Back in Brooklyn, down off Flatbush, they're showing a good, long string of Cary Grant movies at BAM. The series started Monday and runs every day—every day a new picture—through the 20th. Nearly all of the films are available on DVD (and YouTube), but a few are harder to see (those are sometimes on YouTube, too) and picture quality is sometimes spotty (ahem, YouTube). There are also a few notable omissions from the series, like, say, Monkey Business (1952) or Charade (the 1963 film screens tonight at 7:00 and 9:15 in Seattle at Metro Classics). But, of course, I'm no chooser, nor begger: if anything, the chance to see an all-time favorite, The Awful Truth (1937), on a big screen sounds like a mighty delicious haven from city grime (Sunday, August 20th).
Chances are, though, this is a retread and you're already familiar with Cary Grant. But when was the last time you read Pauline Kael's "The Man From Dream City"? Written in 1974, it offers a great reading of our star and his context, his appeal, his special powers. It's a sense of calm, and fun, that never demands nor aggresses; as she writes, his foreplay is "an artful dodge" that sparks, if not outright invites, curiosity. Kael claims his style to be a kind of generosity: "The most obvious characteristic of his acting is the absence of narcissism—the outgoingness to the audience." Her opener would have you believe Cary Grant, who also wanted to be Cary Grant, started that whole "women want him, men want to be him" thing. Whether or not that's true doesn't matter: he's still the romantic standard of cucumber cool.
Of course, though I can't remember when, my first swoon came long ago. Yet my slack-jaw admiration got grinning but serious after I found Stanley Cavell's Pursuits of Happiness a couple years ago. As some may know, Grant stars in four of the seven films looked at in that book and his physiognomy is given special attention, in particular as sage C.K. Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story (1940), to describe "his aliveness to himself." But my fealty came quicker—from the first page, truly, where, underneath a still from The Awful Truth (look up), we read this: "This man, in words of Emerson's, carries the holiday in his eye; he is fit to stand the gaze of millions." Tonight they're showing Holiday (1938) at 6:50 and 9:15.