While the history of the automobile begins a couple of decades earlier, the rise of mass production in the early 1900’s led to them becoming part of our every day lives. Another popular “product” was produced around the same time in 1904, a man who would eventually come to be known as Cary Grant.
Both Grant and the automobile are ubiquitous parts of international history. Autos are in-arguably a vital part of every day life, an industry which continues to grow and innovate. While Grant may not be as essential by comparison to our world today, he is still a very important part of our cultural history. Comparisons are still made to his talent, his style and his contributions to the film industry.
As someone who has long been obsessed with Cary Grant, it recently dawned on me how many of his movies contain a memorable scene with him in a vehicle. Almost all non-historical films contain vehicles as they were a part of every day life. But Grant’s films elevated them as more than just part of a scene. Instead they became an actual setting for action and dialogue to advance the story. Even closer notice reveals that many of the movies utilizing vehicles in this way are directed by Alfred Hitchcock. I’m sure there is a deeper analysis to be drawn here about Hitchcock’s particular use of cars in his pictures starring Grant, but that’s another article for another day.
In celebration of two great “products” of the past century, here are nine films featuring Cary Grant in vehicles.
- SUSPICION – Oh, there are many tense moments in this Hitchcock classic with Grant and Joan Fontaine. But perhaps none so much as this final sequence of the film. Fontaine is finally convinced that her mercurial husband is a murderer. Her suspicions made clear to her husband, he insists on driving her to her mother’s when she wants to leave. Their drive leaves her fraught with fear, due to his absolutely reckless driving along a cliff side. When her door swings open and he reaches toward her, those fears are confirmed. But is she right?
Car used: Lagonda LG45. For more info on this automobile see The Classic Driver’s post The Cars of the Hitchcock Films
2. THE AWFUL TRUTH – Ah, this is a delightful screwball comedy co-starring Grant and Irene Dunne as ex-spouses who sabotage each other’s new relationships. After a particularly, over the top scene by Dunne’s character, the two leave the home of Grant’s new girlfriend in an auto, which Dunne proceeds to wreck in an attempt to keep Grant with her. They are then given a lift to a nearby family cabin by the motorcycle cops who pulled them over. Not much is funnier than seeing two sophisticated actors like Grant and Dunne riding on the bars of a motorcycle.
3. TO CATCH A THIEF– Who could ever forget the very scenic drive that Grant and Grace Kelly take in another of Hitchcock’s classics? Not only is the viewer seduced by the gorgeous natural beauty of Monaco, but Grant’s reformed jewel thief character is also slowly seduced by Kelly’s bored but wealthy heiress. Even their eventual picnic of roast chicken happens within the confines of the car when Kelly slyly asks, “You want a leg or a breast?”
4. BRINGING UP BABY – This outrageous screwball comedy (and personal favorite) makes liberal use of automobiles as settings. There is of course, the first auto scene. Grant’s staid professor first meets Katharine Hepburn’s wacky heiress, when she steals his car…with him on the running board!
Another extremely memorable moment involves an auto accident with a poultry truck. The pet leopard (Baby) they are transporting, of course makes the best of things by consuming said poultry. The scenes with Grant and Hepburn and the leopard riding together in the car always strike me as humorous with Hepburn treating the leopard like a bored child who needs attention.
Later, Hepburn’s character again steals a car when they make a pit stop in a small town. Baby, the leopard, leaps from her car into another, forcing her to make a quick but criminal decision. But not before having an interesting conversation with the town’s sheriff about her car being illegally parked next to a fire hydrant.
All three of these auto scenes highlight the zaniness of Hepburn’s character’s personality.
Autos used: For more information on the various vehicles used in this film, check out this IMCDb link.
5. MONKEY BUSINESS – What else appropriately portrays Grant’s newly discovered youthful nature (after consuming a magical elixir) than his enthusiasm over a hot-rodding car and his gorgeous secretary played by Marilyn Monroe? I love all the humorous quips Grant spouts in this particular scene and it serves its’ purpose to display the major changes his character, a staid, middle aged man has already experienced thanks to that elixir.
Auto used: According to IMDb trivia, “The car used in the film was a red 1952 MG TD Roadster, which was owned by Marilyn Monroe. It sustained a dent in the front bumper when Cary Grant drove the car and hit a fence.”
6. TOPPER – One of my favorite underrated comedies, Topper is the story of two deceased beings who try to accomplish a good deed in order to gain entry to Heaven. Of course, the manner in which they become deceased is a rather dramatic one. After a night of heavy drinking and partying Grant and onscreen wife Constance Bennett are headed home from the city. Grant drives very recklessly in his coveted car with Bennett nagging him. As he accelerates around a corner, she screams and they crash. The auto also acts as a symbol later in the film when their friend Topper decides to have it restored for his own use. It’s an act of rebellion against his wife’s rigid dictates and a sign that the two “ghosts” are making headway in their “good deed” to ensure Topper has some fun.
Auto Used: Read about the Topper car in this article in the Akron Beacon Journal titled Cars We Remember.
7. NORTH BY NORTHWEST– Arguably, the most famous use of transportation in this Hitchcock picture is the train. Another iconic sequence involves a crop-dusting plane. However, the real action of this story begins when Grant, who’s character is mistaken for someone else is kidnapped by nefarious men. They arrange for him to be killed in what appears to be a drunken driving accident. Grant is absolutely brilliant playing a drunken driver in a scene reminiscent of the earlier Hitch and Grant collaboration Suspicion. Grant’s characters survives and emerges convinced of the seriousness of his situation, though no one else believes him.
Auto used: Mercedes 1959 220 S. Here is an interesting article about this car and Grant’s personal interest in it.
8. I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE– Although it seems a bit of an indignity putting Cary Grant in the side car of a motorcycle, it serves to undercut the starchiness of his military character. His French Army captain is a man who balks against being chauffeured around by a female American lieutenant and displays his distaste by being difficult with her.
While driving through the European countryside, there is a breakthrough in the frosty relations between the two. After the motorcycle takes off without it’s driver, but with its’ passenger, Grant begins to confess that he actually really likes Ann Sheridan’s character, not realizing she is not with him. When the bike crashes into a hay stack, his frantic shouts of “darling!”, while searching for her betray his true feelings to Sheridan.
Vehicle Used: BMW R 75
9. NOTORIOUS– I find it interesting how in several of these films, it is the women who are driving Cary Grant around, thereby implying that it is the female characters who are in control. However, that is not the case here. Thought Grant is the passenger, he is very much the one in control.
This particular scene is not pivotal to the plot. But it is pivotal to Ingrid Bergman’s understanding of who Grant is. Even thought he is attracted to her, he has an ulterior motive – to convince her to spy on her father’s friend. He knows her background and character, but she is just beginning to discover that the man she is attracted to is not who he seems to be.
Auto Used: According to IMDb – Early in the movie, an intoxicated Alicia Huberman asks to go driving with T.R. Devlin. They are then seen driving in a 1941 Cadillac Series 62 Deluxe convertible in Miami Florida (top down). Current year of the movie is 1946. The 1941 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible is a rare model with only 3100 units built.