Cary Grant (born Archibald Alec Leach; January 18, 1904 – November 29, 1986) was a British-American actor, known as one of Hollywood's definitive leading men.
He began a career in Hollywood in the early 1930s and became an American citizen in 1942.
No other man seemed so classless and self-assured ... at ease with the romantic as the comic ... aged so well and with such fine style ... in short, played the part so well: Cary Grant made men seem like a good idea. —Biographer Graham McCann on Cary Grant
During his acting career, between 1932 and 1966, Grant acted in at least 76 films. He was an extremely versatile actor able to play comedy as well as more serious roles. Alfred Hitchcock thought that Grant was very effective in playing darker roles, with a mysterious, dangerous quality, remarking that "there is a frightening side to Cary that no one can quite put their finger on".
He initially appeared in crime films or dramas such as Blonde Venus (1932) and She Done Him Wrong (1933), but later gained reknown for his appearances in romantic comedy and screwball comedy films such as The Awful Truth (1937), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940) and The Philadelphia Story (1940), along with the later Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) and I Was a Male War Bride (1949).
In the 1940s and 1950s, Grant forged a working relationship with the director Alfred Hitchcock, appearing in films such as Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959). Hitchcock admired Grant and considered him to have been the only actor that he had ever loved working with. Grant received five Golden Globe Award for Best Actor nominations, including Indiscreet (1958) with Ingrid Bergman, That Touch of Mink (1962) with Doris Day, and Charade (1963) with Audrey Hepburn.
Grant was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Penny Serenade (1941) and None But the Lonely Heart (1944), but never won a competitive Oscar. He received a special Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1970. The inscription on his statuette read "To Cary Grant, for his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with respect and affection of his colleagues". On being presented with the award, his friend Frank Sinatra announced: "It was made for the sheer brilliance of acting ... No one has brought more pleasure to more people for so many years than Cary has, and nobody has done so many things so well".
In 1981, he was accorded the Kennedy Centre Honours and in 1999, the American Film Institute named Grant the second greatest male star of Golden Age Hollywood cinema (after Humphrey Bogart).
Why is he on the site? Grant began experimenting with the drug LSD in the late 1950s, before it became popular.
"Hitch and I had a rapport and understanding deeper than words. He was a very agreeable human being, and we were very compatible ... Nothing ever went wrong. He was so incredibly well prepared. I’ve never known anyone as capable"
Cary Grant and LSD
Cary Grant was possibly the first mainstream celebrity to espouse the virtues of psychedelic drugs. Whereas novelist Aldous Huxley's famous 1954 treatise The Doors of Perception recounted his experiences with mescaline, Grant was one of the biggest stars Hollywood had to offer and his endorsement of subconscious exploration, arguably created more interest in LSD than Dr. Timothy Leary who was largely preaching to the converted. When Ladies Home Journal and Good Housekeeping interviewed him, the topic of conversation wasn't Cary's favourite recipe. Instead, Cary Grant was telling happy homemakers that LSD was the greatest thing in the world.
Cary Grant had been interested in various forms of mysticism throughout the nineteen fifties. Initially he was fascinated by hypnosis, particularly self-hypnosis as a means to achieve "complete relaxation." And it was Betsy Drake, Grant's third wife, who introduced him to the therapeutic uses of hypnosis, but via Sally Brophy - a young actress working in dramatic television and Betsy Drake's best friend – he discovered LSD.
Sally attended The Psychiatric Institute of Beverly Hills, where she was engaged in an innovative new program: LSD therapy. The directors of the institute were Drs. Arthur L. Chandler and Mortimer A. Hartman. In due time the pair would be administering LSD treatments to over one hundred different subjects, including future Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg. Sally sought the treatments for help with deep-seated anxiety.
Hartman was a radiologist and practicing psychotherapist, and had himself undergone five years of classical Freudian analysis and used LSD with his wife at the start of the decade. Brophy, thrilled with the effect of her psychedelic sessions, strongly encouraged Betsy Drake to make an appointment.
Dr. Hartman administered LSD to Betsy in a series of controlled experiments, thirty-one in all. She reported back to Cary Grant the astounding consummation of the guided treatments.
"You learn to die under LSD. You face up to all the urges in you - love, sex, jealousy, the wish to kill. Freud is [merely] the road map ... I came up against true reality in myself for the first time."
Cary Grant was sold. Betsy had been right, he felt, about self-hypnosis and hence, trusted her faith in LSD. At the end of 1958, the institute put Grant through a series of tests to assure he had no active psychoses or suicidal tendencies. Anybody who showed such symptoms would not advance to LSD treatment, the risk of an adverse reaction thought to be too great.
The initial purpose would be for Cary to deal with the angst, distress and other unresolved issues he had in relation to his mother. Grant was also hoping that the treatment could heal him of his emotional pain and rid of all of his inner turmoil stemming from his childhood and his failed relationships.
Grant was married five times; three of his marriages were elopements with actresses—Virginia Cherrill (1934–1935), Betsy Drake (1949–1962) and Dyan Cannon (1965–1968). He had one daughter with Cannon, Jennifer Grant (born 1966).
Cary was instructed to not consume any sedatives, tranquilizers or analgesics for the twenty-four hours prior, nor was he to eat any food in the four hours leading up to his first session. After the trip he was to be monitored and accompanied by a helper for the rest of the evening. He was not to operate a vehicle until the following day. He arrived weekly, every Saturday morning, to take LSD and deal with suppressed feelings. For the next several years Grant spent hundreds of hours in his psychiatrist's office in psychedelic exploration. He would forever after refer to Dr. Hartman as "My wise Mahatma." Grant felt that his own wisdom was extended to new heights. Many of his friends and contemporaries were astounded by the ethereal philosophy he started to spout.
He had an estimated 100 sessions over several years. For a long time, Grant viewed the drug positively, and stated that it was the solution after many years of "searching for his peace of mind", and that for first time in his life he was "truly, deeply and honestly happy". But it is also clear that Grant found the experiences revelatory, aside from their healing capacity - "I learned many things in the quiet of that room ... I learned that everything is or becomes its own opposite ...
Betsy Drake came first ... then Cary. I was not part of the Hollywood scene, and yet many Hollywood people came to me. I chose my patients on the basis of their creativity. One recommended another. [Cary Grant] was searching for answers, but the deterministic approach doesn't work. Things just happen. He was a highly introspective man and an excellent patient ... He came over a period of three years ... During the periods when he wasn't working, he came once a week. He arrived at nine and left around three ... He never called me to say he was having difficulty. LSD was not recreational for Cary. It was a very serious experiment.
Cary Grant also defended LSD and its therapeutic use many times, for example:
I've heard that a man here and there died during LSD25 sessions; but then I've heard that men died during poker games and while watching horse racing; but that didn't seem to stop such occupations.
Those men might have died anywhere while doing anything.
Men have also died testing airplanes and parachutes, vaccines and common cold cures. In attempting to traverse the next step into progress and knowledge, men have always died. But there is a difference between the man who knows what he's about with a high-powered airplane, and an idiot who puts wings on a bicycle and takes off from the edge of Niagara Falls.
Although the use of LSD at the time was not illegal, Grant survived a number of public relations incidents caused by his own use and the actions of his doctors. In August 1963, for example, the Beverly Hills police arrested Dr. Arthur L. Chandler. The LA Times said that "Sheriff's deputies reportedly found 500 carefully tended marijuana plants growing in the neatly terraced gardens of his expensive hillside home ... Protesting that he had a special government stamp that permitted him to grow marijuana [for research purposes], Dr. Arthur L. Chandler was booked at the West Hollywood Police Station." Grant distanced himself from Chandler saying that although he had attended his clinic, it was Dr. Mortimer Hartman who was his therapist.
People’s impressions of Cary under LSD therapy were mixed, but the positive comments included ones like this:
The changes in Cary as a result of [LSD] treatment have been extraordinary. He's bloomed. He's lost his reticence and shyness.
The barricade has been swept away ... and he's now free and spontaneous.
He's got a freshness, an alertness, an awareness of things he never had before. Why, he's almost like a kid.
We have concentrated on Grant’s private life rather than his film career in order to explore the demons that Grant was trying to rid himself of.
Grant was born Archibald Alec Leach on January 18, 1904 at 15 Hughenden Road in the northern Bristol suburb of Horfield. He was the second child of Elias James Leach (1873–1935) and Elsie Maria Leach (née Kingdon; 1877–1973). Elias worked as a tailor's presser at a clothes factory while Elsie worked as a seamstress. Grant had a very unhappy upbringing; his father was an alcoholic, and his mother suffered from clinical depression.
Grant's elder brother, John William Elias Leach (1899–1900), died of tuberculous meningitis. The biographer, Geoffrey Wansell states that John was a "sickly child" who developed gangrene on his arms after a door was slammed on his thumbnail while Elsie was holding him. Elsie stayed up night after night nursing him and when he died one night that she stopped watching over him upon the insistence of the doctor that she get some rest, she eternally blamed herself for the death and never recovered from it. She was also strict frowning on alcohol and tobacco, and would reduce his pocket money for minor mishaps.
When Grant was nine years old, his father placed his mother in Glenside Hospital (a mental institution), and told him that she had gone away on a "long holiday", later declaring that she had died. Grant did not learn that his mother was still alive until he was 31, when his father confessed to the lie, shortly before his own death. Grant made arrangements for his mother to leave the institution in June 1935, shortly after he learned of her whereabouts.
After Elsie was gone, Grant and his father moved into the home of his grandmother in Bristol. When Grant was 10, his father remarried and started a new family. In 1915, Grant won a scholarship to attend Fairfield Grammar School in Bristol, although his father could barely afford to pay for the uniform. Although able at most academic subjects, he was not interested in school and his evenings were spent working backstage in Bristol theatres. In 1917, at the age of 13, he was responsible for the lighting for the magician David Devant at the Hippodrome. Grant began hanging around backstage at the theatre at every opportunity. In the summer he volunteered for work as a messenger boy and guide at the military docks in Southampton, to escape the unhappiness of his home life. The time spent at Southampton strengthened his desire to travel; he was eager to leave Bristol and tried to sign on as a ship's cabin boy, but learned he was too young. On March 13, 1918, Grant was expelled from Fairfield.
Grant joined Pender's troupe three days after being expelled from Fairfield. Grant's expulsion from the school brought local authorities to his father’s door with questions about why his son was living in Bristol and not with his father in Southampton. Upon learning that his son was with the Pender troupe, Elias co-signed a three-year contract between his son and Pender. The contract stipulated Grant's weekly salary along with room and board, as well as dancing lessons and other training for his profession until the age of 18. There was also a provision in the contract for salary rises based on job performance.
He visited the USA, toured the country as a stage performer, and decided to stay in New York City after a performance there. He established a name for himself in vaudeville in the 1920s and toured the United States before moving to Hollywood in the early 1930s.
Grant was married five times. He wed Virginia Cherrill on February 9, 1934 at Caxton Hall registry office in London. She divorced him on March 26, 1935, following charges that Grant had hit her. The two were involved in a bitter divorce case which was widely reported in the press, with Cherrill demanding $1000 a week from her husband in benefits from his Paramount earnings. After the demise of the marriage, he dated actress Phyllis Brooks from 1937. The relationship ended late in 1939.
Grant became a naturalized United States citizen on June 26, 1942, at which time he also legally changed his name to "Cary Grant". Grant agreed that "Archie just doesn't sound right in America. It doesn't sound particularly right in Britain either".
That year he married Barbara Hutton, one of the wealthiest women in the world following a $50 million inheritance from her grandfather, Frank Winfield Woolworth.
The couple was derisively nicknamed "Cash and Cary", although in an extensive prenuptial agreement Grant refused any financial settlement in the event of a divorce, to avoid the accusation that he married for money. Grant was quoted as saying: "I may not have married for very sound reasons, but money was never one of them."
Towards the end of their marriage they lived in a white mansion at 10615 Bellagio Road in Bel Air. After divorcing in 1945, they remained the "fondest of friends".
After dating Betty Hensel for a period, on December 25, 1949, Grant married Betsy Drake, the co-star of two of his films. This would prove to be his longest marriage, ending on August 14, 1962. It is clear from Grant’s own descriptions of his experimental therapy with LSD, that Betsy was well aware of his childhood problems and also supported him in his visits to the therapy sessions – often waiting outside for him.
Cary Grant married actress Dyan Cannon on July 22, 1965, at friend Howard Hughes' Desert Inn in Las Vegas. Their daughter, Jennifer, was born on February 26, 1966. Jennifer is Grant's only child. He said of fatherhood:
"My life changed the day Jennifer was born. I've come to think that the reason we're put on this earth is to procreate.
To leave something behind.
Not films, because you know that I don't think my films will last very long once I'm gone. But another human being.
That's what's important."
During their messy divorce proceedings two years later, Cannon accused him of numerous things during the divorce proceedings - "yelling and screaming fits," and that he “spanked her and used LSD for ten years”. Much of this testimony was aiming to prove that Grant was “an unfit father because of his instability." A psychiatrist, Dr. J. Marmor, testified at the trial that, "I find no reason to believe that [LSD] had harmed [Cary Grant] or caused lingering negative effects ... Mr. Grant tends to be an emotional individual, but I have often seen that in actors."
Cannon’s testimony did not always sound as negative as she presumably meant it to be; she said for example that once "He locked himself in my dressing room, where he began reading poetry ... “
On March 21, 1968, Judge Robert A. Wenke ruled that Grant was to pay fifty thousand dollars a year in child support and would be allowed to visit his daughter.
One of the more fascinating aspects about Cary Grant's opinions on drugs is that he supported the use of LSD, but had nothing but contempt for marijuana. Grant's lover throughout the seventies was Maureen Donaldson. She said that "He hated the mere idea of smoke and he ... rejected my suggestion we smoke some grass one afternoon as a prelude to making love." Donaldson recalled that he worried about his daughter being in the care of Dyan Cannon, "[My daughter] is not going to learn any responsibility from her. Jennifer's mother has late-night parties and smokes marijuana and God knows what else."
On April 11, 1981, Grant married Barbara Harris, a British hotel public relations agent who was 47 years his junior. The two had met at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London five years earlier where Harris was working at the time and Grant attending a Fabergé conference. The two became friends, but it was not until 1979 that she moved to live with him in California. Friends of Grant considered her to have had an extremely positive impact on Grant, and Prince Rainier of Monaco remarked that he had "never been happier" than he was in his last years with her.
Grant was at the Adler Theatre in Davenport, Iowa, on the afternoon of November 29, 1986, preparing for his performance in Conversation with Cary Grant when he was taken ill.
He was taken back to the Blackhawk Hotel where he and his wife Barbara had checked in, and a doctor was called and discovered that Grant was having a massive stroke, with a blood pressure reading of 210 over 130. Grant refused to be taken to hospital. The doctor recalled that "The stroke was getting worse. In only fifteen minutes he deteriorated rapidly. It was terrible watching him die and not being able to help. But he wouldn't let us". By 8:45 p.m. Grant had slipped into a coma and was taken to St. Luke's Hospital. He spent 45 minutes in emergency before being transferred to intensive care, where he was pronounced dead at 11:22 p.m. He was 82.
Grant's body was taken back to California, where it was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean.
Cary Grant would respect and admire Dr. Mortimer A. Hartman for the rest of his days, crediting him with changing his life. Although Grant eventually lost contact with the doctor and did not see him for the last fifteen years of his life, he never forgot him. Explaining one of the things he learned on LSD to Ladies Home Journal he said,
"In life there is no end to getting well. Perhaps death itself is the end to getting well. Or, if you prefer to think as I do, the beginning of being well."
The bulk of his estate, worth in the region of 60 to 80 million dollars, went to his wife Barbara Harris and his daughter Jennifer Grant. But at the reading of his last will and testament it was revealed that Grant had left Dr. Mortimer A. Hartman, ten thousand dollars.
" Once you realize that you have all things inside you, love and hate alike, and you learn to accept them, then you can use your love to exhaust your hate ... You can relax ... Then you can do more than you ever dreamed you could do ... That moment when your conscious meets your subconscious is a helluva wrench. You feel the whole top of your head lifting off."
Daily Variety wrote of Wings in the Dark: "Cary Grant tops all his past work. The part gave him a dimension to play with and he took it headlong. He never flaws in the moving, pathetic, but inspiring behaviour of a man whose career seems ruined by an accident but comes back through a mental hell, by virtue of love and the saving ruses of friendship. "
We have provided more than one observation about Cary Grant and his use of LSD, as it allows us to not only provide different perspectives from witnesses' point of view, but also comparisons with Cary's own perspective of its effects.
- Schickel, Richard (1998). Cary Grant: A Celebration by Richard Schickel..
- McCann, Graham (1997). Cary Grant: A Class Apart. London: Fourth Estate. Also published by Columbia University Press, 1998
- The Ageless Cary Grant by Richard Gehman (September 1960, Good Housekeeping)
- Archie Leach by Cary Grant and Joe Hyams (Jan/Feb/March/April 1963, Ladies Home Journal)
- Grant, Jennifer (May 3, 2011) - Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant.
- Klein, Terrance W. (2009). Vanity Faith: Searching for Spirituality Among the Stars.
- Wansell, Geoffrey (1996). Cary Grant, Dark Angel.
For iPad/iPhone users: tap letter twice to get list of items.
- Grant, Cary - Debbie Reynolds describes Cary Grant's use of LSD
- Grant, Cary - Gloria Powell, National Police Gazette, December 1967 on Cary’s LSD use
- Grant, Cary - Graham McCann on how LSD helped Grant with his burdens
- Grant, Cary - Joe Hymans describes Cary Grant's use of LSD
- Grant, Cary – Describes the LSD experience