Just in case you didn’t make it over the the Cannes Film Festival this year, let’s at least talk about an amazing new documentary film about one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors—and about his 100 acid trips.
Becoming Cary Grant is a look at how the iconic actor’s meteoric rise seemed to shock himself most of all. One of his famous quotes was: “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.”
And he wasn’t joking.
Apparently, the handsome face on the screen wrestled for most of his life with an identity crisis, in which he was unable to square his painful past with his adult life as a famous actor.
So, at the height of his career, he did what many have done while searching for one’s true self and the meaning of life—he dropped a bunch of acid.
And, he did this in the late 1950s when LSD was largely unknown and unregulated, well before Timothy Leary and the Beatles hit the psychedelic scene.
After trying hypnosis and yoga and getting nowhere special, Grant tripped about 100 times, which he said helped him find inner peace.
“During my LSD sessions, I would learn a great deal,” he would later remark. “And the result was a rebirth. I finally got where I wanted to go.”
Indeed, LSD was so unregulated that a 1959, issue of Look magazine ran a story called “The Curious Story Behind the New Cary Grant.” The article was essentially a glowing account of how Grant’s LSD therapy helped him find happiness, rid himself of hypocrisies and work through childhood traumas.
The magazine went on to praise 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.”
Cary Grant’s third wife, Betsy Drake, turned him on to the LSD treatments. Grant would end up undergoing 100 sessions, between 1958 and 1961, with Dr. Mortimer Hartman at the Psychiatric Institute of Beverly Hills, according to Vanity Fair.
Of course, the effects weren’t always strictly therapeutic but were certainly interesting.
“In one LSD dream, I imagined myself as a giant penis launching off from Earth like a spaceship,” Grant said.
LSD was viewed a real psychiatric tool.
Between 1950 and 1965, some 40,000 patients in the U.S. and Europe were prescribed LSD for a variety of conditions, such as alcoholism, depression, schizophrenia and PTSD, which back then was called “shell shocked.”
Today, by the way, psychedelics as a treatment for PTSD is being seriously considered once again.
Right after World War II, the CIA began testing LSD as a “truth serum” on the suggestion of their good friends in the Third Reich, according to the Daily Beast. This was dark, even for the CIA, but thankfully they did not have much success.
LSD possession was made illegal in 1966, the same year Cary Grant announced his retirement from acting.
The film’s director, Mark Kidel, told the Guardian: “He claimed he was saved by LSD. You have to remember that Cary was a private man. He rarely gave interviews. And yet, after taking acid, he personally contacted Good Housekeeping magazine and said: ‘I want to tell the world about this. It has changed my life. Everyone’s got to take it.’ I’ve also heard that Timothy Leary read this interview, or was told about it, and that his own interest in acid was essentially sparked by Cary Grant.” Becoming Cary Grant will screen on Showtime June 9 and will be available on demand on June 10.