Genre, ambiguity and the shifting star persona of Cary Grant
2017-02-26T22:35:08Z (GMT) by
Cary Grant is one of studio-era Hollywood’s most enduring stars. He commonly represents a personification of Hollywood’s perfect romantic hero: the ideal tall, dark and handsome leading man. Grant’s image in popular culture is so consistently represented as charming, elegant and romantic that it has almost become monosemic. This thesis argues for a layered and complex conception of Grant’s star persona by examining three films starring Cary Grant made between 1940 and 1942, Suspicion (Alfred Hitchcock, 1941), Penny Serenade (George Stevens, 1941) and The Talk of the Town (George Stevens, 1942). Attending to both the films and the extratextual discourse surrounding Grant at the time of the films’ release, I establish an alternative reading of Grant’s image in this period. When Grant first achieved stardom in the late 1930s as an actor in screwball comedies, he was more closely aligned with non-traditional masculinity than elegance and sophistication. In this thesis, I contend that Grant’s star text affected the traditional conventions of genre and narrative in the three films under discussion. I draw on star theory, gender theory and close textual analysis to examine Grant’s early star persona, arguing that it brings a playfulness and ambiguity to the films, disrupting dominant definitions of acceptable masculinity.