Cary Grant was born Archibald Alexander Leach on January 18, 1904 in Bristol, England, the son of Elsie Maria Kingdon and Elias James Leach.
An only child, he had a confused and unhappy childhood, his father placed his mother in a mental institution when he was nine and his mother never overcame her depression after the death of a previous child. His father had told him that she had gone away on a "long holiday" and it was not until he was in his thirties that Cary Grant discovered her alive, in an institutionalized care facility.
Cary Grant was expelled from the Fairfield Grammar School in Bristol in 1918. He subsequently joined the "Bob Pender stage troupe" and traveled with the group to the United States as a stilt walker in 1920 at the age of 16, on a two-year tour of the country. When the troupe returned to England, he decided to stay in the US and continue his stage career.
Under his birth name of Archie Leech, he performed on the stage at The Muny in St. Louis, Missouri, in such shows as Irene (1931), Music in May (1931), Nina Rosa (1931), Rio Rita (1931), Street Singer (1931), The Three Musketeers (1931), and Wonderful Night (1931).
In 1931 he made his Broadway debut in Better Times. He would also appear in the Broadway productions of Nikki, A Wonderful Night, Boom Boom, and Golden Dawn.
In the latter part of 1931, Cary Grant went to Hollywood where he acquired the name Cary Lockwood. He chose the name Lockwood after the surname of his character in a the Broadway play Nikki.
Cary Grant signed with Paramount Pictures, but while studio bosses were impressed with him, they were less than impressed with his adopted stage name. They decided that the name Cary was fine, but Lockwood had to go due to a similarity with another actor's name.
It was after browsing through a list of the studio's preferred surnames, that Cary Grant was born. Grant chose the name because the initials C and G had already proved lucky for Clark Gable and Gary Cooper, two of Hollywood's biggest movie stars.
Cary Grant made his film debut in This Is the Night (1932).
During the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, Cary Grant starred more than 70 films.
Cary Grant received to Academy Award Nominations for Best Actor one for Penny Serenade (1940) and one for None But the Lonely Heart (1944).
In 1970, Cary Grant received the lifetime achievement Academy Award.
Cary Grant was one of the first freelance actors. Although he became a Paramount contract player early in his film career, when the contract was up, he made the unusual decision for the time, and went freelance. Because his films were so successful at the box office, he was able to work at any studio he chose for the majority of his career.
Cary Grant possessed strength and physical dexterity and did a majority of his own stunts during his film career.
Cary Grant appeared in classic comedies such as Topper (1937), The Awful Truth (1937), Bringing up Baby (1938), Holiday (1938), My Favorite Wife (1940), The Talk of the Town (1942), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), I Was a Male War Bride (1949) Monkey Business (1952), Operation Petticoat (1959), That Touch of Mink (1962), and Father Goose (1964).
A favorite of director Alfred Hitchcock, Grant appeared in Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959).
Cary Grant also starred in She Done Him Wrong (1933), Gunga Din (1939), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), In Name Only (1939), The Philadelphia Story (1940), The Bishop's Wife (1947), An Affair to Remember (1957), Houseboat (1958), Indiscreet (1958), and Charade (1963).
Cary Grant's final film was Walk, Don't Run (1966).
During World War II, Cary Grant actively supported the troops with monetary donations.
He gave his entire salary for The Philadelphia Story (1940) to the British war effort and his entire salary for Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) to the U.S. War Relief Fund.
After retiring from the silver screen, Cary Grant remained active. In the late 1960s, he accepted a position on the board of directors at Fabergé. He later joined the boards of Hollywood Park, Western Airlines (now Delta Air Lines), and MGM.
In the last few years of his life, Cary Grant undertook tours of the United States in a one man show. It was called "A Conversation with Cary Grant", in which he would show clips from his films and answer audience questions.
Cary Grant was preparing for a performance at the Adler Theater in Davenport, Iowa on the afternoon of November 29, 1986 when he suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage. He died a short time later at the hospital.
Cary Grant was married five times and had one daughter with his fourth wife, Dyan Cannon. His daughter Jennifer Grant was born on February 26, 1966. He frequently called her his "best production", and regretted that he had not had children sooner.
In 1981, he was accorded the Kennedy Center Honors.
Cary Grant has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for motion pictures.
In 2001 a statue of Grant was erected in Millennium Square, a regenerated area next to the harbour in his city of birth, Bristol, England.