Reviewed by L.D.Y.
Hardcover, 218 pages, 2006
Reason for Reading: I’ve seen, and loved, quite a few of Grant’s movies, such as To Catch a Thief and The Philadelphia Story, and Grant himself was usually the biggest draw.
Synopsis: He made dozens of movies in thirty-plus years of acting, starring with some of the most beautiful women in the world, and no matter the circumstances, Cary Grant always looked impeccable, somehow both a sex symbol and a gentleman. In Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style, Torregrossa, a fashion journalist, presents us with an unusual biography, one that focuses on Grant’s development of his classic style with the backdrop being his movies and personal life. Features a foreword by Giorgio Armani and an afterword by Michael Kors.
Why you should read this book: The word ‘dashing’ isn’t exactly used with great frequency these days, but Cary Grant was nothing short of dashing, and it’s all captured wonderfully in this book. Reading the book is like witnessing the making of a star right before your eyes, as Grant finds and corrects each of his flaws – or else owns it with panache that’s simply unmatched. It’s hard to think of a contemporary actor, for example, who would have the style and confidence not to wilt next to the likes of Grace Kelly or one of Grant’s other gorgeous leading ladies, but he always pulled it off. Even the book itself is a beauty, with pinstripes, a Grant favourite, cleverly hiding underneath the dust jacket. The pictures are simply wonderful, showing how, despite Grant’s penchant for suits and tuxedos, ‘classic’ never translates to ‘boring’ when it’s done with just the right flair. Reading Cary Grant, one can’t help but think that people don’t mourn the loss of ‘the good ol’ days,’ just the loss of Cary Grant, a man who was an inspiration both in how he lived and how he dressed.
Why you should avoid this book: As a biography, don’t expect any new revelations about Grant – the details are about the clothes, while his life is painted in fairly broad strokes. There’s also some repetitiveness, as if Torregrossa didn’t quite figure out how to stop himself from bouncing around from chapter to chapter. It would have been nice if all of the captions included descriptions of what movies they were taken from, especially since there’s no page-by-page credit at the back of the book.
It is the summer of 1932, and although the country is in the throes of the Great Depression, the Paramount lot is bustling. Powerful producers and bit players, stars and starlets hastily make their way from the sound stages to the commissary for a much-needed lunch break.
The famous striped polo shirt that Grant wears with gray pleated slacks and loafers in To Catch a Thief would be stylish enough for most leading men, but Grant added a foulard neckerchief, which he found by combing the local shops, a personal touch that accomplished two things: it flattered his thick neckline and at the same time added panache to a plain outfit.
In American, however, the hospitable home of the self-made man, you could create yourself, rise to dizzying heights on your own initiative, become the man you always wanted to be; you weren’t limited by accidents of birth or bloodlines.
He was able, then, to move freely among the smart set, something he could never do in a patrician-obsessed England, no matter how well one faked being a toff. Although working as an escort did not put much money in his pocket, by making the rounds of these upper-crust New York dinner parties and closely observing the fashionable young men and women who attended them, he added key elements to his inchoate style arsenal – everything from elegant table manners to the art of light banter and pleasant after-dinner conversation. He was still a bit awkward, not yet Cary Grant, but he was definitely headed in the right direction.
Also recommended: Elizabeth by J. Randy Taraborrelli; Queer Eye for the Straight Guy by Ted Allen; My Story: Ingrid Bergman by Ingrid Bergman.
Also by this author: Fun Facts About Cats; Fun Facts About Dogs; The Little Book of Wisdom; The Man Who Couldn’t See Himself; Fun Facts About Babies.
Fun tidbit: Cary Grant got his start as an entertainer in a very odd job – he could walk on stilts and performed in an acrobatic act as a teenager.
Would I read more by this author? It would depend on the subject of future books – no urge to read his older books.
Â© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007