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Cary Grant's Big Break

When the multi-talented Mae West was in the process of casting her co-star for two films for Paramount Pictures, "She Done Him Wrong" (1933) and "I'm No Angel" (1933), she was looking for a debonair, handsome man. One day, she spotted Grant on the Paramount Pictures lot, West told her producers, "If he can talk, I'll take him." Needless to say, Cary Grant fit the bill.

After "She Done Him Wrong" and "I'm No Angel" were both financial successes, with "She Done Him Wrong" nominated for an academy Award, Paramount Pictures was saved from bankruptcy. For years afterward, West insisted it was to her credit that Grant became a star because of the success of these films.

West was so insistent on her credit, that Grant resented her because it implied that he would have been a success without her casting decision. But he did credit West for having learned most of what he knew about acting and comic timing from her.

When in fact, Grand had starred alongside equally famously actresses before West. The year before, Grant starred opposite Marlene Dietrich in the classic, "Blonde Venus" (1932). Upon recollecting their time working together, Dietrich called Grant as "The Champion." West's rebuttal was that Grant never starred in anything before her films, or as she termed it "only used for tests with starlets." Guess she did not see "Blonde Venus" (1932) then.

Film historians and theorists believe that Grant became a star in his own right when he was in "The Awful Truth" (1937) after another four years of building his body of work. It is believed this film was when Grant firmly established his persona as the ideal of sophistication.

After "The Awful Truth" (1937), Grant's career soared. He starred in "Bringing Up Baby" (1938) with Katherine Hepburn, which has long been considered a staple in the screwball comedy genre. And the rest is history. For the remaining decades of his career, Grant was one of the top actors in the industry, cultivating an image that even surprised Grant himself. Or as he said, "Everyone wants to be Cary Grant, even I want to be Cary Grant."

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