Who an actor is should never be confused with the roles he plays, but cinematic history is littered with talented people done in by their offscreen personalities and/or personal lives. Those successful at avoiding such fate are often playing a part even when they aren’t playing a part. Cary Grant was a master of such role-playing. When not in character, he was the ultimate gentleman: confident, stylish, charming, and in control, with just the right amount of masculinity and aloofness. This facade made it all the harder to get to know him. Hollywood biographer Scott Eyman’s new book Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise tries to find the real man, Archibald Leach, who became Cary Grant.
Grant reached a level of fame rarely achieved, let alone sustained over decades, with so many great films bearing his name. The actor often joked that he wished he was Cary Grant. He was always torn between his origins as a poor kid from Bristol and the Hollywood legend he became. A friend once wrote of Grant, “when we were out together in Beverly Hills, people usually didn’t approach him, or interfere. He was an object of awe. Being famous, visibly famous, is a terrible fate.” The truth is that Grant had a brilliantly constructed persona, better than anything a studio marketing team could have developed.
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