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The ‘truth’ about Cary Grant’s sexuality is finally revealed: He was the subject of rumours for decades, now a friend has told all about his male lover. TOM LEONARD explores the Hollywood legend’s legacy


He was an actor who married five times, on the final occasion to a woman 46 years his junior. He had flings with a string of beauties, including Grace Kelly and Sophia Loren. And, not surprisingly, he was Hollywood’s most sought-after leading man for almost three decades.

Given this track record, it wasn’t hard for the film studios to portray Cary Grant as the most voracious of red-blooded heterosexuals. But, while its efforts succeeded with the general public, it was a different story when it came to Tinseltown’s cognoscenti.

‘Whom does he think he is fooling?’ the notorious Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper once asked waspishly.

She was referring to whispers that Grant was gay. The debate over the sexuality of a matinee idol who once said ‘making love is the best form of exercise’ has raged for almost a century.

The women in Grant’s life – such as his wives and his only child – tend to insist he was straight but men, especially gay men, have begged to differ.

Actors Cary Grant and Randolph Scott became inseparable when they started living together in a beachside house in Malibu that was dubbed ¿Bachelor Hall¿

Actors Cary Grant and Randolph Scott became inseparable when they started living together in a beachside house in Malibu that was dubbed ‘Bachelor Hall’

Grant apparently said he'd been in love with Scott from his earliest days in Hollywood

Grant apparently said he’d been in love with Scott from his earliest days in Hollywood

Now, a close friend of the actor in his later years has spoken out to say that Grant definitively told him he’d had at least one homosexual love affair. And it was with fellow star Randolph Scott, the man whose unconventional life with Grant has always raised eyebrows.

In the 1930s, they became inseparable when they started living together in a beachside house in Malibu that was dubbed ‘Bachelor Hall’. The bizarre house-share, which they insisted was primarily intended to save money and entirely platonic, lasted on and off for a dozen years.

According to former Fan magazine editor Bill Royce, he broached the sensitive subject of Scott with Grant in 1976 when he was 72 – no longer acting and so no longer nearly so worried about preserving his reputation.

The latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine reports that Grant ‘set aside several hours to admit to Royce that he’d been in love with Scott from his earliest days in Hollywood’.

Royce claims the star of Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief and North By Northwest told him: ‘Have you ever heard of gravity collapse? Some people call it love at first sight. This was the first time I’d felt it for anyone.’

He told Royce that neither he nor Scott were gay or straight ‘but somewhere in between’, that they had flings with women as well as men and that ‘Scott never wanted Grant in the same way that Grant wanted Scott’.

Grant went on to say that they did have sex, often awkwardly, and that they connected romantically, telling Royce: ‘There was no way Randy would have experimented with me…if he didn’t truly love me on some profound level.’

Royce has talked before of discussions about Scott, who died in 1987 after a 43-year-marriage to second wife Patricia Stillman, but his revelations about what Cary Grant told him were never so explicit.

A few years ago, he told Grant’s biographer Scott Eyman that the actor had admitted being ‘basically gay as a young man, later bisexual, still later straight’ and that homosexuality was ‘part of the journey, not necessarily the final destination’.

Royce also revealed that Grant was influenced by the Kinsey Reports, controversial academic studies of human sexual behaviour, which concluded that many people’s sexuality lies on a spectrum rather than being rigidly defined.

Royce told Eyman: ‘My sense of it was that he found homosexual life unrewarding. As he got older, he wanted children, and he didn’t think he had any chance at a child as long as he was living that life.’

As one of Hollywood's greatest leading men, Grant starred in classic movies such as Alfred Hitchcock's North By Northwest

As one of Hollywood’s greatest leading men, Grant starred in classic movies such as Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest

Screen stars Cary Grant and Randolph Scott pictured in 1932 at the height of their friendship

Screen stars Cary Grant and Randolph Scott pictured in 1932 at the height of their friendship

Other men have claimed over the years that Grant was gay or bisexual but, at a time when sodomy was illegal in the US and homosexuality instantly career-ending in Hollywood, he could never reveal it.

However, Grant’s surviving family members continue to tell a different story. Actress Jennifer Grant, his only child, has said she ‘never saw a hint’ of any homosexuality.

‘I think I would have picked up on it – not that I would’ve cared,’ she has said, although she’s acknowledged that he may have had affairs earlier in life that she never knew about.

Dyan Cannon, Jennifer’s mother and Grant’s fourth wife, has also said she never saw any evidence that Grant was gay. They divorced after only three years of marriage in the 1960s, she said, because he was endlessly critical and subject to sudden fits of rage. ‘Infidelity wasn’t the problem, men weren’t the problem, we were the problem,’ she said last December.

Of course, their recollections about his later life don’t necessarily contradict claims that he was very different when he was younger, or the theory that his sexual inclinations shifted over time to suit his changing needs.

Meanwhile, nobody disputes that, in contrast to his smooth and unflappable screen persona, Grant was a difficult man of enormous contradictions.

His outwardly cheerful personality concealed a bleakness that could sink into depression. Off-screen, Grant championed the hallucinogenic drug LSD, was deeply neurotic, shockingly stingy, and petulantly controlling towards his wives and colleagues.

Alfred Hitchcock, who cast Grant in some of his greatest films, said he was the only actor who could fake a charm he didn’t possess. But Hitch also said Grant was the only actor he ever loved.

Scott Eyman, author of the 2020 biography Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise, claimed the horrendous experience of being told aged 11 that his mother was dead, only to discover 20 years later she’d been put in a mental asylum in Bristol came to define the actor’s life.

It left him dogged by lifelong feelings of inadequacy, a fear of abandonment and a crippling inability to form close relationships. His childhood scars, said Eyman, also made Grant flinch from settling down and becoming the devoted family man – a life that, in his later years, he claimed he would have much preferred to stardom.

It also made him play it safe in his acting career, turning down serious films such as The Third Man, Lolita and The Man Who Would Be King.

Archibald Leach was born in 1904 in the working-class Bristol suburb of Horfield to a feckless, alcoholic father, who worked as a tailor’s presser, and a mentally unstable mother.

His first wife, the actress Virginia Cherrill, fell for the actor after waking one night to see Grant outside, repeatedly ramming his car into her boyfriend¿s vehicle

His first wife, the actress Virginia Cherrill, fell for the actor after waking one night to see Grant outside, repeatedly ramming his car into her boyfriend’s vehicle 

Grant with fourth wife Dyan Cannon and their daughter Jennifer in 1966

Grant with fourth wife Dyan Cannon and their daughter Jennifer in 1966

His parents, Elias and Elsie, had little money and a fractious relationship which never really recovered from the death of Grant’s older brother – his only sibling – from meningitis as a baby.

Stricken by guilt, Elsie sought to impose a vice-like grip on Archie – once telling him after he got lost in Marks & Spencer that he had nobody else in the world but her. Grant later called her a ‘well-meaning psychological assassin’.

In 1915, she was committed to a local mental institution after she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Rather than admitting the truth, his father initially told Grant she had gone to a seaside resort for a break. He later said she had left them for good and, finally, that she was dead.

That allowed Leach Senior to start a relationship with another woman and send Archie to live with his grandmother. She was another nightmarish heavy drinker – ‘I could smell Hell on her breath,’ Grant recalled.

Pretty much abandoned by his father, he frequently played truant from school, hanging around the Bristol docks and fantasising about getting a berth on a ship that would take him far away.

He was expelled at 14 and signed up with a troupe of music hall acrobats, learning to stilt-walk. When the troupe went on a US tour, he accompanied them with £50 in his pocket.

Cary Grant, real name Archibald Leach (pictured age five) was born in 1904 in a working-class Bristol suburb to a feckless, alcoholic father and a mentally unstable mother

Cary Grant, real name Archibald Leach (pictured age five) was born in 1904 in a working-class Bristol suburb to a feckless, alcoholic father and a mentally unstable mother

In New York, he supplemented his meagre income selling ties out of a suitcase on Broadway and wouldn’t return to Britain until 1929, aged 25.

Grant, who never had formal acting training but was a skilled mimic of other performers, eventually broke into acting.

Desperate to rid himself of his working-class roots and an accent that Americans called ‘Cockney’, Grant told US interviewers that he’d gone to the Bristol public school Clifton College.

He changed his name to the far posher-sounding Cary Grant in 1931 on the orders of Paramount Pictures, to which he was contracted after moving to Los Angeles. He appeared in his first feature film in 1932 aged 28, with a US newspaper presciently forecasting that the ‘young lad from England’ had a ‘big future in the movies’.

Reportedly introduced by a gay friend, he soon moved in with the toned and handsome Randolph Scott, a cosy domestic union to which Grant would return between his failed marriages. (Some biographers have argued that Grant wouldn’t have married five times if he was simply gay, as one wife would have been sufficient cover.)

According to his girlfriends, the person he loved most was himself. Grant once told Greta Garbo, ‘Oh I’m so happy you met me.’

His first wife, the actress Virginia Cherrill, fell for the actor after waking one night to see Grant outside, repeatedly ramming his car into her boyfriend’s vehicle as the latter lay in bed beside her.

In 1934, Grant went to Bristol and, meeting his father in a pub, learned his mother wasn’t dead after all. When he went to see her, he had changed so much in Tinseltown that she didn’t recognise him.

As he tried to process the news, Grant started drinking heavily and ended up having to dry out in a sanitarium.

His biographer Eyman reckons the actor’s relationship with his mother was an open wound that never healed and he never got the rapprochement he desperately sought.

Grant married Cherrill the same year, but they lasted less than 12 months. She once woke to find her intensely jealous husband with his hands around her throat.

Every Sunday morning Grant phoned his mother, whom he had moved from the mental hospital to private accommodation, and visited her once a year. Those visits were stressful. He said she believed he was an ‘imposter’, adding: ‘And I suppose, in a way, she was right.’

In 1942, he married the Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton – they were mockingly nicknamed ‘Cash and Cary’ – but they separated after three years. The neurotic Hutton wanted him at home and suspected him of having an affair with Ginger Rogers. Grant insisted the affair started after he and Hutton separated.

In 1942, he married the Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton ¿ they were mockingly nicknamed ¿Cash and Cary¿ ¿ but they separated after three years

In 1942, he married the Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton – they were mockingly nicknamed ‘Cash and Cary’ – but they separated after three years

There are many theories as to why Grant was such a great film star. Director George Cukor said he was ‘almost too good-looking’ as an actor but crucially ‘didn’t depend on his looks’.

According to Eyman, what fundamentally set him apart from other actors was his refusal to incorporate facets of his real personality into the roles he played – for him that would have been too painful.

Grant developed a reputation as one of the shrewdest businessmen in Hollywood but was miserly with money. When he and Douglas Fairbanks Jr once hosted a party, Grant, who knew what it was like to be poor, presented his co-host with a bill that he’d itemised right down to 20 cents for two rolls of toilet paper.

‘He could be a terrible bastard,’ said his valet, Dudley Walker. ‘You were lucky if he gave you a five dollar bottle of men’s cologne once a year for Christmas.’

Like the ladies in Grant’s life, Walker discovered his boss was a ‘bad drinker’ who would get ‘real nasty and cold, become sadistic’.

Grant spent years in therapy but said he was only really helped when his third wife, actress persuaded him to try the mind-bending drug LSD. He went on to take it during more than a hundred therapy sessions. At the same time, he was making some of his most famous films.

He hailed it as life-altering, describing how he once ‘imagined myself as a giant penis launching off from Earth like a spaceship’.

The marriage to Betsy ended after three years, when Grant broke his cardinal rule about not having on-set romances and fell heavily for Sophia Loren while they were filming in Spain.

His fourth wife Dyan Cannon claimed Grant tried to ‘force-feed’ her LSD and change her into the ‘shiny new wife who could effortlessly meld as one with her husband’.

Grant married his fifth and final wife, Barbara Harris, a British hotel PR 46 years younger than him, in 1981. Friends said he had never been happier, but five years later he suffered a massive stroke while preparing for a performance of his one-man touring show in Davenport, Iowa, and died. He was 82.

‘Cary Grant has done wonders for my life,’ he liked to say. Being Archie Leach, however, was a rather more mixed blessing.



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