This week our lovely Vintage Librarian Claire Pursglove is reviewing a book on the life-story of a certain Archie Leach from Bristol – better known as Cary Grant – who just happened to find fame and fortune as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Cary Grant: A Biography – Marc Eliot
Aurum Press, £8.99

Biographies/autobiographies are easily my favourite genre of book. I find stories so much more fascinating when they are true. To know that what is encased between the covers (bar a few inevitable uses of poetic licence!) actually happened, really thrills me, whatever the outcome of the tale.

As you can imagine, the story of a legend such as Cary Grant makes for pretty gripping reading. Eliot has written a brilliantly researched and wonderfully written account of Grant’s life, from his humble Bristol beginnings as Archie Leach, to his final days as a screen icon. In his intriguing journey he managed to pack in a lot: a career as a male escort, five marriages, a long term live-in relationship with Randolph Scott, dabblings with LSD (medicinal in those days) and more than one run-in with the FBI.

This is of course, all intertwined with his astonishing film career in over 70 movies, including Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, Notorious, Monkey Business, To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest. His astute business acumen saw him become the first freelance actor in the days of the studio contract; a move that saved his career and boosted his bank balance, but meant that industry awards eluded him until very late in life.

For someone so handsome, this book shows us that Grant was so much more than just a pretty face or another Hollywood bed-hopper. He was in fact very introspective and was constantly tried to find himself in relation to his on-screen persona and in the eyes of his lovers. I am just so glad that I found a small glimpse of Cary Grant in this book.

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