A new documentary about the life of Hollywood star Cary Grant reveals the dark family secrets of a man tormented by child neglect and abandonment.
Based on his unpublished memoirs, the documentary titled Becoming Cary Grant, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival revealed that the star's mother Elsie Leach was secretly admitted to a psychiatric unit when he was just a child.
Cary Grant, whose real name was Archibald Leach, lived an impoverished life in Bristol. "I was born in Bristol in a suburban house lacking modern heating, kept only one step ahead of freezing," he said. "My mother was a delicate, black-haired beauty with olive skin, frail and feminine."
According to the Express, he recalls how aged 11 his mother simply disappeared. "I came home from school one day and mother was gone," he recalled. "My cousins told me that she'd gone to a local seaside resort. It seemed rather unusual but I accepted it as one of those unaccountable things that grown-ups do," he explained. "But the weeks went by and there was no further explanation of mother's absence and it gradually dawned on me that perhaps she wasn't coming back at all."
After his father left to be with another woman, Grant was placed in the care of his grandmother and he spent much of his childhood believing his mother had died. It was years later, when he was established as one of Hollywood's leading men, that he learnt the truth.
His mother, Elsie Leach, was in fact alive but unable to come to terms with the death of her elder son, had been incarcerated in the Bristol Lunatic Asylum by her husband.
Grant's brother John had died aged five, four years before Grant was born, but his death haunted Elsie.
"My mother accidentally closed the door on his thumb," Grant said. "He developed gangrene and died. She blamed herself for the rest of her life. She wasn't a happy woman. I wasn't a happy child because she tried to smother me with care. She kept me far too long in baby dresses and curls."
The confusion of his disordered childhood affected his relationships with women and made him question his sexuality. Married five times, each relationship was doomed to fail.
Describing the effect of his mother's absence he said: "There was a void in my life, a sadness of spirit that affected everything I did. I felt she had rejected me."
"I hurt every woman I loved. I was killing my mother through my relationships with other women. I was punishing them for what she had done to me... thinking that each of my wives was my mother.
"Surrounded by all sorts of attractive girls, I was never able to fully communicate with them. Most of the women with whom I formed attachments eventually made it evident that I was, from their point of view, impossible."
After discovering his mother was still alive, Grant sailed to to England and removed her from the asylum. While their relationship was distant and formal, he provided for her and she continued to live in Bristol.
However the actor, who was the star of movies such as The Philadelphia Story, An Affair To Remember, Suspicion, To Catch A Thief and North By Northwest, was scarred by his childhood and would resort to extreme psychological intervention to battle with his tormented psyche taking 100 LSD trips under a therapist's direction for two years.
"All my life I've been searching for peace of mind. I'd explored yoga, hypnotism and mysticism. Nothing seemed to give me what I wanted until this LSD treatment."
"The shock of each revelation brought with it an anguish and sadness because of... the wasted years of ignorance. I finally realised that all the pain I thought my mother had caused me, I had caused her pain too."
While the documentary reflects Grant's lavish Hollywood life through archive footage, he expresses a sense of emptiness. "All my life I've been going around in a fog. You spend your time getting to be a big Hollywood actor – then what?"