During the Golden Era of Hollywood (50s) there were fewer bigger stars than Cary Grant. Born Archibald Leach in Bristol, England in 1904, because he was a rather private man, despite his stardom, not that much is known about him by the general public. This documentary by Mark Kidel (Elvis Costell0, The Julliard Experiment), who directed and co-wrote it, attempts to pull back the curtains on his public and private life. Using text from the unpublished autobiography and video footage written/shot by him along with published interviews, it is an effort to go deeper than your usual biography of the sorts.
Cary Grant was seen as the perfect man. Handsome, impeccable manners, well dressed, and liked by men and women alike. He made the improbable leap from childhood poverty and abandonment to worldwide stardom. Archibald began in the most humblest of circumstances. His childhood was marked by his abandonment by his mother at age 11 and then disappearance of father, who as an adult he learned placed his mother in an asylum and started a whole other family. He went to live with his paternal grandmother.
To escape the neglect and poverty, as a teenager he joined a vaudeville group. That group left England to tour the United States. This led to Cary working on Broadway and then in films in Hollywood. He became one of the biggest actors in film and managed to gain his independence from the all encompassing studio system.
His popularity as an actor was not only due to his handsomeness and talent, but because he was willing to portray a variety of characters. Not only taking on working-class characters, Grant also assumed roles which blurred the lines of sexuality without offending people. That is why he was as popular with men as he was with women. He was a man who could not be pinned down.
Precious little is known about his private life. That is because he did not feed into the whole “star” life. Grant did not go to big parties. He was more of a homebody. A man who preferred to stay at home with his wife. His start in life led to Cary having trust issues, especially in regards to women. These issues led to him to have troubles in each of his five marriages. Another example of the duality of Cary Grant was the fact that while he was married to actress Dyan Cannon (Heaven Can Wait, Author! Author!) they had a child, Jennifer, and he pretty much retired from acting so he could spend time with his daughter.
Another revelation (for me) was his turning towards LSD therapy during the 1960s. It is shown to have somewhat healed the man. Having allowed him to come to terms with his childhood and relationship with his mother. Another glimpse into the duality that was Archie-Cary. Also, a window into how Archie learned to live with the persona he created – Cary Grant. He became a much happier man later in his life.
The strongest aspect of the biography is how it is equal parts light and dark, like the man himself. It also brings back the feeling of a bygone time. Via Grant’s words and videos you are transported back to a Hollywood which no longer exists.
The narration is done by Jonathan Pryce (Evita, Glengarry Glen Ross) with the well known actor taking on the role of the voice of Cary Grant. There is no attempt to sound like the man himself.