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2 Local Warehouse Film and Television- Actor Biographies

Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant

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Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant Cover

ISBN13: 9780307267108
ISBN10: 0307267105
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Excerpt

in my father's later years he asked several times that I remember him the way I knew him. He said that after his death, people would talk. They would say "things" about him and he wouldn't be there to defend himself. He beseechingly requested that I stick to what I knew to be true, because I truly knew him. I promised him I would. I've easily kept that oath. Although many books about him have been published, I've read none. Not out of a lack of interest. I'm sure there are some wonderful things I could learn about my father, but most likely more misconceptions than are worth weeding through. To me, he was like a marvelous painting. All the art historians wish to break down the motives, and the scheme, and so on. I would rather know, as I do, his essence. I believe that at the heart of a person lies passion. For the last twenty years of his life, I was given the extraordinary privilege to experience the full, vital passion of his heart. Dad used the expression "good stuff" to declare happiness or, as one of his friends put it, he said it when pleased with the nature of things. He said it a lot. He had a happy way of life. His life was "good stuff."

Just after my father's death, I graduated from Stanford. My

senior year I had worked as an intern at an advocacy firm in San Francisco. My plan was to take a job with this same firm and later move on to law school. When Dad died I shifted gears in ten seconds flat. I felt pulled, in an almost subterranean way, home to Los Angeles. Why? If Dad came home, that's where he'd be. Have I been waiting for Dad to come home all these years?

At some level it's still hard for me to admit that my father died. I can talk about it and around it, but those two words. "He died." What can that possibly mean? That I won't get to hear his voice again? That's not true; I have movies, I have all his taped conversations with me, I have pictures, I have slides. . . . I even have one of his sweaters in my closet. If I remember well enough, he will come back. He'll appear, out of thin air, at my door or in my living room, and we'll laugh and we'll hug and we'll talk and we'll hold hands, and maybe he can hold the baby while I make lunch for him. After all, he's a grandfather now. There's so much playing to be done. Watch out, baby Cary may pull your hair, Dad. And my dog, Oliver, is named after our mutual nickname, Ollie. In a Cockney accent we could greet each other with, " 'ello Ollie! 'ow ya' doin', Ollie?" Oliver and baby Cary will look at us sideways, and then my father will never leave again.

To write this book is to fully admit, more than twenty years later, that he died. To move on with my life. The tribute to my father is more than mildly overdue. Dad has been deservedly honored by everyone and their mother. The U.S. government even turned my father into a stamp. For many years I've stayed silent. Other tributes to Dad stem from the perspective of show business, where the intimate side of his life is somehow vaguely analyzed, but never revealed. I am my father's only child. The world knows a two-dimensional Cary Grant. As charming a star and as remarkable a gentleman as he was, he was still a more thoughtful and loving father.

Madame Sylvia Wu, the marvelous restaurateur, was close to Dad for more than forty years. When I called Auntie Sylvia to discuss the book, she sweetly chided, "It's about time!" Sadly, several of Dad's closest pals, among them Frank Sinatra, Charlie Rich, and Gregory Peck, are no longer alive to share their memories of him.

Privacy was a gift our family worked hard to maintain. Selfishly, I have guarded my memories of Dad, clutching them to preserve that part of him that I alone knew.

Why didn't Dad write his own book? One archived audio cassette recorded in 1962 is a self-hypnosis session made for Dad. He was being instructed to exercise, gently, daily, and to write his autobiography. Presumably these are activities he wished to pursue, and he'd hired someone to help him with autosuggestion. The woman soothingly advised that he complete his autobiography with tremendous compassion for his subjects and not to worry, not to criticize the work, just to do it. Also, to exercise a bit each day. This was four years prior to my birth. Was Dad examining his life before having a child? Why didn't Dad finish his book? Did he consider revealing his history, his childhood, to the world? He never spoke of the endeavor, but he saved the tape for me. What turned him around? With so much misinformation out there, did he want to address and correct it? Is this why he stayed up at night? Was he too distressed about involving others' lives? Of course, his was the definitive voice. His parents were already gone. Any writing would have served Dad and Dad alone. Dad's parents weren't famous, he was. He knew his story. Anyone reading his story would have done so to learn about him. His motives were therefore the central theme. My guess is he came to terms with his past, and with anyone who wished to write about it. Let them examine their own motives. In my case, ultimately it's the same matter. Dad is gone; I write about him for me.

My hopeful guess on his attempted autobiography is that Dad was done with his homework. He came to terms with who he was and who his parents were. Let others play their guessing games. He trusted that those who knew him, knew him. Those who didn't, never really would. To make a case for himself would therefore be a fruitless, energy-wasting endeavor. He'd forgiven who he needed to forgive, let go of what he needed to, and accepted himself as he was. Archibald Alexander Leach, Cary Grant, and all.

It's important to understand the commodity of celebrity. In revealing my life, Dad's life, and including his friends, what is being "cashed in"? Privacy? Dad's name? There are certainly less all-consuming ways to make a profit. My conscience pulls, the way Dad's did. The only reason to write is to share the beauty of his life behind the curtain. I never knew Archibald Leach. I never really knew Cary Grant as the world thought of Cary Grant. I knew Dad.

Dad had two somewhat conflicting beliefs. He would remind me to never pay attention to what other people were thinking about me, because, he said, they were too busy thinking about themselves to really think about me. Funny. The polar opposite belief he espoused was "All you have is your reputation." The latter, I'm guessing, was learned through the business of "show" business. Dad has, and had, a deservedly glowing reputation. However, this belief in "reputation first" seems to have given rise to his fears of what might be rumored after his death. Then, there are interesting misconceptions about Dad. My choice is to leave these misconceptions to themselves. My hope is that we are wise enough with our own weak spots to allow great men theirs.

The grief of losing my father has come in waves over the years, as it does with most people. His love and devotion as a father provided my closest, most intimate relationship. Dad, and our time together, is in my bones. While reflecting on him, the memories themselves seem to boil down into certain "essences of Dad." My words, by their nature, are finite. Dad, now, is infinite. Still, perhaps these words can sniff around the essence of Dad's soul, to further elucidate the world's knowledge. Perhaps the old saying about the bird holds true: "If you love something set it free."

Many people long for a father's love. I had it. I have it still. Perhaps by writing this book I can transfer some of the love I feel for him. Perhaps Dad will inspire a daughter, son, mother, or father. If so, good stuff. I can hear my father's tone now, a little grumble with a Cheshire cat sparkle in the mix, "gooooood stuff."

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Gold Gato, January 17, 2012 (view all comments by Gold Gato)
First, let me state that I was stunned at the intelligence of the author, Cary Grant's daughter. Having worked in Hollywood and seen first hand how shallow and illiterate most of the celebrity offspring are, Jennifer Grant's book is a revelation in its simplicity, elegance, and directness. Rather like her father, in fact.

Reading this book at a time when even lower middle class families raise their daughters as spoiled self-entitled princesses, it's amazing that Jennifer Grant, a child of wealth, turns out the way she does....level-headed and thoughtful. She even references Pavlov during one sentence. Yes, astonishing.

As to the book's subject, yes she discusses papa Cary, but this isn't a mere biography. In fact, she only glances over Mr. Grant's career and childhood, as she is specifically writing about fatherhood and how Cary Grant, quite frankly, hit the ball out of the park (he loved baseball) in raising his only child. Though Jennifer was a product of divorce, she grows up to be a top student (Stanford graduate) who had to learn as a child how to manage money AND work several jobs to pay for her own car. Amazing.

"He combines a vivid sense of beauty with affection for the homely, keen zest for life and adventure with a rare appreciation of the common, universal pleasures, and finds in those simple things of daily life a precious quality, a dignity and a wonder that consecrates them."

The above description was actually about the poet W.H. Davies, but I thought of Cary Grant when reading Davies, as his daughter makes a fine point of emphasizing her father's love of the simple life. In fact, Cary Grant made a point of retiring from movies forever so he could focus on his only child and the result was that he saved almost everything about her childhood, including audio recordings, drawings, and letters. Jennifer Grant uses this treasure trove to focus each chapter, and the reader walks away with a guide to parenthood and life and everything it throws at you.

These were my favorites:

1. Value the middle stuff (not every day is graduation day).

2. Wabi-Sabi (the art of seeing beauty in imperfection).

3. Active silence (preparation for the real world).

4. Sense the apex (there's a natural limit for everything).

5. Jazz is one note from chaos (you may miss the mark, but you're close).

6. Don't get mad at the cookies(chemistry can ruin a friendship).

7. The bread of shame (if you haven't earned what you're given, it can work against you).

Jennifer has a wicked sense of humor and uses it throughout the book to describe film stars ('like Ben & Jerry's ice cream'), herself, her mother Dyan Cannon and her father.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book for the concept and originality. I walk away with a fuller appreciation of Cary Grant as a man who "chose to celebrate life...instead of expecting life to celebrate him."
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307267108
Author:
Grant, Jennifer
Publisher:
Alfred A. Knopf
Subject:
Entertainment & Performing Arts
Subject:
Biography - General
Publication Date:
20110531
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
53 PHOTOS IN TEXT
Pages:
192
Dimensions:
8.64 x 6.52 x 0.85 in 0.92 lb

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » Actors » Biographies
Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » Biographies
Biography » Entertainment and Performing Arts
Biography » General

Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant Used Hardcover
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Product details 192 pages Alfred A. Knopf - English 9780307267108 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "While Cary Grant's private life has always been open to wide speculation, as a father he kept a thorough family archive for his only child. Grant's daughter pays loving tribute to her father in a memoir interspersed with intimate photos, notes, and endearing transcripts of a parent dedicated to love and learning; along the way she gives insight into Cary Grant as caregiver, friend, teacher ('Dad ‘homeschooled' me in life seven days a week'), traveler, style icon, businessman, and husband to his last wife, Barbara Harris. She fondly notes his favorite pursuits like the racetrack and Dodger games, but she also addresses being the daughter of a star ('inherent fame left me entirely ill-prepared for the realities of the world), money matters (one Christmas Grant gave his seven-year-old stock shares), and even addresses the gay rumors. She writes sparingly here of her mother, Dyan Cannon (she and Grant divorced when Jennifer was one), but records her feelings as Grant remarries and a new family emerges as the octogenarian Grant struggles to father another child. Grant nicely chronicles for her father's fans the life behind the legend and the authentic image of parental love off the screen. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Synopsis" by , With the birth of his daughter, the sixty-three-year-old Cary Grant— still urbane, athletic, sublimely handsome, always self-effacing—retired from the screen to devote himself to his longed-for child.

In Good Stuff, Jennifer Grant writes of her enchanted but very real life with her father, playing, laughing, dining, and dancing together through the thick and thin of Jennifer’s growing up; the years of his work, his travels, his friendships with “old Hollywood royalty” (the Sinatras, the Pecks, the Poitiers, et al.) and with just plain old royalty (the Rainiers) . . . until Grant’s death at the age of eighty-two.

She writes of the love he showed her, the lessons he taught her, of his childhood as well as her own. Here are letters, notes, cards, and drawings from father to daughter and from her to him . . . photographstaken at home and on their many adventures . . . and bits of conversation between them (Cary Grant kept a tape recorder going for most of their time together).

Good Stuff captures the magic of a father’s devotion (and goofballness) and reveals a daughter’s special odyssey of loving, and being loved, by a dad who was Cary Grant.

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