I have to come clear and admit that I knew nothing about Cary Grant the man before watching Mark Kidel’s Becoming Cary Grant. I knew him as an actor and enjoyed him in every capacity, from a comedian to a spy and vice versa. I liked what he could do in a suit, from running in the desert sand, escaping airplanes, to back flipping in the living-room. I liked his campness and comical tallness. But he had always been two-dimensional in my eyes – a screen figure, a different each time persona. Becoming Cary Grant gave this sketch of a man substance, it rounded him up by giving him his third dimension and making him whole in my mind. He became a man, and a great one for that matter.
Becoming Cary Grant tries to shed light onto the thoughts of a very private individual, and this alone is an ambitious task, in which it succeeds only to the extent that it ever could. Taking Grant’s unpublished autobiography as its starting point, the documentary aims to piece as much together as it can, but of course only being able to reveal to its audience what its subject himself has in his writings. So much more we’ll never know, as there must be so much more that he would have never openly admitted. What we do have, however, opens a leeway into this man’s mind and soul enough as to make us admire him, warm up to him and more than anything relate to him, understand him and respect him.
His personal, family struggles seem to have been so unlike his eventual Cary Grant persona, that one almost falls into the trap of not relating to the man himself. All his on-screen characters seem rather sorted in life, so why would I feel for such a sleek, smooth, know-it-all gentleman? At most, I’d feel envious or attracted to him, but in no way sympathetic. This James-Bondy intangibility works to not ask questions, to not go too near and to keep that necessary distance from a man that’s not that much of a human from the looks of it. However, it wrongs Archie Leach, a man so hurt, so damaged and sensitive that seems to need that sympathy more than anyone. In the end, it feels as though Archie Leach became Cary Grant in the way that Bruce Wayne became Batman – to cover childhood traumas and keep insecurities at bay.
Becoming Cary Grant gets cheesy at times, but never when his writings are read and thoughts and confessions are spoken out. It is only when outsiders try to piece things together in the way that would suit their admiration for the subject that it verges on fan-fiction. And although it is true that for a man as distant and solitary as Cary Grant, reading too much into his silence is unavoidable, sticking to what he himself has confessed feels more honest and fair. Especially as what he has left us with is more than enough. His soul-serarching reflections on family, love and women are so real and revealing that exaggerating them, trying to decipher them or adding a personal touch to them is unnecessary to say the least.
And after you have gotten to know Archie Leach as much as you ever could, going back to experience Cary Grant all over again, proves to be a whole new ride. You now see sensitivity in that hunky exterior and weakness in that suited superhero. He turns out more Bristoly than American and more Penny Serenady than Hitchcockian. It’s a beautiful re-examination, as it doesn’t shake him off his pedestal, but rather adds to his substance, smooths him around the edges and gives him credibility and truth. Mark Kidel’s Becoming Cary Grant, for me, transformed a stereotype into a human being – and a great actor into a great man.
Watch here a trailer of the film:
Becoming Cary Grant at IMDb
Becoming Cary Grant film’s website
Becoming Cary Grant on Facebook
Becoming Cary Grant (awards won and nominated for) at IMDb