Saturday, 19 May 2012

Evenings with Cary Grant: Book Review


OK, so it's not a brand new book (the first edition was released in 1991). However, it looks like this gem of a book by Nancy Nelson will get another printing in September (see new cover below), and is certainly more than deserving of a shining book review.

 

In addition to daughter Jennifer Grant's portrait of her father in Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of my Father, and Dyan Cannon's (Jennifer's mother) book entitled Dear Cary, Evenings with Cary Grant is far and away the finest book tribute to Grant. Less a biography and more a compendium of quotes about Grant from people who knew him best, the book is a beautiful insight into the real Cary Grant. 

It seems that to those who knew him most, Grant wasn't unlike his legendary screen persona. He was witty, sophisticated, humble, and a kind and loving man. However, his darker side caused him to be unsettled and not truly satisfied in his life until his final years: once he had Jennifer (he called her his "greatest production") and met his final wife Barbara Harris, who he called his "best piece of magic." 

Author Nancy Nelson got to know Grant when he began his one-man tour called "An Evening with Cary Grant." Across the United States and Canada, Grant enchanted audiences as he answered questions, and shared anecdotes and film clips. Nelson was the woman who finally convinced Grant to embark on these presentations. He didn't believe that the public would be interested in him anymore, since in the early 1980s when the "evenings" began, Grant was pushing 80. Boy, was he wrong. Every session was always sold out, and Grant, not wanting the price to be unreasonable, never charged more than $25 a ticket. 

Nelson's close relationship with Grant reflects in her honest, heartfelt, and accurate book tribute. She also calls upon passages from many of Grant's closest friends and colleagues: Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart, Irene Dunne, Deborah Kerr, Elizabeth Taylor, Burt Reynolds, Quincy Jones, Prince Rainier, Virginia Cherrill (Grant's first wife), Betsy Drake (Grant's third wife), Jill St. John, and more. Other less famous friends also speak fondly of Grant and feature prominently in the book with wonderful anecdotes about Cary Grant away from the camera. 

Grant fans will delight in reading excerpts of his own letters to his friends and family (often full of wonderful wisdom and much humour) and reading Grant's own words, including some of his best answers from "An Evening with Cary Grant." A true treat, so we feel like we had the pleasure of seeing and hearing his wonderful presence in person. One particular letter that stands out is his letter to daughter Jennifer, right before she went off to college. The obvious love and admiration he had for his daughter fills the page. In the book Nelson states that Grant regretted never having more children, calling himself too self-centered in years past, and therefore, not becoming a father until he was over 60. 

Despite having Jennifer so late in life, Grant's friends said that he never seemed to age. Even at the time of his sudden death on November 29, 1986, friends said that he still acted (and looked!) like a young man. Friends are also quick to point out that despite the huge age difference between he and fifth wife Barbara, it was never the kind of relationship that required Barbara to dote on Grant. Burt Reynolds said, "They were like two kids together." 

I don't want to give away too many more anecdotes since the book is so deliciously full of them. But, I do want to encourage you to get your hands on a copy of this book. Whether you wait til September or find an existing copy now, you won't be disappointed. It's a breezy, heartfelt, and lovely read that makes you feel like you got to love and know the real Cary Grant.

Grant and daughter, Jennifer, 1970s.



2 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed your review.
    I'll probably order this book although I've read three on Cary already. I've just got so darn many other celeb bios to get through.

    I am a bit surprised that he didn't have more children. It's too bad that Jennifer was born late in his life, that he wasn't around to see her grow up. He would have been very proud I'm sure.
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  2. Thanks so much as always for your lovely comments. I know, I always have a list of celeb bios to read as well!

    I know, it sounds like he was a wonderful father and if he had had more, his children would have loved him dearly.

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