The other day as I was driving into Manhattan, I turned on my favorite XM radio station called Radio Classics. I instantly recognized the actor speaking and thought to myself, "Perfect timing."
Despite bumper-to-bumper traffic, crazy drivers and torrential rain, nothing bothered me. That's because I was listening to an episode of Suspense starring my all-time favorite actor, Cary Grant.
In honor of Cary's Jan. 18th birthday (I feel funny calling him Mr. Grant, because he seems so familiar to me, and also because readers might be confused, thinking I'm referring to Mary Richard's boss), they were playing back-to-back episodes of his radio appearances.
I'd like to briefly explain why I've always been in love with Cary Grant. I know there are millions of others who are in love with him, but I'm the one who has, in all honesty, loved him the most.
At first, it was his dashing good looks that caught my eye, and of course his wit and charm as well. But as I got older, I recognized there was so much more to him.
He is, and always will be, the greatest comedic actor of all time. Let me prove it to you. Watch his performances in His Girl Friday or Arsenic and Old Lace. His comic timing is pure genius, and his pratfalls and back flips (perfected during his youth when he was an acrobat) are adeptly intertwined into the movie dialogue with rhythmic precision.
You can't help but laugh.
There's also his dramatic acting. I can watch him, over and over, in any Alfred Hitchcock film and notice something new, some tiny nuance, that I hadn't noticed before.
Watch his eyes carefully, and the way he reacts to the other actors. Don't take your eyes off of him for one second. You'll not only learn about good acting, but also why he was so successful at his craft.
You're never quite sure if he's trying to kill Joan Fontaine. You're unsure if he'll stop harassing Ingrid Bergman while she's being secretly poisoned by Claude Rains.
No matter what the outcome may be, you'll remain on his side because he's always a likable character.
That's why he's the consummate performer.
I'll never understand why he never won an Academy Award, or why he was only nominated twice (Penny Serenade and None but the Lonely Hearts) despite his long and varied career.
In 1970, the Academy awarded him with an honorary Oscar for "his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues."
After Frank Sinatra presented him with his award, he wiped the tears from his eyes as the audience continued with their standing ovation.
He was a private man who would never grow old in his movies, quitting Hollywood at the age of 62 to focus on fatherhood for his newborn daughter, Jennifer.
In the age of YouTube, I sometimes catch glimpses of Cary at various tributes, like The American Film Institute or the Kennedy Center Honors. He's always smiling, always laughing, and still handsome with his silvery hair and black glasses.
He seems so kind, sweet and gracious.
There's one last reason why I've fallen more in love with Cary Grant with each passing year. His performances take me away to a place where I can forget the demands and stresses of my world and find myself smack in the middle of his.
When my husband or I have a bad day, we have a ritual that's evolved over the years. We watch His Girl Friday and laugh out loud while marveling at Cary's brilliant rapid-fire repartee with Rosalind Russell.
So a (belated) happy birthday to Cary Grant. I hope that, wherever you are, you know how much you've meant to millions of movie lovers over the years.
But remember that I loved you the most.
Who is your favorite actor?
Follow Cathy Chester on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@CathyChes