The doomed marriage between the screen idol and the ingenue began 36 years ago
Cary Grant, Dyan Cannon
Credit: Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon: Corbis Bettmann

Their engagement began much like a screwball comedy: The dashing leading man was so nervous about popping the question to the stunning ingenue that he crashed his car while parking in her garage. One year and many less-clumsy proposals later, Cary Grant, 61, and Dyan Cannon, 27, eloped on July 22, 1965, in Las Vegas’ Dunes Hotel.

Their affair to remember began four years earlier when Grant spotted Cannon on the short-lived TV adventure ”Malibu Run.” In true Hollywood fashion he was on the phone with her agent by the end of the program. ”[I was] enchanted by Cary,” Cannon said. ”I was charmed in the true sense of the word.”

But the days after their wedding were anything but. Following the ceremony, they flew to Grant’s hometown of Bristol, England, to tell his mother that he had wed for the fourth time. While successfully eluding the press in the States, the newlyweds were not as lucky in the U.K. The Royal Hotel was swarming with reporters and at three in the morning, the duo fled out a back window.

Shortly after their honeymoon, Cannon learned she was pregnant — she gave birth to their daughter Jennifer on Feb. 26, 1966. A beaming Grant claimed she was his best production yet, but Cannon, who had fallen for her husband’s debonair public persona, was beginning to see his much harsher private side. His violent temper and controlling nature terrified her, and she realized that life with the world’s most charming movie star might not have a happy ending.

The couple had been married for barely two years when Cannon filed for divorce. In a packed courtroom she testified that Grant frequently criticized her, spanked her, and even went so far as to lock her in her room. (In a fit of anger Grant once told a friend, ”I’m going to break her like a pony.”) The final blow to his screen-idol image was her admission that he used LSD. The judge agreed they should go their separate ways but granted Grant and Cannon co-starring roles in Jennifer’s life.

Grant never made another movie (his last was 1966’s ”Walk, Don’t Run”), opting instead to dote on his only child and serve on the board of Rayette-Fabergé. He wed his final leading lady, Barbara Harris, five years before his 1986 death at age 82. Cannon remarried in 1985, for five years, to real estate mogul Stanley Fimberg. Her screen career flourished with Oscar nominations for 1969’s ”Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” and 1978’s ”Heaven Can Wait,” and she returned to TV in 1997 on Fox’s ”Ally McBeal.” She now stars on NBC’s ”Three Sisters.” As for Grant, the two managed to forge a friendship before he died, and to this day, the 64-year-old Cannon fondly recalls, ”I can still smell his aftershave.”