Happy Birthday Cary Grant! 18 January marks what would have been Cary Grant’s 120th birthday, and is an opportune moment to stop and celebrate one of Bristol’s biggest success stories and finest exports. 

He enjoyed a six decade-spanning career as a Hollywood film star and style icon that earned him numerous accolades, including an Honorary Oscar, the title of world’s best dressed man and a place on a US postage stamp. He was also an astute businessman and connected to many of the most iconic figures of the 20th century (among them, Mae West, Elvis, Sinatra, Sophia Loren, Princess Grace of Monaco, Lord Louis Mountbatten, and the Kennedys), but he never forgot that it all began in Bristol, the city of his birth, and a place to which he returned time and time again.  

We have collated Archie Leach/Cary Grant and the star's connections to Bristol with help from Cary Comes Home Festival publicist Pam Beddard.

A black and white image of Cary Grant in front of Bristol City Hall on College Green - credit Bristol Post
Image - Cary Grant on Park Street, credit Bristol Post

1. Cary Grant was born Archie Leach on 18 January 1904 at 15 Hughenden Road, Horfield, Bristol, marked with a blue plaque, Cary Grant has also been commemorated in street art form outside Room 212 on Gloucester Rd by graffiti artist Stewy as part of an expanding library of hand-cut lifesize stencils of native British animals and icons. These images represent those who once lived in Bristol and can be found out and about on the streets of the city. 

An image of the Cary Grant blue plaque in Horfield, North Bristol - credit Kathryn Davis
Image - Cary Grant Blue Plaque on 15 Hughenden Road, Horfield, Bristol

He adopted the new name after signing for Paramount Pictures in 1931. It wasn’t lost entirely though – Archie Leach appears on a gravestone in Arsenic and Old Lace and also crops up in the dialogue of His Girl Friday. Archie Leach was also the name of the character of Weston-super-Mare’s John Cleese in A Fish Called Wanda. 

A black and white image of Cary Grant walking along Bristol's Harbourside - credit Bristol Post
Image - Cary Grant in Bristol Harbour, credit Bristol Post

2. When Archie was about 10, he was told his mother had gone away on holiday and, later, that she had died. In fact, she’d been committed to the Bristol Insane Asylum, now the fascinating Glenside Hospital Museum

A black and white image of Cary Grant overlooking the Avon Gorge in Clifton, West Bristol - credit Alan Grifee
Image - Cary Grant next to the Avon Gorge, credit Alan Grifee, Bristol Post

3. Archie/Cary might never have found fame if a part-time science teacher had not invited him to see the new-fangled electric lighting system that had just been installed at The Bristol Hippodrome. Cary was so captivated by the theatre he began working there after-school as a ‘gofer’.  As a result, he met Bob Pender, the boss of a travelling troupe of knockabout comedians and persuaded Pender to let him join the company. In 1920, Cary was still with the troupe when it visited the USA, he opted to stay in the States while the rest returned home. Bristol Hippodrome celebrates the connection with Cary’s Bar, dedicated to their most famous former employee. 

A black and white image of Cary Grant pointing at the Clifton Suspension Bridge from the Avon Gorge Hotel in West Bristol - credit Bristol Post
Image - Cary Grant at The Avon Gorge Hotel, credit Bristol Post

4. Cary Grant’s breakthrough film role came via Mae West who cast him in her 1933 film She Done Him Wrong. This attaches him to one of Hollywood’s best known misquotes - his character is the target of the Mae West invitation “Why don’t you come up sometime and see me.”   

5. Ian Fleming was inspired to create his debonair spy James Bond by his friend Cary Grant’s performance in the 1946 Alfred Hitchcock film Notorious. Later, Grant was the first actor to be asked to portray 007 on screen, but he turned it down. The Bond films franchise does however go on to benefit at least three other former Bristol residents, with the locally-trained Caroline Bliss, Samantha Bond and Naomie Harris all appearing as Miss Moneypenny and trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.   

A black and white still of actors Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in the 1946 film Notorious
Image - Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in the 1946 film Notorious

6. During World War Two, American supply ships needed ballast to make the return trip to the USA. There was plenty of rubble for them to fill their ships with in Bristol as much of the city had been destroyed by bombing on the city. On arrival in New York, they dumped these bits of Bristol in East River Drive, now known as ‘The Bristol Basin’ and built on top of it. At least five members of the star’s Bristol-based family are known to have died in the 'Bristol Blitz' and in 1974 Grant unveiled a plaque in New York dedicated to ‘The Bristol Basin’ and those whose homes and lives were destroyed. A duplicate of the plaque can be found on St Augustine’s Parade in Bristol, just across from the Hippodrome.   

Exterior of Bristol Hippodrome at night - credit The Bristol Hippodrome
Image - Bristol Hippodrome

7. A life-sized bronze statue of Cary Grant sits on Bristol's Millennium Square. The statue was unveiled in December 2001 by Grant's widow Barbara Jaynes to commemorate the Bristol-born actor's achievements.  

8. The Cary Comes Home Festival is a bi-annual festival celebrating the life and work of Cary Grant which returns in 2024.  With details still to be confirmed for the event later this year, register for the mailing list and catch up on the archive on the Cary Grant Comes Home website.

9. Show of Strength Theatre Company's ‘Raising Cary Grant Theatre Walk,' running from 29 March - 15 October 2024, allows you to walk in the footsteps of Cary Grant. Tickets are available to book now via Show of Strength website.   

Private tours are also available – contact Show of Strength for more information

One of the guides from the 'Raising Cary Grant' tour by Show of Strength in central Bristol - credit Show of Strength
Image - Show of Strength Raising Cary Grant Theatre Walk

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