My Love Affair with Cary Grant
When I was just out of college, I lived and worked in New York City. One rainy spring, my favorite revival film house had a Cary Grant festival showing every single movie of his four decade plus career. Of course, I went to nearly every film, whether I’d seen them before or not. And with a career that stretched from the 1932 to 1966, that’s a lot of movies (75 or so, to be exact).
Spending so many hours with Mr. Grant, I have to admit I fell in love.
Today my first book is published: Marrying Mari. Every Tuesday in October over on my blog I review romantic movies starring the fabulous Mr. Grant. I do this because one of those movies, the Hitchcock-directed thriller Notorious, is not only my favorite Grant film and favorite romantic movie but the inspiration for one of the love scenes in Marrying Mari.
I didn’t plan for that to happen. It was a happy coincidence I recognized well after the fact.
I also didn’t plan that Mr. Grant would also be the inspiration for my character of Ethan Stone, one of Mari’s heroes (my other hero, Gabriel Pryor, is more a combination of Hugh Jackman and David Beckham). Ethan is sophisticated, handsome, self-confident and cool – not unlike the mysterious agent T. R. Devlin (Grant’s character in Notorious is so mysterious we never learn what the initials stand for). And the biggest challenge for both men – Devlin and Ethan – is meeting the right woman.
In Devlin’s case, the right woman is a thrill-seeking playgirl as well as the daughter of a convicted Nazi traitor in post-war America; Alicia agrees to flush out more Nazis, and Devlin is given the task of sobering her up, training her and getting her into the Nazi stronghold in Rio de Janeiro. In Ethan’s case, the right woman is someone who doesn’t know the truth about her past; as a result, Ethan has to get through the lies to the truth, provoke Mari into believing him and then convince her to give him – and Gabriel – a chance.
Both characters – Devlin and Ethan – screw it up, of course. But that’s the reality of heroes: they’re not perfect, even when they’re charming, gorgeous and wicked smart. They should know better, but they don’t – and then our heroes fix the screw-up, beg forgiveness, try harder and make us fall in love with them all over again… which is the fun part of writing them.
Recognizing Ethan’s potential for screwing up his romance with Mari, a woman worth winning and keeping, really gave me the “aha!” feeling while I was writing Ethan, because of course it’s all about what goes on underneath when it comes to our favorite heroes, isn’t it? Because as gorgeous, as smooth and as strong as a hero is on the surface, we really fall in love when we see what is under the surface, that he’s just “a fat-headed guy full of pain” (as Devlin puts it) who none the less shows up to do what’s necessary.
That’s what I wanted for Ethan: a man who’s had it all his own way for a long, long time… and now he might lose it all because of his own mistakes. To meet a woman who challenges him to change, to grow and become a better man. That’s fun to write.
So thanks, Mr. Grant, for the inspiration.