Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grantby Jennifer Grant
Jennifer Grant is the only child of Cary Grant, who was, and continues to be, the epitome of all that is elegant, sophisticated, and deft. Almost half a century after Cary Grant’s retirement from the screen, he remains the quintessential romantic comic movie star. He stopped making movies when his daughter was born so that he could be with her and raise her,
Jennifer Grant is the only child of Cary Grant, who was, and continues to be, the epitome of all that is elegant, sophisticated, and deft. Almost half a century after Cary Grant’s retirement from the screen, he remains the quintessential romantic comic movie star. He stopped making movies when his daughter was born so that he could be with her and raise her, which is just what he did.
Good Stuff is an enchanting portrait of the profound and loving relationship between a daughter and her father, who just happens to be one of America’s most iconic male movie stars.
Cary Grant’s own personal childhood archives were burned in World War I, and he took painstaking care to ensure that his daughter would have an accurate record of her early life. In Good Stuff, Jennifer Grant writes of their life together through her high school and college years until Grant’s death at the age of eighty-two.
Cary Grant had a happy way of living, and he gave that to his daughter. He invented the phrase “good stuff” to mean happiness. For the last twenty years of his life, his daughter experienced the full vital passion of her father’s heart, and she now—delightfully—gives us a taste of it.
She writes of the lessons he taught her; of the love he showed her; of his childhood as well as her own . . . Here are letters, notes, and funny cards written from father to daughter and those written from her to him . . . as well as bits of conversation between them (Cary Grant kept a tape recorder going for most of their time together).
She writes of their life at 9966 Beverly Grove Drive, living in a farmhouse in the midst of Beverly Hills, playing, laughing, dining, and dancing through the thick and thin of Jennifer's growing up; the years of his work, his travels, his friendships with “old Hollywood royalty” (the Sinatras, the Pecks, the Poitiers, et al.) and with just plain-old royalty (the Rainiers) . . .
We see Grant the playful dad; Grant the clown, sharing his gifts of laughter through his warm spirit; Grant teaching his daughter about life, about love, about boys, about manners and money, about acting and living.
Cary Grant was given the indefinable incandescence of charm. He was a pip . . .
Good Stuff captures his special quality. It gives us the magic of a father’s devotion (and goofball-ness) as it reveals a daughter’s special odyssey and education of loving, and being loved, by a dad who was Cary Grant.
—Molly Creeden, Vogue.com
“A convincingly sunny tribute to a father, but the grown-up child’s longing for a departed parents haunts almost every page.”
—Malcolm Jones, Newsweek
“As a father of five, I hope my daughters will remember me as beautifully as Jennifer has remembered her father.”
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt
in my father's later years he asked several times that I remember him the way I knew him. He said that after his death, people would talk. They would say "things" about him and he wouldn't be there to defend himself. He beseechingly requested that I stick to what I knew to be true, because I truly knew him. I promised him I would. I've easily kept that oath. Although many books about him have been published, I've read none. Not out of a lack of interest. I'm sure there are some wonderful things I could learn about my father, but most likely more misconceptions than are worth weeding through. To me, he was like a marvelous painting. All the art historians wish to break down the motives, and the scheme, and so on. I would rather know, as I do, his essence. I believe that at the heart of a person lies passion. For the last twenty years of his life, I was given the extraordinary privilege to experience the full, vital passion of his heart. Dad used the expression "good stuff" to declare happiness or, as one of his friends put it, he said it when pleased with the nature of things. He said it a lot. He had a happy way of life. His life was "good stuff."
Just after my father's death, I graduated from Stanford. My
senior year I had worked as an intern at an advocacy firm in San Francisco. My plan was to take a job with this same firm and later move on to law school. When Dad died I shifted gears in ten seconds flat. I felt pulled, in an almost subterranean way, home to Los Angeles. Why? If Dad came home, that's where he'd be. Have I been waiting for Dad to come home all these years?
At some level it's still hard for me to admit that my father died. I can talk about it and around it, but those two words. "He died." What can that possibly mean? That I won't get to hear his voice again? That's not true; I have movies, I have all his taped conversations with me, I have pictures, I have slides. . . . I even have one of his sweaters in my closet. If I remember well enough, he will come back. He'll appear, out of thin air, at my door or in my living room, and we'll laugh and we'll hug and we'll talk and we'll hold hands, and maybe he can hold the baby while I make lunch for him. After all, he's a grandfather now. There's so much playing to be done. Watch out, baby Cary may pull your hair, Dad. And my dog, Oliver, is named after our mutual nickname, Ollie. In a Cockney accent we could greet each other with, " 'ello Ollie! 'ow ya' doin', Ollie?" Oliver and baby Cary will look at us sideways, and then my father will never leave again.
To write this book is to fully admit, more than twenty years later, that he died. To move on with my life. The tribute to my father is more than mildly overdue. Dad has been deservedly honored by everyone and their mother. The U.S. government even turned my father into a stamp. For many years I've stayed silent. Other tributes to Dad stem from the perspective of show business, where the intimate side of his life is somehow vaguely analyzed, but never revealed. I am my father's only child. The world knows a two-dimensional Cary Grant. As charming a star and as remarkable a gentleman as he was, he was still a more thoughtful and loving father.
Madame Sylvia Wu, the marvelous restaurateur, was close to Dad for more than forty years. When I called Auntie Sylvia to discuss the book, she sweetly chided, "It's about time!" Sadly, several of Dad's closest pals, among them Frank Sinatra, Charlie Rich, and Gregory Peck, are no longer alive to share their memories of him.
Privacy was a gift our family worked hard to maintain. Selfishly, I have guarded my memories of Dad, clutching them to preserve that part of him that I alone knew.
Why didn't Dad write his own book? One archived audio cassette recorded in 1962 is a self-hypnosis session made for Dad. He was being instructed to exercise, gently, daily, and to write his autobiography. Presumably these are activities he wished to pursue, and he'd hired someone to help him with autosuggestion. The woman soothingly advised that he complete his autobiography with tremendous compassion for his subjects and not to worry, not to criticize the work, just to do it. Also, to exercise a bit each day. This was four years prior to my birth. Was Dad examining his life before having a child? Why didn't Dad finish his book? Did he consider revealing his history, his childhood, to the world? He never spoke of the endeavor, but he saved the tape for me. What turned him around? With so much misinformation out there, did he want to address and correct it? Is this why he stayed up at night? Was he too distressed about involving others' lives? Of course, his was the definitive voice. His parents were already gone. Any writing would have served Dad and Dad alone. Dad's parents weren't famous, he was. He knew his story. Anyone reading his story would have done so to learn about him. His motives were therefore the central theme. My guess is he came to terms with his past, and with anyone who wished to write about it. Let them examine their own motives. In my case, ultimately it's the same matter. Dad is gone; I write about him for me.
My hopeful guess on his attempted autobiography is that Dad was done with his homework. He came to terms with who he was and who his parents were. Let others play their guessing games. He trusted that those who knew him, knew him. Those who didn't, never really would. To make a case for himself would therefore be a fruitless, energy-wasting endeavor. He'd forgiven who he needed to forgive, let go of what he needed to, and accepted himself as he was. Archibald Alexander Leach, Cary Grant, and all.
It's important to understand the commodity of celebrity. In revealing my life, Dad's life, and including his friends, what is being "cashed in"? Privacy? Dad's name? There are certainly less all-consuming ways to make a profit. My conscience pulls, the way Dad's did. The only reason to write is to share the beauty of his life behind the curtain. I never knew Archibald Leach. I never really knew Cary Grant as the world thought of Cary Grant. I knew Dad.
Dad had two somewhat conflicting beliefs. He would remind me to never pay attention to what other people were thinking about me, because, he said, they were too busy thinking about themselves to really think about me. Funny. The polar opposite belief he espoused was "All you have is your reputation." The latter, I'm guessing, was learned through the business of "show" business. Dad has, and had, a deservedly glowing reputation. However, this belief in "reputation first" seems to have given rise to his fears of what might be rumored after his death. Then, there are interesting misconceptions about Dad. My choice is to leave these misconceptions to themselves. My hope is that we are wise enough with our own weak spots to allow great men theirs.
The grief of losing my father has come in waves over the years, as it does with most people. His love and devotion as a father provided my closest, most intimate relationship. Dad, and our time together, is in my bones. While reflecting on him, the memories themselves seem to boil down into certain "essences of Dad." My words, by their nature, are finite. Dad, now, is infinite. Still, perhaps these words can sniff around the essence of Dad's soul, to further elucidate the world's knowledge. Perhaps the old saying about the bird holds true: "If you love something set it free."
Many people long for a father's love. I had it. I have it still. Perhaps by writing this book I can transfer some of the love I feel for him. Perhaps Dad will inspire a daughter, son, mother, or father. If so, good stuff. I can hear my father's tone now, a little grumble with a Cheshire cat sparkle in the mix, "gooooood stuff."
Meet the Author
Jennifer Grant was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She graduated from Stanford University with a degree in history. Before becoming an actor, she worked for a law firm and as a chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. Her first acting role was in Aaron Spelling’s Beverly Hills, 90210, and she later appeared in Friends, Super Dave, and CSI, as well as several feature films. She lives with her son, Cary Benjamin, in Beverly Hills, California.
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