Much has been written about Cary Grant, one of the best-known names and most beloved actors of the golden Hollywood era. Biographies, blog posts, articles, magazine covers, tributes… his life and his films have been studied with equal fervor. But none of these celebrations or analyses are quite as special as Jennifer Grant’s Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant.
Those looking for scandal or gossip of any sort should look elsewhere, as should anyone hoping for an in-depth biography of the man born Archibald Alexander Leach. Jennifer’s book truly focuses on Grant as a father, and the person that he was in the later years of his life, as she knew him. She does discuss her father’s films a bit, including some insight on his own opinions of them, as well as the nature of fame and the lack of privacy that comes along with it. But, for the most part, Good Stuff is just what its title promises: a reminiscence of a father.
The author calls on her own memories as well as the thorough records that her father kept of her childhood, creating a time capsule of fond memories and a tribute to their close-knit relationship. Sound recordings, home videos, notes, letters, telegrams, and artwork all contribute to the story. Grant kept a very thorough archive of his cherished time as a father.
Good Stuff gives a greater sense of Grant as a person, or at least as the person he was in his later years, than any other book I’ve read about him. This is unsurprising given the intimate perspective from which it is written, but also fascinating to read. The transcripted excerpts from his tapes are probably most revealing, filled with a sense of amazement over his and Jennifer’s similarities, and also filled with laughter. It seems that in those last twenty years, from Jennifer’s birth in 1966 to his death in 1986, Grant found genuine happiness as a father. Whatever faults he may have had or mistakes he may have made in the past, he was clearly devoted to his daughter and loved her very deeply.
The book is as much a personal memoir for Jennifer as it is a story about her father, detailing the places she went as a child, the daily routine of life at “9966” (their nickname for Grant’s home), and the lessons that she learned from her father. Anyone who has a close relationship with a parent (or a parental figure) will connect with and relate to Jennifer’s recollections.
To call on that old cliche: “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry!” Good Stuff is a humorous, sweet, moving love letter of a book from child to parent.