No one can dispute the fact that Cary Grant is the epitome of Hollywood success, which makes it even more surprising that the actor failed his very first screen test. He was spotted by a talent scout from Fox Film Corporation in 1928, who was interested in casting him in a movie.
The opportunity, however, fell through after he failed the screen test for having too thick a neck and sporting a bowlegged walk. He may have missed his chance for stardom in the silent movie era, but once talking films became all the rage, he became a great success.
The Stage as a Second Home
Cary Grant did not have an easy childhood, and he used the stage as an escape from his problems. Although he received a scholarship to attend grammar school, he was kicked out at the age of 13, allegedly for sneaking into the girls’ bathroom. Not long after, he left home to try his luck with a comedy troupe, which played shows both in England and across the pond.
In 1927, he was cast in the Broadway musical 'Golden Dawn'. This was the beginning of his stage career, and led to other parts, which more often than not were critically acclaimed. Four years after his Broadway debut, in 1931, Grant was signed by Paramount Pictures.
A New Name
Cary Grant was born as Archibald Alexander Leach, but when he began at Paramount, the executives had some reservations about the name. One even said to him that, “Archie just doesn’t sound right in America,” prompting the actor to admit that, “It doesn’t sound particularly right in Britain, either.”
The first name he came up with was “Cary Lockwood,” but the higher-ups felt it sounded too much like other stars. While going over a list of names, he stopped on Grant and the rest is tinsel town history. In 1941, Archibald Leach legally changed his name to Cary Grant.
First Time on Screen
Grant’s first movie was a comedy from 1932 titled 'This is the Night'. The film did well and was the first of many hits for the actor. He soon made a name for himself as a good looking and sophisticated leading man in such films as 'Merrily Go to Hell', 'Hot Saturday', and 'Madame Butterfly'.
In 1933, he starred alongside Mae West in the films 'She Done Him Wrong' and 'I’m No Angel'. The starlet took credit for discovering Grant, despite his appearance in several Hollywood movies previously. Unfortunately, Grant went on to face a string of box office flops which put his entire career in jeopardy.
“Most Spectacular Run Ever”
But Grant would not quit, he kept working and eventually, his career took off again, beginning with the comedy 'The Awful Truth', which was released in 1937. The films that followed were all massive hits that ended up being, according to Benjamin Schwartz, a critic for The Atlantic, “the most spectacular run ever for an actor in American pictures.”
Grant went on to star in what are considered two of the greatest comedies of all times, 'Bringing Up Baby' and 'The Philadelphia Story'. He also received critical acclaim and was nominated twice for Best Actor at the Academy Awards, once in 1941 for 'Penny Serenade', and once in 1944 for 'None but the Lonely Heart'.