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5 Things You Didn't Know About Cary Grant

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This week's installment of our "5 Things You Didn't Know About..." series focuses on one of the finest comic actors of all time. Whether in comedies like The Philadelphia Story and Bringing Up Baby or Hitchcock thrillers like North by Northwest, Cary Grant could make even throwaway bits of dialogue screamingly funny with his superb sense of timing and brilliant facial expressions. Here are a few things you might not have known about him.

1. He Was Almost Cary Lockwood

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The man we know as Cary Grant was actually born Alec Archibald Leach in 1904 in Bristol, England. When Archie Leach finally made it to Hollywood in 1931, studio execs at Paramount didn't think that "Archie Leach" sounded sturdy enough for a leading man. As Grant later told it, someone at the studio said, "'Archie' just doesn't sound right in America," to which he grudgingly admitted, "It doesn't sound particularly right in Britain, either."

When he was faced with the task of literally making a name for himself, Leach enlisted the help of his friends Fay Wray and John Monk Saunders, who suggested "Cary Lockwood." When Leach took the "Cary Lockwood" moniker back to Paramount, the studio honchos liked the "Cary" part but felt that "Lockwood" was too long and too similar to other actors' names, particularly silent film star Harold Lockwood. Grant would later tell The New Yorker that at this point, someone in the meeting just started reading down a list of potential last names and eventually stopped at "Grant." Archie Leach liked the sound of it and nodded, and Cary Grant was born. In 1941, the actor legally changed his name to Cary Grant.

2. Archie Leach Had Some Adventures of His Own, Though

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The name Cary Grant may not have emerged until 1931, but long before that Archie Leach was already showing the inimitable charm and comedic gifts that would later light up the screen. He left home at age 13 to join the Bob Pender Troupe, a group of traveling boy comedians, and from that point on he focused on learning acrobatics, tumbling, and vaudeville techniques, where he excelled as a straight man. In 1920, Bob Pender brought his troupe to the U.S., where they successfully toured for two years. At the end of the engagement, Archie Leach decided he'd rather just stay in the U.S. than return to England.

For the next nine years, Grant did a little bit of everything. He juggled on-stage, served as an audience plant for mind readers, worked as a barker at Coney Island, and walked on stilts to advertise Steeplechase Park. He also worked as an "escort" who could fill in empty seats at dinner parties; he once escorted the great soprano Lucrezia Bori for an evening. By 1927, he'd met legendary producer Arthur Hammerstein and was appearing on Broadway, which opened the door for his film career.

3. He Took Thriftiness To a New Level

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From just watching Grant's movies, you'd think that friends would describe him as witty, charming, and urbane. While his associates certainly give him credit for all of those qualities, he's just as legendary for being a cheapskate. Although Grant was the first star to break out of the studio system and negotiate a deal where he got a percentage of his films' box office takes, he was famously careful with his cash and obsessed over how much everything cost. (If Grant attended an expensive charity event, he was quick to point out that the entrance fee was deductible.)

Rumors circulated that Grant was so cheap that when he'd worn out a shirt, he'd cut all the buttons off and save them before throwing it away. Grant never denied this rumor; he simply explained in an interview that he liked to have some extra buttons around and that if his maid used his old shirts as dust rags he didn't want the buttons scratching his furniture. As he told the New York Times, "I think it's a very sensible procedure and should be adopted as a household tip."

4. He Did a Lot of LSD

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Although Grant was outwardly a clean-cut light-comic actor, he struggled with depression throughout his life. Part of this unhappiness stemmed from his uneasy relationship with the fairer sex, a problem that may have sprung from losing his mother when he was just nine years old. (Family members told Grant his mother had either died or gone on vacation, but she'd actually been committed to the Country Home for Mental Defectives in Fishpond.) While Grant was quite the ladies' man on screen, he didn't fare quite so well in his own life. He was married five times, and the first four wives all left him.

In an effort to confront these problems and restore his mental health, Grant underwent a hundred or so LSD sessions. He started taking LSD under the supervision of doctors in 1963 when his third wife, actress Betsy Drake, hit the road. According to Grant, when he took LSD and talked to a psychiatrist he "went through rebirth," and although he discouraged the recreational drug culture that emerged later in the 60s, he remained firmly convinced that LSD helped him come to terms with his issues. In fact, Grant felt so grateful for the breakthroughs he had with LSD that he left $10,000 in his will to the doctor who had overseen the treatments.

5. He Was No Fan of Chevy Chase

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It sounds ridiculous now, but when Chevy Chase was first starting to make his splash in show business, people compared him to Cary Grant. During a September 1980 interview on Tom Snyder's talk show Tomorrow, host Snyder favorably compared guest Chase to Grant. Chase responded, "I understand he was a homo. He was brilliant. What a gal!"

Chase's comments addressed the long-standing Hollywood rumor that Grant was bisexual, and Grant was less than amused. He sued Chase for $10 million for slander the following day, and the pair eventually settled out of court. (Grant allegedly received a $1 million payment from Chase for the ill-chosen comment.) Grant, who was 76 at the time, told the media, "True or untrue, I'm old enough not to care."

'5 Things You Didn't Know About...' appears every Friday. Read the previous installments here..

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5 Things You Didn't Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs, but there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams' mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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5 Things You Should Know About Robert Todd Lincoln
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Robert Todd Lincoln was Abraham Lincoln's oldest son and the only Lincoln child to survive into adulthood. While he didn't make quite the mark on history that his father did, Robert Lincoln had a pretty interesting life himself. Let's take a look at five things you might not know about him:

1. He Was on Ulysses S. Grant's Personal Staff

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Part of Abraham Lincoln's mystique lies in his humble roots as a self-made man who found education where he could. His eldest son didn't have to go through quite as many trials and tribulations to do some learning, though. Robert left Springfield, Illinois, to attend boarding school at New Hampshire's elite Phillips Exeter Academy when he was a young man, and he later graduated from Harvard during his father's presidency.

After completing his undergrad degree, Robert stuck around Cambridge to go to Harvard Law School, but that arrangement didn't last very long. After studying law for just a few months, Lincoln received a commission as a captain in the army. Lincoln's assignment put him on Ulysses S. Grant's personal staff, so he didn't see much fighting. He did get a nice view of history, though; Lincoln was present as part of Grant's junior staff at Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

After the war ended, Lincoln moved to Chicago with his mother and brother and wrapped up his legal studies.

2. The Booth Family Did Him a Favor

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In 1863 or 1864, young Robert Lincoln was traveling by train from New York to Washington during a break from his studies at Harvard. He hopped off the train during a stop at Jersey City, only to find himself on an extremely crowded platform. To be polite, Lincoln stepped back to wait his turn to walk across the platform, his back pressed to one of the train's cars.

This situation probably seemed harmless enough until the train started moving, which whipped Lincoln around and dropped him into the space between the platform and train, an incredibly dangerous place to be.

Lincoln probably would have been dead meat if a stranger hadn't yanked him out of the hole by his collar. That stranger? None other than Edwin Booth, one of the most celebrated actors of the 19th century and brother of eventual Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln immediately recognized the famous thespian "“ this was sort of like if George Clooney pulled you from a burning car today "“ and thanked him effusively. The actor had no idea whose life he had saved until he received a letter commending him for his bravery in saving the President's son a few months later.

3. He Had a Strange Knack for Being Near Assassinations

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Lee's surrender wasn't the only history Lincoln ended up witnessing, although things got a bit grislier for him after Appomattox. As he arrived back in Washington in April 1865 Lincoln's parents invited him to go see Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater with them. The young officer was so exhausted after his journey that he begged off so he could get a good night's sleep. That night, of course, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln's father, and Robert Todd was with the celebrated president when he passed away the next morning.

By 1881, Lincoln's political lineage and prominence as a lawyer qualified him for a national office, and he became Secretary of War under the newly inaugurated James A. Garfield. That July, Lincoln was scheduled to travel to Elberon, New Jersey, by train with the President, but the trip never took off. Before Lincoln and Garfield's train could leave the station, Charles Guiteau shot the Garfield, who died of complications from the wound two months later.

Oddly, that wasn't all for Lincoln, though. Two decades passed without a presidential assassination, but Lincoln's strange luck reared its head again in 1901. Lincoln traveled to Buffalo at the invitation of President William McKinley to attend the Pan-American Exposition. Although he arrived a bit late to the even, Lincoln was on his way to meet McKinley when anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot the president twice at close range.

Following these three bits of bad luck Lincoln refused to attend any presidential functions. He dryly noted that there was "a certain fatality about the presidential function when I am present."

4. He Realized His Mom Was a Little Nutty

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Mary Todd Lincoln is fairly widely renowned today for being mentally ill, but it wasn't quite such an open secret when she was still alive. Robert, however, realized that his mother needed psychiatric help so she didn't become a danger to herself or an embarrassment to her family, so he had her involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in 1875 following a hearing that declared her insane.

Mary Todd was none too pleased about this plan. She not only snuck letters to her lawyer to help her escape from the institution, she also wrote newspaper editors in an effort to convince the public of her sanity. Mary Todd's ploy worked; at a second sanity hearing in 1876 she was declared sane and released from the Batavia, Illinois, sanatorium to which she'd been confined. However, by this point she'd been publicly humiliated and never really patched up her relationship with Robert before her death in 1882.

5. He Made Some Serious Dough on the Railroads

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Once he got his legal practice up and running, Lincoln found a particularly lucrative clientele in the booming railroad industry. He spent most of his career working as a corporate lawyer for various railroads and train-related companies; the only breaks were his four-year stint as Secretary of War under Garfield and successor Chester A. Arthur and a four-year hitch as a minister to Britain under President Benjamin Harrison.

One of Lincoln's major clients was the Pullman Palace Car Company, for which he served as general counsel. When founder George Pullman died in 1897, Lincoln became president of the company, and in 1911 he became chairman of the Pullman Company's board. His lofty position in one of the country's most lucrative companies made him a millionaire and enabled Lincoln to build a sprawling estate, Hildene, in Manchester, Vermont.

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