On this day in 1904, Archibald Alec Leach was born at 15 Hughenden Road in Bristol, England, in a small terraced house that he would call home until a teenager. 62 years later, by which time he’d changed his name to Cary Grant and worked for many years as one of Hollywood’s brightest and most bankable stars, he proudly stood outside a hospital in California and, to a hungry flock of reporters, announced the arrival of his “best production” of all: Jennifer, the daughter he shared with Dyan Cannon. Over the course of their twenty-year relationship, Grant, a keen and generous letter writer, penned many precious missives to his daughter. This is just one.
Dear Jennifer, resolve to enjoy life to the fullest, but unselfishly. In fact, only unselfishly can you enjoy life to the fullest. Be considerate, respect endeavor, strive for excellence and good taste, be pure in mind and, therefore, in turn, behavior. You may judge yourself to have good and bad points. Strengthen the good and forget the bad.
“One short sleep past and I shall awaken eternally” is a paraphrase of English poet, John Donne1. And even if I do not awaken, as we know awake, I shall live within you dearest daughter. Or if I do awaken, my first concern, and thought, will be of you. Take care, good care, of your dear sweet self. Be kind and risk loving and no harm can evercome to you.
Be thankful for ears that can listen to Beethoven and a bird singing on a telegraph wire. For being able to see the face of good people and the sweetness that lies behind their eyes. For the young friends and the children whose voices make the sweetest music in the world. For those books that light up the mind. For simple songs to sing. For the sun by day and the moon by night. For the flowers that dance in the wind and for the grain that lifts its head above ground and gives us our daily bread.
I’d like my child to know that whatever she does we’ll always be with her. No father or no mother can be with her for all the time. She has to live for herself and if she wastes or abuses her life, she is the one who must live with the consequences.
Parents must accept the child they get, but you are just what I, and your mother, would have ordered. Jennifer, you’ve brought great joy to my life.
Cary Grant Undated letter to his daughter, Jennifer
Excerpted from Evenings With Cary Grant: Recollections in His Own Words and by Those Who Knew Him Best, by Nancy Nelson. With a foreword by Barbara and Jennifer Grant.