Cary Grant's Ex-Wife Revealed She Had a Mental "Breakdown" After Split

Dyan Cannon opened up about her relationship with the star in her memoir Dear Cary.

Cary Grant devoted himself to his only child, Jennifer Grant, following her birth in 1966—the iconic star even retired from acting to focus more on his daughter. But, that doesn't mean he was as successful in his other family relationships. Grant's marriage to Jennifer's mother, Dyan Cannon, ended only three years after they tied the knot and was reportedly quite difficult for her. In her 2011 memoir, Dear Cary: My Life with Cary Grant, the actor opened up about the issues that plagued their romance and the "breakdown" she suffered after they split.

Grant and Cannon's relationship is back in the spotlight now that Dear Cary has been being adapted into a miniseries titled Archie (after Grant's birth name, Archibald Leach) for the British network ITV. Cannon, who is now 86, served as an executive producer on the show. Read on to learn more.

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Grant and Cannon wed in 1965.

Cary Grant, Jennifer Grant, and Dyan Cannon in 1966
Bettmann / Getty Images

When Cannon and Grant met, he was one of the biggest movie stars in the world, and her acting career was just beginning. According to Cannon's book (via the Daily Mail), Grant got in touch with the younger performer after seeing her in an episode of Malibu Run. Her agent told her that Grant wanted to meet her, and after setting up a meeting, they fell for each other. The two got married in 1965 when Cannon was 28 and Grant was 61. He was her first husband, and she was his fourth wife. They welcomed their daughter, Jennifer, in 1966.

RELATED: Cary Grant Clashed With This Co-Star: "Couldn't Be Married to Her for 24 Hours."

Cannon said that Grant didn't know how to be happy.

Dyan Cannon and Cary Grant at the 1967 World Series
Bettmann / Getty Images

Cannon wrote in her book, "Our romance was beautiful. We talked so easily. We connected on so many levels. I loved to hear him sit at the piano and sing Cole Porter songs to me." But, while she was content, she said that Grant "didn't know how to be happy." She believes that Grant's tumultuous upbringing, which involved his mother suddenly leaving his family's home, continued to impact him as an adult. Three months after she left, Grant's father told him his mom had died, but two decades later, he found out that she was actually in a mental health facility, which his father had kept from him.

"Her disappearance from his life when he was a little boy had a long-lasting psychological impact, and he believed that his three failed marriages had much to do with a subconscious fear that his wives would similarly abandon him," Cannon wrote.

Grant was very controlling, Cannon said.

Dyan Cannon and Cary Grant in London in 1966
PA Images via Getty Images

Cannon wrote that during their marriage, Grant was very critical of her, including her appearance, nitpicking the way she did things around the house, and becoming concerned about how she interacted with other people lest it be perceived as flirting.

She wrote that his "moods would shift without warning or apparent cause" and explained, "I never knew what was going to set him off next and when he wasn't at work he trailed me around the house, listing my shortcomings."

She also said that Grant got into taking LSD as a way to "find peace" and connect with god. She said that he pressured her to take it, as well, which she did for his sake even though she didn't want to. "I knew I shouldn't do it, but I did it to please him and to save our marriage," she explained.

She had a "breakdown" when they split.

Dyan Cannon and Cary Grant in London in 1966
Bettmann / Getty Images

Cannon and Grant broke up in 1968. According to a The Daily Beast story about Cannon's book, Grant sent a lawyer to tell his wife that he wanted to a divorce.

She wrote that she suffered a "breakdown" at this time for which she was "admitted to a psychiatric hospital." She said that a doctor told her that taking the LSD "had contributed to her fragile state of mind, and that she was lucky to be alive." Cannon added, "The truth is that Cary never loved the woman I was. He loved the 'enlightened' woman he hoped LSD would help me become."

The Daily Beast explains that the breakdown included Cannon wandering out of a friend's home in her pajamas in the middle of the night and barging in on one of their neighbors. In the hospital, she received mental health treatment and help coming off of prescriptions she was taking.

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Cannon and Grant both remarried.

Dyan Cannon holding a copy of her book in 2011
s_bukley / Shutterstock

After their divorce, Cannon and Grant both married again. Grant married his fifth wife, Barbara Harris, in 1981 and they were together until his death in 1986 at the age of 82. Cannon was married to Stanley Fimberg from 1985 to 1991.

Cannon's career also took off following her split from Grant. She was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress: in 1970 for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and in 1979 for Heaven Can Wait. Her most recent onscreen role was in the 2021 movie Hope's Legacy.

In a 2011 interview with Reuters, Cannon said that she didn't want her memoir to make people stop loving Grant. "I know how people feel about Cary—they love him," she said. "I didn't want people to lose the stars in their eyes about him. I wanted people to love him more at the end of this book than they did before. This book humanizes him. They'll understand what formed him. And I had such compassion for what formed him. But I also suffered a breakdown. So balancing all that was my biggest challenge."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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