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Cary Grant - quotes

Quotations relating to Cary Grant...

Grant talking about the modern Hamlet project, reported in the Times Recorder (Zanesville, Ohio) on 25/Feb/1946...

We'll do it in a modern manner. For instance, "To be or not to be" will probably read, "What the hell do I do now?"

Cary Grant (1946)
keywords: Hamlet
Grant talking about the modern Hamlet project, reported by the Associated Press in August 1945...

Hamlet will be shown as a modern man with problems. I won't attempt to portray the role in the traditional Shakespearean manner. I approach the assignment with considerable trepidation, but my faith in Mr. Hitchcock is my reassurance in the matter, which I am eager to undertake.

Shakespeare is the best theater in the world and if we are successful in devising an acceptable film formula through Hamlet, other things may follow.

Cary Grant (1945)
keywords: Alfred Hitchcock and Hamlet

Film Pre-Production

I thought up a scene for "North by Northwest", but we never actually made it. It occurred to me that we were moving in a northwesterly direction from New York, and one of the stops on the way was Detroit, where they make Ford automohiles. Have you ever seen an assembly line? They're absolutely fantastic. Anyway, I wanted to have a long dialogue scene between Cary Grant and one of the factory workers as they walk along the assembly line. They might, for instance, be talking about one of the foremen. Behind them a car is being assembled, piece by piece. Finally, the car they've seen being put together from a simple nut and bolt is complete, with gas and oil, and all ready to drive off the line. The two men look at it and say, "Isn't it wonderful!" Then they open the door to the car and out drops a corpse!

Where has the body come from? Not from the car, obviously, since they've seen it start at zero! The corpse falls out of nowhere, you see! And the body might be that of the foreman the two fellows had been discussing ... The real problem was that we couldn't integrate the idea into the story. Even a gratuitous scene must have some justification for being there, you know!

Alfred Hitchcock (1962)
Lehman describes how he overcame his writer's block to finish the script...

So I kept pressing forward, and Hitch, confident that I now knew what the hell I was doing, moved over to MGM from his home base at Universal, and started storyboarding the script with his art director, and casting the roles. And all the time, I'm sitting there in my office sweating the fact that I have no idea whatsoever why the hell they're all going to Mount Rushmore! Why were these people heading to South Dakota? I had no idea! So, the last act of the script was blank. Actual blank pages! Then Cary Grant came on the picture with some astronomical salary, and I was still sitting there in my office with nothing but a partially-completed script. So I called up Hitch, and I told him we were in big trouble. He came rushing over to my office, sat across from me, and the two of us stared at each other. Finally, he suggested that we call in some mystery novelist to help us kick around ideas, but I didn't like the idea. After all, I was getting paid by MGM to write the thing, and I felt that it would make me look pretty foolish. I kept saying, "God, what'll they say about me upstairs?" and Hitch would say, "Don't worry, I'll tell them it's all my fault. I'll tell them I should've been able to help you, but I couldn't — or something like that."

Then we went to his office — it was about six o'clock in the evening — and we kept talking about his idea, even discussing which mystery writer we should get, and, all the time, the right side of my brain was working, and suddenly, as I was listening to him — not really ignoring him — I said, "She takes a gun out of her purse and shoots him." So where the hell did that come from? It just popped into my head. That's the way it works sometimes: you've got a problem and, no matter what else is going on around you, the right side of your brain keeps working on it and then, suddenly, it pops out of nowhere. And Hitch took it right in stride. Even though I'd completely changed the subject and suddenly blurted out, "She takes a gun out of her purse and shoots him," he didn't miss a beat and responded, "Yes, the Polish Underground sometimes killed their own members, just to prove they weren't in the Underground." And I said, "Yes, but these are fake bullets. That'll convince Vandamm that he has to take her away with him. Now that she's a fugitive, he'll decide to take her on the plane." And, instantly, I had the whole last act.

Ernest Lehman (2000)

One day, Hitch said to me, "I've always wanted to do a scene in the middle of nowhere — where there's absolutely nothing. You're out in the open, and there's nothing all around you. The camera can turn around 360 degrees, and there's nothing there but this one man standing all alone — because the villains, who are out to kill him, have lured him out to this lonely spot." Then Hitch continued, "Suddenly, a tornado comes along and..." "But Hitch," I interrupted, "how do the villains create a tornado?" and he had no idea. So I wondered, "What if a plane comes out of the sky?" And he liked it immediately, and he said, "Yes, it's a crop duster. We can plant some crops nearby." So we planted a fake cornfield in Bakersfield and did the scene that way. And, like you said, it became a very famous sequence. As a matter of fact, that's how I knew that Cary Grant had died. Every channel on TV was showing that shot of Cary running away from the plane. It's strange, isn't it, that such a distinguished career should be remembered mostly for that one shot?

Ernest Lehman (2000)


I loved playing Eve because it was so different from "On the Waterfront" or anything else I'd ever done before. Hitch said, "You don't have to cry in this one, Eva Marie. No more sink parts for you." Meaning the dowdy wife at the kitchen sink. Cary thought I should play nothing but glamorous leading ladies for the rest of my career. But, I wanted to do it all, the real and the unreal and I pretty much have.

Film Production

Hedren describing the scene where the birds attack her in the attic of the Brenner house...

When you're doing a movie, you know you're doing a movie. "It's a movie," as Hitchcock would always say. And people so often say, "Were you frightened when you were doing that movie?" Well, you know what's going on.

However, there are times when you're making films that, um, it can become dangerous, it can become exhausting, unexpected. And the scene where I go up into the bedroom upstairs is one of those scenes. They told me — Hitch always told me for the entire filming — that we were going to use mechanical birds for that scene. I said, "Fine. Don't have anything to worry about."

It was on a Monday morning that we were going to start the scene, and Jim Brown, the assistant director, came into my dressing room on the set. And we'd known each other for a long time. And he couldn't look at me. He looked at the floor, he looked at the walls, he looked at the ceiling. I said, "What's the matter with you?" And he said, "We can't use the mechanical birds. They don't work." And out the door he went. And I just blanched white because I had seen the bird trainers with their leather gauntlets up to their shoulders, and scratches that they had from the birds. And I walked out onto the set, and there was never an intention of using mechanical birds.

They had a cage built around the set so the birds wouldn't be up in the rafters for the remainder of the shoot. And there were three boxes, great big cartons, of ravens and seagulls. And prop men, with their leather gauntlets, hurled birds at me for five days. Maybe I put myself in sort of a Zen state because it was so — it was really grisly. 'Cause I literally had to fight them off. And, uh, they didn't attack. Birds... don't do that. It was just, you know, them coming at me that I would have to, you know, get away from.

That Wednesday, Cary Grant came onto the set to see Hitch, and he walked over to me and he said, "I think you're the bravest lady I've ever met." And I said, "Well, I don't know if that's the word for it." But it was pretty horrific.

By Friday they had me on the floor. You know, 'cause I'd just crumpled from sheer exhaustion as the character is being hurt. And Rita Riggs, who was my dresser — who became a wonderful designer — she had put cloth bands around my body with little elastics — two little elastics — sticking out everywhere. Then we put the dress on, and with the holes in the dress, she would pull the elastics through, and then they would tie the foot of the bird to me, and ... I was that way all day, and one of the birds decided to move from my shoulder up on to my — it just jumped, and scratched me very close to my eye, and I said, "That's enough!"

And I got them all off of me. And I just sat in the middle of the stage and cried. I mean, I was just totally exhausted. And everybody left. Sort of left me there! I don't remember the weekend, and, um, I don't remember driving to the studio the following Monday. I got into my dressing room — beautiful dressing room — and laid down on the couch, and my makeup man, Howard Smit, came, uh, to get me, you know, for makeup, and, uh, he couldn't wake me. I was just out. I mean, just out. Just totally exhausted. And I was under doctor's care for a week, which made it very, very difficult, because there were no other scenes to film. It was sort of at the ending of the shoot.

After that scene, you know, I was... I was really a bloody mess. And of course they're — the makeup people — are so good at that. And Howard Smit had put scars all over me. But it was so much fun to do ... Everything is scary, and, you know, it's fun. It's great fun to do it.

Tippi Hedren (2000)

We had an exact copy made up of the United Nations lobby. You see, someone had used that setting for a film called "The Glass Wall", and after that Dag Hammarskjold prohibited any shooting of fiction films on the premises.

Just the same, while the guards were looking for our equipment, we shot one scene of Cary Grant coming into the building by using a concealed camera. We'd been told we couldn't even do any photography, so we concealed the camera in the back of a truck and in that way we got enough footage for the background. Then we got a still photographer to get permission to take some colored stills inside, and I walked around with him, as if I was a visitor, whispering, "Take that shot from there. And now, another one from the roof down." We used those color photographs to reconstitute the settings in our studios.

The place where the man is stabbed in the back is in the delegates' lounge, but to maintain the prestige of the United Nations, we called it the "public lounge" in the picture, and this also explains how the man with the knife could get in there. Anyway, the locale was very accurately reconstructed. I'm very concerned about the authenticity of settings and furnishings. When we can't shoot in the actual settings, I'm for taking research photographs of everything.

Alfred Hitchcock (1962)

The house that's used at the end of "North by Northwest" is the miniature of a house by Frank Lloyd Wright that's shown from a distance. We built part of it for the scene in which Cary Grant circles around it.

Alfred Hitchcock (1962)

As a director, Hitch was mostly concerned with the technical aspects of getting his vision on-screen. "Your hand goes here. You're looking up there." He wasn't like Kazan who would whisper wonderful intimate direction in your ear. Hitch gave me three basic pieces of direction: First, lower your voice. Second, don't use your hands, and third always look directly into Cary's eyes. One of his greatest gifts was that he made you feel you were the only perfect person for the role and this gave you incredible confidence in playing the part. And then, he'd leave you to your own devices. It was really a wonderful set to work on.

Saint describing the crop duster scene...

Even though it was early October, the climate was like a sweltering desert. This was one of the only times Hitch wore short sleeves on the set. For three days, poor Cary ran with a stunt plane swooping down at him or so it would seem. As nobody would think of putting Cary Grant in the position of getting decapitated by a plane some trick photography was used. I feel like a traitor telling you this but first the crew shot a swooping plane from a ditch and then, later, Cary was shot on a sound stage jumping into a fake ditch with the plane footage on a process screen behind him.

Lehman describing the crop duster scene...

Cary Grant rushes into the cornfield and ducks down on the ground and the plane loosens this poisonous crop-dusting powder all over him and he's gasping for breath and he rushes towards a car which is coming from afar and the camera follows him as he goes toward the car and he waves and the car refuses to stop. The next day, Hitch discovered that Peggy Robertson his script supervisor had forgotten to make sure that Cary was covered with crop dust in the shot where he runs across the field toward the car. And she burst into tears. She was hysterical. Hitch had to shoot the whole scene over again.

When we were doing the auction scene, he whispered something to Cary, he whispered something to James, he whispered something to Eva Marie and he passed me by. And I walked up to him. I said: "Is there anything you want to tell me?" I was a young actor, eager, you know. They were getting direction. He said, "Martin, I'll only tell you if I don't like what you're doing. You're projecting very well." I said, "Well, okay. That's nice." But I did feel left out. Hitchcock said, "Actors are cattle". He never said that. He said, "You must treat actors like cattle."

The [Mount Rushmore] set was largely a very safe place, but once the man who was to catch me if anything happened looked away as I slipped and fell several feet, scraping my arm badly — an injury we used in the final film. I hung from a cliff that appeared to be miles high but was only a few yards from a scaffold below. Cary saved me from a ledge that appeared to drop straight down. Actually, it was on a 45-degree angle. I couldn't have fallen if I wanted to. It looks dangerous, but really it was just a lot of fun.