Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.”Cary Grant – Newsweek 1990
Cary Grant was a Hollywood actor and icon who was particularly famous for his transatlantic accent and iconic roles in Hollywood’s finest films. A British-born actor naturalized as a United States citizen, he was undeniably emblematic to American cinema. From thrillers to romantic comedies, Grant’s talent was impressive and versatile.
Born as Archibald Alec Leach on January 18, 1904, the future Cary Grant grew up in northern Bristol in a suburb called Horfield.
Grant didn’t have the happiest of childhoods, as his older brother died of tuberculous meningitis. He had an alcoholic father, as well as a clinically depressed mother.
However, it was through his mother’s passion that he learnt the art of singing and dancing. Elsie Maria Leach, a seamstress, taught him these skills when he was just four years old. His mother introduced him to the piano, and to popular artists such as Charlie Chaplin and Ford Sterling.
Grant’s first experience in theatre was in 1917, when he was working backstage at the Bristol Theatre as callboy. After getting expelled from Fairfield Grammar School—which many believe he did on purpose, in order to pursue a life in the entertainment industry—Grant joined a troupe of touring acrobats. Grant sang, danced, and juggled for them.
Grant was often mistaken for being Australian. This was a result of his British accent changing because of his constant traveling and touring with the Pender acrobatic troupe. When he moved to the US, Grant had started talking with his acclaimed trademark transatlantic accent.
After traveling with them to the United States, Grant started to make Broadway appearances. By the late 1920s, he had earned different parts in several musicals. But it was his leading role of Cary, a soldier in the 1931 musical Nikki, which got him enough praise to land a role in a short film.
Grant’s role in Nikki was praised by the American television personality, Ed Sullivan, who saw Grant as an actor with a successful future. Because of this positive review, which appeared in The New York Daily News, Grant landed a screen test at Paramount.
He later met with Jesse L. Lasky and B.P Schulberg, who were the cofounder and general manager of Paramount Pictures. Grant ended up signing a five-year contract at a starting salary of $450 a week.
This stepping-stone in Grant’s career also marked his name change. At the studio’s request he left his birth name of Archie Leach to become Cary Grant.
Transition to Film Acting
After shooting the short movie entitled Singapore Sue, Grant moved to Los Angeles. Soon after his move to the city of Angels, the young talent secured a contract with Paramount Studios.
Grant landed his first feature film entitled This Is The Night in 1932. Later that same year, he acted in six other movies. By the late 1930s, the up-and-coming talent had acted in at least 27 movies and become a leading Hollywood actor.
Although Grant has never won an Academy Award, he was nominated twice for his brilliant work. In 1941, he received his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his role in Penny Serenade.
In 1944, Grant received his second nomination for his role in the Clifford Odets-directed movie, None But The Lonely Heart. He acted in this film opposite Ethel Barrymore and Barry Fitzgerald.
In 1970, Grant received an Honorary Oscar (presented to him by his friend, Frank Sinatra) during the 42nd Academy Awards.
Grant’s family seemed to lead an ordinary lower middle-class life. However, things were a little more complicated behind closed doors. When Archibald was nine, he came home to the news that his mother had gone off to a seaside resort. In reality, she had been sent to a mental institution.
As young Archibald didn’t have an easy upbringing, he was seeking a change. To that end, he ran away from home at the age of 13 to perform as a juggler in a comedy club. He still didn’t know the truth about his mother, who was institutionalized for four years, As it turned out, he wouldn’t see her until he was in his twenties.
Marriages and Romantic Relationships
Being alienated from his parents didn’t prevent the actor from building a family of his own. As a matter of fact, Grant made multiple attempts to settle down, marrying five times. In 1934, he married the American actress Virginia Cherrill in London. Their marriage only lasted a year, as Virginia divorced him in 1935. This was followed by charges that he had allegedly hit her.
After a long, bitter, and public divorce, Grant started dating actress Phyllis Brooks in 1937. Although they had both considered marriage, they broke up in 1939. In 1942, Grant married the American heiress Barbara Hutton.
Hutton and Grant divorced in 1945. However, they did remain close friends. The actor started dating again and was romantically involved with Betty Hensel before marrying the American actress, Betsy Drake, in 1949.
Drake was not only Grant’s co-star in two of his movies, but their marriage also proved to be his longest. After being married for 13 years, they divorced in 1962.
In 1965, Grant married the American actress, Dyan Cannon, in 1965. This marriage resulted in the birth of Jennifer, Grant’s only child.
Grant had a brief and infamous affair with the actress Cynthia Bouron. Dyan Cannon and Grant subsequently divorced in 1968. Between 1973 and 1977, Grant was romantically involved with Maureen Donaldson, a British photojournalist. He then started dating Victoria Morgan, a much younger woman.
In 1981, Grant married for the fifth and last time, to Barbara Harris. She was a British public relations agent and was 47 years younger than Grant.
Cary Grant’s Child
As mentioned above, Grant only had one child: his daughter, Jennifer, born on February 26, 1966. That same year, the legendary actor retired, aged 62, in order to focus on her upbringing. Grant wanted her to have a sense of stability in her life.
Grant was an attentive father, who kept countless memories of Jennifer’s childhood and teenage years in a room-sized vault. Jennifer later revealed that her father had collected these artifacts in reaction to his own childhood memories being destroyed during World War II after the Luftwaffe’s bombing of Bristol.
Now aged 54, Jennifer Grant has gone to act in the famous TV show Beverly Hills, 90210, and appearing in other movies and series.
Cary Grant died of a stroke at the age of 82, on November 29, 1986. The actor was working at the Adler Theatre in Davenport, Iowa, and was feeling very ill while preparing for his performance in A Conversation with Cary Grant.
The Hollywood legend was taken back to his hotel, where a doctor was called. He confirmed that the actor was suffering from a massive stroke.
Despite his condition rapidly deteriorating and having a blood pressure reading of 210 over 130, Grant refused to be taken to the hospital. In the evening, Grant slipped into a coma before being pronounced dead in Intensive Care at St. Luke’s Hospital.
Grant had always kept his private life away from the eyes of the public. For that very reason, no public funeral was held, despite his fame and popularity. The groundbreaking actor was cremated before having his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean.
Cary Grant and LSD
One surprising quality the Hollywood actor had was that he liked to experiment with psychedelics. That’s right. In the late 1950s, Grant started taking LSD.
As a result of his wife, Betsy Drake, expressing her interest in psychotherapy, Grant was inspired to learn more about psychoanalysis. Consequently, he underwent an LSD treatment supervised and assisted by Mortimer Hartman, a radiologist and internist.
Grant expressed his optimism regarding this alternative and—at the time—groundbreaking treatment, which he revealed helped him find peace of mind. Grant underwent weekly LSD therapy sessions at the Psychiatric Institute of Beverly Hills.
Becoming Cary Grant
In 2017 Becoming Cary Grant, a documentary based on Grant’s life was released. The biographical movie takes viewers through the life of young Archibald, to the Grant name change, and what it took to create the man he eventually became.
The documentary portrays how the once-young British “lad” named Archie evolved into an American legend, and how he was often trying to find his true identity. In the documentary, Grant explained: “I have spent the greater part of my life fluctuating between Archie Leach and Cary Grant. Unsure of each, suspecting each,” he added.
Part of becoming Cary Grant was his name change. In a biography written by Marc Eliot in 2004, it was revealed that Schulberg demanded that Grant change his name to “something that sounded more all-American like Gary Cooper,”, and they eventually agreed on Cary Grant. Grant later revealed that his first name came from his earlier stage role and his last name from a list given to him by the studio.
The documentary also draws information from an unpublished memoir written by Grant concerning his LSD therapy/experimentation. Although dropping tabs seems out of style with the classy and impeccable actor, Grant was using psychedelics recreationally. Instead, Grant was part of a cutting-edge psychotherapy program in Southern California. The movies showcases a fascinating depiction of the late Hollywood legend through an estimated 100 LSD-assisted therapy sessions, spanning the years from 1958–1961.
An article published by The Guardian in 2017 reviews the documentary and its exploration of LSD therapy. It reveals that between 1950 and 1965, around 40,000 patients were prescribed lysergic acid to treat conditions as diverse as alcoholism, schizophrenia, and PTSD.
Cary Grant Quotes About LSD
Relearning and Freedom of Expression
“During my LSD sessions, I would learn a great deal, and the result was a rebirth. I finally got where I wanted to go.”
“In one LSD dream, I imagined myself as a giant penis launching off from Earth like a spaceship.”
“After weeks of treatment came a day when I saw the light, when I broke through. I felt an immeasurably beneficial cleansing of so many needless fears and guilts. I lost all the tension that I’d been crippling myself with. First I thought of all those wasted years. Second, I said, ‘Oh my God, the humanity. Please come in.’”
“It was absolute release. You are still able to feed yourself, of course, drive your car, that kind of thing, but you’ve lost a lot of the tension.”
“We come into this world with nothing on our tape. We are computers, after all. The content of that tape is supplied by our mothers, mainly because our fathers are off hunting or shooting or working. Now the mother can teach only what she knows, and many of these patterns of behavior are not good, but they’re still passed on to the child. I came to the conclusion that I had to be reborn, to wipe clean the tape.”
Enhancing Healthy Relationships
“LSD made me realize I was killing my mother through my relationships with other women. I was punishing them for what she had done to me … I was making the mistake of thinking each of my wives was my mother.”
“When I first started under LSD, I found myself turning and turning on the couch. I said to the doctor, ‘Why am I turning around on this sofa?’ and he said, ‘Don’t you know why?’ I said I didn’t have the vaguest idea, but I wondered when it was going to stop. ‘When you stop it,’ he answered. Well, it was like a revelation to me, taking complete responsibility for one’s own actions. I thought ‘I’m unscrewing myself.’ That’s why people use the phrase, ‘all screwed up.’ ”
“I know that, all my life, I’ve been going around in a fog. You’re just a bunch of molecules until you know who you are.”
“It takes a lot of courage to take this drug, because it’s a tremendous jolt to your mind, to your ego.”
“There is a great misconception about LSD and a great deal to explain. I used it about 100
times before it became illegal.”
RS Contributing Author: Andréa Oldereide
Andréa is a London-based journalist who loves to write and cover anything out of the ordinary. You can probably find me her reviewing a drag show or walking her dog if she isn’t sitting by her computer and a cup of coffee writing something. Andréa has written for an LGBTQ-based website as well as a fatherhood themed publication and more. Andréa definitely never limits her writings to one specific area. Most importantly, she has always been fascinated by the mind and how our brains function, so you can expect a lot of research-based article from her. Feel free to follow her on Insta @drewithanaccent and Twitter @Dre_Oldereide