Nonfiction Friday: Cary Grant, A Class Apart by Graham McCann

Graham McCann’s autobiography of Cary Grant carries the reader through his life from birth to death with intimate looks at every stage. I have loved Cary Grant since the first time I laid eyes on him and this book did nothing to shake that love.


A biography narrating how the English working-class boy Archie Leach transformed himself into the actor Cary Grant and a role model of elegance and class for the socially ambitious around the world. from Amazon.



This is, quite possibly, the shortest synopsis I have ever seen for a book. Understandably so, since few people are ignorant of Cary Grant’s existence or his lasting impact on the silver screen. Take, for example, this classic bit.

An interview with a Two Hour Old Baby

Interviewer: Do you know the important people in the world today?

Two Hour Old Baby: Well, some. I don’t know, I’m not sure.

Interviewer: You don’t know what you know?

Two Hour Old Baby: No.

Interviewer: Do you know, for instance, Mickey Mouse?

Two Hour Old Baby: No.

Interviewer: Queen Elizabeth?

Two Hour Old Baby: No.

Interviewer: Winston Churchill?

Two Hour Old Baby: Ah, no,

Interviewer: Fidel Castro?

Two Hour Old Baby? No.

Interviewer: Pandit Nehru?

Two Hour Old Baby: No.

Interviewer: Have you heard of Cary Grant?

Two Hour Old Baby: Oh, sure! Everybody knows Cary Grant!

Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, “The Two Hour Old Baby” from Cary Grant, A Class Apart.

Before reading this book I felt the same as the Two Hour Baby. That I knew Cary Grant. After all, I possessed the knowledge that Cary Grant was born Archie Leach, that he had a strange relationship with his Mother, and that he made an enormous number of movies. I even knew about his solo front top tooth. Look at me – I’m a massive fan! Blah. I knew nothing.

Cary Grant was indeed born Archie Leach. But, he didn’t change his name until he was 27. That is a longtime to inhabit one name only to become intertwined with another. Which makes it all the more understandable that Grant frequently referred to Archie in real life and in movies.

A “strange relationship with his Mother”? That is the understatement of the year for me! Grant’s Mother was committed to an asylum when he was a child. She was home one day and gone the next. Grant was told she was going to a resort to rest and, at one point, he was told that she had died. Really, his father just wanted her out of the way so he could start a new life with his current mistress. Only after his Father’s death did the payments to the asylum stop and Grant found out his Mother was still alive. She disappeared when he was 11 and he discovered her again at 30.

Furthermore, I think I have seen 15-20 of Grant’s films. That isn’t even half of the SEVENTY-TWO films he made in his lifetime. I was just blown away by the sheer number of films. I am nearly as impressed by the number as I am by the fact that when Grant declared himself retired he actually retired.

This book is full of such interesting tidbits and information that the hours listening to it passed too quickly. The more I learned about Grant the more I realized I actually understood the most important thing: the magic of Cary Grant. Cary Grant was, and will probably remain forever, the master of making everyone feel that they knew and liked him through his movies. Whether a movie did well or not, Grant remained unscathed. It just took a moment, a small tug at the corner of his mouth, or the twinkle in his eye, to hook you. And once he did, it was forever.

Considering this magical quality, it would be difficult to write about someone like Cary Grant and not fall in love with him. McCann might be accused of this, but who wouldn’t be? Still, the biography feels balanced and fact-based in contrast to some that have been published before and have relied heavily on gossip and conjecture. In the end, I became just a little more infatuated with the actor. Which, if I were being honest, I didn’t think was possible.

Tell me, please!

Have you ever been a fan of someone’s work only to discover there was so much you didn’t know about them?



11 thoughts on “Nonfiction Friday: Cary Grant, A Class Apart by Graham McCann

Add yours

  1. Based on what you have written here, I think I will try to obtain this book as I like Cary Grant and always found his entertainment honest and forthright. I am looking forward to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so excited to check out this book! I too love Cary Grant, although I’ve probably only seen 4 or 5 of his movies. I will definitely grab a copy of this book!


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