autumn of 2000 I was granted permission to view a
collection of Archie's personal papers, scrapbooks and
photos, which are held in Hollywood.
In February of 2001, Joan and I boarded a plane that
would carry us away from a frost-covered England, and
headed towards the Californian sunshine.
As the plane took off, it occurred to me that we were
leaving the world of Archie Leach, and heading for the
world of Cary Grant.
day resting from our flight, we set off to inspect
"The Cary Grant Collection."
such an odd feeling as Joan and I first sat down to go
through items which would take us a few days to look at,
and Archie a lifetime to accumulate.
For so long I had been reading about Archie, and now, I
would be looking at things that HE had looked at, and HE
had written. It was very exciting, and also, a great
On the first day we waded through three of Archie's
scrap books (there were nearly 30), which were full of
press cutting; letters from family; friends and fans;
telegrams, and a diary.
was from 1914. It very small, and very little was
written in it. However, at the back of it there was a
list of friends and their contact details.
Many were friends from the theatre, as next to their
names appeared the words "on tour".
There was one name however, and only one name, that had
an address next to it, which was Acklem Road, Portobello
Road, Kensington. Now, my family has had an
antiques shop in Portobello Road for nearly fifty years,
and I wondered what were the odds of me finding the
words Portobello Road, in Archie's handwriting, in the
only diary in his collection!
As we looked through the collection, I came to realise
that not only was Archie a fine actor, one always in
demand, but he was also an extraordinary man.
Whatever skills you are born with, or have passed on to
you, it is still the individual who has to hone,
practice, develop, and hopefully exceed them, along with
what he or she naturally has. Archie’s sheer
determination, which must not be underestimated, got him
to the top of his chosen profession.
One of my
favourite stories - and one of the best examples of this
determination - is how in his early days with Bob
Pender, and then later on Vaudeville, when he was not
required on stage, he would study the other acts, either
from the side of the stage, or high up, right at the
back of the theatre. He would often copy another
performer's moves in an attempt to help perfect his own
stage craft, taking particular note of how they would
time lines, when to move, or not move, and so on.
At this time Vaudeville was still going strong, which
exposed him to so many different kinds of performance.
It would prove to be the ideal training ground for what
was to come.
There was restlessness in Archie, which kept him moving
on. This desire to always move on took him from a
youngster wandering the streets of his hometown in
Bristol, to join a troop of traveling acrobats (The
Pendertons). He then decides to leave The Pendertons and
stay behind in the United States when the rest of the
troop returned to England. When he was successful on
Broadway, he again moved on to Hollywood, where he made
his break into the movies. Once successful in
Hollywood, he chose to become a free agent when his
first contract came to an end. At that time in
Hollywood this was a brave and virtually unheard of
move. Archie would involve himself in as much of
the movie making process as possible, which in later
years would lead to him co-producing many of his films.
The Cary Grant Collection were various letters and
telegrams from Elsie Leach. What I found very amusing
was that the early telegrams sent to Archie from Elsie
would be addressed as follows.
To... Cary Grant, Film Star. Los Angeles. California.
That evening we looked through the notes we had made
during the day. It was clear that what I had already
written for the show was very accurate, but little did I
know that the next day was to send things in another
direction, one I had not foreseen.
a large number of photographs in the collection. You are
provided with a list of these photos, from which you can
then pick what you wish to see.
The following day, to our delight, the photos we had
ordered were there for our inspection.
We had to
don white gloves, and could only take out one photo at a
time, which then had to be replaced in its envelope, and
put back in the right file.
Joan was in her organizational element, slapping my
eager hand as I reached for the next file before I had
even put the previous photo back in its envelope.
The photos were wonderful, many unpublished. Many
were from the early days of Archie’s career, days of
touring, sunshine beaches and times with friends.
They showed a man finding his own way in life, carving
out his own career and forging his way forward, having
left far behind the largely unhappy days in
England. Although deep down I think he was still
struggling to overcome those days, there were being
buried deeper and deeper.
saw a photo which came as quite a surprise...
late 1996 Robert Barham began work on a musical about
the early life of Cary Grant. The musical was entitled
"Archie". During the course of his research,
Robert came across a number of extraordinary
coincidences between his own life, and that of Cary
Grant. In "The Journey", Robert tells the
fascinating story of his three years writing and
researching the musical, from page to stage. A tale
which would take him from London, to Cary's birth town
of Bristol, and finally on to Hollywood.
To order The Journey, go to
You will then have the ability to download this e-book for
Four | Chapter
Eight | Chapter
11 | Epilogue
the Musical | The
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