19/05/2017

From Bristol to Hollywood: The Journey of Cary Grant in a new angle


Cary Grant was probably the most famous Bristolian in the history of the city... until 1991 happened and totally changed Bristol!

Cary Grant near his Bristol home by the Clifton Suspension Bridge

This documentary film will be shown at the Festival de Cannes this month. The music was created by The insects and Adrian Utley, famous guitarist known among other things for his crucial presence in the band Portishead, some of the finest musicians of the city.


Becoming Cary Grant (2016) | Official Trailer | A Film by Mark Kidel





Published on 3 May 2017
Don't miss the premiere of Becoming Cary Grant on Friday June 9th at 9 PM ET/PT.

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SYNOPSIS

Présenté sur le site du Festival de Cannes:

Cary Grant est l’un des plus grands acteurs d’Hollywood. Un traumatisme survenu pendant son enfance sera à l’origine de doutes et incertitudes durant la majeure partie de sa vie. Au sommet de sa gloire, il entame une thérapie au LSD pour se libérer de ses démons. Ce film retrace avec ses propres mots et ses images privées inédites, son périple, de son enfance pauvre à la notoriété mondiale, de l’ombre à la lumière. Nous découvrons pour la première fois un Cary Grant différent, l'homme caché derrière un masque au charme subtil et sophistiqué, un masque qu'il portait pour vaincre son insécurité. Voici l'histoire d'un homme à la recherche de lui-même et de l'amour qu'il n'a pas su trouver pendant une grande partie de sa vie. Les mots de Cary Grant sont interprétés par Jonathan Pryce.
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Cary Grant, one of Hollywood's greatest stars, was troubled most of his life with self-doubt and insecurity due to childhood trauma. In his fifties he began a long course of treatment, taking LSD to exorcise his demons. Using words from his unpublished autobiography, and newly-discovered personal footage he shot with a film-maker’s eye, Cary Grant explores his long journey from childhood poverty to global fame, and from darkness out into the light. In this film we discover for the first time a different Cary Grant, the man behind the mask of subtle charm and suave sophistication that he wore to hide his insecurities. This is a story of a man in search of himself, on a quest to find the love that eluded him most of his life.The words of Cary Grant are spoken by Jonathan Pryce, the music is by Adrian Utley (Portishead) and Tim Norfolk & Bob Locke (The Insects).
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More soon!


Read also this article on the film on the Guardian's website:


Cary Grant: how 100 acid trips in Tinseltown 'changed my life'

At the height of his fame, Cary Grant turned to LSD therapy for help. He later claimed the drug saved him, but did it also spell the end of his career?



In the late 1950s, at the height of his fame, Cary Grant set off on a trip in search of his true self, unpicking the myth he had spent three decades perfecting. He tried hypnosis and yoga and felt that they both came up short. So he began dropping acid and claimed to have found inner peace. “During my LSD sessions, I would learn a great deal,” he would later remark. “And the result was a rebirth. I finally got where I wanted to go.”
Grant’s adventures in psychedelia – an estimated 100 sessions, spanning the years 1958-1961 – provide the basis for Becoming Cary Grant, a fascinating documentary that plays at next week’s Cannes film festival. It’s a film that takes its lead from Grant himself, undressing and probing the star of North by Northwestto the point where the very title risks feeling like a red herring. “Like all documentary makers, we started out looking at the construction of Cary Grant,” says producer Nick Ware. “But we ended up deconstructing him through the LSD sessions.”
If the film never quite manages to pin the actor like a butterfly, that’s probably for the best. Grant spent his life as a creature in flight. His mercurial nature was the making of him – a peculiarly Gatsby-esque urge that allowed a Bristol street urchin named Archie Leach to reimagine himself as an American prince, the embodiment of Hollywood grace and glamour. Even so, the documentary does a good job in showing what spurred him, what spooked him and how – wittingly or not – he dragged his former identity along for the ride. “I have spent the greater part of my life fluctuating between Archie Leach and Cary Grant,” he once confessed. “Unsure of each, suspecting each.” It was this tension, this friction that struck such sparks on the screen.
In addition to providing a cinematic case study, though, the film opens a window on to a lost utopia of LSD therapy. Indirectly, it spotlights a school of experimental medicine that flourished briefly before the arrival of Timothy Leary and the west coast hippie scene. Between 1950 and 1965, around 40,000 patients were prescribed lysergic acid to treat conditions as diverse as alcoholism, schizophrenia and PTSD. In the UK, Powick Hospital funded an “LSD clinic”. In the US, the CIA tested the drug as a truth serum. Turned on to the treatment by his third wife, Betsy Drake, Grant submitted himself to weekly sessions with Dr Mortimer Hartman at the Psychiatric Institute of Beverly Hills. The effects were startling. “In one LSD dream I imagined myself as a giant penis launching off from Earth like a spaceship.”
“He claimed he was saved by LSD,” explains Mark Kidel, the film’s director. “You have to remember that Cary was a private man. He rarely gave interviews. And yet, after taking acid, he personally contacted Good Housekeeping magazine and said: ‘I want to tell the world about this. It has changed my life. Everyone’s got to take it.’ I’ve also heard that Timothy Leary read this interview, or was told about it, and that his own interest in acid was essentially sparked by Cary Grant.”
In making his film, Kidel secured access to Grant’s 16mm home movies, together with snippets from his unpublished autobiography. But the LSD gave the tale its structure; justified all its flashbacks. “I’m part of the 60s generation. I’ve taken acid myself,” he says. “Not a lot, but enough to think, ‘Wow, someone who’s taken it 100 times would have had really felt the effects’. He would have had a lot going on.”
Grant moved at speed, his demons snapping perpetually at his heels. He was just 14 when he signed on as an acrobat with the Bob Pender Stage Troupe; only 16 when he boarded a boat for the US. He changed his name and his accent. He tried on marriages like tailored suits, discarding them when they began to pinch. His fear of intimacy, he would later realise, was the result of his troubled relationship with his mother, who had abruptly vanished when he was still a child. Grant assumed she had died. He was in his 30s, already a movie star, when he discovered that Elsie Leach had actually been committed to the Bristol Lunatic Asylum by his philandering father. When Grant went to rescue her, Elsie suspiciously looked him up and down. “Archie?” she said. “Is that really you?” Except that by this point, of course, even he wasn’t sure.
“People looked at Cary Grant as the epitome of accomplished, sophisticated survival,” says the film historian David Thomson. “But I don’t think that he felt it.” The irony was that it was this whiff of uncertainty that made him so appealing; the sense that he was always Archie Leach playing the role of Cary Grant and allowing the audience in on the joke. Directors Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock would identify what Thomson refers to as his “fascinating insecurity” and push it to the fore in films such as His Girl Friday and Notorious. Through therapy, it seems, Grant made his peace with it, too.
Ware points out that his LSD sessions coincided with the star’s professional heyday. “This was the time of North by Northwest and Charade. So all that period when he is the biggest box office star in the world is also the period when he’s taking LSD. He has reached this incredible level of total minimalism, inner peace. I’m sure the acid informed the acting.”
And yet both, it transpired, were on borrowed time. LSD possession was made illegal in 1966, the same year that Grant announced his retirement from acting. By then he had already rolled back on his support for the drug. Acid was a counterculture accessory, it didn’t fit with his image, although it seems that he never regretted the experiences. On his death, in 1986, the actor bequeathed a gift of £10,000 to Dr Hartman. Today, incidentally, the treatment appears primed for a comeback. The recent Psychedelic Science conference in Oakland, California presented the results of clinical trials that used MDMA to treat mental illness and trauma.
If acid helped inform Grant’s acting, I wonder if it also prompted his withdrawal. Acting, perhaps, was his coping strategy, his brilliant disguise; a symptom he felt he could eventually afford to let go. But Kidel has his doubts. He thinks that Grant simply took the decision to quit while he was at the top of his game. He had shot enough films and made enough money. On top of that, his life had changed. “I think he stopped because he became a father,” Kidel says.
The way Grant tells it, his LSD sessions were a “beneficial cleansing”. The experience, he said, “brought him close to happiness” without ever entirely ironing out all his kinks. In later life, he largely removed himself from the limelight. His daughter, Jennifer, was born when he was 62, in the same year he made his last appearance on screen. Having been in flight from commitment for most his life, he reportedly relished his new role as a parent.
Kidel’s film wraps up with home movie footage from Grant’s autumn years. It shows father and daughter lounging in front of the TV, or dancing together on the terrace of his home. “It was a real battle to get that footage,” the director explains. “Jennifer didn’t want to give it up. She said she was going to use it for a show she was planning with Gregory Peck’s daughter. They were going to go touring theatres, talking about their famous fathers. But I had a sense that the show was never going to happen.”
I’m glad she relented: the footage provides the documentary with a gorgeous little coda. On the sunlit terrace, we see the dad and daughter link arms, switch positions and join hands. Grant would be about 70 by this point. He is thickset, white-haired, sporting heavyweight bifocals. But the man still dances beautifully, his old grace still intact. He comes skipping across the flagstones, giving the purest performance of them all.


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