Jun 6, 2013

Cary Grant: Hints and Closets in the 1930s

On November 29, 1986, Cary Grant died in Davenport, Iowa, right across the river from my home town of Rock Island.  I was living in West Hollywood at the time, but still, it felt weird to know that a film legend had died right next door.

Cary Grant had a brilliant career, usually playing suave, sophisticated types driven mad by a free spirit or a series of catastrophes.  Must-sees include Topper (1936), Suspicion (1941) directed by Alfred Hitchcock, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947), To Catch a Thief (1955), North by Northwest (1959) by Hitchcock again,and  That Touch of Mink (1962) with Doris Day.  Many of his movies have gay subtexts.

In Bringing Up Baby (1938), his character answers the door in a frilly women's nightgown (because a woman stole his clothes), and declares "I just went gay all of a sudden."  He continues: "I am sitting in the middle of Time Square, waiting for a bus."  This is one of the first uses of "gay" in its modern sense, augmented by the reference to cruising.  It's an ad-lib, not in the shooting script. How would he know it?

The perennial question is, was he gay?

The facts of the matter are:

1. He met Randolph Scott in 1932, and the two lived together, on and off, for the next ten years ("to save on expenses," heterosexist biographers claim) and remained close friends for the rest of their lives.

2. But neither have been associated with any gay stars, or with the gay subcultures of Hollywood in the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s.

3. Friends and acquaintances noted that he was often seen in the company of young men.


4. He was married five times. His first two wives "accused" him of being gay, his last three denied the rumors, stating that they had sex a lot.

5. He sued Chevy Chase for suggesting that he was gay.

6. His daughter stated that he liked the rumors, because they motivated women to "cure him" through sex.

7. His last movie, Walk, Don't Run (1966), is obviously about a gay romance.

8. He never acknowledged his gay fans.

Answer: there's a ton of evidence for both gay and heterosexual identity.  Most likely he was bisexual and highly closeted.