Before he enjoyed celebrity as a renowned leading man in Hollywood, Cary Grant grew up in an English port city. And there were some tough times in his childhood for the star of much-loved films such as His Girl Friday and North By Northwest. But one secret in particular illustrates just how difficult his upbringing was.
Grant was born as Archibald Leach in Bristol in the U.K., explaining an accent that would always be stuck in the middle of the Atlantic. Famed for his suavity and sure comic touch, Grant was much lauded during a long career in Hollywood. He’d first come to the U.S. with a vaudeville troupe in his teens, heading to L.A. in his 20s.
Although Grant would find fame that peaked with a lifetime achievement Oscar in 1970, it may not have seemed as though he was headed for great things in a childhood that was poor and in some ways miserable. His dad was an alcoholic whose achievements in life didn’t impress his mom. For her part, she suffered from mental health issues, smothering the young Grant, dressing him as a girl for a long time and trying too hard to keep him from harm, having already lost one son to an accident.
Before he’d even entered his teens, Grant’s mom disappeared. Family members told him that she was just taking a break at the seaside, but after a while he realized that she was gone for good. Grant’s father almost straight away hooked up with a new woman. The young Grant ended up in the theater, perhaps turning to vaudeville as an escape from unhappiness.
Little did the young Grant know, but his dad had in fact had his mom committed to an institution, claiming that she had been “queer in the head” for some time. Grant would not find out where she had been for many years, eventually learning the truth around the time of his father’s death from a diseased liver. Once he did know, he had her released from the asylum and found her a residential home.