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Archie: The real life of Cary Grant

The actor's life behind the camera is being explored in a new ITVX drama

Cary Grant and Jason Isaacs as the actor in ITVX drama Archie (PA Images/ITV)
Cary Grant and Jason Isaacs as the actor in ITVX drama Archie (PA Images/ITV)

Cary Grant is an icon of the Golden Age of Hollywood, but the real Grant was very different and his life is being explored in new ITVX drama Archie.

Starring Jason Isaacs as the actor, whose real name was Archie Leach, the four-part series explores his early life, his rise to fame, and his relationship with ex-wife Dyan Cannon and their daughter Jennifer.

But who was the man being the mask? Here, Yahoo UK explores the actor's origins.


Humble beginnings

1909 ca , Bristol , GREAT BRITAIN : The british actor CARY GRANT ( Archibald Alexander Leach , 1904 - 1986 ), aged 5 . Unknown photographer .-  HISTORY - FOTO STORICHE - ATTORE - MOVIE - CINEMA  - personalità  da giovane giovani - personality personalities when was young - BOY - PORTRAIT - RITRATTO - CHILDREN - CHILDHOOD  - SEX SYMBOL --- ARCHIVIO GBB
Cary Grant was born Archibald Alec Leach, he hailed from Bristol, England. (PA Images)

Grant was born Archibald Alec Leach in 1904 to Elias and Elsie Leach in Bristol, England. His upbringing proved a difficult one, with his family struggling financially and his parents battling their own demons — his father was an alcoholic and his mother had clinical depression.

Read more: Everything you need to know about Archie

The actor had an older brother named John who died aged one from tuberculosis and his mother never recovered from his passing, which led to a difficult relationship between her and Grant. This is something that the actor later said impacted his own personal life, and how he treated the women he was with.

His mother was placed in a mental institution, Glenside Hospital, when Grant was nine-years-old, and his father informed him that his mother had gone on a trip and later died. He was raised by his grandmother after his father got remarried and began a new family.

As a teen Grant began helping in theatre and training with the Bob Pender Stage Troupe, a company he later joined aged 14 after being expelled from school. His father co-signed a contract that allowed him to train and work with the troupe, which led to his first visit to America aged 16.


The starry lights of Hollywood

Cary Grant and Mae West starring in I'm No Angel, a Paramount Picture directed by Wesley Ruggles. (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)
Cary Grant began his acting career in America in theatre and vaudeville before joining Hollywood, one of his breakout films was 1933 hit I'm No Angel which saw him star opposite Mae West. (Corbis via Getty Images)

After the troupe completed their tour in America, Grant decided to stay on in the US to pursue an acting career, first working in vaudeville and theatre and gaining acclaim as he did so.

His big break in film came in 1931 when a successful screen test saw him be signed with Paramount Pictures at the age of 27 for a five year contract.

Grant made his film debut in 1932 comedy This is the Night and threatened to leave Hollywood following the experience, however seeing his performance was praised by critics he chose to continue and went on to star in Blonde Venus with Marlene Dietrich and other films.

The actor came to gain greater attention after starring opposite Mae West in She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel in 1933, and his continued box office success with Paramount Pictures led to him being offered a contract with Columbia Pictures and RKO in 1936.

Cary Grant - Iconic scene from North by Northwest - Airplane chase - 1959
The actor is probably best remembered for his collaborations with iconic director Alfred Hitchcock, who he worked with four times over his career including in North by North West (pictured, PA Images)

Grant's star continued to rise the more movies he made, he starred opposite Katharine Hepburn in 1938 films Bringing Up Baby and Holiday. Other highlights included His Girl Friday and The Philadelphia Story.

The actor is probably best remembered for his collaborations with iconic director Alfred Hitchcock, who he worked with four times over his career. First in 1941's Suspicion before reuniting with the filmmaker for Notorious, To Catch a Thief and, of course, North by North West.


A deeply private man with a very public personal life

Actor Cary Grant poses with his wife, Dyan, and their baby, Jennifer on the deck of the Steamship Canberra in Los Angeles, Oct. 4, 1966 as they return from a lengthy trip to Europe. The Grants have been visiting his mother in England. (AP Photo/Ellis Bosworth)
Cary Grant with ex-wife Dyan Cannon and their baby, Jennifer in 1966. (AP Photo)

Grant may have been a famous figure in Hollywood but he preferred to keep his private life just that and didn't often do interviews.

He was married five times over the course of his life. His first marriage was with Virginia Cherrill, who divorced him just over a year after they had wed, they had bitter divorce proceedings which saw Cherrill ask for a stipend of $1,000 a week.

Grant married Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton in 1942, the relationship saw them be dubbed "Cash and Cary". They divorced in 1945, but were said to have remained fond friends afterwards.

The actor went on to marry Betsy Drake in 1949, the pair had starred in two movies together. They were divorced by 1962, which became his longest marriage.

He went on to begin a relationship with Dyan Cannon, the pair married in 1965 and they welcomed a daughter, Jennifer, in 1966. Becoming a father was hugely impactful on Grant's life, with the actor saying his "life changed the day" his daughter was born.

Actor Cary Grant, left, and his wife Barbara, attend a party for Clint Eastwood on Sept. 28, 1986. (AP Photo/Mark Avery)
Cary Grant was married five times, his last marriage was with hotel public relations agent Barbara Harris who he married in 1981, the couple (pictured in 1986) remained together until Grant's death in 1986. (AP Photo)

However, Grant and Cannon soon were at odds in their relationship because of how the actor treated his wife, and the pair separated in 1967 and divorced in 1968. Their romance and the breakdown of their marriage serves as the main focus of ITVX's drama Archie.

Grant went on to marry hotel public relations agent Barbara Harris in 1981, they had first met in 1976 and became firm friends which led to their romance. The couple remained together until Grant's death in 1986.

Archie is out on ITVX now.