A Portrait Of Cary Grant – the making of a single.

by John Zonn

A Portrait Of Cary Grant - the making of a single. by John Zonn

Please welcome my latest single A Portrait Of Cary Grant
with the B-side, Spiritus Flumine.

‘Why Cary Grant?’, I hear you ask…

Listen to the single while reading the text.

I’m not a dedicated fan, though I’ve watched a number of his films while researching for this song.

From Some Like It Hot…

Following in the footsteps of my previous single, Mystery Of The Universe, this one started in a similar vein – with an attempt to re-capture an earlier composition. On this occasion, I was examining an acid house/dance number that I’d put together back in ’94 using samples manually recorded to a 4-track tape recorder from an Eat Static cassette, blended with outtakes of BBC News footage and excerpts from a VHS film copy of Some Like It Hot.

My favourite phrase from the film was of Jack Lemmon exclaiming to Tony Curtis ‘no-buddy talks like that’, which came about as a result of Curtis’s character adopting the personality of a millionaire yacht owner (dubbed ‘Shell Oil Junior’) in order to impress Marilyn Monroe’s character, ‘Sugar’. I later found out that Curtis had actually been doing an impression of Cary Grant, who he admired greatly, vis-a-vis to fit the role.

Coincidentally, around the time of making this discovery, I had recently watched the Hitchcock film North By Northwest and was struck by the accent of Grant, who plays the lead role (the ‘dangerous assassin’… the ‘mad killer on the loose’). On further information searching, I learnt that Cary Grant – along with Katherine Hepburn and others of the era – delivered their lines in a now virtually obsolete dialect known as ‘Transatlantic English’, which had been in use by American actors of the 1920s and 30s, pre-World War Two.

… To An Obsolete Dialect

I became almost obsessed with this new (to me) language and decided that if I were to create an updated version of Nobuddy Talks Like That, then, in order to avoid any copyright violations – should I need to sample Tony Curtis doing Cary Grant – then necessarily I would need to learn to be able to speak this ‘forgotten’ dialect.

Further research (and weeks/months of learning the correct vocal patterns) followed… Like I said, I watched a number of ‘Grant’ films, such as: Bringing Up Baby, Arsenic & Old Lace, To Catch A Thief, and The Philadelphia Story. I also examined the methods of a few Cary Grant impersonators, including Rich Little and Alistair McGowan.

During the viewing of these classics of the silver screen I started collating phrases and lines of rhyme, many of which eventually distilled themselves into the final lyrical piece.

Blending Sounds

Of course, these lyrics would need musical accompaniment if the new Nobuddy Talks Like That were to come to fruition. I had already gone past the idea of rejuvenating the original acid house number. However, I still wanted to create a dance-style song, as I felt that would be fitting to the subject and hopefully it would be something that Cary Grant himself might actually have enjoyed listening to, though I wanted it to be contemporary. So, I pondered blending sounds from the early 20th century, with later styles such as disco and synthpop.

I recalled a Fun Loving Criminals song, titled: Love Unlimited, in which respect and thanks were given to Barry White for saving the songwriter’s life (metaphorically) and for getting him (the writer) back with his ex-wife – notice the rhyming of ‘life’ with ‘ex-wife’!

In a similar way, this was how the Cary Grant song would start: with the rhyme ‘Cary Grant (replacing ‘Barry White’), was a plant…’, and it would then describe a (almost mythological) suave and sophisticated, spick and span man who – whatever the weather – would always have a sun tan, and who became easily unsettled by the circumstances in which he found himself. I developed things so that this character couldn’t control his feet (as in the Jackson Five’s ‘Blame It On The Boogie’) and referred to the many suggestions that have been made regarding Cary Grant’s sexuality.

Impersonating An Actor Playing An Actor…

It seems there was much unknown about the man himself, and I wanted to portray this in the song; he appeared to be the ‘nicest feller you could meet’ and he was a man who spoke ‘the language of fine romance’. His film characters often fell in love with the main female actress – be they: Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Rosalind Russell, or many others – often in the most unlikely situations.

Cary Grant was born Archibald Leach, in Bristol, England, and he moved to the U.S. in his mid to late teens. During his early film career, a suggestion was made to him that he adopt a stage name – perhaps ‘something like Gary Cooper’ – so Archie Leach became ‘Cary Grant’ and he played an actor playing a part.

Nickie Ferrante, Grant’s society playboy character in An Affair To Remember, was distraught due to being jilted by what seemed like ‘unrequited love’ from Deborah Kerr’s Terri McKay, and as a result he attempted to re-start his career as an anonymous painter. Being a fan of the Art world, I felt reference to this situation needed to be made in the song and ‘hey presto’: A Portrait Of Cary Grant was born!

Fin / The End

John Zonn

John Zonn, Category: Artist, Singles: A Portrait of Cary Grant, Top Tracks: Spiritus Flumine, A Portrait of Cary Grant, Biography: John Zonn creates songs and music inspired by the environment around him., Monthly Listeners: 2, Where People Listen: Ho Chi Minh City, Hastings


John Zonn, Zonn, Cary, Grant, Synth Pop, Avant-Garde, Jazz, Electro, modern, Experimental, sound art, Modern Classical, Art Rock, post modern

One thought on “A Portrait Of Cary Grant – the making of a single.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.