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Cary Grant in Bristol
Cary Grant: 1986
When Cary Grant died in November 1986, Points West paid its own tribute to Archie Leach, the tailor’s boy who went on to dominate Hollywood for some 40 years. Points West’s very own ‘matinee idol’ Chris Vacher traced Grant’s Bristol connection...
From the age of 13, and after a childhood spent living in the Horfield district of Bristol, Archie Leach – alias Cary Grant – took one sniff of the greasepaint at the Bristol Hippodrome and knew he want to be a performer.
His resulting career spanned forty years, during which he made more than 70 films and earned the reputation of being one of the most sought after actors in Hollywood.
With his films came the fame and the fortune – and the seemingly endless women - but despite the movie star lifestyle he never turned his back on Bristol completely.
Whenever he came home to see his mother, who towards the end of her life was cared for at Chesterfield Hospital in Clifton, he would raise the blood pressure of the nursing staff in anticipation of his arrival, and his mother would often spend Sunday afternoons watching his old movies and pointing him out to anyone interested.
Cary Grant's art teacher
The then manager of the Grand Spa Hotel remembered Grant’s visits and by all accounts his stays in Bristol proved quite an occasion.
Chris Vacher’s 1986 film takes us around the city and shows the locations most associated with Cary Grant – his home at 15 Hughenden Road, Horfield, his old school - Fairfield Grammar, and the Hippodrome where it all started for him as a callboy.
A particularly poignant moment shows Grant talking at the unveiling of a memorial in New York, where rubble from the Bristol Blitz was brought over as ballast.
Grant spoke about how he lost members of his family in the bombing raids over Bristol as he unveiled a memorial plaque in New York’s Bristol Basin in 1974, the inscription of which reads:
“BENEATH THIS EAST RIVER DRIVE OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK LIE STONES, BRICKS AND RUBBLE FROM THE BOMBED CITY OF BRISTOL IN ENGLAND… BROUGHT OVER HERE AS BALLAST FROM OVERSEAS. THESE FRAGMENTS THAT ONCE WERE HOMES SHALL TESTIFY WHILE MEN LOVE FREEDOM TO THE RESOLUTION AND FORTITUDE OF THE PEOPLE OF BRITAIN THEY SAW THEIR HOMES STRUCK DOWN WITHOUT WARNING… IT WAS NOT THEIR WALLS BUT THEIR VALOR THAT KEPT THEM FREE.”
Chris Vacher reporting in 1986
Cary Grant died on 29th November 1986 and at the time, as Chris’s report reveals, there were calls for a statue of the actor to be put up in honour of the City’s Hollywood legend.
This eventually came in 2001 and Cary Grant can now be seen striding out casually across Millennium Square in the city centre.
One of Grant’s famous quotes reveals his dilemma to understand who he really was – it also underlines his yearning to remain connected with Bristol and the place of his birth:
"I have spent the greater part of my life fluctuating between Archie Leach and Cary Grant, unsure of each, suspecting each."
One thing is certain – the name Cary Grant ended up being worth more than Archibald Leach ever could have dreamed of – and Bristol is the better for it too.
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last updated: 11/03/2008 at 11:41
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