Author of New Bio Says Cary Grant Was Bisexual

Tuesday October 20, 2020

Cary Grant
Cary Grant  (Source:Associated Press)

Numerous stars of Hollywood's Golden Age have been said to have gay pasts. Rumors persist that Gary Cooper had an affair with Howard Hughes when he arrived in Hollywood in the 1920s; Rock Hudson married his secretary when rumors of his gay life began to circulate in the early 1950s; and Cary Grant and Randolph Scott were said to be more than just roommates when they shared a Santa Monica beach house in the early 1930s. Scott would later label their relationship as "locker-room playing around," according to Grant biographer Scott Eyman.

Grant married four times in his life, his first being in 1934. The marriage lasted a year, after which Grant moved back in with Scott, whom he lived with until 1940. But the rumors that Grant and Scott were in a relationship largely stems from a series of fan magazine photos that made it appear they were a gay couple. "They picture Grant and Scott doing everything together — sunbathing, swimming in their pool, tossing a ball, and running on the beach — entirely alone," writes a recent article in New York Magazine's Vulture. "Similarly, inside the house, they are pictured eating, playing backgammon, reading, and playing with the dog (a Sealyham terrier named Archie)."

Randolph Scott and Cary Grant in a publicity photo in the 1930s

But another Grant biographer Mark Glancy, who wrote the Vulture piece, thinks otherwise. "(I)t is very unlikely that these photographs figure in it in the way that contemporary commentators suppose," he writes. They were commissioned by Paramount Studios to promote the careers of these upcoming actors and largely portrayed them as bachelors in need of wives. Glancy believes the gay vibe from the photos comes from that of its photographer, "Jerome Zerbe, who was young, gay, and intent on taking a different approach to photographing stars," Glancy continues. "He eschewed the carefully lit, studio-bound glamour photography that was the norm in 1930s Hollywood, preferring to capture stars in shots that appear spontaneous and unposed, and therefore seem to be more intimate and revealing. Zerbe's photographs of Grant and Scott perfectly exemplify his approach, but he also brought an unmistakable sexual frisson to these images."

Whether the pair indulged in "locker-room playing around" is still open for discussion. In a Daily Beast excerpt from his upcoming "Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise," Eyman sees Grant's sexuality as bit more complicated, concluding that the actor was likely bisexual. When he was 70, he denied the rumors, but Bill Royce, one of the actor's friends later in his life, tells Eyman of a conversation they had about sexuality.

"Royce and Grant even had a conversation about sex. After Royce unburdened himself about his affairs with both men and women, Grant responded by implying he had been basically gay as a young man, later bisexual, still later straight. Randy Scott, he said, had seen their relationship as 'locker-room playing around.' It had nothing to do with how a man should lead his life. Besides that, at one point Darryl Zanuck had taken Randy aside and told him that enough was enough," writes Eyman in the Daily Beast.

Randolph Scott and Cary Grant in a publicity photo in the 1930s

Grant, Royce told Eyman, compared sexuality to acting, saying that not exploring sexual options was like an actor playing the same character all their life. Nor was he ashamed of homosexual acts. "They simply were—part of the journey, not necessarily the final destination," Eyman concludes.

"He had been influenced by the Kinsey report and saw sex as a spectrum," Royce told Eyman. "Most people think it's either/or. And there are men like that, but there are also men who are occasionally gay and occasionally straight. I remember one thing Cary said: 'England is Victorian, but America is more Victorian than England.'"

Royce concluded that "he found homosexual life unrewarding. As he got older, he wanted children, and he didn't think he had any chance at a child as long as he was living that life."

One of Grant's closest friends was silent film great Harold Lloyd. Lloyd's granddaughter Sue was able to spend some time with Grant through her grandfather and spoke of her experiences with Eyman. When the biographer asked her about Grant's sexuality, she responded: "The bisexual thing. I've thought about it. I can tell you that people didn't make a big deal about it. I can see it, kind of. My friend Richard Correll and I went to a party once. My uncle (Lloyd's son who was gay) was there with his boyfriend, and Cary was there as well, swirling around in a caftan. And I was blown back. Oh, it had an effect on me. He was swishing around the party. I saw that side of him, and I saw the businessman side as well. Let me tell you, there was a real contrast."

Scotty Bowers, whose book and film "Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood" inspired Ryan Murphy's Netflix series "Hollywood," claims to have relationships with both Grant and Scott. In the documentary, People Magazine reports, Bowers said: "I've been with them individually, and both of them, what you call a three-way, and I've also brought another buddy for them where there were four of us. You know, two and two."

"Back in those days, people knew they were lovers and together," says Bowers in the clip. "Then all those years go by they come say, 'How dare you talk that way about them.' And I say, 'I'm not talking about them I'm saying they're great guys, both of them.'"

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