Scott Eyman is back with a new biography and what might be the definitive portrait of Cary Grant in Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise.
Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, and The Philadelphia Story are among the best romantic comedies of all time. Grant’s four films for Alfred Hitchcock–Notorious, Suspicion, To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest–still hold up today. The list of films go on and on, including Charade, the best film that Hitchcock never made.
Cary Grant is one of my favorite actors of all time so this book moved to the top of my wish list upon hearing about it. Eyman has written numerous biographies of Classic Hollywood favorites–some of whom are dealing with a reckoning as more people learn about their history.
When Sean Connery retired from acting in his early 70s, I remember wondering why. And yet, Grant decided to walk away when he was 62 years old. Think about it. The man who shined in some of the greatest films of all time retired from acting. Can you blame him? Probably not. Frugal by choice, the actor was not bringing in the money in these final films. There were films that he would turn down because he couldn’t own the negative. By this point in his life, the man formerly known as Archie Leach just didn’t want to act anymore. On page 414:
“I got tired of getting up at six o’clock and tripping over all those cables and drinking coffee out of Styrofoam cups,” said Grant. “It’s not as glamourous as you might think. You can never go back. It’s not possible. I could make another film, but I’d be playing a different man. People are used to me as a certain kind of fellow, and I can’t make that kind of film anymore.”
Eyman covers everything possible about the actor. There is also one thing that there could be a few more pages on and this is Grant’s sexual orientation. I think it is safe to assume–based on interviews–that the Grant was bisexual in life. That being said, there is nothing in the book alluding to what was described in the Scotty Bowers documentary.
Grant grew up in Bristol, England and his childhood would never be the same after his father sent his mother to an asylum. It would not be until some twenty years later before Grant learned the truth. One can only assume that this would impact his own relationships. Grant was on his fifth marriage when he died at the age of 82.
During his career, there would be films that he turned down. Among them was A Star Is Born, which starred Judy Garland. This would have almost certainly guaranteed him an Oscar nomination win.
Grant may be one of the best actors of all time but one must acknowledge his flaws. His on-screen persona is one thing but for those of us that didn’t grow up during his time–well, I have some news for you. He was not perfect. His divorce from fourth wife Dyan Cannon may have been the most public. But, as Eyman notes, fans were willing to overlook Cannon’s comments about Grant as a husband.
In recent years, both Dyan Cannon and Jennifer Grant have written books about Cary. Eyman draws on their books in addition to papers, extensive research, and numerous interviews with both family and friends. All of this combines to result in an entertaining portrait of a man hiding behind his own façade to become one of the greatest screen actors of all-time.