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Cary Grant with wife, Barbara Harris, during rehearsal on Nov. 29, 1986, at the Adler Theatre, Davenport. The legendary star, who was to be the highlight of the first-ever Festival of Trees, died later that night.

Cary Grant's sudden death in Davenport brought tears from here to Hollywood and around the world Sunday, as fans and friends mourned the passing of the 82-year-old movie legend.

Grant was stricken before his scheduled performance at Davenport's Adler Theatre. He kept apologizing to his Quad-City hosts, and his last words may have been, "I'm sorry that I can't go on."

He was taken from the Blackhawk Hotel to St. Luke's Hospital about 9:15 p.m. Saturday, and was pronounced dead at 11:22 p.m. of a massive stroke.

Davenport cardiologist James Gilson, who tried to save the famous actor, summed up the mood: "Guys like Cary Grant are supposed to live forever."

Grant's widow, Barbara Harris, accompanied his body on a flight that left the Quad-City Airport for LOS Angeles about 2:45 a.m. Sunday.

"There will be no funeral," said Grant's attorney, Stanley Fox, "The family wishes no service and no funeral is planned. Cremation is intended."

Cary's death was the talk of the town, and Quad-Citians paid their respects in different ways; Preachers prayed for Grant from the pulpit Sunday morning, while fans of Grant's movies were renting them by the dozen during the afternoon.

Quad-Citians had been eagerly awaiting "A Conversation with Cary Grant," the gala centerpiece of the Festival of Trees celebration at Davenport's River Center.

And Grant had been eager to perform here.

He had never appeared in Davenport, and he was especially looking forward to seeing the renovated Adler.

Grant was charming and witty during his last appearance on stage — a rehearsal at the Adler Saturday afternoon.

He tested microphones and moved his stage stool, making sure everything was just right.

But it soon was clear that things were terribly wrong.

Jack Dexter, chief stagehand at the Adler, waited for Grant to emerge from his dressing room for a second run-through.

"But he didn't show. He never came out of the dressing room."

Shortly after that, Grant's wife asked for help in moving him back to his room at the Blackhawk


"Mr. Grant didn't want to make a big deal out of it and kept saying he wanted to go on and do the show," said J. Douglas Miller, the Davenport broadcasting executive who helped bring Grant to Davenport. "His biggest concern was that the show wouldn't happen. He just wanted to go to his room and rest, and it was then that things began to happen fast."

Two Quad-City doctors talked by phone from the actor's hotel room with Grant's Los Angeles physician, discussed Grant's case history, and told his doctor that Grant's condition was "very grave," said Miller, who was present some of the time. Grant died just two hours later.

In an exclusive interview with the Quad-City Times a week ago, Grant brought up the subject of his age and the inevitable approaching end of his life.

"One day people will read that I'm gone and then they can pass the cudgel to Jimmy Stewart. He's getting up here, too."

Grant's masculine elegance and darkly handsome features made him an unrivaled star of both sophisticated comedy and chilling intrigue for more than 30 years.

Grant was one of the biggest names in movie history, starring in such classics as "The Philadelphia Story," "Bringing Up Baby" and "North by Northwest." But his only Oscar came in retirement.

He seemed to have been born an aristocrat, but his father was a presser in a garment factory. He was the idol of millions of women around the world, but his private life often was troubled.

"I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be, and I finally became that person," Grant once said. "Or he became me. Or we met at some point. It's a relationship."

It was a singularly successful relationship, one that began in 1932 and filled the big screen with 72 movies until 1966, when his last film, "Walk, Don't Run," was released.

Grant, wrote film critic Pauline Kael, "had the longest romantic reign in the short history of movies." He was paired with Katharine Hepburn, Myrna Loy, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelley.

To him Mae West tendered the most famous, and frequently misquoted, proposition in movie history: "Why don't you come up sometime and see me?"

He was born Archibald Leach on Jan. 18, 1904, in Bristol, England, the only child of an unhappy marriage.

One day when he was 9, Archie came home from school to find his mother gone. His father told him she was on holiday, but the boy was later to discover that she had been placed in a mental institution. Archie did not see his mother again for 20 years.

At school, Archie was indifferent and often unruly. He ran away from home at 13 to join a boys' troupe of tumblers, mimes and acrobats, but his father retrieved him. Archie stayed in school until he turned 14, when he was legally allowed to leave.

He rejoined the group, but left it in 1922 in New York, taking on a variety of jobs.

In 1927, a friend took him to meet an uncle, Oscar Hammerstein H, and Archie Leach landed a part in an operetta called "Golden Dawn." Other stage parts followed, along with a role in a Paramount one-reeler.

He flunked his first screen test — Paramount officials considered him thick-necked and bow-legged — but in 1931 he headed to California, where a director let him stand in during a screen test of the director's wife.

Less than a week later, he had a movie contract and a new name: Cary, for a part he'd had in a play, and Grant, chosen from a list prepared by the studio. But Archie Leach didn't disappear. The name showed up on a headstone in "Arsenic and Old Lace," while in "His Girl Friday," Grant mutters, "The last person who said that to me was Archie Leach, just a week before he cut his throat."

He made seven films in his first year in the business, including "Blonde Venus" with Marlene Dietrich. Then he caught the eye of Mae West, who cast him opposite her in "She Done Him Wrong" and "I'm No Angel." Both were box office smashes.

At the same time, he suffered from dark moods, and developed a reputation as a prickly perfectionist. He was unhappy at Paramount, believing the studio was trying to limit him to shallow roles.

In 1937, he became an independent, and the most memorable roles of his career followed as he found a niche in such fast-moving "screwball come-dies" as "The Awful Truth" and "Holiday" and in such male-dominated films as "Gunga Din" and "Only Angels Have Wings." The danger that seemed to lurk beneath the charm made him the perfect lead for such Hitchcock thrillers as "Suspicion" and "To Catch a Thief."

He was nominated for Academy Awards for "Penny Serenade"' and "None but the Lonely Heart," and in 1970, four years after his last film, he received an honorary Oscar for "his unique mastery of the art of screen acting."

Grant's first marriage was to actress Virginia Cherrill in 1934. They divorced after 13 months, with her accusing him of physical and verbal abuse. He married Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton in 1942; they divorced in 1945.

In 1949 he married actress Betsy Drake. Their union lasted seven years, and was formally dissolved in 1962.

In the late 1950s, Grant's psychiatrist tried to help him probe his psyche with LSD, which then was believed to free the mind for faster analysis.

Grant and actress Dyan Cannon dated for four years and were married in 1965, when he was 61 and she 30. They separated after 17 months, after the birth of Grant's only child, Jennifer.

In 1981, Grant married Barbara Harris, a public relations director for a London hotel and 47 years his junior. The fifth Mrs. Grant later said the age difference was an advantage.

"We don't argue over ridiculous things,” she said. "We appreciate each other more than a younger couple because time is so precious."

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On Nov. 29, 1986, Bill Wundram was suited up in black tie, ready to cover "An Evening with Cary Grant." Grant had a fatal stroke that night, and Bill worked his sources at the former St. Luke's Hospital, trying to break the story. Here's how he told it on Nov. 30, 1986.


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