In spite of having been born in Bristol, England, Cary Grant (born Archibald Alec Leach) has the quintessential American story. From humble beginnings, Grant moved to America working hard to become Hollywood’s most sought-after leading man. While maintaining the outward appearance as the man who has it all, the Hollywood star had a terrible secret, keeping his traumatic childhood hidden from his friends and coworkers. But recent memoirs published by his ex-wife and daughter shed light on this mystery man.
Meet the Real Cary Grant
It’s hard to find a celebrity whose personal and professional lives contradicted themselves more dramatically that Cary Grant’s. Looking at the man on the silver screen though, it would be impossible to know that.
Cary Grant has been memorialized as one of the greats, a man whose rugged good looks and effortless charm drove audiences wild. But recent memoirs published by the famed actor’s fourth wife and daughter reveal that behind the Hollywood charm, lay a troubled and complicated man.
He Never Lost His Tan
In spite of being born in a country with long cold winters and an almost continuously cloudy sky, Grant maintained a stunningly bronze tan. This wasn’t makeup, in fact the man was averse to such charades, rather Grant took his physical appearance seriously, making sure that he stayed tan all year round.
Additionally, this Hollywood legend maintained a strict and disciplined regiment to ensure that he would stay fit and trim, never going beyond 180 pounds during his career.
Fancy Running Into You Here
Cary Grant may have been one of Hollywood’s greatest, but he never allowed himself to develop an entitled celebrity attitude. One time, while sitting with his friend and fellow English actor Michael Caine in Los Angeles, a fan rushed over to their table.
Surprisingly, the woman only recognized Caine, and after asking for an autograph launched into a story about how one never sees big Hollywood stars even in LA. Grant, laughing, nodded and agreed with the ignorant fans assessment.
Cary Grant Inspired James Bond
Charming, handsome, elegant, these attributes no doubt remind many of us of one of film’s most famous Brits, the unforgettable man of mystery himself, James Bond. This is no coincidence.
As it turned out author Ian Flemming (the man responsible for writing the Bond books that the movies were based on) actually created the character based on the mannerisms of Grant himself! Naturally Grant was offered the role of Bond but declined, saying that at age 58 it wouldn’t work.
Where Grant Found His Solace
Grant may have been a famous movie star, but his first love would always be on the stage. Often, when life’s difficulties proved to be too overwhelming, Grant would retreat back to his theatrical roots, the place that had made him who he was.
Starting at age 13, after getting expelled from school, Grant joined a comedy troop which gave him experience performing for both American and British audiences. In 1927, he landed his first Broadway musical, launching his career.
The Name Makes The Man
After signing with Paramount Pictures, Grant had his first dilemma. Film executives there didn’t like the name Archibald. “Archie just doesn’t sound right in America,” one of them told Grant, who concurred with, “It doesn’t sound particularly right in Britain, either.”
He initially suggested going with the name Cary Lockwood, but the studio executives felt it was too similar to other actors. After some debate, everyone agreed on the name Cary Grant, with Grant legally changing his name in 1941.
If at First You Don’t Succeed…
It’s remarkable to hear how many of history’s greatest often went through numerous failures before reaching the top. For Grant, that happened in 1928 at a screen test for the Fox Film Corporation.
Talent scouts had initially approached him about trying for a film they were working on. After that screen test though, he was deduced as having too thick of a neck and being too bowlegged. He may have missed the silent movie era, but soon it wouldn’t matter.
Grant Makes His Big Debut
Finally, in 1932 after signing with Paramount Pictures, Cary Grant got his big break. The film, This is the Night was the first in a string of successful roles which would establish him as the suave, debonair actor that he is remembered as today.
Further projects included popular films like Merrily Go to Hell, Hot Saturday, and Madame Butterfly. In 1933 he starred next to the equally attractive Mae West in She Done Him Wrong followed by I’m No Angel.
Things Start To Look Troublesome
In spite of numerous successes, things came to a halt as future films failed to live up to expectations. Grant, refusing to be deterred, finally landing a spot in the 1937 comedy The Awful Truth.
This was the home run that he needed, it seemed as though his luck had changed as he starred in hit after hit. Or, as Benjamin Schwarz, a critic for The Atlantic, called it “the most spectacular run ever for an actor in American pictures.”
Grant Was Always The Hero
The studio executives knew they had discovered a once in a generation kind of actor. As a result, they refused to allow Grant to be cast as the villain, always making sure that he was the hero of every film so that audiences wouldn’t associate him with any negativity.
In 1941 Hitchcock cast Grant in his film Suspicion where Grant played a husband whose wife thinks he’s going to kill her. But even there he still came out the hero.
Hitchcock Can’t Let Grant Go
Nobody was immune to Grant’s charms, not even Alfred Hitchcock, who cast Grant as the star of some of his most memorable classics. These include To Catch a Thief, Suspicion, and North By Northwest.
Much like his patron Hitchcock, Grant never won an Academy Award or a Golden Globe for his work despite being nominated for Best Actor five times. Rumor had it that the reason Grant was never bestowed this honor was because he made acting look too effortless.
Grant’s Service During The War
Although Grant was busy acting on screen and never actually enlisted in the fight against the Axis Powers, he was still given the King’s Medal for Services in the Cause of Freedom.
Allegedly the medal was given to him after he had been instructed to spy on his fellow actors and his wife, Barbara Woolworth Hutton during the course of the war. The Woolworth’s were an extremely wealthy family who were believed to be donating their fortune to supporting fascist causes worldwide.
Cary Grant Decides to Retire
In 1966 Grant’s only child, Jennifer, was born. That very same year he decided to put aside acting and devote his considerable talent and work ethic to other ventures. Grant ended up accepting an offer to join the board of directors for the now-defunct cosmetics company, Fabergé.
Many assumed it was an appointment done for publicity, but Grant proved to be a shrewd businessman. He served on the board with Western Airlines and later become a director of MGM Studios.
The Beginning of the End
While the decision to officially retire from acting came only after his daughter was born, Grant had finished appearing in motion pictures as far back as 1952. This was due to his displeasure with the method acting styles of actors like James Dean and Marlon Brando who Grant felt was overtaking the more traditional approach to Hollywood acting.
Additionally, Grant felt disgusted by how all of Hollywood had turned its back on Charlie Chaplin due to Chaplin’s strong liberal beliefs.
He Beat Out Jimmy Stewart
Written by Ernest Lehman and chosen by Hitchcock to direct, North by Northwest was predicted to be “the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures.” Equally popular Hollywood actor Jimmy Stewart had been selected to star in this groundbreaking film but Hitchcock was firmly against it.
He blamed Vertigo’s poor performance on Stewart’s style and appearance and, besides, he already had a leading actor in mind. Sure enough, after getting the call from his friend Hitchcock, Grant accepted the role.
Grant Meets an Untimely Demise
Grant reminded a Hollywood icon all his life. During his later years in retirement Grant began a series of tours called A Conversation With Cary Grant. Grant and his entourage would go city to city to answer questions from excited fans.
Just before one of these appearances, in November 1986, Grant suffered a stroke and died. His ashes were spread in the Atlantic Ocean and his estate, valued between $60 to $80 million, was left to his wife and daughter.
Cary Grant Had Several Marriages
Although Barbara Harris Grant had been married to Grant when he died, she was actually his fifth wife. Grant had first been married to Virginia Cherrill in 1934, but after allegations of domestic abuse the pair divorced.
The divorce was widely publicized by the press. In fact, Cherrill had demanded $1,000 a week in benefits from what Grant made during his time at Paramount, which was an absolute fortune at the time. And that was just the beginning.
On the Rebound
After his marriage to Virginia Cherrill came to a bitter end, Gary Grant tried to find company elsewhere, which started with a relationship with actress Phyllis Brooks in 1937.
Things were looking good for the couple, especially after they went on a vacation around Europe in mid-1939. They considered tying the knot upon their visit to the Roman villa of Dorothy di Frasson, Italy. However, the relationship eventually came to an end just a few months later.
Fast forward a few years later, and Cary Grant ended up tying the knot for the second time, this time with Barbara Hutton. At the time, she was one of the wealthiest women on the planet with $50 million to her name.
The couple was soon branded as “Cash and Cary” by the media. However, Grant didn’t want to be accused of marrying Hutton just for her money, so he refused to any financial agreement in their prenup. After a couple of years, they divorced, but stayed the “fondest of friends”.
Third Time’s the Charm?
It seemed like a pattern was recurring for Cary Grant. Every couple of years following a divorce, he would shack up with somebody else, which would, in turn, only last for a couple of years.
He was hoping that his third marriage would be his last one after tying the knot with Betsy Drake on December 25, 1949, who he had worked with on two of his previous movies. Amazingly, it proved to be Grant’s longest marriage, lasting for over 12 years.
His Affair With Sophia Loren
One of the main reasons that Cary Grant’s marriage with Betsy Drake didn’t exceed more than 13 years was because he had been unfaithful to her, and with one of the biggest names on the planet.
Having been close with some of the biggest faces in Hollywood, it wasn’t too surprising that Grant ended up having an affair with the one and only Sophia Loren, who he had co-starred with on The Pride and the Passion. Moreover, they had worked together on the movie Houseboat, which Drake had written.
Amazingly, after four marriages, each with varying levels of success, Grant wasn’t ready to throw in the towel in the love department. On July 22, 1965, the actor tied the knot with Dyan Cannon.
Their ceremony was at Howard Hughes’s Desert Inn in Las Vegas, of all places. Fans and critics alike turned their heads seeing that Dyan was 33 years younger than Gary. However, this didn’t stop them from enjoying their lives together, for a couple of years, at least. Not even their daughter Jennifer could keep them together…
A Close Brush With Death
There is no denying that March 1968 was possibly one of the worst months of Gary Grant’s life. With his marriage with Dyan Cannon crumbling to pieces, they finalized their divorce and were desperate to move on with their lives.
However, Grant continued to experience tremendous pain when on March 12, he ended up in a car accident on Long Island. While riding in a limousine, a truck hit the side of it. The actor was in the hospital for 17 days and suffered three broken ribs.
Who Is the Daddy?
During the late ’60s, Cary Grant had an affair with fellow actress Cynthia Bouron. Two days after Grant announced that he was making his long-awaited return to the Academy Awards, Bouron claimed that he was the father of her daughter, who was seven weeks old at the time.
She also filed a paternity suit. However, when Grant demanded a blood test, Bouron wouldn’t comply and she was ordered to remove his name from the birth certificate.
Other Flames in His Life
The 70s were a tough time in Cary Grant’s personal life, especially since he wasn’t married during this time. This didn’t stop him though from trying his luck in the love department.
Between the years of 1973 and 1977, the actor was on the dating scene and had two notable relationships. He dated Maureen Donaldson, a photojournalist from the United Kingdom. After that relationship fizzled out, Grant briefly dated Victoria Morgan, who was much younger than him.
Never Been Happier
During the early ’80s, Grant’s love life seemed to take a positive turn when he married British hotel PR agent Barbara Harris. Once again, many were skeptical seeing that she was 47 years younger than him.
After meeting at a conference at the hotel Harris was working at, the pair soon grew close. Many of Grant’s friends believed that Harris had an impact on Grant the likes of which they had never seen before and Prince Rainier of Monaco believed Grant had “never been happier.”
The Difficulty of Staying Married
In today’s day and age, it’s easy for us to look back and simply say that Grant should have remained a serial monogamist. But back then marriage was expected from someone such as Grant, no matter what.
When looking back on the difficulties Grant had staying faithful he explained, “It seems that each new marriage is more difficult to survive than the last one… I’m rather a fool for punishment. I keep going back for more, don’t ask me why.”
Grant Finally Finds Some Happiness
Grant had met an extraordinary number of beautiful women, including his five wives and, of course, during his numerous affairs. His last marriage seemed to be the one that made him happiest.
In the 2017 documentary, Becoming Cary Grant, Grant says his marriage to Cherrill was doomed, “I doubt if either of us was relaxed enough to trust what we had… My possessiveness and fear of losing her brought about the very thing I had feared: the loss of her.”
Grant’s Fourth Wife Unveils Problems
In 2011, years after Cary Grant had died, his fourth wife, Dyan Cannon, published her memoir about their time together. In it, she described a man easy to fall in love with with a wonderful beginning to the relationship.
As time went on though, Grant’s dark streak began to show through with him demanding that she give up acting and change her appearance. After their divorce, Cannon went back to acting, being dominated for three Academy Awards, despite Grant’s criticism.
Cannon Goes Into Further Detail
In Dylan Cannon’s book she describes, in detail, the change in Grant’s attitude. The change, she noticed, happened shortly after he proposed to her. “He’d started criticizing my appearance and was agitated on our wedding day,” she wrote.
“The following day, my ring finger started to swell up and we had to find a plumber to blowtorch my wedding ring off. If that wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what was.” But this story was only one of many others.
Would a Daughter Change Things?
Cannon might have hoped this was a phase that Grant was going through but, unfortunately, it wasn’t the end and things continued to deteriorate. During her pregnancy with their daughter Jennifer problems continued.
According to her memoir, “By the time I was pregnant, [Grant] had also withdrawn from me physically – which is hard because, before that, we had been all over each other. Things became polite, almost cold, between us.” Even with Jennifer, the relationship was all but done.
Grant’s Use of Psychedelic Substances
Something that most people were unaware of was that Grant was a frequent user of a certain psychedelic compound which, during its initial discovery, was still legal.
As part of his therapy in his fight against depression, Grant would take the substance as part of, what was considered at the time to be, “experimental sessions.” In a desperate bid to save his marriage with Cannon he encouraged her to take it with him. It did nothing but leave her depressed
What Was Happening to Grant?
Maybe Grant did have some marital problems but, after all, was that really so strange? Many celebrities have found it difficult balancing between their work, life under the spotlight, and their personal lives.
For Grant, it seemed as though he was consumed by his work as an actor leaving little energy or attention available for the other aspects of his life. But for Grant there was something much deeper going on beneath the surface, lifelong problems that were always there.
Grant Gets Some Terrible News
Even though Grant had the outward appearance of a confident man who had it all, inside he was dealing with some real issues that stemmed from childhood.
At 31 years old, just as his acting career was really taking off, Grant discovered that his mother, who he thought had died two decades prior, was in fact alive. She had been committed to a psychiatric hospital in England. The news left him shattered, not long after he began taking recreational drugs.
Grant’s Daughter Published a Memoir
Dyan Cannon’s memoirs pertaining to Grant’s use of psychedelic drugs wasn’t the only record of Grant’s personal life.
In 2011 his daughter Jennifer published a memoir as well. In it, she recalls the authoritative figure that was her father, but that in spite of all that he could still be loving and affectionate towards her. She did recall how he controlled certain aspects of her life. One episode resulted in Grant becoming livid after discovering eye shadow in her room.
Understood the Importance of Money
Although Grant had a reputation in Hollywood circles for being cheap, his daughter Jennifer didn’t agree. “I always found him generous to a fault but he wasn’t reckless with his money, which was rather rare in Hollywood.
He’d grown up with nothing and he wasn’t about to fritter it all away. His attitude was he knew he could walk into any shop and buy whatever he wanted. He just didn’t have to. That taught me the proper value of money.”
Grant’s Friends Disagree With Jennifer
Grant’s friends and colleagues however, disagreed with Jennifer’s rationalizations, saying that Grant often took his money saving habits a bit too far. One example many cited was Grant’s habit of cutting off the buttons of his old shirts before he disposed of them.
When asked about it, Grant didn’t deny the charge. In fact he told the interviewer he preferred having the extra buttons saying, “I think it’s a very sensible procedure and should be adopted as a household tip.”
Offering His Friend His Car
Another example of Grant’s money mentality is when his friend and costar, Rosalind Russell, were having dinner together. There, the new Rolls Royce car became the topic of discussion, with Grant mentioning he had one just like it in London.
After remembering that Russell was due to visit there he offered her the vehicle to borrow. Her excitement turned to dismay after he told her to call his agents in London for the “rental fee and cost of the chauffeur.”
Friends in High Places
Another detail that Jennifer shared was the fact that Grant had made friends with a variety of people in his life. From her upbringing, she remembered seeing the likes of Gregory Peck, Quincy Jones, Frank Sinatra, and Merv Griffin visit the house to hang out with Grant.
Apparently, Grant was extremely close with Sinatra and they would hang out all of the time. According to Jennifer, they had the same “indefinable incandescence of charm” and were “high on life”.
One memory that Jennifer recalls about her father is how he would store many artifacts from her youth in a vault that was the size of a room.
He had it stored inside his home and Jennifer believes that he did this because all of the artifacts from his youth were destroyed during World War II. He had lost many relatives as a result of the war and Jennifer believes that he wanted to ensure that she didn’t suffer the same sort of loss.
Grant’s Upbringing Was Quite Tragic
By all accounts Grant did not have an easy childhood. At age nine, his father had his mother committed to a psychiatric hospital. Ashamed, he chose to tell the young boy that his mother had died and, likely in order to cope with his feelings of guilt, became a heavy drinker.
Grant of course discovered what had actually happened to his mother but by then his father had already left him, and started a new family with a new wife.
He Was A “Scruffy Boy”
Even though Grant had been intelligent enough to earn an academic scholarship to Fairfield Grammar School, Grant couldn’t help but make trouble in the classroom. The teachers referred to him as a “scruffy little boy,” and were frustrated at him for being disruptive and not making an effort.
While the teachers were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt due to his intelligence, they couldn’t look the other way after Grant was caught sneaking into the girl’s bathroom.
The Not So Perfect Smile
Most people never noticed it, but in spite of having a brilliant smile that flashed across movie screens, it wasn’t perfect. This is because Grant was missing a front incisor.
As a boy he had chipped it while playing on the ice and, out of fear of his father’s retribution, ran to a dental college where he begged them to remove it. The dentists agreed, and over time Grant’s teeth shifted to close over the gap. His father never knew.
The Rumors Surrounding Grant’s Sexuality
There were rumors floating around that Grant may have been homosexual, but neither his daughter Jennifer nor his longtime wife Dyan saw any sign of this.
In her memoirs about his relationships Jennifer writes, “She was his wife. I was his daughter. The relationships are quite different. It was lovely to read about their romance, but the details of their dissolution were difficult. Sadly, he’s no longer around to give his perspective on their marriage. He never wrote an autobiography.”
A Possible Relationship With Orry-Kelly
Grant’s wife and daughter make no mention of Grant having any romantic involvement with other men, but there were allegations made in another memoir. In Orry-Kelly’s memoir Women I’ve Undressed, the famous Australian costume designer mentions how, after meeting Grant in 1925, the two men moved in together.
Grant however, couldn’t take the relationship and left, leaving Orry-Kelly completely devastated. Although he too would find success in Hollywood, going down in history as the Australian with the most Oscar wins.
The Evidence in the Memoirs
Orry-Kelly’s record would be beaten though, by none other than fellow Australian and costume designer Catherine Martin. His record of Oscar awards by an Australian was held for 50 years, most of which was after his death.
When he did die, Grant was one of his pallbearers, and upon a search of his house the memoir the Orry-Kelly had written was found tucked into a pillow case. In it, he described an epic romance lasting for three decades with Grant.
More Than Just in Love
In the memoir by Orry-Kelly, he alleges that he and Grant weren’t only just lovers, but business partners as well. In their earlier ventures Orry-Kelly would make ties by hand which Grant, using his charm and charisma, would sell.
The pair also opened up a speakeasy during Manhattan’s Prohibition era and even a casino in Nevada. However, the two were unable to pay protection money, causing the mafia to close down their operations and take every penny that they could.
Grant Has Many Relationship Problems
Grant did have an attraction to women though, particularly blondes, and this was something that Orry-Kelly found difficult to accept. Additionally, as he did in his relationships with women, Grant became abusive with Orry-Kelly, one time even throwing him out of a moving vehicle.
After they both became big in Hollywood, Grant began demanding that Kelly return him money for meals and boxing tickets totaling $365. Soon after, Grant moved out and in with someone else, fellow actor Randolph Scott.
Grant’s Relationship With Randolph Scott
Randolph Scott was another leading Hollywood man. Much like Cary Grant he was handsome, thoughtful, and charismatic, and the two lived together in Scott’s mansion for 12 years renaming it “Bachelor Hall.”
For Orry-Kelly though, he knew it was all a facade and believed that Grant was likely engaged in a romantic relationship with Scott. In his memoirs Kelly writes, “He was adjusting to the mask of Cary Grant. A mask that became his career, a career that became Grant.”
His Altercation With Chevy Chase
Rather than turn away from the rumors that he was homosexual, Grant actually embraced them, claiming it helped him attract more women who wanted to “prove the rumor wrong.” So it was strange then after comedian Chevy Chase made an offhand remark about Grant’s homosexuality during an interview that Grant took it so bad.
He sued Chase for $10 million dollars for defamation, a case that was settled out of court with Chase agreeing to pay Grant $1 million instead.
Cannon’s Musical Memorializing Cary Grant
Cannon doesn’t blame herself for falling in love with Grant, and is even making a musical about him.
“As much as I loved him then – and how could I not as he was kind and funny and charming – I’d have to say I’d also fallen in love with his image and expected that image to make me happy, which was impossible. I felt so much love for him. I love him more now than when we were together.”