Tuesday, July 8, 2008

looking for Cary Grant

Lately I've been into Cary Grant. I get Turner Classic Movies and they show a lot of his films, especially in the afternoon (which I prefer to, say, John Wayne films). I'm not a film buff and I'm not nearly familiar enough w/ Cary Grant to extoll his virtues as an actor, icon, yada yada yada, but there was definitely something about him that I haven't seen before or since, that je ne sais quoi.(Editor's Note: I corrected the spelling on this, thanks to kaa's comment. You don't wanna know what I had before...). They say George Clooney comes close, but I'm not buying it.

The man was a great comedian, for one thing. His timing was excellent. He could play both comic and straight man. He handled dramatic well, too. He was attuned to what was going on around him. I've often heard that good actors listen. He also had that accent going for him, of course. And he was incredibly handsome. Romantic. I saw him in Notorious recently, w/ Ingrid Bergman. Ooo la la... Yesterday afternoon, TCM showed a film (I never did get the title) in which Grant played an angel who comes to a bishop, played by David Niven, and his wife (it just came to me: could it have been The Preacher's Wife?). Anyhoo, everyone who comes into the angel's path falls in love w/ him -- men and women alike (all except the bishop, of course). They fall in love w/ his charm, his friendliness, his sense of joy, etc. It was clearly a cute little movie, what I would call "delightful", walking a fine line of that and cornball. The point is, I don't think it was a hard stretch of plausibility to fall in love w/ Cary Grant.

I don't know if he could handle the accent, but if there was ever a movie about Grant's life, it occurred to me that w/ makeup and wardrobe, Chris Noth could make a good Cary Grant. Just a thought, anyway.

The point is, I like when characters inspire other characters. When I first conceived my novel Faking It, I had originally envisioned Devin to be a younger version of Mr. Big in terms of looks and style. In my unfinished academic farce, I described the priest as "a George Clooney knock-off" in looks, humor, and charm. I think creative writing is/can be just as rhetorical as academic writing. That is, it's often in response to something else. (Isn't it interesting that I chose the two characters in which I made earlier comparisons to Grant? I didn't do that consciously!)

I wonder, could a Cary Grant-esque character be pulled off in this day and age? Or is he forever canonized (too much hyperbole w/ that word choice?) in black and white, or grainy, gritty color? When I think about it, Devin could be as close as they come, although I hadn't intended to write him that way (and in the sequel's revisions, I actually did make the comparison).

I've been thinking about character the last few days, especially since ours haven't been talking to us much these days (or, they're sending mixed messages, or I'm just not interpreting them correctly). My writing partner and I actually had to make a list of flaws for one character because we thought he was getting too close to flawless. It was fun, really. And I suppose there's a little bit of me in my characters, especially the protagonists, whether it's sharing a taste in music or our writing profession or my stubbornness. A well of self-inspiration.

Nevertheless I'm sure Cary Grant will appear, and reappear, in my writing, just as Aaron Sorkin, Richard Russo, Nora Ephron, and I already do.
Apparently, he already has.


Kaa said...

Je ne sais quoi. It means "I don't know what."

MitMoi said...

if you find Cary, will you introduce me to his best friend?

The Purple Panda said...

Thanks for the French lesson, kaa -- I knew what it meant; just didn't know how to spell it!

And Mit, you got a deal!