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Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant

Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant

3.5 44
by Jennifer Grant

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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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While Cary Grant's private life has always been open to wide speculation, as a father he kept a thorough family archive for his only child. Grant's daughter pays loving tribute to her father in a memoir interspersed with intimate photos, notes, and endearing transcripts of a parent dedicated to love and learning; along the way she gives insight into Cary Grant as caregiver, friend, teacher ("Dad ‘homeschooled' me in life seven days a week"), traveler, style icon, businessman, and husband to his last wife, Barbara Harris. She fondly notes his favorite pursuits like the racetrack and Dodger games, but she also addresses being the daughter of a star ("inherent fame left me entirely ill-prepared for the realities of the world), money matters (one Christmas Grant gave his seven-year-old stock shares), and even addresses the gay rumors. She writes sparingly here of her mother, Dyan Cannon (she and Grant divorced when Jennifer was one), but records her feelings as Grant remarries and a new family emerges as the octogenarian Grant struggles to father another child. Grant nicely chronicles for her father's fans the life behind the legend and the authentic image of parental love off the screen. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Cary Grant's only child, Jennifer, was born when he was 63. His marriage to Dyan Cannon didn't last, but Jennifer's childhood was full of special times with her father, who, retired from film and leading a private life, was devoted to her. Almost 25 years after his death, Jennifer Grant, a Stanford graduate who switched from law to acting, writes of their relationship. Some fans of the debonair actor may be disappointed that she focuses squarely on the man she knew, even declaring that she hasn't read any published material about him: "I'll stick with my trusty experience as a guide." Her father never spoke of his early life, from which he had few mementos, but he carefully saved Jennifer's every creation. His tape recordings of many of their happy moments were bequeathed to her along with files of instructive clippings and notes about leading a responsible life. VERDICT This memoir, touching and authentic, of a kind man in his final happy decades (his daughter also writes lovingly of his last marriage) will offer balance to Cary Grant collections. Although his film career is not covered, his fans will be the primary readers. Dyan Cannon's own memoir, Dear Cary, is due out in September. [See Prepub Alert, 11/1/10.]—Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal
From the Publisher
 “Good Stuff is Grant’s loving portrait of the actor . . . While much of the memoir is filled with the colorful details of growing up Grant—dinners at the Palace of Monaco with her father’s costar Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier II. . . being serenaded by Frank Sinatra—it is also a moving exploration of the loss of a parent.”
 —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.”
 —Bill Cosby

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Random House
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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."

From the Hardcover edition.

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Good Stuff 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
LavenderLace More than 1 year ago
Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your relationship with your Dad and giving us a peek into the personal life of such a fascinating man, Cary Grant. Ahhhh, Cary Grant, one of the most amazing actors ever, is portrayed from the point of view of a father figure. What a significant human being, such a wonderful role model. Jennifer Grant has a great recollection of what a wonderful father he was. Cary Grant retired from movies in 1966 to raise his only daughter. He remained active in business but made being a devoted Dad his top priority. Jennifer shared tales of the glamorous world of jetting to Monaco, and watching ball games from a prestigious owner's box and creating alphabet games to help with school. She also tells of parental traits, private jokes, and dining at home together, all the while, instilling work ethics and values. Jennifer Grant has written a heartwarming and enchanting book of her lovely memories of her childhood with her beloved and highly respected Dad. There is so much value to this book, not just the privileged celebrity child or the celebrity lifestyle, but the insight into the wonderful human beings they are.
katePA More than 1 year ago
I read this book over the father's day weekend. What a beautiful tribute to a father from a daughter. What a lucky girl to have such a wonderful father who loved her so much. This is a great read!
RMelgar More than 1 year ago
Those who thought they knew and loved Cary Grant through his movies and other books about him, need to add this book to thier collection. This is more than just observations of the man, but a experience of his heart. Jennifer Grant's book is a long love letter to, and about her father. What the book also shows is how much her father, did and still does create love in his daughters heart.
darkmountains7 More than 1 year ago
I'm sixteen, and only a couple a years ago, I "discovered" Cary Grant and classic films. The moment I saw him, I thought, "Wow, he's amazing." And he was. He was tall, dark, and handsome. And he made me laugh. I was hooked on him, and classic films. I immediately wanted to know more about him. In this memoir, I did learn more about him. I learned that he was far more than just a wonderful actor, funny, and exceptionally handsome: I learned that he was a wonderful man, and a wonderful father. Jennifer Grant made me wish that I had knew him only more. If any daughter remembers her father the way Jennifer Grant remembered hers, then he should rest easy because he would know that his daughter loved him, and that she knew he loved her. The love between the two of them is that obvious.
lilacladyLL More than 1 year ago
I loved this book becuase it was about the love Cary had for his daughter, Jennifer. It gave me an insight to the movie star I have admired and loved for years. Good read if you are a fan of Cary's or want to see how much a dad can love and treasure his daughter.
JJMJ More than 1 year ago
My Dad was "The dentist to Broadway" & he was very good friends. All his friends grew up through hardship and succeeded. Dad grew up in an orphanage, and as life got in the way, he still kept in touch. I ate lunch with Cary and Dad, he never let stardom get in the way, and Jennifer demonstrates how human he really was. A great read and insight ino another great man.
nookcommuter More than 1 year ago
Ms. Grant definitely wrote from her heart. However, this book is more for herself than for Mr. Grant's many adoring fans. I can relate to Ms. Grant in many ways, having had a father I adored who was in his 40s when I was borm. I was the apple of my dad's eye, as was Ms. Grant, and can definitely understand her need to write this book. However, the book didn't reveal anything that fans of Mr. Grant wouldn't already guess or figure out after a chapter or two. The photos are charming and delightful; the personal notes are lovely. However, the context leaves the reader a bit bewildered.
Cathryn Lewien More than 1 year ago
What a gift Cary Grant gave his daughter . . . Showing and telling her how he valued her every thought, action and deed. And to save all her notes and drawings for her . . . Very special.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Only as a daughter could this book have been written. Forget all the rumors and enjoy this book. Always a Cary Grant fan, now a Jennifer Grant fan, also.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best heartfelt reads in a while!!
mrs-wright More than 1 year ago
It came through as sweet and authentic.
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ProfessorMS More than 1 year ago
An endearing memoir from a devoted daughter. Not many girls would have a father that retired so he could spend time with them, but that is exactly what Cary Grant did. I think his role as a father meant far more to him than his acting career ever did. I doubt that he thought that he would ever have a daughter and that seems to show up in this book. She is sharing her anecdotes about her father in what would seem to be an attempt to keep him in her life somehow and alive in her memory. It is an emotional tribute to her father. It is not great literature, but it never claimed to be. How many of us would be willing to allow the public to take a peek behind our treasured memories about the first love in our life? I read this because I not only like Cary Grant very much, but as a daughter of a man that was troubled and abusive, yet loved us, I often wish we had had the time to bond the way she had with her dad. I envy her that, and I enjoyed her delightful glimpses into her past - how lovely to see such love between a father and his only child. One gets a look at the private man, even though we certainly do not deserve it, or need to know, in the end, it was nice to see the doting dad behind the sophisticated image. A very human look at Archibald Leach, the man.
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KatyKQ More than 1 year ago
I grew up watching Cary Grant and yes, like the book says, he definitely was the epitome of elegance. Jennifer Grant's portrayal of her Dad was very endearing. The reader was left with a deep sense of knowing a personal side of the man on screen. What a great world this would be if we all had a Dad who was so doting as he was. The rest of the world is now fortunate to know Jennifer's wonderful memories, as well as those written by her Dad, of her childhood. The reader is left with wanting to know more. Very enjoyable! KatyKQ
SuzeJones58 More than 1 year ago
Aptly titled; apt book to purchase. I don't know how she does it, but Jennifer Grant manages to write a wonderful tribute . She writes a tribute to a man who arguably could be ridiculed (he's known to have worn women's panties), but who also happens to have been a wonderful and kindly father to her. The book is a tribute through and through, without one hint--not one whiff, not one iota--of animosity toward her father. I don't think I've ever heard of anyone staying so true to another individual. I think it just goes to show how wonderful a father and family life Carey Grant was able to provide to his only daughter. The book provides wonderful insights into her upbringing. There are some nice photos. It also provides surprising information on the detailed mementos Mr Grant saved of the love of his life -- the author, his daughter, Jennifer Grant.
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