Cary Grant said:
“To play yourself—your true self—is the hardest thing in the world. Watch people at a party. They’re playing themselves…but nine out of ten times the image they adopt for themselves is the wrong one.
“In my earlier career I patterned myself on a combination of Englishmen—AE Matthews, Noel Coward, and Jack Buchanan, who impressed me as a character actor. He always looked so natural. I tried to copy men I thought were sophisticated and well dressed like Douglas Fairbanks or Cole Porter. And Freddie Lonsdale, the British playwright, always had an engaging answer for everything.
“I cultivated raising one eyebrow and tried to imitate those who put their hands in their pockets with a certain amount of ease and nonchalance. But at times, when I put my hand in my trouser pocket with what I imagined was great elegance, I couldn’t get the blinking thing out again because it dripped from nervous perspiration!
“I guess to a certain extent I did eventually become the characters I was playing. I played at someone I wanted to be until I became that person. Or he became me.”
These are fascinating statements. He was box-office gold for decades, and the Cary Grant persona was a consciously created phenomenon. He did it. The studios didn’t do it, the marketing folks didn’t do it, the man didn’t even have an agent, for God’s sake. Grant, through a period of trial and error, tried things, kept those that worked, discarded those that didn’t. The fact that he seemed so easy and commanding onscreen is just one of the many miracles of Cary Grant.