When Turner Classic Movies presents 24 hours of Cary Grant‘s film starting at 6 a.m. Sunday as part of its “Summer Under the Stars” festival, his only child Jennifer Grant will be tuned in with the rest of the world. “Thanks to this day dedicated to my dad’s work on TCM, I get to catch up,” Jennifer Grant tells Intel. “It’s a part of his life I’m still under-exposed to. By the time I came into the world, Dad had really left that part of his life behind and had moved on.”
While the late actor’s work lives on practically as wallpaper on the Atlanta-based classic film cable channel, Jennifer Grant doesn’t pretend to be an expert on her father’s four decades on film. Grant retired from acting at 62 when he and then-wife Dyan Cannon welcomed Jennifer into the world. Unlike some of his Hollywood neighbors, Grant had no desire to relive his past cinematic glories. The Grant home had no screening room and the retired actor preferred watching “60 Minutes,” “All in the Family” and “Benny Hill” to reruns of his old films on TV.
After urgings from her stepmother Barbara Harris, Jennifer Grant has written about the quiet life she shared growing up with one of the most famous stay-at-home dads in the world. Her new memoir, “Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant” (Knopf, $24.95) is brimming with family photos and intimate stories. It also features many transcriptions of tape recordings the actor made of the little moments he shared with Jennifer. Before the age of YouTube and cameras and recorders hardwired into cellphones, Grant was busy chronicling every moment with his family.
“He was definitely ahead of his time,” Grant says. “A lot of it stemmed from the bombings in Bristol in World War II where all of of his childhood artifacts were destroyed. I think he also knew he wasn’t going to be around forever. He had me when he was 62 and he passed away when I was 20. I think he wanted me to have things to look back on. He was also very accustomed to being in front of the camera and having cameras around recording life. It was very natural for him to step behind the camera now and continue that but in a parental role.”
Grant laughs when it’s suggested that she could have titled her book “Daddy Dearest” and meant it. “Thankfully, I had a great life and a great dad,” Grant says. “People had said, ‘Your book is so different’ and I say, ‘My life was so different.’ If I had experienced what other children of famous people went through, I never would have written a book, period. Those tell-all, expose books are sad to me. One of the reasons I hesitated to write this is that you don’t really see lovely books about Hollywood parents out there.”
All the coziness of “Good Stuff” aside, Grant does drop some bombshells in the book. Most notably, Cary Grant, a style icon for the ages and a man renowned for redefining the refined male on film, loved shopping at The Gap and equally adored Levis 501 jeans.
“They were his favorites!” Grant swears laughing. “He loved The Gap because of the quality and the price. He would look at some of the other manufacturers and say, ‘They’re bilking you, they’re absolutely bilking you! These jeans are made in exactly the same factory but they’ve got this label on them so you’re spending $75 extra dollars. It’s ridiculous.’ He just thought The Gap was wonderful.”
Hilariously, Grant once broke up a party at the house when Jennifer was a teenager after he became convinced him smelled pot smoke. The Hollywood icon strongly suspected his daughter’s “long-haired surfer boyfriend” of the alleged crime. “Dad had a good sniffer,” Grant writes. The elder Grant immediately requested a meeting with his daughter in his room and demanded, “Who is smoking pot?!” The eventual culprit was identified. A gust of fertilizer sprinkled earlier in the day by the grounds staff.
While Grant largely stayed away from offering relationship advice to his teen daughter, he did dispense one classic piece: “Don’t marry the guy you break the bed with.” “It’s a good one, isn’t it?” laughs Grant.”Basically, what Dad was saying was, ‘There’s room for a great sexual relationship within a marriage but it’s not all about that. That connection does not mean you’re going to have a fantastic partnership.’ I liked his subtle way of saying it. He had no problem talking about sex. He was very frank about it. Part of is that he was European and there is not the same level of body consciousness there. There’s not the same taboo around things. He used to take me into Las Vegas shows. He thought it was ridiculous that children were banned from shows just because there were breasts there. His attitude was, ‘They’re breasts. Who cares?'” He was much more concerned about me watching a lot of violence. He thought the body is just a body and sex is a natural part of life. It was easy for him to talk about and make fun of so it made it easier and lighter for me as well.”
Grant says she plans to have her DVR humming early Monday morning when TCM broadcasts “Bringing Up Baby,” her father’s classic 1938 screwball comedy co-starring Katharine Hepburn and a leopard. Grant recalls first being exposed to her father’s onscreen comedic presence when the film came on late at night on the portable TV in her bedroom long before the birth of TCM. “I was amazed and so happy to see him because I had only ever seen him in one other film before when I was very little,” she remembers. “I was so proud of him. The next morning, I said to him, ‘Daddy, you were so great and so funny in this movie I watched on TV last night!'”
The retired actor’s response? Grant giggles, and says, imitating her father’s famous accent, “‘What were you doing up so late?!’ But that was my Dad. He wasn’t playing a star anymore. He was Dad.”