Kiss Him for Me: Cary Grant and Onscreen Love
Kathrina Glitre (University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol)

Part of The Man From Dream City event, Saturday 16 July, 12:00, Watershed

In the movies, women chase Cary Grant. Who can blame them? Pauline Kael describes him as the ‘male love object’, the ‘man from Dream City’. But what happens when these women catch up to him? This talk looks at that most romantic of climaxes – the kiss – as a way of exploring Grant’s onscreen chemistry with some of his leading ladies, including Katharine Hepburn, Irene Dunne, Jean Arthurs, Ingrid Bergman, and Deborah Kerr.

Not all these clinches are as passionate as we might imagine. In screwball comedies, like Bringing Up Baby and The Awful Truth, there is surprisingly little kissing. His leading ladies, Katharine Hepburn and Irene Dunne, remind him how to have fun instead, with pratfalls and chases standing in for sex. At the time, Hollywood regulated movie content through ‘The Production Code’ – a set of guidelines designed to keep films suitable for all audiences. According to the Code, seduction was ‘never the proper subject for comedy’, and ‘excessive and lustful kissing’ should be avoided altogether.

In contrast, the thrillers Grant made with Alfred Hitchcock sizzle with sexual tension: the extended kissing sequences in Notorious and North by Northwest are some of the most famous in cinema history, confirming Kael’s belief that Grant is ‘sexiest in pictures in which the woman is the aggressor and all the film’s erotic energy is concentrated on him’.

There are also more conventionally romantic kisses – passionate rather than erotic, emotional rather than sexual. Strikingly, Grant more often takes the lead in these scenes, conforming to the romantic ideal of the ‘tall dark stranger’ sweeping a woman off her feet. The final section of the talk explores the onscreen dynamics of romance in films such as Only Angels Have Wings, My Favorite Wife and An Affair to Remember.

Kathrina GlitreKathrina Glitre is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol. She likes to credit her career to Cary Grant, since he inspired the PhD research which lead to her first book, Hollywood Romantic Comedy: States of the Union (Manchester University Press, 2006). She is currently working on a project on screen acting, including essays on ‘Cary Grant: Acting style and genre in classical Hollywood cinema’ (2012) and ‘Character and the star vehicle: The impact of casting Cary Grant’ (forthcoming). Occasionally, she manages to write about other things too, including a chapter on colour for Neo-Noir (Wallflower Press, 2009), which she also co-edited.

 More about the other talk at this event: Liberating the Leopard
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