PERFORMING ARTS

Cary Grant, the Making of a Hollywood Legend

Oxford Univ. (Cultural Biographies). Oct. 2020. 568p. ISBN 9780190053130. $34.95. FILM
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Though Cary Grant died as one of the most beloved actors of all time, he was born Archie Leach in a working-class family; his mother, Elsie, was committed to an asylum when he was 11. He was told Elsie had disappeared, then died, and it took 18 years before he learned the truth. This prolonged trauma affected all aspects of Grant’s life, and Glancy (film history, Queen Mary Univ. of London; When Hollywood Loved Britain) goes into great detail about those early years, especially Grant’s relationship with his womanizing father and the mother Grant would eventually take care of—although from afar—for the last 40 years of her life. Glancy’s theme is “the making of” Grant, and he considers each of Grant’s relationships and career moves as attempts to find stability in both his personal and professional life. This is a thorough and thoughtful biography, and while the tone is slightly more academic than the conversational tenor of Scott Eyman’s Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise, this does not make the work any less engaging. In fact, while both books are extremely similar in content, this may be the more perceptive study.
VERDICT An excellent portrait that emphasizes the man more than the movie star.

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