The life of Cary Grant was not as glamorous as you may think. As a surprising tribute to her father, Cary Grant’s daughter Jennifer revealed a secret side of Golden Hollywood’s most debonair leading man in her tell-all memoir Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of my Father, Cary Grant.
Cary Grant was born as Archibald Alec Leach on January 18, 1904, in Bristol, England to Elias and Elsie Leach. Unfortunately, Grant’s upbringing was scarred by trauma. His father was an alcoholic and his mother struggled with bouts of depression and mania. His mother Elsie taught Grant to sing, dance, and play piano at a young age. She also took him to the cinema, where he discovered a love for actors like Charlie Chaplin and Ford Sterling.
When Grant was nine years old, his father informed him that his mother had left on a “long holiday” and never returned. Eventually, Elias Leach would tell his young son that his mother Elsie Leach had died. Grant was 31 years old when he finally learned that his father had his mother committed to a mental institution. In June of 1935 Grant arranged for his mother’s release from the hospital.
A Star is Born
In 1931, Grant landed his first lead role in a new musical, Nikki. He dazzled audiences and reporters, who made note that “a young lad from England” had “a big future in the movies.” Grant would go on to be one of the most renowned actors in Hollywood, starring in cinema classics like Charade (co-starring with Audrey Hepburn), Alfred Hitchcock‘s North by Northwest and To Catch a Thief (co-starring with Grace Kelly), His Girl Friday, and many more.
Grant was married five times in his life but only had one child. Shortly after marrying his fourth wife Dyan Cannon, the couple welcomed their daughter Jennifer on February 26, 1966. Grant shared his thoughts on parenthood:
“My life changed the day Jennifer was born. I’ve come to think that the reason we’re put on this earth is to procreate. To leave something behind. Not films, because you know that I don’t think my films will last very long once I’m gone. But another human being. That’s what’s important.”
Unfortunately, Grant and Cannon divorced in 1968 but they continued to co-parent Jennifer.
A Legend’s Legacy
In 1986, Grant suffered a fatal stroke. He died at 82 years old. As per his request, no funeral was held. Jennifer Grant writes in Good Stuff, “The world knows a two-dimensional Cary Grant. As charming a star and as remarkable a gentleman as he was, he was still a more thoughtful and loving father.”
In 2011, Jennifer Grant published a memoir of her father’s life which celebrated him as a father, actor, and a complicated individual. The memoir is extremely candid, including some strange details. In the book, Jennifer Grant addressed rumors about her father’s sexuality:
“Was Dad gay? My gut instinct was [that] he was straight. Perhaps his maverick nature coupled with his grace made him difficult to categorize. Perhaps he had what Virginia Woolf described as ‘an androgynous mind.’ I’m sure he was sometimes a bit flirty with men.”
Ultimately, Good Stuff details the ordinary life of an extraordinary star. Grant’s softer side shines through Jennifer’s writing, and it’s no wonder that his daughter went on to name her own son after her dad. It’s clear Cary Grant’s amazing legacy lives on through his family.