Becoming Carey Grant – the sad secrets of a movie star

Becoming Carey Grant documents the sad life that the movie star kept hidden from the public. It is based on Carey Grant’s own never-published autobiography, and the beautiful home movies he filmed. The world knows him as Carey Grant, but he never really got over being Archibald Leach, the poor cockney boy he once was.

Carey Grant and Audrey Hepburn

Carey Grant and Audrey Hepburn

Archibald Leach was born in 1904 in Bristol England. His parents were poor but extraordinarily beautiful. His mother was petite with long dark hair, and his father was rakishly handsome, sporting a fancy mustache.  However, his parents never seemed to be very happy. When Archie was 11, his mother Elsie went away, supposedly to “visit friends” It was many weeks before Archie figured out that she was never coming back. Soon after that Archie was shipped off to an even poorer section of the city to live with an aunt. Archie’s father moved away, remarried and started a new family.

Carey Grant's mother - Elsie Leach

Carey Grant’s mother – Elsie Leach

It was not until 20 years later, when Archibald Leach had become the famous movie star Carey Grant, that he discovered the truth. His mother had not run away, but had been committed to an insane asylum. Extraordinarily, she was committed only on the word of the husband Elias. He said that she sometimes felt she heard voices, but that she was not a danger to herself or others. The state of mental health medicine was so backward in those days , that instead of trying to treat her with psychotherapy, the “solution” was to   commit her for life.

Carey Grant's father- Elias James Leach

Carey Grant’s father- Elias James Leach

Abandoned by his family, Archibald Leach joined a new “family” by becoming part of a group of performing acrobats touring the vaudeville circuit. That’s why Carey Grant was able to do many of his own stunts in movies. He really was a trained acrobat.

The acrobats got a chance to perform in New York, and Archibald Leach fell in love with America. When it came time for them to return to England, Archibald decided to stay in America. All alone, and with very little money, he headed off to Hollywood, to try to get into the movies.

Carey Grant taking home movies

Carey Grant taking home movies

He was not in the film business very long before the studios decided that Archibald Leach is a terrible name for an actor; and the name “Carey Grant” was decided upon. Carey Grant’s amazing good looks soon got him into many films. In his early films, his parts were mainly just as a handsome prop, but soon his acting talent became apparent and he developed into the movie star we all know and love.

Becoming Carey Grant shows us the side of the movie star few people knew. After being abandoned by his parents, he had difficulty truly trusting anyone. Relationships with women were particularly difficult. Carey Grant was divorced three times. In later life he admitted that his wives were all wonderful women, but that he was always afraid to let them get too close. He naturally assumed that everyone would eventually let you down.

Carey Grant was an established movie star when he discovered that his mother was still alive and in a mental institution. He immediately got he out and set her up in a house in England. He visited his mother throughout his life, but she never moved to America. He always said it was because she would not come. However, the filmmakers speculate that he wanted to keep his two lives completely separate. By then, his mother was the last person in the world who still called him Archie. In America he was the great movie star Carey Grant. In England with his mother, he was still a scared little boy.

Becoming Carey Grant is a fascinating documentary. The details it has of Carey Grant’s life are astounding. For example, Carey Grant was a fan of “LSD therapy” being offered by a psychiatrist in the 1970’s. Unlike most patients who tried this radical treatment, Grant actually found it cathartic.

In the end Carey Grant found fame and fortune, but never true peace of mind. He was never the relaxed self-assured gentleman he played so well on screen. One of Carey Grant’s often repeated sayings was “Everyone wants to be Carey Grant. Even me.” People always laughed whenever Carey Grant said that, but he did not mean it as a joke. He was trying to tell the world that he was not really the perfect man he portrayed. However, people could not accept that. The public wanted Carey Grant to be perfect, and so to please them he was.

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