I once had a date – two in fact – with Cary Grant. It was 1971, I hadn’t yet moved permanently to L.A. and I was fixed up by a friend of his, a journalist I knew in London. I called him up and the butler put him on. “Hell-o Fe-o-na,” he said, in that oh so familiar voice. He invited me for a drink. So I drove over to his place, a rather modest latticed-windowed house in Beverly Hills, where we sat outside for cocktails.
Silver haired, evenly tanned, still handsome in his tailored grey slacks and sports shirt, he immediately berated me – gently at first, and with considerable charm – for being an actress. Or wanting to become a successful actress. ( I’d done a couple of movies in England by then.)
With Katherine Hepburn in "Bringing Up Baby"
For our second date,he flew me to Catalina Island with his then very young daughter Jennifer, by his ex-wife Dyan Cannon, and the nanny.
The views were magnificent, the Pacific dazzling, but we spent the whole day arguing...and not so gently this time. I tried to defend my profession, but he was adamant. Everything about the movie business was an atrocious waste of time. A big sham. “My career, would have been better spent raising children,” he said. “And yours would be too!” Why couldn’t I see this, stubborn young girl that I was.
With Katherine Hepburn in "Philadelphia Story"
Well, I said, my English manners still intact, perhaps so, but hadn’t he given millions of fans so much pleasure with his films? Me included. He didn’t care. Movies left him cold.
Two days later, he called me up to ask if I wanted to go bowling–– again with his daughter. Bowling? I had to admit I was unfamiliar with the sport. A lengthy silence. I realized then it wasn’t necessarily he but Jennifer who needed a date. Or perhaps a new mother. I gracefully declined. As a determined actress, one who definitely did not bowl, the relationship was a non-starter.
But I was disappointed. I’d worshiped him for so long from afar. The baffled professor in “Bringing up Baby,” debonair in “Philadelphia Story” and “Notorious,” the list went on. Looking back, I realize now that he’d been acting, or performing, since the age of 16. Archie Leach, as he was then called, started out in England as a juggler and an acrobat and had come to America on tour with a circus. He’d been a heartthrob since around 1933––with Mae West in “She Done Him Wrong”– so it was understandable that by that time, the mad 70's, he might have had enough. For him the golden age of Hollywood was definitely over. And in a way he was right about me. Frankly, I wasn't much good as an actress. And if I'd listened to him, I might have started to write earlier.