This day in history….Forever Remembered

cary GrantIn 1986 Actor Cary Grant died in Davenport, Iowa, at the age 82.  Cary Grant was born January 18, 1904, in Bristol, England. He ran away from home at 13 to perform as a juggler with a comedy troupe. They later toured the U.S., where he honed his acting skills. In the 1930s he signed with Paramount Pictures. He made films well into the 1960s, establishing a debonair persona that made him a screen icon. He died in 1986, having received an honorary Oscar in 1970.

Early Life

Sometimes referred to as the “epitome of elegence,” Cary Grant exuded style, charm and sophistication. But that on-screen persona was a carefully crafted image, one that hid a very difficult personal life. He grew up in Bristol, England, as Archie Leach, the son of a clothing presser and a homemaker. His father, Elias, left the family for a job in Southampton, and there he took up with another woman. The couple soon had a child of their own.

When he was 10 years old, Grant was told that his mother was dead while, in fact, she had been committed to an institution by his father. Devastated by the loss, Grant was basically on his own, with little support from his father. At 13, he started hanging around a local theater, where he performed a few odd jobs. Grant then took up with Bob Pender’s group of traveling performers, but his first attempt at a theatrical career was cut short by his father, who demanded that he return to school.

Grant got himself expelled the following year and, this time with his father’s permission, rejoined Pender’s troupe. He traveled with the group for two years, performing in all types of acts from juggling to comedy bits to acrobatics. In 1920, Grant branched out on his own, leaving the troupe during its visit to New York City. There he struggled to make it into show business, even working as a stilt walker for a time.

Career Breakthrough

By the late 1920s, Grant had made several appearances on Broadway. He got the lead part in the 1931 musical Nikki with Fay Wray, playing a soldier named Cary who fights for Wray’s affections. While the production proved to be short-lived, Grant’s role garnered him enough praise to land a role in a short film, Singapore Sue. Finally experiencing some studio interest, Grant decided to move out to Los Angeles.

Grant landed a contract with Paramount Studios, and took on a new identity. Archie Leach became Cary Grant at the studio’s request. According to Hollywood legend, his first name came from his earlier stage role, and his last name from a list given to him by the studio. He made his first feature film, This Is The Night, in 1932, and more roles on the big screen soon followed. Grant starred opposite such famed leading ladies as Marlene Dietrich and Mae West.

Films of 1930s and 1940s

By the late 1930s, Grant had become an established leading man in Hollywood. He appeared in a range of movies, from war dramas to mysteries to comedies. His career, however, reached new heights starting in 1937, with Topper. In this screwball comedy, Grant played a sophisticated spirit who, along with his late wife, decides to haunt an old friend. He had a gift for both physical humor and comic timing.

Grant made some of his greatest films around this time; such comedies as The Awful Truth (1937) with Irene Dunne and The Philadelphia Story with Katharine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart have become classics. In many of his roles, Grant played a similar type—a man with wit and polish. He did, however, occasionally try to defy the audience’s expectations of him. He played a potentially lethal husband opposite Joan Fontaine in the 1941 thriller Suspicion, which marked his first film with director and master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock. In Penny Serenade (1941), Grant balanced humor with grief as a husband who experiences both joy and heartbreak in his marriage. His work in the film netted him an Academy Award nomination.

His greatest dramatic leap was in 1944’s None but the Lonely Heart. Directed and co-written by Clifford Odets, the film featured Grant as a wandering prodigal son who returns home to help his sick mother (Ethel Barrymore). He picked up his second Academy Award nomination for this now mostly forgotten film. It was reportedly one of his personal favorites, saying “the part seemed to fit my nature better than the light-hearted fellows I was used to playing.”

By the early 1940s, Grant became one of the first actors to land status as a free agent, choosing not to be under contract to one of the many film studios that ruled Hollywood at the time. Instead, he picked his own parts, becoming increasingly selective about what roles he’d take. One of his first decisions as a free agent was to appear in another Hitchcock film—1946’s Notorious. Starring opposite Ingrid Bergman, Grant played an American agent on the trail of some neo-Nazis. Around this time, Grant also appeared in several comedies, including 1947’s The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer and 1949’s I Was a Male War Bride.

Later Films

Two of Grant’s most memorable later roles had him once again working with the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock. He played a reformed criminal accused of a robbery he didn’t commit in 1955’s To Catch a Thief. In the film, Grant starred opposite Grace Kelly. Hitchcock then put Grant through his paces in 1959’s North by Northwest. As an advertising man who gets mixed up in murder and espionage, his character is on the run from sinister forces and battling for his life for much of the movie.

Grant also teamed up with Audrey Hepburn for the 1963 humorous and romantic thriller Charade, which gently poked fun at the genre. For his final film, Walk Don’t Run (1966), he had moved from romantic lead to mature matchmaker in this comedy. Grant retired from filmmaking after this movie.

Final Years

After walking away from acting, Grant still appeared in public. He became a director of the Fabergé company and served as the fragrance firm’s brand ambassador, traveling around to promote its products.

Grant received numerous honors for his contributions to film in his later years, including a special Academy Award in 1970 for his “unique mastery of the art of screen acting.” In 1981, he earned the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor for Career Achievement in the Performing Arts alongside such greats as Helen Hayes and Count Basie. Grant agreed to a special public appearance in Davenport, Iowa, on November 29, 1986, but he never made it to the theater that night. He suffered a fatal stroke in his hotel room.

As he had in life, Grant continued to seek privacy after his death. No public funeral was held for the great star, but many who knew him expressed their grief over his passing. President Ronald Reagan said that “He was one of the brightest stars in Hollywood and his elegance, wit and charm will endure on film and in our hearts.”

Personal Life

Unlike his suave film characters, Grant seemed to struggle in his romantic life off-screen. He was married five times, and went through four divorces. Several of his ex-wives described him as controlling. His fourth wife, actress Dyan Cannon, said that he tried to tell her what to wear. She has also claimed that he forced her to take LSD, a drug he took himself. She later explained that Grant took LSD as “a gateway to peace inside himself.” Cannon wrote about their marriage in 2011’s Dear Cary: My Life with Cary Grant.

Some have said, including Cannon herself, that Grant’s troubled childhood affected his romantic relationships. After believing her to be dead, Grant discovered his mother was still alive when he was 30 years old. He was reunited with his mother, but they never regained the close bond they had once shared.

 

George_Harrison_1974_editedin 2001 Beatle George
Harrison
died of cancer.

Harrison was born on 25 February 1943 in the family home at 12 Arnold Grove, Wavertree, Liverpool.

His parents were Harold and Louise Harrison, who had roots in Ireland. They had three other children: Louise, Harry and Peter, all of whom were older than George.

George Harrison with his family, 1940s

In 1950 the family moved to 25 Upton Green in Speke. George went to school at Dovedale Road, where he passed his 11 Plus and gained a place at the Liverpool Institute for Boys, a local grammar school.

He attended the Institute between 1954 and 1959. Not an especially gifted child academically, Harrison struggled as a student and left without any qualifications. He had trouble relating to his teachers, and insisted on wearing tight jeans and long hair, much to his parents consternation.

George Harrison playing the guitar, circa 1950In 1959 Harrison formed a skiffle group, The Rebels, with his brother Peter and a friend, Arthur Kelly. Harrison’s mother bought him a guitar for £3, and the group’s debut gig at the British Legion club in Speke earned them 10 shillings.

Harrison considered becoming an apprentice engineer after leaving school, but music dominated his passions and he performed with a number of fledgling groups in Liverpool. In 1958 he met the Quarrymen, whose ranks included Paul McCartney, a friend of Harrison’s from the Institute.

Although Harrison was considered too young to join the group, he did fill in when their regular guitarist Eric Griffiths was unavailable. Eventually he was accepted as a full member, despite the reservations of the Quarrymen founder and leader, John Lennon.

Paul introduced me to George and I had to make the decision whether to let George in. I listened to George play and said, ‘Play Raunchy’ [a 1958 hit for saxophonist Bill Justis]. Then I said, ‘OK, you can come in.’

I couldn’t be bothered with him when he first came around. He used to follow me around like a bloody kid, hanging around all the time. He was a kid who played guitar and he was a friend of Paul’s which made it easier. It took me years to come around to him, to start considering him as an equal.

John Lennon

George Harrison in the Cavern Club, LiverpoolThe band became Johnny and the Moondogs, and later the Silver Beetles. Their first trip to Hamburg in August 1960 took place while Harrison was just 17, and the Reeperbahn, the red light district where they played, proved an educative experience: “Everybody around the district were homosexuals, transvestites, pimps and hookers and I was in the middle of that, aged 17,” he said.

The first trip ended in Harrison’s deportation for working under-age. When they returned in March 1961 The Beatles had become more assured as performers, and in June cut their first single, My Bonnie, as the backing band for Tony Sheridan. For this they were paid 300 marks with no royalties.

At the band’s first recording session for EMI, producer George Martin tried to ease the band’s nerves by saying, “Let me know if there’s anything you don’t like”. “Well, for a start,” replied Harrison, “I don’t like your tie.” This led to a succession of jokes being cracked in the studio, which endeared the band to the EMI staff.

As Beatlemania took hold, John Lennon and Paul McCartney dominated the group’s output: “There was an embarrassing period when George’s songs weren’t that good and nobody wanted to say anything,” John Lennon later said. “He just wasn’t in the same league for a long time – that’s not putting him down, he just hadn’t had the practice as a writer that we’d had.”

Known as “the quiet one” of The Beatles, Harrison’s first published composition was Don’t Bother Me, which he wrote while ill in a hotel room in Bournemouth in the summer of 1963. It appeared on their second album With The Beatles.

George Harrison

Harrison was later dismissive of Don’t Bother Me, saying “It was a fairly crappy song. I forgot all about it completely once it was on the album… At least it showed me that all I needed to do was keep on writing and then maybe eventually I would write something good.”

During The Beatles’ first US tour, Rickenbacker gave Harrison a 12-string electric guitar – a 360/12 model. The instrument became characteristic of The Beatles early to mid 1960s sound, particularly on the A Hard Day’s Nightalbum, and influenced many other bands including The Byrds.

Harrison sang at least one song on all The Beatles’ albums, though as a songwriter he remained in the shadow of Lennon and McCartney. Following Don’t Bother Me, his next self-penned songs were I Need You and You Like Me too Much, on 1965’s Help! album.

Indian music

George Harrison’s interest in Indian music was awoken by a scene in the Help! film. While making the film, a Hindu devotee gave each member of The Beatles a book on reincarnation, which led to a fascination with many aspects of Eastern religion, culture and philosophy.

The Byrds’ David Crosby introduced him to the music of Ravi Shankar during a US tour in 1965, and he became fascinated by the sitar. He became friends with Shankar, who became his sitar teacher.

Harrison became the first Western musician to play a sitar on a pop record. The song was Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), on the 1965 album Rubber Soul.

After Norwegian Wood I met Ravi Shankar in London for dinner. He offered to give me instruction in the basics of the sitar. It was the first time I had ever really learnt music with a bit of discipline. Then I listened to Indian music for the next two years and hardly touched the guitar except for recording.

George Harrison

George and Pattie Harrison, 1966

For 1966’s Revolver he recorded Love You To, which featured no Western instrumentation. Following the recording of that album, he went on a pilgrimage to India with his wife Pattie. The couple had met during the filming of A Hard Day’s Night, and married on 21 January 1966.

Pattie introduced George to transcendental meditation, and in 1968 they, along with the rest of The Beatles and their partners, travelled to India to study with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Although the band later fell out with the Maharishi, Harrison continued his interest in Eastern philosophy. He embraced the Hare Krishna tradition, and in 1969 produced the single Hare Krishna Mantra by the Radha Krishna Temple.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s