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FSWL minns Cary Grant och hans många James Bond-kopplingar

Av: Greg Bechtloff
Cary Grant Sean Connery James Bond
January 18th marks the birth of eternal screen icon Cary Grant (1904-1986). From Sweden With Love thought it would be a good time to examine the many links and influences of Cary Grant on the James Bond legend.

Grant was born in 1904 as Archibald Leach in Bristol, England. Leach came to Hollywood early in the 20th century to pursue an acting career. Renamed as Cary Grant, he became one of the most solid icons of classic film. His legendary career makes great reading for anyone interested the Golden Age of Hollywood.

In the Goldfinger novel published in 1959, Ian Fleming name drops Cary Grant. In a plane over Fort Knox, Auric Goldfinger is queried by the authorities as to what the plane is doing. Goldfinger tells them that he is a Hollywood producer and that he is scouting locations for a new film that will star Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor.

Legendary James Bond producer Cubby Broccoli was a friend of Cary Grant as well. In fact, Cary Grant was Cubby’s best man at the June 1959 wedding between Broccoli and Dana Wilson.

Cary Grant at Cubby Broccoli and Dana Wilson wedding in Las Vegas
Cary Grant at Cubby Broccoli and Dana Wilson wedding in Las Vegas. Copyright Shutterstock. All rights reserved.

A few years later when Broccoli had the rights to the Ian Fleming novels and they were looking for an actor to play James Bond, Cary Grant’s name was inevitably thrown around.

Grant’s image and brand was that of a suave, sophisticated gentleman who looked fantastic in day and evening wear. Being English, but having made his name in America, Grant had that special trans-Atlantic appeal that the producers sought. All the above played into what a cinematic James Bond needed to be.

The legend has grown over the years that Cary Grant was the first person that was asked to play James Bond. It seems more likely that he was thought of as the ideal choice but that other factors actually prevented Grant from formally being offered the role for Dr. No.

Terence Young maintained that he talked up Cary Grant and that the star was interested in playing James Bond. The only problem was that Grant would do one picture and did not want to be tied down to a multi-picture deal. Cary Grant’s price was also prohibitive as his superstar salary did not jibe with the modestly budgeted Dr. No (1962).

Age also was a factor. Cary Grant was in his late 50’s by the time that James Bond was being cast. One film may have been possible, but an ongoing series was unlikely.

Much like Sean Connery did later, Cary Grant retired from films in the late 1960’s and would never be lured back. Grant and Broccoli did remain friends. Cary Grant attended the Chasen’s party in 1982 to celebrate Broccoli’s Irving Thalberg Award.

Cary Grant died in 1986 after performing his stage show where he would recount stories from his career and life. This was a similar concept that Grant’s friend Roger Moore did in his later years.

While Cary Grant had a legendary career, three of his films have resonance with the James Bond series. All of them were collaborations with iconic director Alfred Hitchcock.

Cary Grant played a darkly handsome and mysterious secret agent in Hitchcock’s 1946 classic Notorious. Grant’s character Devlin is tasked with investigating the suspicious activities of Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman, the daughter of a known traitor.

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Notorious
Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in a scene from Notorious. Copyright Shutterstock. All rights reserved.

As the two falls in love, the trail leads to Rio de Janeiro and Claude Rains whom they suspect is a Nazi agent. Rains seems to be implicated in some sort of shady scheme involving enriched uranium.

If Cary Grant anticipates what James Bond should be like in Notorious, Claude Rains is a template for a certain type of James Bond villain. That is the outwardly respectable and urbane sophisticate who is actually rotten to the core. Think of Bond villains such as Louis Jourdan and Michael Lonsdale who fit this mold.

This classic spy drama was written by famed Hollywood scriptwriter Ben Hecht. Known as the Shakespeare of Hollywood, Hecht wrote such famous scripts as the original Scarface and The Front Page.

Before his death in 1964, Hecht was busy writing the screenplay for a film version of the Casino Royale novel published in 1953. Commissioned by producer Charles K. Feldman, Hecht’s Bond scripts were fairly straight adaptations of the novel but with cinematic flourishes to open up the story.

Cary Grant re-teamed with Hitchcock in 1955’s To Catch a Thief. Set in the French Riviera, Grant plays a retired jewel thief who is suspected of starting up his criminal life again due to a rash of new thefts.

To prove the cops wrong, Grant sets out to uncover the real thief. Along the way he encounters the dazzlingly glamorous Grace Kelly and English insurance man John Williams.

To Catch a Thief is actually closer to a Simon Templar/Saint story. There are however enough James Bond tropes to interest a Bond fan such as the entire Monte Carlo setting with its elegant casinos and high life. Cary Grant does look brilliant as he swans through said casino in his razor-sharp tuxedo.

The last collaboration between Grant and Hitchcock does have major James Bond implications though. The 1959 MGM film North by Northwest is considered by many critics and observers as the blueprint for the James Bond films.

Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, a Madison Avenue advertising executive who is mistaken for a secret agent who actually does not exist. Grant is reluctantly drawn into a cross country adventure as various parties try to obtain microfilm hidden in a small piece of art

This is the famous “MacGuffin” that Hitchcock and later on, the Bond series used. It’s the object that the good guys and the villains are all chasing after. In North by Northwest the MacGuffin is microfilm. In From Russia with Love (1963) its a decoding machine.

If you have never seen North by Northwest you should definitely take a look. As a Bond fan you will notice how much of the structure and pace were taken up by the Bond series a few years later.

In North by Northwest, you have a handsome man in a suit crossing swords with a suave villain (James Mason) and his sinister and slightly out henchman played by Martin Landau.

Eva Marie Saint plays a mysterious beauty who seems to be playing both sides of the fence with Grant and the villains. The sparkling dialogue aboard the train between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint was certainly revisited in a similar scene between Bond and Vesper in the 2006 film Casino Royale.

There are major set pieces that have become iconic in their own right. The famous crop duster sequence where Cary Grant is menaced in a corn field by a plane was certainly channeled a few years later by Terence Young in From Russia With Love. Switch out a Spectre chopper for the crop duster and you more or less have the same sequence.

The climax on North by Northwest is also famous. Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint are chased by the villains over the American landmark of Mount Rushmore. As they all want the MacGuffin, we get to see Grant and Martin Landau grapple over the stone images of Abraham Lincoln. This famous set piece is certainly echoed in A View to a Kill (1985) as Bond and the villain duke it out on the Golden Gate Bridge high atop San Francisco.

In all, you cannot go wrong watching North by Northwest.

Returning to Cary Grant though, it’s that effortless sophistication and charm that has kept his star burning bright. George Clooney has always been thought of as a next generation version of Cary Grant. Roger Moore definitely had some of the same Cary Grant DNA.

Bond watchers should keep in mind though that the role of James Bond is said to be open after No Time To Die. Past castings have always broken with what came immediately before. Therefore, another Daniel Craig type is not going to happen. Could we perhaps be heading for a new Cary Grant, Roger Moore type of Bond?

Stay tuned.

Written by Greg Bechtloff. Copyright © 2020 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.



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