Cary Grant is one of the most well-remembered movie stars from the 20th Century despite the fact he hasn’t appeared in a movie since 1966. If you haven’t seen Arsenic and Old Lace, His Girl Friday or Topper then your education is sadly lacking and I suggest you go and remedy that post haste and tout suite. One of my friends from uni would put North by Northwest at the top of this list but he knows more about Cary Grant and movies than I ever will.
He was born in 1904 as Archie Leach and shortly after he made it to Hollywood he set about changing his name and becoming Cary Grant. This book details how all of this happened, how come he was so good at the comic genius stuff in the movies and why we all fell in love with him.
I loved this book. We see behind the scenes to his parents. We find out how his father was rather ineffective and his mother slightly insane due to the loss of their first born. Archie, as the second born, was then doted on and not allowed to do so many things as she was worried, very worried. When he was 10 his father signed her into an asylum without telling Archie where she’d gone. He was devastated and blamed himself from then on. But, back to his father. The family dynamics were very different in England early in the 20th Century, fathers were expected to bring home their pay and dole out the punishments, mothers were expected to do everything else. I don’t know why I expect different from the Leach family.
Wansell shows us how Archie starts on the stage and how he is taught about comedic timing and later on how Archie gradually transforms himself into the Cary Grant we know and swoon over. It seems he tried to make his onscreen persona and his public persona one and the same with his private persona (and therefore any wives and children) suffering.
Grant was an astute business man, we’re shown that on several occasions. He managed to end his days in 1986 a rather wealthy man.
I’d just like to say again, I loved this book. It shows a man I’ve adored from afar for far too long and it shows him warts and all. Despite all of that I have more respect for him than I had before.