Hollywood has long been known as the "dream factory," a place where illusion can replace reality. It was just the place for Archie Leach, who combined a handsome, dapper, reserved and confident persona with tremendous talent to build a hugely successful movie career.
If the name Archie Leach doesn't ring a bell, how about Cary Grant? It was the stage name that Leach adopted and built into a household name. So popular was the Grant persona that the insecure, sometimes-tortured actor once said that he would have loved to have been Cary Grant, too.
Grant's story, which also is the story of Hollywood from its earliest days, is not for everyone. But if you find Hollywood, not to mention, tawdry backstage gossip, interesting, Marc Elliot's "Cary Grant: A Biography" is a fun read. It will never be mistaken for serious history, but who cares?
The athletic British actor came to America as part of an acrobatic troupe. When his fellow actors went home, he stayed, eventually moving to Broadway and then Hollywood. Signed as a potential successor to Gary Cooper, who always hated him because of it, Grant played a series of handsome leading man types until he broke from the studio system and became an independent actor. That's when he was cast in a series of hit comedies ("The Awful Truth," "Bringing Up Baby," "Arsenic and Old Lace," "His Girl Friday," "I Was a Male War Bride")that made him a star.
Direcor Alfred Hitchcock, always fascinated with Grant's acting possibilities, eventually cast him in a series of movies that called for a darker image, "Notorious," "Suspicion," "North by Northwest." Grant thrived there as well. He had success through four decades before deciding on his own to step away.
But behind the Grant image was flesh and blood, and Grant was a troubled man. He was married five times and had an ambiguous sexuality. Sometimes petty, always litigious, he was friends and enemies with some of the most famous people in Hollywood. It's a great story.
Previous recommendations from Jim's Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club are:
[–] "Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission" by Hampton Sides.
[–] "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" by Edmund Morris.
[–] "A Night to Remember" by Walter Lord.
[–] "April 1865: The Month That Saved America" by Jay Winik.
[–] "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" by Laura Hillenbrand.
[–] "Lindbergh" by A. Scott Berg.
[–] "The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963" by Laurence Leamer.
[–] "The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case" by Sam Roberts.
[–] "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy" by Jane Leavy.
[–] "Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who TookVegas for Millions" by Ben Mezrich.
[–] "Harry & Ike: The Partnership That Remade the Post-War World" by Steve Neal.
[–] "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis.
[–] "Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone" by Martin Dugard.
[–] "In Harms Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors" by Doug Stanton.
[–] "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34." by Bryan Burrough.
[–] "Flags of our Fathers," by James Bradley.