CARY GRANT by Graham McCann


A Class Apart
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 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 (nÇ 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. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 6th, 1997
ISBN: 0-231-10884-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Columbia Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1996


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