Film historian Eyman (Hank and Jim) presents an enjoyable if overstuffed biography that reveals screen legend Cary Grant (1904–1986) as a man whose self-presentation as a “matchless specimen of masculine charm” masked deep insecurities. Born Archibald Alexander Leach in Bristol, England, Grant had an unsettled upbringing, thanks to his alcoholic father and neurotic, smothering mother, which would “leave him needing and rejecting love... almost simultaneously” throughout his life. The book is at its best when depicting Grant’s early years as an acrobat and vaudevillian, which took him to America. Eyman then chronicles Grant’s early—and often terrible—forays into film, followed by masterworks such as His Girl Friday, The Philadelphia Story, and Notorious. The back-lot gossip will most likely entertain casual fans more than the intricate box office and budget details. The longtime speculation about Grant’s bisexuality comes up often, but would benefit from more nuanced consideration. Other threads involve Grant’s multiple marriages and notorious stinginess (house guests reported receiving laundry and phone bills from the wealthy star). But also on display is his generosity of spirit with less experienced costars and colleagues, and his devotion to his only child, Jennifer, born late in his life to fourth wife Dyan Cannon. Though overlong and burdened by extraneous detail, this showbiz chronicle creates an insightful portrait of a man at war with himself. (Oct.)
"As Scott Eyman's masterful biography reveals, being 'Cary Grant' required A Brilliant Disguise. This is a riveting, scrupulously researched account of how Archie Leach, a penniless runaway from a broken home, willed himself into becoming one of the most iconic stars in Hollywood history. In examining Grant's incredible feat of self-invention and the steep price the actor paid for his extraordinary success, Eyman once again demonstrates why he is one of our finest biographers."
"The long quest by Scott Eyman to reclaim the Golden Age of Hollywood reaches its apotheosis with this always intelligent, carefully documented, intimate life story that helps explain the charm, genius, and immortality of Cary Grant."
Was there ever a more fabulously charming, witty, stylish and seductive movie star than Cary Grant? Scott Eyman’s biography peers under the hood of Hollywood’s most self-invented persona to explore the anxious, self-pitying, needy and depressed narcissist lurking within. Eyman does so with empathy, critical admiration and a deeply historical perspective that bring to life not just this remarkable performer but the golden age of Hollywood that he dominated.
"Here is the astonishing story of someone with enormous talent and charm, who never quite believed he had become the man he most wanted to be. And how lucky we were, his adoring public, to have watched it happen."
Praise for Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart
"[A] remarkably absorbing, supremely entertaining joint biography of two Hollywood legends."
—The New York Times Book Review
"Scott Eyman has a gift for exploring subjects we think we know, then deepening and enriching that knowledge through diligent research and his gift of observation. This book is no exception. Henry Fonda and James Stewart have never been captured so well, nor has their extraordinary fifty-year friendship.”
John Wayne: The Life and Legend
"Authoritative and engaging."
—Peter Bogdanovich, The New York Times Book Review
"Deeply researched and totally absorbing."
—The Wall Street Journal
"Wayne's intimates have told Eyman things here that they've never told anyone else."
—The Los Angeles Times
Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer
"Wonderfully readable . . . [Eyman] tracks Mayer's rise and fall with exhaustive detail and novelistic sweep."
—Manohla Dargis, New York Times Books Review
"Anyone interested in filmmaking, then or now, should read Eyman's book at least twice."
—Robert Osborne, The Hollywood Reporter
Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford
"Eyman has emerged as one of the most distinguished and reliable of popular film historians."
—Washington Post Book World
Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise
"The book is written with the kind of intuitiveness that's rooted in knowledge and affection. Eyman's scholarship gives the reader pleasure."
As always, Scott Eyman builds on a bedrock of scrupulous research, spiking his narrative with juicy behind-the-scenes stories. The result is a richly detailed portrait of the man whose greatest performance was the one that fooled moviegoers for decades: the belief that Archie Leach was just like the movie star we knew as Cary Grant."
A wounded Cockney lad becomes a renowned movie star.
Among the several biographies of Cary Grant (1904-1986), prolific film historian Eyman’s version garners top billing. Replete with meticulous research, perceptive observations, and sharp critiques, this account of the actor’s life consistently engages and illuminates. The author focuses on the perennial actor’s tale: The protagonist flees a squalid childhood, first through fantasy and then through the realities of fame, glamour, and wealth. Grant was born Archibald Leach to working-class parents in Bristol, England. When he was 11, his alcoholic, emotionally absent father had his “emotionally and intellectually erratic” wife committed to an asylum for 20 years. Archie escaped this trauma at the local music hall, first working odd jobs and then appearing onstage, where he demonstrated a talent for comic gymnastics. Vaudeville work ensued, and the 16-year-old acrobat deserted a tour of America to work on Broadway. Soon came film work in Hollywood, as Archie gradually became the eternally suave, impeccably groomed Cary Grant. Honing his skills, Grant survived several undistinguished early efforts to make “an astonishing run of films” in which “his willingness to play the fool implied an ironic attitude toward his own good looks.” Backing encomiums of praise from Grant’s colleagues are Eyman’s keen descriptions of the actor’s techniques manifest in films such as Bringing Up Baby, The Awful Truth, Notorious, and None but the Lonely Heart. Grant’s personal life, on the other hand, gets mixed reviews: Only his fifth marriage succeeded, though the birth of a child during his fourth marriage, to Dyan Cannon, brought him lasting happiness. Canny business dealings, meanwhile, provided enormous financial reward. To the undying rumors that Grant was gay, Eyman replies, “there is plausible evidence [which the author examines] to place him inside any sexual box you want—gay, bi, straight.” The author’s vivid profiles of Grant’s co-workers—designer Orry-Kelly, director Leo McCarey, writer Clifford Odets, and many others—create a colorful mural of Hollywood during its golden age.
Top-shelf film history.