitchcock thrillers. He had a slick sense of style and attitude that made him the desire of every woman and a sophisticated role model for men. This is of course taking into account that Grant’s fifth wife was 47 years his junior and he was 77 when they married. Mr. Grant had that something about him even into the twilight of his life. And its not difficult to see why.

BAM Cinematek is spending the better part of August celebrating the

wondrous career of Hollywood’s leading man. Howard Hawks even declared Grant as “by so far the best that there isn’t anybody to be compared to him.”  BAM’s first of a two part series, the second to be completed in 2010, kicked off on Monday the 3rd with Blonde Venus and continues with such greats like Holiday, Suspicion, The Philadelphia Story, To Catch a Thief, and Only Angels Have Wings.

The daunting task of creating an honorary showcase of classic films starring Cary Grant falls to the team at BAM. A challenge many film fans would be willing to rise to but there are a number of obstacles to consider.  Grant took the leading role in more than 50 movies throughout his career with a large portion of them sharing the sole similarity of starring Grant, who practically just emanated his own self onto celluloid. Despite that his films range in subject matter, the true difficulty is in finding films that stand out from one another. Grant didn’t change himself per role,  he simply placed himself in a different situation. Creating a two-part series involves some creativity to showcase a manner where Grant can be understood as an actor who played the film game and selected his roles that would be both safe and beneficial to his career.

Even though today a hefty portion of his films can be looked upon as campy, Grant possessed the uncanny ability to take a second-rate storyline and transform it by standing in the shot. Grant also ceded the starring roles in most of his films to his female counterparts, something that clearly was not being duplicated by any of his male counterparts including Spencer Tracey, Clark Gable, and even Mr. Bogart. That’s what defined Grant and made him unique. He glided across the screen, he oozed sensuality through an effortless sincerity and wit (Grant was also known to improvise the occasional one liner including in His Girl Friday where he stated “The last man to cross me was Archie Leach”.)

Grant influenced writers and directors and continues to do so to this day.  Grant was famously known as the role model for Ian Fleming’s James Bond, allowing Sean Connery to be cast due to his at-the-time likeness.  Grant also changed the frame of movie-making and studio relationships as he was the first actor to go “independent” and worked independently from a studio and choose his own roles; a form that is still in practice today.

A full list of BAM’s screenings can be found on their website. For tickets and listings CLICK HERE.

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