Cary Grant is a movie icon from the early years of film. Not only was he great in comedic performances; he also was able to do well in romantic and mystery genres. He has given many unforgettable performances on the silver screen. Though it is difficult to narrow down his films to the five best; here is my list of favorite Cary Grant movies in no particular order of preference.
1. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Pop some corn and get comfy and be ready to laugh. In one of his comedic roles, Grant plays Mortimer Brewster in a 1944 film directed by Frank Capra. The film was based on the stage version and though Capra filmed it in 1941, it was not released until 1944 after the Broadway play had finished its run. The film also starred Josephine Hull and Jean Adair as the screw-ball Brewster sisters, Abby and Martha. The two actresses and the actor who played Uncle Teddy Roosevelt, John Alexander, were in the stage production as well. Priscilla Lane plays Elaine Harper, the girl Mortimer marries.
Originally, Cary Grant was not the choice for the part. The lead was intended for Bob Hope who wasn’t able to do it because of contract issues with Paramount. Capra also offered the role to Jack Benny and Ronald Reagan before settling on Grant. The film was shot in eight weeks and cost $1.2 million to make.  Grant has stated in numerous interviews this movie was his least favorite, but it still makes my list of the funniest movies he made.
The movie gets interesting right away when Mortimer visits his two elderly aunts and uncle before taking his new wife on their honeymoon. Finding a corpse in a window seat, he believes it is Uncle Teddy who has murdered the fellow as Teddy believes he is the actual Teddy Roosevelt and “charges up San Juan Hill” (the stairs) yelling “Charge!” Mortimer quickly learns it is his aunts who have done in the fellow. They innocently explain they are simply ending the suffering of the poor lonely bachelor by serving him elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine and "just a pinch of cyanide". Teddy’s involvement is burying the bodies in the basement believing he is burying victims of yellow fever and digging locks for the Panama Canal.
To make matters worse, Mortimer’s brother Jonathan (played by Raymond Massey), a murderer running from the police, arrives with his accomplice, plastic surgeon Dr. Herman Einstein who is played by the marvelous Peter Lorre. Jonathan is trying to find a place to hide the body of his latest victim. Mortimer frantically tries to stay on top of the situation as Elaine waits patiently next door. One of the many great lines in the movie come when Mortimer tries to explain his worries about becoming insane like the rest of his family. He tells her, "Insanity runs in my family, practically gallops!" Ah, it puts a smile on your face as you think about your own family.
Arsenic and Old Lace DVD
Get ready to laugh until you cry as you view this delightful Cary Grant movie.
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2. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
Mr. Blandings was put on the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Laughs list at number 72. Watch the movie and you’ll soon see why. How often do we dream of having our own home and remodeling it to exactly the picture we have in our minds? This is a fun movie with lots of laughs.
This 1948 comedy was directed by H.C. Potter and co-starred Myrna Loy. The main cast is rounded out nicely with Melvyn Douglas playing Bill Cole. The film was adapted from the novel by Eric Hodgin, which was adapted again in 1986 for the Tom Hanks film The Money Pit, and was a hit when it was released. Perhaps many folks could relate to the troubles new homeowners come up against as Grant’s character Jim Blandings does in this movie.
In the role of Jim Blandings, Grant lives with his wife Muriel and two daughters in a cramped New York apartment. Imagine his delight when he comes across an old homestead in Connecticut and decides it is the perfect “fixer-upper.” Bill tells Jim he bought the place “with his heart” and when Jim learns the structure of the house is unsound Bill thinks Jim should cut his losses and sell the place. Instead, Jim tears down the old house and hires a architect and contractor to build a new “dream house.”
Of course as you can expect, this is where things really get out of hand. Pressures at Jim’s job as an ad man, on top of the many things going wrong with the building of the new house, cause Jim to wonder if living in the country is what he wants after all. When a storm keeps Bill at the new place overnight, Jim suspects some hanky-panky which just adds to the whole troublesome situation.
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
Trailer from movie
3. North by Northwest (1959)
The droning of the crop duster plane comes screaming out of the air directly on target of the running Cary Grant in the role of Advertising executive Roger O. Thornhill. Is there anybody who hasn’t seen that scene (or at least some imitation of it)?
Credit: Source: Wikimedia CommonsNorth by Northwest is an Alfred Hitchcock movie, one of four Grant made with the infamous director, co-starring Eva Marie Saint and James Mason. The plot is one of mistaken identity as Grant’s Thornhill is assumed to be a man named George Kaplan. We then get set for a ride of intrigue and double identity as no one is who they first seem to be. Thornhill attempts to unravel the mystery and gets caught up in murder as the prime suspect.
Chased across the United Sates, Thornhill escapes capture and death several times before he is forced to save Eve, (Eva Marie Saint’s character) from falling off the face of Mount Rushmore. By this time, Eve and Thornhill have formed a union against the ones trying to kill Thornhill and eventually Eve. In the end, the bad guy gets shot and falls to his death and his cohort gets arrested; man (Thornhill) gets girl (Eve) and all ends well. Would we have it any other way?
North by Northwest
Crop duster scene
4. The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
In this movie a Bishop played by David Niven, prays for divine guidance in the building of a new cathedral. His prayer is seemingly answered by an angel named Dudley (Grant). Though Dudley reveals his identity to the Bishop; he does not tell him his true mission which is not to help build the cathedral, but rather to guide the Bishop and the people around him (isn’t that always the case?).
The Bishop is so obsessed with the cathedral, he doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to his wife (played by Loretta Young) or the other duties of his position. Dudley charms everyone, except the Bishop of course, and completes many tasks by guiding the others. He dictates a sermon to a typewriter unbeknownst to the Bishop.
As Dudley spends more time with the Bishop’s wife, he realizes he is attracted to her. So does the Bishop and he doesn’t like it one little bit; he just wants the angel to do his work and leave. He finally stands up to Dudley and Dudley, knowing his work is complete and the Bishop’s wife loves her husband, leaves and promises never to return. All memories of Dudley are erased. At midnight on Christmas Eve, the Bishop gives his sermon which is the one written by Dudley though the Bishop is still not aware of that fact.
In 1996 the movie was remade as The Preacher’s Wife starring Denzel Washington in the role of Dudley, Whitney Houston as the Preacher’s wife and Courtney B. Vance as the Preacher. Though this too is a fine movie, the original cannot be matched.
The Bishop's Wife
clip from movie
5. An Affair to Remember (1957)
One only needs to say the title of this movie and the heart starts “pitter-patting” and the eyes well with tears. Like the airplane scene in North by Northwest, the image of the Empire State Building with Grants character, Nickie Ferrante, waiting for his rendezvous with Deborah Kerr’s Terry McKay is forever etched into our brains. This scenario has been imitated in numerous other movies such as Sleepless in Seattle (1993). According to the American Film Institute, An Affair to Remember is considered one of the most romantic movies of all time.
In this role, Grant shows us he not only can do comedy but he can steam up the silver screen as well, though we already knew this from some of his earlier works. As Nickie Ferrante, Grant plays a well-known playboy who meets Terry McKay aboard a ship. Both are involved with others, but they form a friendship on the voyage from Europe to New York. As the ship anchors in New York, Terry and Nickie become aware of increased feelings for each other. They agree to meet at the top of the Empire State Building in six months if both have ended their current relationships and started new careers.
On the appointed evening, Terry rushes across the street to meet Nickie but is hit by a car. Gravely injured, she is taken to the hospital and Nickie, after waiting for hours and unaware of her accident believes she is not coming. Terry refuses to contact Nickie because the accident has left her unable to walk.
A chance meeting months later does not reveal her disability to Nickie and both are with their former lovers. Nickie learns Terry’s address and on Christmas Eve pays her a visit. She is on the couch so he still doesn’t know about her disability. However, as fate (and the movies) will have it, he does find out and he understands why she didn’t meet him that evening on the Empire State Building. The two embrace and we are left overjoyed the two are finally together.
An Affair to Remember
Starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr
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As previously stated, Cary Grant made so many good movies it is difficult to choose just five. Charade (1963), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955), and A Touch of Mink (1962) are just a few of the others that could easily be placed on this list. Suffice it to say, Cary Grant is one of my all-time favorite actors and the sentiment is shared by a multitude of others.
The copyright of the article Top 5 Films of Movie Icon Cary Grant is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.