Cary Grant's LSD Therapy: New Perspective On A Complex Hollywood Legend In 'The Acrobat'

“The Acrobat,” Edward Delaney’s biographical novel based on Cary Grant’s life places a distinct focus on the actor’s use of LSD as part of his psychotherapy at a time when LSD was still legal in the U.S.

The famed actor was born Archibald Leach in Bristol, England in 1904 where he was raised mostly by his mother. When he was nine, he came home from school one day, and she was gone. His alcoholic father told him that she was on a long holiday and then that had died dead. It wasn’t until decades later that Grant, at 31, learned his mother had been institutionalized by his father for severe depression and was in fact still alive. 

As a young teen, Archie got involved with a British acrobatic team and traveled with the troupe to the United States. He began doing stage and screen work, crafted his new persona and changed his name to Cary Grant

“Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant,” he famously said. “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until finally I became that person. Or he became me. Or we met at some point.” 

At the height of his acting career in the 1950s, decades of pretending to be someone else began to take their toll on him. At the urging of his third wife, Grant began using LSD under psychiatric supervision. 

“He was trying to explore who he was. It was a really crucial year in his life,” Delaney told NPR on Saturday. 

“The way it worked was that he would do LSD under the supervision of Dr. Mortimer Hartman of the Beverly Hills psychiatric institute office where they would explore his life and to some degree walk into what you might call waking dreams in which he played out aspects of his life,” the author said. 

LSD Saved Grant Years Of Analysis

In 1959, Grant told Look magazine that, as a result of using LSD, “At last, I am close to happiness. I wanted to rid myself of all my hypocrisies. I wanted to work through the events of my childhood, my relationship with my parents and my former wives. I did not want to spend years in analysis.”

Grant also gave an extensive look at his year-long LSD therapy to Good Housekeeping Magazine. After telling the magazine how it had helped him dispel his anxieties and fears and reconcile his unhappy childhood, Good Housekeeping praised Grant for “courageously permitting himself to be one of the subjects of a psychiatric experiment with a drug that eventually may become an important tool in psychotherapy”

LSD was made illegal in the U.S. in 1969.

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