Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

CARY GRANT


CARY GRANT. Marc Eliot. Harmony Books. 2004.

This is a readable if not especially revelatory look at the life of Cary Grant from his troubled early years in England, to his stage career in New York, to his highly successful film career, as well as his involvement with actor Randolph Scott and his four marriages to women. It seems pretty clear to the reader (if not necessarily to Eliot) that Grant was essentially a gay man who, while initially free-spirited and free-thinking and without any special qualms about his sexuality, spent his later years (once stardom came upon him during a much less tolerant period) running from his sexual identity, always eager to preserve his image and the career that gave him so many options, not the least of which was financial. Eliot makes some attempt to explore the man's complexity but despite some details of his long relationship with Scott is less successful keeping an honest tab on his true sexuality. Eliot is not a film historian – most of his previous books were on rock and folk music – so he recycles such ancient canards as John Gilbert not having a voice fit for sound pictures and he classifies Howard Hughes strictly as a heterosexual. At one point he writes that Shirley Temple “had set off a generation of middle-aged men into cold sweats while still a toddler”(!) His descriptions of Grant's looks, appeal and acting ability occasionally border on the poetic but sometimes veer into the pretentious. While the ultimate book on Cary Grant has yet to be written, this is not at all bad for readers who are unfamiliar with previous biographies of the actor.

Verdict: Okay as intro to Grant. **1/2.

3 comments:

Raquelle said...

Yikes! I forgot about that Shirley Temple line. That's very creepy.

I did enjoy reading this. It's a bio for those who like their bios extra juicy. My favorite line is about Cary Grant's chin (its resemblance to a woman's derriere, hee hee).

Don't you love the cover? The name "Cary Grant" isn't on it, but the image of him is so iconic, it's not necessary.

Eliot's Jimmy Stewart bio was an interesting read too. Although Stewart was such a wholesome guy, digging up dirt on him was not possible.

William said...

I'll have to catch up with his Jimmy Stewart book. You're right that Stewart is not as interesting a subject as Grant!

Thanks for your comments!

Anonymous said...

I could not stand this book!! It was filled with errors and you could tell that Eliot does not really know his subject. Do yourself a favor and stay away!!!