HAUNTED IDOL: The Story of the Real Cary Grant by Geoffrey Wansell

HAUNTED IDOL: The Story of the Real Cary Grant

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He has spent most of his career trying to forget his childhood, to erase the poverty of his upbringing by a relentless pursuit of wealth, and to overcome the paralyzing fear of women instilled in him by his doting but mentally unstable mother."" So writes Wansell in this cheesy, nasty-toned biography--which brings to mind the lowest descents of Charles Higham. Despite some new interview-material, virtually everything is over-familiar here--thanks to Lionel Godfrey's 1981 bio, the famous Pauline Kael essay, and Richard Schickel's Cary Grant (1983). There's Grant's unhappy Bristol childhood; his beginnings in vaudeville; the new life in the US--first in bad Broadway musicals, then as a fledgling matinee idol with a name-change. (""He knew that to succeed he had to become someone else. . . ."") Even with movie-stardom, he remained depressed, fussy, stingy, insecure, afraid of women. A first marriage fizzled. There were those rumors (sleazily recycled here) about his roommateship with Randolph Scott. Then came Barbara Hutton--""a woman he could protect, not a small fierce mother to argue with""--but his moodiness and her grandiose lifestyle ruined things. Then came temporary retirement and Betsy Drake: ""He felt free for the first time in his life""--especially after Betsy introduced him to yoga, psychotherapy, and LSD. But then came Sophia Loren (he ""fell in love""), the troubles of a fading career and that aging image. And then came Dyan Cannon, who found herself ""the companion of a persnickety, obsessed man haunted by,"" etc.--with another run-through of the ugly divorce and Grant's preoccupation with his young daughter. The Schickel book, though flawed, at least tries to use this thin psycho-biographical notion to illuminate Grant's film career; Wansell offers only skimpy, sloppy treatment of the movies themselves. The result, then, is the limpest sort of pseudo-psychological celeb bio--tackily conceived, poorly written.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow