Liz Smith: Dyan Cannon Gets Her Luv On — And Remembers Cary Grant

Dyan Cannon

And more from our Gossip Girl: Saudi Arabia and 9/11 — Vanity Fair’s incredible new expose

“WHEN ca-ca hits the fan, I’ve learned how to pick myself up and make lemonade out of that ca-ca!”

That’s Dyan Cannon, with whom I had a fast, uplifting chat last week.

Dyan was one of the great figures of movies back in the late sixties through a good deal of the eighties. With her delectably over-size features and energy to burn, Dyan gave her all to superior material and lifted mediocre fare considerably. She was Oscar-nominated twice — for 1969’s “Bob & Carol and Ted and Alice” and again in 1978 in Warren Beatty’s “Heaven Can Wait.” She was memorable in “Such Good Friends,” “Child Under a Leaf,” “The Last of Shiela,” Deathtrap” and “Author! Author!” Dyan was also nominated as a filmmaker, in 1976, for the live action shot “Number One,” which she wrote, directed, produced, and also starred.

More recent generations recall her stint on TV’s “Ally McBeal.”

But Dyan wasn’t calling to chat about her film career. She has just finished a book, “Dear Cary” which will tell of her short, fabulous but fraught marriage to Hollywood’s great matinee idol, Cary Grant.

Dyan has waited a long time to tell her story. She and Grant married in 1965, were divorced in ’68. But the fallout, especially surrounding their daughter, Jennifer, dragged on for years. (A few months ago, Jennifer Grant published her own account of her dad in “Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father,” which she wrote about recently for wOw).

Why did Dyan wait so long to tell her tale? “I wasn’t ready. I really wasn’t. It took me a long time to heal. This book has taken five years to write. And even though I thought I had healed, I found there were still areas to be explored.

“You know, when Jackie Onassis was the editor at Doubleday, we met many times. She was always gently —that was her way — very gently, trying to persuade me to write my tale. I just couldn’t. It was so raw, still.

“A week after Cary died, Swifty Lazar called me and said, “Come on, it’s time!” God bless, Swifty, but I certainly wasn’t going to do it then.”

* * *

THE BOOK (which comes out September 20) isn’t yet available for an advance peek, and Dyan herself didn’t seem to want to tell much of what was in it — no dishing her ex. Rather, she seemed very committed and sure that she has written something that will help “everybody — women and men, in a relationship where you think only of the other partner, only how please them, make them happy. You leave yourself naked and empty. It is a very long road back. That’s my story. And it’s a very simple story — give all, lose all. It was a great romance that went south. It broke down. I healed myself and put the stars back in my eyes.”

Dyan is full of philosophical musings, and invigoratingly optimistic, she is romantic without ever speaking of romance. Of her famous love, she would only say, gently, “He was one in a billion. Really, one in a billion.”

Aside from promoting her book, Dyan’s great project, her genuine “labor of love” is something called “Get Your Luv On!” The actress has pulled this bimonthly gathering together on the CBS Studio lot. It’s a great big cozy happening where people —“all people, men, women, gay, straight, from 18 to 80,” Dyan emphasizes — are welcome to come and discuss love “in all its wonderful, challenging, terrible hopeful aspects.”

Dyan says, “It’s not that I help people and their relationships. They all help each other, by simply being together in this atmosphere. I hate to use a cliché but — it’s a beautiful thing.”

I would have liked to really dig into the nuts and bolts of Dyan’s book, but she seemed tentative about going too far right now. She wanted me to have an essence. And an essence from Dyan Cannon is better than the kit n’ caboodle from most other stars.

Just before we hung up, I mentioned I’d been having trouble sleeping. Dyan was electric with concern and information. “I have the remedy — at least it works for so many I’ve shared it with. It’s simple. Get some Epsom salts. Just before bed, the hottest bath you can stand. Be generous with the salts. Verrrry generous. Then soak. Just soak. All the strain of the day will just melt away and you’ll sleep like a baby. Try, it, please, Liz! Oh, and a prayer helps too.”

I don’t know if I am ready for “the hottest bath I can stand.” But I love that Dyan took the time to advise me.

She’s a doll. And I can’t wait to read “Dear Cary.”

* * *

IT’S NOT just that Saudi Arabia won’t let women drive or be out in public except with a male relative and all the other oppressive stuff. How about Vanity Fair’s latest story, “The Kingdom and the Towers” by Anthony Summers and Robyn Swan?

What about their theory that the Saudis had broad involvement in the 9/11 attacks and not just involvement, which has long shown that all of the attackers were Saudis?

No, I’m talking about the authors’ theory that “protection money” was paid to al-Qaeda and that the royal Saudis set us up. You can read this in a new issue with someone you never heard of on the cover, Emma Stone. Even editor Graydon Carter notes that he doesn’t know who she is either, though she bows in three movies this summer.

* * *

LOOKING through the magazine advertisements, I must ask: why does Prada tout its product through several sullen and pale antagonistic looking young blondes? Who exactly are they supposed to influence? There are lots of ads displaying arrogant, pointless, unenthusiastic youth. But I did love the Guess cowboy and his kick-up-her-heels girlfriend at the bus stop.

16 Responses so far.

  1. avatar KarenR says:

    Not at all surprising about Saudi. They are home to the most extreme Muslim philosophy in the world. Even their Muslim neighbors don’t agree with their views but no one has had the nerve to take them on directly. The US has largely been their lapdog but they aren’t afraid to step in themselves when the US can’t or won’t (see: Bahrain uprising). Other nations in the area have long been aware of the US habit of backing oppressive regimes in the area on the premise of “stability” – the greatest Saudi fear is that the Arab Spring starts taking root in their country. Perhaps there’s still a chance – recently women there have staged minor yet previously unheard of protests by taking to the streets for a drive.

  2. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    With US peripheralized influence, we aim is to help modernized the rules and regulations regarding women in Saudi Arabi be altered…done of its own, not under the direction of the US Armed Forces. There are plenty of non-profit organization that addresses that issue. I am not an expert. I know that we depend on the oil so it can be a slippery slope to become too invasive… And it seems to be the home of many billionaires. (Boy, am I not an expert)
    But I do remember Dyan Cannon from the 1960’s; she must be close to 80 now. When you said, autobiography, I rolled my eyes. Then to say that it isn’t historic but, mostly, her own thoughts, I say that I have no interest in ever reading the book. It is one big long interview where the interviewer is interviewing the interviewee. I love reading biographies, but autobiographies are of a different type of storytelling altogether. Knowing what we know about Cary to begin with, I’m sure that it didn’t hurt his image to marry a major sex symbol. She concentrates in the book that there hasn’t been adequate closer….forty five years later. She’d already remarried and divorced again. She never had another child. She and Cary were a bit scandalous in 1965, as their daughter was born four months later after they wed. They divorced and…as they say… they spent years involved with custody disputes over their daughter, Jennifer. He was 62. Yet, a divorce headline kept her name in her news. They lived together for about a year. He was bisexual, who never shied away from that fact though never publically admitted it and was a LSD addict in the 1960’s I don’t know if Canon was, as well. Sorry, she never had enough star power to interest me in reading an autobiography. Diana Ross tried this once in 1994 when she narrated the autobiography “Songs as a Sparrow”. So squeaky clean (opposed to J. Randy Taraborrelli’s book…where you actually get a story!) Dyan Cannon will be no different…and she probably has the most juicy material that there is. Naturally, she needs money and her name relevant (was it ever?) again. We should all attempt to narrate our life story (and show no one of course), just to see how it reads…but I am getting into psychology now. I hope that people are interested enough to read about meditation and eating bean sprouts peppered with vitamin B on a day to day basis type of book. But she’s no fool. A ‘tell all’ regarding Cary Grant with be aimed to sell the book, but, chances are…she’ll be totally subjected about him, and the fact that she was a ‘gold digger’ will fly right by us, as well.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Richard, I agree that cultural change in other countries needs to come from within, from the people themselves. We can’t go around imposing democracy and equality on everyone. And in truth – not everyone wants it.

      I had the chance to get to know some of the Saudi women while I was over there. Some were quite independent-minded and wished for more autonomy. Others were very uncomfortable with the whole idea and really valued their veils and the protection of their male relatives. Back to the Count’s and my thoughts from the other thread, it’s a disservice to lump everyone in a “category” into a monolithic block of identical opinions… not all Saudi women think alike.

      The other reason to not go around forcing our cultural values on other countries, is that it can do a lot of unforeseen damage and make things worse for the people we were trying to “help,” rather than better.

  3. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    The Count attended the wrap party at the end of the series “Ally McBeal”. And met and chatted with many interesting people. Michelle Pfieffer (wife of creator David Kelly) with minimal make-up looking absolutely beautiful and quite shy in real life. Portia Di Rossi, then partnered with Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach’s exotic daughter, so sweet and charming. Calista and Harrison Ford, pleasant, guarded. But the one that just blew me away was Dyan Cannon. She is a force of nature. Bubbling, shining, glowing, praising and laughing. Oh that laugh. The most infectious and unique laugh ever. She charmed me. And the Count is not easily charmed.

  4. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    Oh and one more thing. Liz: Lunesta. The metal after-taste stops after about a week.

  5. avatar Chandara Sun says:

    I have always adored Dyan Cannon, although I have been sitting here scratching my head over her role in Heaven Can Wait. I remember Julie Christie, but I don’t remember Dyan! I’ll have to look that up later. I have the DVDs of both The Last of Sheila & Deathtrap, and I have to say, I even enjoyed Dyan in Caddyshack 2. She was always one who could burst in on a scene and make it her own 😉

    • avatar rick gould says:

      Dyan was about the only lively thing in “Heaven Can Wait,” a typical soft focus, sleepy Warren Beatty flick… didn’t she get a best supporting Actress nom for that?

      That hysterical cackle of hers was a highlight whenever Dyan was on Johnny Carson.

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        Dear Rick..

        “Heaven Can Wait”   Snooze!  Never got Warren Beatty.  Not even physically, when he was young. (How ridiculous was he in “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone?”)  

         Dyan?  You’d have to be dead not to get her.  She is a real person.  Vibrant and totally living in the now. 

        • avatar Richard Bassett says:

          I must have her mixed up with someone else. The girl I am talking about married Cary Grant, who I haven’t heard about until she married a football player in the 1960’s/1970’s. I haven’t seen :”Heaven Can Wait” but it is always on TV. I get all of the 1960 actresses confused anyone. I’m really not a movie buff, but I was an actress buff. They go on and on well into their 60’s and 70’s.  *(But I’ll still never read another autobiography)*

          • avatar Count Snarkula says:

            @Richard. No, you are right. Dyan was married to Cary Grant for a little over three years. And they had a daughter, Jennifer. Who has recently written a charming, lovely, wonderful book about her relationship with her Father. Not exactly and Auto or a Bio, but I think you would like it.

      • avatar Chandara Sun says:

        Sleepy Warren Beatty flick – that was the perfect description. I have to admit, I haven’t seen Heaven Can Wait since I was….oh gosh….very very young. That was one of the few movies I do remember watching on Showtime a gazillion years ago. Had James Mason in it too, and he was always one of my faces (and in The Last of Sheila as well) Read your nicely worded rant on the quality of movies in the last several years and agreed with it 100%. I saw one movie last year, Tangled, and only because I was pushed out of the house and into the line – I have to admit I loved it, but going to see movies anymore – it’s a waste of popcorn in a lot of respects. Mainly collect favorite movies on DVD and watch a lot of PBS online anymore 😉

        • avatar Chandara Sun says:

          wish I could figure out which reply button I’m supposed to hit. The message above was for Rick.

  6. avatar Paul Smith says:

    No story could be in better hands than those of Anthony Summers and Vanity Fair. Tabloid ‘ca- ca’ served up as lemonade.  Does anyone care about discreet memoirs from anyone, and in particular those about a deceased matinee idol whose same sex shenagians are suspected by everyone and have been detailed by some? Hold the lemonade, bring on the ca-ca.

  7. avatar Lila says:

    I personally have not seen anything tracing 9/11 involvement back to the Saudi government. One also has to ask what they would get out of sponsoring the attack. Maybe the book’s theory addresses this?

    The reason all the attackers were Saudis is that Osama bin Laden was Saudi and they were his comrades (or flunkies?). As far as I know from the evidence, bin Laden funded 9/11 himself. For the scion of a wealthy family, it was not incredibly expensive to set up: travel, visas, flying lessons and then plane tickets.

    Others have theorized links between different governments and different nonstate actors and 9/11. Some have even thought our own government set it up. Wonder where they get their info?

    You know what’s amazing? A lot of people will swallow the most convoluted conspiracy theories hook, line, and sinker with only the most tenuous information. Yet put those same people in a jury box, and they won’t convict without the most rigid – maybe TOO rigid – concrete evidence. On the one hand, we have a woman who admits she buried her child in the woods with duct tape on her face and we can’t find her guilty of anything. On the other hand, even though hundreds of commuters saw an airplane slam into the Pentagon and we have video of the planes hitting the towers in New York, conspiracy nuts insist – based on NOTHING – that a missile hit the Pentagon. ??? Ah, the nuttiness of the human mind.

  8. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    The involvement of the Saudis was quite clear when during the Riggs Bank investigation it was discovered that Princess Haifa had written checks to a “poor Saudi family” in California which in turn gave the money to the hijackers. Prince Bandar “explained” it by saying that he knew nothing of it but that his wife apparently was merely being “charitable” and nothign more. Of course by the time the grand jury was about to issue a subpoena in the matter Prince Bandar and Princess Haifa were suddenly called back to Saudi Arabia on “urgent family business” and that, as they say, was the end of that and of the Riggs Bank investigation.  As for Prince Bandar knowing nothing of it Princess Haifa must be the only Saudi woman who is allowed to not only have her own checking account but allowed to write checks without her husband’s knowledge as well as his approval.  Women are not allowed any freedoms in Saudi Arabia.  Including members of the roal family. As one of the princesses found out when she had her head chopped off. Nice people as they say. But as are so ma ny others, they are “friends of the Bushes.” And of course George HW Bush’s brother was on the board of Riggs Bank. Many of the “friends of the Bushes” are in fact “enemies of the American people.” Including Isaam Fares who openly supported Hezbollah which is supposed to be sufficient reason to be labeled a supporter of terrorism. And yet he hasn’t been. And yet no one dares to ask why not.

    Our planes weren’t the only thing hijacked on 9/11 although the hijacking had occurred long before 9/11.

  9. avatar sandra b says:

    All of the political/economic mid-east & Hollywood chime-ins aside, if I hear one more comment about “minimal make-up and absolutely gorgeous” – why is it every freakin’ article in every freakin’ magazine insists on pointing out that the woman is not wearing make-up. BS – she has at least a swipe of mascara & some lipgloss. Like the rest of us trolls couldn’t possibly be allowed in public without pancake? Maybe she isn’t powdered down for the kleig lights, but we’re all supposed to believe that she is Venus incarnate without even a dusting of mineral pore minimizer? Criminey – I think I read once that Mr. Wow even takes a kiss of bronzer now & then. A trillion $ a year cosmetic industry denies that Michelle P. doesn’t even use Bee’s lip balm? STOP IT! Oh wait & why don’t the same writers point out that Sean Connery is gorgeous and not wearing makeup when they interview him?