In the exploration of Hollywood’s leading men, the case of Cary Grant stands out as an intriguing contrast between the on-screen persona that made him famous and the complex character of Archie Leach that he embodied on and off the screen. Unlike many actors who struggle to reconcile with their public image, Grant’s attempt to become someone else was notably acute.
The biographical drama “Archie” unfolds across four emotive parts, tracing Cary Grant through five distinct phases of his life. The narrative begins with Dainton Anderson portraying Archie as a young boy growing up in poverty-stricken Bristol in the 1910s. The grim circumstances are exacerbated by the feckless cowardice of his father, Elias. The death of Archie’s elder brother, partly attributed to Elias, becomes a defining tragedy that shapes Archie’s tumultuous journey.
As the narrative progresses, Archie navigates his teenage years, joins an acrobatic troupe, and eventually ventures to New York to pursue a career in acting. The series takes creative liberties in presenting pivotal moments, such as Archie’s transformation into Cary Grant, marked by a charmingly cheesy yet significant name change.
While Archie’s peak years in Hollywood are intentionally bypassed, the narrative delves into the early 1960s when Grant, now a seasoned actor with multiple divorces, grapples with the trauma of his past. The series draws inspiration from the memoir of Grant’s fourth wife, Dyan Cannon, offering an intimate portrayal of their doomed relationship. Cannon, played by Laura Aikman, captures the delicate balance of energy, intelligence, and naivety that defines a future star.
Jason Isaacs embodies the superficial charm and smothered menace of Cary Grant, portraying a man too damaged to be as kind as he desires. The narrative avoids sanitizing Grant’s difficult personality, depicting him as possessive, jealous, and fussy, revealing the impact of his considerable mother issues. Harriet Walter’s biting performance adds depth to the portrayal of Grant’s complex relationship with his mother.
The series culminates with a fifth incarnation of Grant in the 1980s, as he candidly addresses fans during a speaking tour before his death. Isaacs, still in the role, captures the ageing Grant’s twinkle and delivers a tearful catharsis in the closing scenes. Despite a uniquely sad tale, the narrative highlights Grant’s redemption in his parenting of his and Cannon’s daughter, Jennifer, offering a welcome, albeit bittersweet, ending to the complex life of Cary Grant.