Shock! Horror! A bad Cary Grant!

The other day we watched what I thought was impossible–a bad Cary Grant movie. Or rather, it was a bad movie–a lame, wooden, limp(to thoroughly mix metaphors) in which Cary Grant had the misfortune of being completely miscast. It’s the historical potboiler, 1957’s The Pride and the Passion (of which two qualities nothing was in evidence!) set in the Napoleonic wars in Spain and based on a CS Forester novel, The Gun. Misdirected by Stanley Kramer, this film also starred Sophia Loren(whose breasts mainly acted for her) and Frank Sinatra, as respectively a feisty young Spanish lass and her guerillero boyfriend; with our Cary as a British naval officer who’s been sent to help them–or rather to retrieve a big gun they have, which the French are trying to capture. And who falls in love with our Sophia..

Cary is wooden and uncomfortable-looking in this, as well he might be; the plodding, banal and cliched script leaves him no room for wit or the lighthearted deftness which is so much a part of his charm; but the other two fare just as badly. As I said, Sophia’s boobs act for her, and Frankie tries hard to keep the Bronx out of his face and look like a Spanish guerilla leader. There is zero chemistry between the stars and you simply cannot believe in the ‘passion’ either between Cary and Sophia, or Sophia and Frank. Everyone just looks uncomfortable.
And there’s no sense of war at all. There is a strange lack of urgency in this film, despite the desperate times and the French are played as such ‘Allo, ‘Allo’ buffoons that you don’t even feel any danger from them–everyone just goes through the motions. There’s a cast of extras of thousands–tens of thousands, in fact, the film’s credits proudly state!–but they just run around most of the time and look picturesque. Though it was shot on location in Spain–and features the obligatory flamenco dance–it does not feel Spanish at all.
To look on the bright side at least it made me think that some of the lame historical war ‘epics’ of our time–eg Pearl Harbour, Troy, Alexander–aren’t just a product of our times which haven’t really known war and danger! And that big-budget Hollywood movies have flopped at all times, when they’ve been as poor as this!
I had only got out the film because of Cary’s name(I think Sinatra was a far greater singer than actor and Loren has never really impressed me). Having seen Cary in such gems as Holiday, His Girl Friday, An Affair to Remember, To Catch a Thief, The Philadelphia Story, North by Northwest and so on, I’d thought our boy couldn’t put a foot wrong. What this film did show was what a modern persona he had as an actor, really; how twentieth-century; he looks utterly stiff and unbelievable as an early 19th century naval officer.
Was this Cary’s only foray into costume drama? Has anyone else seen this film?And..I hesitate to ask this–but are there any other bad Cary Grant movies, so I can avoid them??

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James Russell
2022 years ago

I gather Sylvia Scarlett is considered a bit of a stinker, but I’ve never seen it myself so I wouldn’t know. Certainly it was a box office flop 70 years ago.

I’m not enamoured of An Affair To Remember myself.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

I read Katherine Hepburn’s autobiography recently, and from memory she wasn’t enamoured of Sylvia Scarlett either, despite co-starring in it with Cary (or more probably because of it).

flute
2022 years ago

Gunga Din was a bit of a stinker, but I can’t think of any others. There doesn’t seem to be a “Swarm” shaped turkey in his oven.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

Well I liked Sylvia Scarlett, not least because it had the young Hepburn running around the English countryside as a tomboy. In fact there was quite a bit of kinky cross-dressing and sexual confusion going on in that flick.

I do recall too that Cary Grant was actually pretty bad in “Cannibal Holocaust 2”.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I’m puzzled. What is this magical quality so often associated with Cary Grant? As far as I can see he was just a suave, smiling leading man manque prop, wheeled out to act as a backdrop for people who acted. Inanimate mostly, apart from the odd raised eyebrow. I was told that his Hitchcockian oeuvre was cutting edge but he does the same thing there as well. Just with more sweat.

He seems to me to be a much more deserving recipient of Dorothy Parker’s devastating critique of K Hepburn, “Miss Hepburn ran the gamut of emotions from A to B.”

boynton
2022 years ago

“None But the Lonely Heart” is an odd performance in an Odets film no less. And I’m not especially fond of “Bringing up Baby”, actually. (Could be the film – despite its moments of confusion)

Luckily there’s the essential smoothness of Notorious, Suspicion, Holiday, My favourite Wife, Mr Blandings – and An Affair to Remember, etc..

David Tiley
2022 years ago

Unlike the others, his face never got fat. It is true – so many leading men before 1960 had largish sultana shaped bonces.

Tony.T
2022 years ago

Sylvia Scarlett’s excellent.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“Unlike the others, his face never got fat. It is true – so many leading men before 1960 had largish sultana shaped bonces.”

It’s an under-rated quality David. When was the last time the Academy awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in the category- “Best Face That Never Got Fat?”

Tony.T
2022 years ago

They award “Best Fathead” all the time. They just don’t call it that. I think they should, though.

Sophie Masson
Sophie Masson
2022 years ago

Cary’s one of the greats, Geoff, not because he’s a chameleon of an actor–he’s always Cary Grant–but he has a most engaging screen persona, lighthearted and charming, that is a beautiful thing. I think there are actors who are great because they can in fact blend into the character they’re playing, completely, and play just about anything–in recent times, I’d nominate Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett as that sort of actor–and there are actors who are great because they have cultivated a screen persona that is somehow absolutely right, and appealing. When they step outside of that, they are much less convincing. Cary is one of those–as, today,so is, say, Pierce Brosnan and George clooney, both of whom have some of that sort of charm(though I’m not sure if they’ll last as long as Cary). If you like, one kind of actor is versatile and does a lot of things very well; the other sort does one thing supremely well. You can’t imagine Cary playing a Shakespearean role; but in the romantic comdies/Hitchcockian thrillers he played, he was superb.

boynton
2022 years ago

And who needs c to z when you’ve got that certain x

Nicholas Gruen
2022 years ago

Sophie, there were plenty of actors who essentially played themselves – or a single personality type – in Cary Grant’s generation of Hollywood actors. Names that come to mind (and stretch the generation a little) include

John Wayne
Humphrey Bogart
Marilyn Munroe
Fred Astair
James Stewart

And no doubt many more.

I’m not sure that the modern fascination with both
realism and virtuosity is such an improvement on the older ‘star’ genre.