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More than a biography, this is a savvy portrait of how Archie Leach, born to a poor working-class family in Bristol, England became Cary Grant, one of Hollywood's most irresistible and admired celebrities of all time.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780231108850
ISBN-10: 0231108850
Format: Paperback
(233mm x 173mm x 20mm)
Pages: 352
Imprint: Columbia University Press
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publish Date: 12-May-1998
Country of Publication: United States


UK Kirkus Review » On-Screen, Cary Grant was, like Guinness, the very model of suavity and elegant humour, as well as a master of his craft. The most accomplished light comedian of his time, he lived an uneasy private life; only his last, very late marriage was successful. The feeling is that he invented the personality of Grant as a means of escape. Born in Bristol in 1904 to a tailor's presser and the daughter of a shipwright, Archibald Alec Leach joined a travelling troupe of acrobats at 14 and by the time he made his Hollywood screen debut in 1932 had transformed himself. This, latest biography of him, is complete and has as much to say about his films as about the man himself. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » A delightful appreciation of the archetypal movie star who defined screen sophistication. In a pleasing mix of life story and film analysis, a seasoned biographer and teacher (Cambridge Univ.) meditates on the idea of Cary Grant and the actual person. With compassion, he recalls Grant's (ne Archie Leach) hard life in working-class Bristol and troubled relationships with his parents. Music halls and American theater helped Leach hone his craft, but not until he had been in Hollywood for years and made The Awful Truth (1937) did he gain the confidence to become a star. Director Leo McCarey's interest in improvisation and his ability to help Grant "think more carefully about what . . . he was trying to do in front of a camera" were key. A string of Grant hits followed, all capitalizing on his ability to embody urbane egalitarianism. Hitchcock caught his dark side and elusiveness in Suspicion (1941) and later in Notorious, To Catch a Thief, and North by Northwest. After his 1966 retirement, he excelled in business, became a first-time father, and was bitterly divorced from his fourth wife, actress Dyan Cannon. A quiet life and a happy fifth marriage lasted until his death in 1986. Throughout, McCann refers comfortably to the arsenal of Grant literature, notably reprising Stanley Cavell's use of Emerson to capture Grant - "fit to stand the gaze of millions." One source of disagreement is the bisexuality claim in Charles Higham and Roy Moseley's bio: McCann debunks it in point-by-point blows. Finally, despite any unbecoming marital conduct and early embrace of LSD, McCann believes Grant remains an exemplary movie star because he behaved in public and toward his audience with decorum. Neat, well researched, and witty, the book earns respect for the author and a familiar wry smile at its reincarnation of Cary Grant. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Graham McCann

Graham McCann teaches at King's College, Cambridge University.

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