Our interest in Cary Grant should be more than skin deep. Behind his charismatic screen image was a man whose inner life was far more interesting than that of any debonair character he ever played. Hollywood biographer Marc Eliot traces the long life (1904-86) of the British-born actor, exploring his troubled childhood, ambiguous sexuality, difficult domestic relations (Grant married five times), and lifelong insecurities. This book includes much new information, including revelations about Grant's relationship with fellow actor Randolph Scott and his dabblings with LSD.
Earning our trust with his neutral, unsensational tone, the author fills in the blanks, without lingering over less flattering details in a lipsmacking manner. If Eliot's is not a book of startling critical insights, his more than adequate prose offers something just as valuable: the evidence by which a case can be made for Grant's stature, not just as myth or icon, but as an artist as well. Keeping the actor's astonishing career firmly in view, Eliot assembles a portrait that shows the dark shadows behind the gleaming façade, while also revealing Grant's own shrewdness in maintaining that fictional persona.
The Washington Post
During a four-decade career filled with outstanding performances (The Awful Truth; The Philadelphia Story; Notorious; North by Northwest; Charade), Grant's greatest creation was the illusion that the suave Cary Grant really existed offscreen. Born Archibald Leach in Bristol, England, in 1904, he was traumatized at 10 when told of his mother's death. Eighteen years later, he learned she was alive (his father had committed her to an asylum). Grant nonetheless succeeded in Hollywood. After making 24 films in five years, he refused to re-sign with Paramount and, in 1936, became one of Hollywood's first freelance actors. On-screen and off, Grant was pursued by women, but his openly gay relationship with Randolph Scott lasted until both were pressured by studios to marry. Eliot, who has coauthored memoirs with Donna Summer, Barry White and Erin Brockovich, convincingly alleges that Grant was pressured by the FBI to spy on his second wife, heiress Barbara Hutton, in 1942 in return for American citizenship. Eliot's fascinating, sympathetic portrait is of a consummate performer who hid inner demons and used filmmaking to distance himself from reality (and four of his five wives). After years of therapy, weekly LSD treatments and retirement from films, he had a daughter (at age 62), a later happy marriage (he was 74, she 25) and some inner peace before his 1986 death. Photos not seen by PW. Agent, Mel Berger. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Two biographers attempt to unravel the mystery of Archie Leach, the product of a dysfunctional working-class English family who went to Hollywood and through sheer will transformed himself into Cary Grant. Eliot (Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince) explores how Grant's unhappy upbringing influenced his later life and career, notably, his passivity in pursuing romantic relationships and his obsession with achieving financial security. Other topics include his years on the music hall stage; angry, ambivalent relationship with the Motion Picture Academy; pioneering path in shunning contracts with studios in favor of shopping his services around as an independent talent; and fruitful collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock. On the personal side, there is plenty to dish: his many marriages (including a stormy one to heiress Barbara Hutton), friendship with Howard Hughes, longtime affair with actor Randolph Scott, and later experiments with LSD. Only in retirement did Grant find contentment, a happy marriage, and the daughter he so desperately wanted. Morecambe covers much of the same ground but from a British perspective (he is the son of famed comic Eric Morecambe). Grant, a notoriously private man, would have probably been offended by the attention that both books pay his personal life. In fact, both could be stronger in discussing Grant's films, his undervalued genius at physical comedy, and his ability to create his screen persona. Over the last 15 years, several biographies on Grant have been published (and gone out of print); chances are, your library owns one or two of them. Those institutions lacking a biography can purchase Eliot's. Because of its British slant and considerable duplication of material, Morecambe's is not a necessary purchase. Stephen Rees, Levittown Regional Lib., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
“A fascinating and thorough portrait. . . . Eliot does a good job of cracking the screen fantasy.” —Esquire
“Highly readable. . . . Glimpses of the debonair leading man’s dark side are the most intriguing elements of this welcome biography.” —People (3 stars)
“Keeping the actor’s astonishing career firmly in view, Eliot assembles a portrait that shows the dark shadows behind the gleaming facade, while also revealing Grant’s own shrewdness in maintaining that fictional persona.” —Washington Post
“Eliot gives us a Grant we’ve never fully glimpsed before.” —Vogue