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Cary Grant retrospective heads up impressive Glasgow Film Festival programme

A Career to Remember

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A Career to Remember: Cary Grant

If old movies are your thing – and they should be, because they rarely do make ‘em like they used to anymore – then the Glasgow Film Festival’s annual retrospective strand will be your highlight of this year’s programme. For its sixth edition, the GFF is continuing its tradition of celebrating golden age Hollywood talent with a very welcome look at one of the hands-down, all-time greats, Cary Grant.

‘We chose Cary Grant for the retrospective because he remains a potent symbol of Hollywood’s golden age and yet his films are as fresh and immediate as when they first appeared,’ says GFF co-director (with Allison Gardner) Allan Hunter. ‘There are a lot of very big male stars from the 1930s and 1940s, like Tyrone Power or Fredric March, whose renown has faded with time, and yet Grant remains a timeless classic celebrated for his wit, his impeccable attire and his sheer physical presence. You can tell he was once a circus acrobat in his ease with the slapstick demands of Bringing Up Baby or Arsenic and Old Lace.’

Those two screwball and slapstick classics are, quite rightly, included in the ten-film retrospective. The other films are: the romantic melodrama An Affair to Remember, the comedies Holiday, I Was A Male War Bride and His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks’ fastest-talking movie ever), the aerial adventure Only Angels Have Wings and a trio of Hitchcocks: Notorious, To Catch a Thief and, featuring Grant at his most iconic, North By Northwest. Given Grant made more than his fair share of truly great films, those ten titles are a far-from exhaustive review of his impressive talents. Nevertheless, the retrospective certainly exemplifies the quality and diversity of Grant’s extraordinary four-decade film career.

‘The other thing about Grant,’ Hunter says, ‘is that his career has an abundance of great movies and so we were spoilt for choice, really. We’ve selected some of the most iconic films, and I think it’s no surprise that there is a real concentration on his work with Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock, two of the directors who really knew how to make the most of his comic timing and romantic allure.’

Despite being, arguably, the most popular and most important actor ever to come out of Hollywood, Grant remains, rather curiously, neglected in terms of industry recognition of his talents. That’s something Hunter and Gardner picked up on. ‘We also wanted to celebrate Cary Grant because he still seems underrated as an actor,’ Hunter says. ‘It seems astonishing that he never won an Oscar, and maybe that’s because he made it all look so easy. He is so suave, so debonair, able to cope with crop dusters and dinosaur bones, romancing Ingrid Bergman and dressing in drag – without us ever feeling the effort of his performance or the sheer hard work that went into the creation of his screen persona. Off screen he was someone who worried and fretted, on screen he made everything appear effortless, and that is hugely appealing.’

Grant was belatedly recognised by his peers when in 1969, three years after he retired, he was awarded a ‘general’ Oscar for services rendered to showbiz. Grant never came out of retirement, saying he wanted fans to remember him the way he was. He was elegant till the last.

Bringing Up Baby, GFT, Thu 18 Feb, 1pm & Fri 19 Feb, 11am. See Festival Highlights for more Grant films and www.gtf.org.uk for full details of all Grant films showing at the festival.

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