Born Archibald Leach in Bristol, England, was just 11 years old when his mother, Elsie, left. Family members told Archie she had gone to a seaside resort, but gave no other explanation or anticipated date for her return. After Archie's father started a new family, it became increasingly clear that his mom wasn't coming back. At one point, she was dead.
Now a new Showtime documentary, Becoming Cary Grant, is examining how her absence left Grant with, as narrator Jonathan Pryce says in the iconic actor's own words, "a sadness of spirit that affected everything I did. I always felt that my mother rejected me."
At age 30, Grant learned that his mother was still alive, that she had been institutionalized at the Bristol Lunatic Asylum after suffering "mania" and had been there ever since. He orchestrated her discharge and cared for her for the rest of her life, but mother and son never rekindled the close relationship they'd once had.
In the 1950s, after Grant had become the wildly successful star he's remembered as today, he sought professional help to cope with the lingering emotions over his traumatic childhood. In particular, his failed marriages (he would have five wives total) weighed on him. He tried hypnosis and yoga, among other things.
At the encouragement of his third wife, actress Betsy Drake, Grant began experimenting with LSD under the supervision of his physician, Dr. Mortimer Hartman. It was during these five-hour hallucinations that Grant found disturbing images and memories "did not repel me as such thoughts used to."
According to , LSD helped Grant "confront and overcome the unconscious motivation that [had] undermined" his marriages: anger and sorrow over his mother. He credited Dr. Hartman's treatment for helping him understand how his mother's disappearance had "triggered [a] self-sabotaging pattern of relationships," according to People.
Though Drake and Grant's marriage would be his longest, they divorced in 1962. Grant's fourth marriage, to Dyan Cannon, produced what likely was his greatest source of happiness, his only child Jennifer Grant. He retired after her 1966 birth and became an attentive and adoring father.
When he died at age 82 in 1986, Grant left $10,000 to the doctor who'd helped him conquer his inner demons with hallucinogens.