DATELINE: Transforming Archie Leach
With permission and cooperation of his daughter Jennifer, we discover Cary Grant took many home movies of his life off-screen—and wrote an autobiography never published.
These are the basis for an extraordinary documentary called Becoming Cary Grant. Indeed, Archie Leach became movie star Cary in a titanic demonstration of willpower. To go from a poor, abandoned child in Bristol, England, to the world’s epitome of a debonair, charming superstar was not an accident of fate.
Yet, fate played a hideous joke on Cary. At age 11, his mother simply disappeared—and his father went off to marry another woman and raise a new family. Archie Leach was sent to a grandparent. Lonely and confused, he discovered vaudeville where people were happy, had fun, cared and performed on stage. He joined instantly, settling in New York at age 18 to become a dashing stage actor.
Later he went to Hollywood where a test led to something akin to instant stardom. Around that time he learned his mother had spent 20 years in an English lunatic asylum. He rescued her from that fate—and became Cary Grant almost simultaneously.
Interestingly, he chose his darker film roles as autobiographical commentary. He let directors like Hitchcock, George Cukor, and Henry Hawks, transform him into something remarkable: a man for all seasons. He could play cold-hearted cads or epicene nerds with equal likeability.
Jonathan Pryce reads Cary’s own words over many film clips that have new insight to his real issues. Grant was neither English, nor American, in his tone. He appealed to both men and women, and he was always well-mannered and self-deprecating. No wonder he remains the camera’s favorite leading man.
Whatever Cary’s personal troubles, he worked hard at becoming a better person and happier in his personal work and life. The documentary exudes with his hypnotic personality, his magnetic appeal. No matter what problems beset him, he gave the world something special.