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By Suzanne

Good Stuff book coverJennifer Grant

My interview with Jennifer Grant, daughter of Cary Grant and author of “Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant.” 8/12/11.

Suzanne: Thanks for speaking with me. I'm really looking forward to that marathon on TCM.

Jennifer: Oh, as am I...on the 21st.

Suzanne: Do we know how TCM chose which of the films to show?

Jennifer: You know, I'm not sure how they chose their line-up. But I know they've got a whole day of Dad on Sunday, the 21st, and it's just part of... you know, they have a whole day of Humphrey Bogart, and Shirley McClaine... a whole host of people.

Suzanne: Which movie on the list there is your favorite, if you have one?

Jennifer: Oh, God, I don't know. (Laughs)

Suzanne: (Laughs)

Jennifer: You know, my normal answer to this is -- and it's the truth -- my favorite film of my father's is usually the last one I've seen of his. Because I do really enjoy all of his films. And I say that not to be (Laughs) silly about it, but it's just the truth.

Suzanne: I understand. It's a great selection of movies....I'm about five years older than you, so I grew up watching a lot of these films on late-night T.V...

Jennifer: Right, then we had cable. That's when we would watch them.

Suzanne: Right. Actually, I had to tell you that I'm really honored to do this call. I like a lot of actors, but he's my all-time favorite. (Laughs)

Jennifer: Aw, how nice.

Suzanne: I'm not just saying that. Nobody else compares.

Jennifer: You know, I agree. He was like that as a human being as well. He was really remarkable.

Suzanne: Oh, that's good. That's great because you hear so many horror stories about celebrities from their kids later on in books, so I'm just glad that yours is a nice one.

Jennifer: Thank you. I had a great life, so, I was really lucky.

Suzanne: Did your father have a favorite film of his?

Jennifer: His response was "The film that did the best at the box office - that's my favorite". (Laughs) I don't know if he was just being silly about it, but he never mentioned a favorite to me. He never did.

Suzanne: Did he have copies of them at home, and did you watch them?

Jennifer: He didn't. He didn't watch his own films.

Suzanne: Huh.

Jennifer: I know...once he retired...he retired when I was born. So, Cary Grant the star - he took that hat off, and he put on the dad hat when I was born. And it was by choice. You know, I think he wanted to be a full-time father. While he had always been a businessman in his career, he then decided to join boards...of MGM, and Faberge, and Hollywood Park Race Track...so his business side sort of went into that. And his attention happily went to me.

Suzanne: Well, I'm sure you're very glad about that.

Jennifer: Yes. (Laughs)

Suzanne: That was a very different thing to do back then. He retired when he was still...

Jennifer: I think it's a different thing to do at any time, for any one. You know?

Suzanne: That's true.

Jennifer: I mean, certainly more women do it, in general, but particularly for someone who's such a huge star, to actually retire and not look back.

Suzanne: Right.

Jennifer: To make the decision is hard enough. then to make the decision and stick with it, and not...because stars get a tremendous amount of attention, and a lot of ego-feeding from their work. And to really cut that off, and to be happy making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at home, is a whole different thing.

Suzanne: Yeah, it's pretty amazing, when you're still good-looking, and making movies, and not having to worry about anything, and to just -- it is amazing.

Jennifer: Yeah, he was examplary in many ways.

Suzanne: It sounds like he was a truly unique person with really high values, from everything I've read.

Jennifer: Thank you, yes.

Suzanne: What prompted you to right this book now about your dad?

Jennifer: A lot of prompting. I just would not do it for ages. I wouldn't do any TV specials, or documentaries, or magazine articles, or anything. I was so, so private, and in my private life as well. I didn't even talk about it with friends. I just kind of put that part of my life in lockdown. I think because I missed him too much. Finally, at the urging of close friends and with my step-mother's whole-hearted approval...she just said, "Darling, it's a wonderful idea and you must do something". I thought, okay, maybe it's just me, who's shut this door for no reason, and I should open up and share my memories of Dad because, again, luckily for me, I'm the only person who got to know this side of him. I'm his only child and he was such an amazing father. It's a big piece of the Cary Grant puzzle that wasn't filled in before, so I think that's why people were urging me to write it. Finally, I grew up enough so that I could share him.

Suzanne: That's great. It seems like he was a very personal, private person, and you are able to share that side of him that he really didn't share himself with the public.

Jennifer: Yes.

Suzanne: So you wrote the book, and have the reviews been good? Have you gotten a lot of great feedback?

Jennifer: Yes, almost entirely good. Yes. There was one bad review, but other than that they've been all really wonderful. (Laughs)

Suzanne: Well, only one, that's pretty good.

Jennifer: (Laughs) Thank you.

Suzanne: You were talking about Barbara Harris, your step-mom. Have I got that name right?

Jennifer: Yes, she was Barbara Grant, and now she's Barbara Jane.

Suzanne: Was she on Broadway?

Jennifer: No, Barbara was never an actress. There was a Barbara Harris on Broadway.

Suzanne: Okay.

Jennifer: This Barbara Harris is British and my father met her in London. She was in public relations at the Dorcester Hotel, and he courted her.

Suzanne: Are you close to your mom? How is she doing?

Jennifer: Yes, she's doing great. She's coming out with her own book in September.

Suzanne: Oh, that's great. Is it about her life?

Jennifer: Actually, it's about Dad. It's called "Dear Cary".

Suzanne: Oh. Well, that will be interesting to read. Is she still acting?

Jennifer: She is, yeah. I don't think she's doing anything right now, but she's still so amazing at it.

Suzanne: Well, you know, growing up in 70's, I loved her movies, especially The Last of Sheila, Deathtrap...

Jennifer: Oh, I loved the Last of Sheila! Great movie.

Suzanne: What will fans learn from reading your book?

Jennifer: I think they'll get to know the personal side of Dad, sort of the third dimension of the legend. The more vulnerable family side. Besides, what he ate, and the advice he gave - the day-to-day stuff.

Suzanne: If someone picked up your book, and they don't know that much about Cary Grant, what do you think would be the main reason for them to read your book? What would they get out of it?

Jennifer: Obviously, for Dad's fans...and otherwise, I think anyone who's lost someone dear to them. It was very much about my process of losing Dad and coming to terms with that. So if you've ever lost a close relative, it could be a cathartic read for you -- a happily cathartic read.

Suzanne: Did you write it all yourself or have help?

Jennifer: I wrote it myself, yes. I had a wonderful editor, Vicky Wilson at Knopf. I wrote the book myself. I couldn't imagine trying to...I had to have my own voice in it.

Suzanne: Did you do anything to prepare to write it, read other biographies, or....?

Jennifer: No, no. I've written in my life before this, but it was very much from the heart. It's not anyone else's book and it's not styled after anyone else. It was just really about Dad. In the beginning, I definitely had my misgivings about...I would say to my editor, "I've never written a book, what do I do?" And she would say, "Just trust yourself, just keep going." She'd seen my book proposal, and, happily, her belief in me nudged me along, to continue to write, and to continue to trust the words that came out. And lo and behold, it happened.

Suzanne: It was obviously a very personal work. Did you enjoy writing it?

Jennifer: Yes, I did. I love writing. It can be grueling, but I love it.

Suzanne: Do you think you'll be writing other books?

Jennifer: I do, yes.

Suzanne: I read that your father didn't really want you to go into acting, but later you did go into acting. Was that a difficult choice for you?

Jennifer: At first, yes. At first, I thought, oh, he wouldn't have approved. But then I thought, you know, what he really wanted, more than anything, what was paramount to him was my happiness. And I was happy doing it, so I knew he'd be okay with it.


TCM’s ultimate movie star showcase – SUMMER UNDER THE STARS – is back for its ninth year, as the network pays tribute to 31 different stars, with an entire day’s lineup dedicated to each of them. We started the month with Marlon Brando (Aug. 1), Bette Davis (Aug. 3), John Garfield (Aug. 5), and continuing with Shirley MacLaine (Aug. 10), Claudette Colbert (Aug. 12), James Stewart (Aug. 13), Humphrey Bogart (Aug. 17), Debbie Reynolds (Aug. 19), Montgomery Clift (Aug. 20), Cary Grant (Aug. 21), Joan Crawford (Aug. 22), Burt Lancaster (Aug. 25), Carole Lombard (Aug. 28) and Marlene Dietrich (Aug. 31). As a special spotlight during this year’s SUMMER UNDER THE STARS, TCM will celebrate the life and career of the incomparable Lucille Ball on Aug. 6, marking the 100th anniversary of her birth. 

Also, make sure to check out the SUMMER UNDER THE STARS website for more exploration. http://www.tcm.com/summer/

Cary Grant Movies being showcased on the 21st:

THIS IS THE NIGHT (1932)
I’M NO ANGEL (1933)
MY FAVORITE WIFE (1940)
THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY-SOXER (1947)
EVERY GIRL SHOULD BE MARRIED (1949)
ROOM FOR ONE MORE (1952)
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940)
NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)
GUNGA DIN (1939)
ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (1939)
MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DRAM HOUSE (1948)
THE BISHOP’S WIFE (1947)
BRINGING UP BABY (1938)

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