The Golden Age of Hollywood saw the rise of several stars who changed the industry forever, but almost none of them come even close to matching the impact made by Cary Grant. Regularly cited alongside the all-time greats, Grant delivered multiple iconic performances in films like His Girl Friday and The Philadelphia Story, which have become an integral part of Hollywood’s history. Since modern audiences continue to enjoy and appreciate Grant’s work, it’s overwhelmingly evident that his art is timeless.
Be it the paranoia of Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest or the morbid humour of Frank Capra’s Arsenic and Old Lace, Grant’s filmography is full of delightfully diverse efforts that continue to serve as undeniable proof of his genius. While he starred in too many cinematic projects that are still counted among Hollywood’s best, Grant also turned down major roles that could have further boosted his already stellar body of work.
Famously, Grant rejected the opportunity to star in Billy Wilder’s Sabrina because he had heard that Wilder had a dislike for actors. That wasn’t the only role he rejected, having passed on David Lean’s 1957 epic The Bridge on the River Kwai. Although he had expressed interest in the project, Grant decided against it because he wanted to work with Marlon Brando in The Pride and the Passion. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out exactly as he had planned.
While recalling the entire saga, Grant revealed that his initial enthusiasm for the Pride and the Passion was based on a potential collaboration with Brando. “It’s true I turned down Bridge on the River Kwai for The Pride and the Passion,” Grant said. “I did it to work with Marlon Brando, and then he quit just before we started and was replaced by Frank Sinatra. I think I could have done Kwai, although not perhaps quite as brilliantly as Alec Guinness.”
The Bridge on the River Kwai would definitely have been a fantastic addition to Grant’s filmography, especially due to Lean’s incredible treatment of Pierre Boulle’s eponymous novel. Often listed as one of the greatest war movies ever made, it became a massive critical and commercial success that remains an important part of contemporary popular culture. Due to Brando’s departure from The Pride and the Passion, Grant’s regrets about The Bridge on the River Kwai almost definitely intensified.
The respect between the two acting giants was definitely mutual, especially since Brando counted him among his greatest influences. During a conversation with Truman Capote for The New Yorker, Brando said: “Spencer Tracy is the kind of actor I like to watch. The way he holds back, holds back—then darts in to make his point, darts back. Tracy, Muni, Cary Grant. They know what they’re doing. You can learn something from them.”
Watch the trailer for The Bridge on the River Kwai below.