Love Of The Art Wasn't What Led Cary Grant To Become An Actor

The question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" is incredibly unfair. Sure, it helps receptive parents usher their children into classes and programs that suit their child's current interests of the day, but I feel like there is this undercurrent of prepping children for the workforce at a far too early age, locking them into whatever they loved at a certain moment in time. People should be able to explore and try different things as they grow into who they are meant to be. Also, we shouldn't look down at people who haven't figured out their path in life on some strict timeline. Let them stumble upon the thing they love to do on their own schedule.

Case in point: Archibald Leach, better known as Cary Grant. We know him as one of the greatest movie stars in the history of Hollywood. He was this impossibly handsome man with a voice that sounded like no one else, and he could excel in the wittiest of screwball comedies, like "Bringing Up Baby" and "His Girl Friday," and the tensest of thrillers, like "Notorious" and "North by Northwest." If you were to devise someone in a lab to be a Hollywood leading man, you probably would construct Cary Grant. 

However, that is not how he dominated the movie business for decades. No, in fact, Grant never intended to be an actor, let alone a movie star. This profession was something he fell into, rather than actively pursued. He was someone who valued exploration, and acting was a good way to foster that.

A love of travel

In his early years, Cary Grant was unsure of what he wanted to do with his life. Speaking with Interview Magazine in 1986, shortly before the actor died, he said of his dreams of a professional life:

"I had no definite ambition. One has to go through one's education before forming thoughts about what one wants to do. Unless you've got some mad ideas about being a fireman or a great boxer or a football player. But I had none of those."

What he did know he loved was travel, as he grew up in the port town of Bristol seeing ships go off to who-knows-where. This made him think that maybe becoming a sailor would be his ticket to travel, but what ended up providing that path to explore was show business. But it was not acting. It was being part of a traveling acrobat troupe:

"I had no ambition toward acting ... Because of my wish to travel, I joined a small troupe of ground acrobats. I first came to New York with the troupe. When the troupe went back to England, I remained here. I liked this country very much, and gradually I got into musicals."

Grant ended up having a very successful time both on Broadway and touring the country in musical comedies like "The Street Singer" and "Nikki." His positive reviews for the latter ended up catching the attention of Hollywood, and after a successful screen test with Paramount and a name change from Archie Leach to Cary Grant, he became a proper working actor in the movies, working his way up from supporting parts to full-on movie star status in just a few short years. He had found his calling and became a legend in the process.