The Night Cary Grant Died in Davenport
Cary Grant, a legendary actor, and heartthrob from the 1930s-60s who starred in movies like "The Philadelphia Story," "Bringing Up Baby" and "North by Northwest" was excited to come to Davenport and looked forward to his performance at the newly renovated Adler Theater. The Quad Cities was abuzz to be attracting such Hollywood royalty to our town.
I remember thinking it was pretty special he was coming to the Quad Cities as part of the Quad Cities' first inaugural Festival of Trees celebration. A Conversation with Cary Grant, was to have been held at the Adler Theatre on November 29, 1986. It took $30,000 to bring him to Davenport and the evening of questions and answers from the star was sold out.
Cary Grant never made it to the performance. No one ever was able to ask a question. Earlier in the day, the star had to be helped off the stage after soundcheck. He went back to his room at the Blackhawk Hotel with his wife, Barbara Harris. He didn't want to go see a doctor.
In the meantime, event attendees were sipping cocktails at a pre-party gala held in downtown Davenport. According to QC Times reporter and man-about-town, Bill Wundram an audible groan was heard in the crowd as it was announced the actor fell ill and would not be performing.
Cary Grant had been secretly ushered out of the hotel by gurney and taken to St. Lukes hospital aka Genesis East. The actor died sometime before 11:30 pm in the hospital from a massive intracerebral hemorrhage. He was 82 years old.
You can read Bill Wundram's account of that night here.
When I look back at that night I remember thinking we were so lucky to get a star of that caliber to come here to the Quad Cities and basically sit down and talk with us. It was so glamourous. The Festival of Trees setting was beautiful and if you were lucky enough to get a ticket to the Conversations with Cary Grant event you were living large.
No one dreamed we'd never see this glamourous star again. No one dreamed he'd die here in Davenport. Everyone talked about it. Everyone was saddened and stunned. If that wasn't enough grief, once the world media learned of the story the Quad Cities was eviscerated and dragged through the mud. As if somehow we caused his death. Somehow he came to this hick town to die. How dare Davenport be the place where Cary Grant's life ended. Finally, we were worthy of a visit by a movie star and now and suddenly our fame turned into an insult.
It's bittersweet to write this. It's been 35 years since his death. That's an entire generation. Many have no idea who Cary Grant is. Many more don't know this is the 'unglamorous berg' where he died. It's hard to even bring it up again.