Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
September 14, 2004

Carry on, Cary Grant
By Bruce Vilanch
From The Advocate, September 14, 2004

Here we are previewing what’s coming up this fall, and we already know the quote of the year, if not the century. It’s from Betsy Drake, an actress with a minor vogue in the ’40s who spent some of those years married to Cary Grant. A recent documentary dissects that extraordinary actor’s career and concludes, as I did when I met him years ago, that Cary Grant was an invention of a person named Archie and was more complex a character than any of the ones that were written for him. That’s the reason no one who searches for the next Cary Grant ever finds him: There was no real Cary Grant to begin with.

Anyway, much is made in the documentary of the famous rumors about Cary Grant’s supposed homosexuality, and that’s where Betsy Drake comes in with the quote of the year: “I didn’t have time to think about his homosexuality,” she says, “we were too busy fucking.”

Anecdotal evidence, to be sure. And yet…compelling. The documentary makes a pretty fair case on which the rumors can be debunked. All that seems to support them are the fact that Grant famously shared a beach house with the cowboy-actor hunk Randolph Scott for a while (touted in the movie as the ultimate bachelor pad) and, of course, that startling late-in-life episode where Grant decided to sue Chevy Chase for allegedly outing him on a late-night talk show. I believe that foolish behavior can be marked up to late-life crankiness. The later in life I get, the more I understand.

Grant also figures in at least two other movies recently, both of them concerned with matters homosexual. In Touch of Pink, he does for a timid Pakistani-Canadian gay guy what Humphrey Bogart did for Woody Allen in Play It Again, Sam. You know how, as a kid, when you left a movie, you wanted to be the person in the movie? Imagine that momentary fantasy became an obsession and you created an imaginary friend who appeared for encouraging chats whenever you were feeling stressed and only you could see him or hear him—your very own personal alter ego and romance coach.

The hero of Touch of Pink conjures up Cary Grant in the person of Kyle MacLachlan. This destroyed me, as for the last few years I have been conjuring up Kyle MacLachlan. But why mention my petty personal problems? The movie is charming, and MacLachlan does a good job of looking as befuddled as the makers of the Cary Grant documentary might believe Grant actually would be if he were put in the position of a gay matchmaker.

Grant’s other big appearance this year is in the mess about Cole Porter called De-Lovely. A reverential yet idiotic biography of the brilliant songsmith, it manages to make the first reverential yet idiotic biography of him—the 1946 Warner Bros. musical Night and Day—look like Boswell’s Life of Johnson. In the first version, Porter was played by Cary Grant, and his long-lived marriage of convenience to Linda Porter (a lesbian by most accounts) was depicted as a tender, if less than moist, coupling.

The new version has Porter dancing around a Hollywood gay bar roughly the size of the Hollywood Bowl, dropping Monty Woolley off for a ramble in the bushes of Central Park, and returning home to a frosty Linda, who knows what he’s up to (as does everyone else) and only wants some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. We never know what rings Linda’s chimes, except Cole’s talent.

Somewhere in the middle of the movie, Cole and Linda go to see the Warners picture about them. “If I can survive this movie, I can survive anything,” Cole remarks as they leave, although by that time it’s hard to keep straight which movie he’s talking about. Linda offers that it’s not so bad to be played by Cary Grant. And they chuckle. Even then they knew that Cary Grant was a mythical character.