Oscar Actors: Grant, Cary–Circumcised; Partly Jewish; Rejection to Play Gentleman’s Agreement

Among the reasons that Cary Grant gave for believing he had Jewish blood was that he was circumcised, and circumcision was rare outside the Jewish community in England at that time.

In 1948, he donated a large sum of money to help the newly established State of Israel, declaring that it was “in the name of his dead Jewish mother.”

He also speculated that his handsome appearance with brown curly hair could be due to his father’s partly Jewish descent.

There is no genealogical evidence available about his possible Jewish ancestry, however.

Grant turned down the lead role in Gentleman’s Agreement in the late 1940s, playing a non-Jewish character who pretends to be Jewish, because he believed that he could not effectively play the part.

Instead, the part went to Gregory Peck, who co-starred in Kazan’s message movie, which went on to win the Best Picture Oscar and other awards.

Grant continued to donate considerable amounts of money to Jewish causes throughout his lifetime.

In 1939, he gave Jewish actor Sam (Asphalt Jungle) Jaffe $25,000.  John was a “sickly child” who frequently came down with a fever. He had developed gangrene on his arms after a door was slammed on his thumbnail while his mother was holding him. She stayed up night after night nursing him, but the doctor insisted that she get some rest—and he died the night that she stopped watching over him.