This post is part of the 2015 Summer Reading Classic Film Challenge hosted by Raquel of Out Of The Past. Find out more about this event here and stayed tuned all summer for more reviews!
A few weeks ago my husband presented me with a bag of birthday presents. He had taken the time to go out and search for some classic film related books for me, a not so easy task as anyone who collects books or classic film related items will attest. In amongst the other gifts was this book, GOOD STUFF. I was intrigued as I knew that Cary Grant became a father late in life but had never read anything much about that child.
That child is Jennifer Grant, daughter of Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon. Although her parents divorced when she was very young, she still managed to spend a great deal of time with her father especially when her mother was away on a film set. Cary Grant retired from the film industry when Jennifer was born in order to spend more time with her and be there to raise her. At the time this book was written Cary Grant had been dead for about twenty years. It is apparent in reading Jennifer’s reminiscences that this devastating event still is as clear and affecting as if it happened yesterday. In fact she makes mention at the beginning of the book that her therapist suggests that she write about her father, ostensibly to help her work through her grief.
What follows then are short chapters, almost vignettes, in the life of Cary and Jennifer Grant. Remembering the happy times with her father, the “good stuff”, Jennifer allows us a brief glimpse into a part of Cary Grant that many have never seen or even considered. We get to see him as a husband and more importantly, as a father. He delighted in his daughter and saved everything she touched practically. He was also constantly videoing or recording their lives and Jennifer quotes these recordings often in her book. Yes, in some places the praise of her father and his love for her might seem a little heavy handed but then why shouldn’t it be? This is not a book written by a scholarly biographer but rather a love note written from a daughter to her father.
GOOD STUFF is not a typical biography, nor is it an unbiased and scholarly look at the life of one of the greatest actors of all time. But then I don’t think that it is meant to be. The sense I got from this book was that it was cathartic for her to write it. In an effort to work through the grief of losing her father, Jennifer Grant wrote this book. She wrote it in an attempt to say one last good-bye and I love you to her father. So, if you are looking to find a book about Cary Grant’s entire life or one that is completely factual and neutral in its portrayal of the former Archie Leach then I would urge you to look elsewhere. Jennifer never knew that part of her father’s life and he was reluctant to speak of it, preferring to leave it in the past, so she cannot speak to it in her book. But if you are looking for a personal, private, almost stream of consciousness look at Cary Grant the man and father then this is the book for you. In remembering her father, a man who was her biggest fan and greatest support, Jennifer Grant talks only about the “good stuff” and how can we blame her for that?