Dyan Cannon is probably best known now as Cary Grant’s fourth wife, and the mother of his only child. She’s also a two-time Oscar nominee (same number Grant had), and hosted one of the first episodes of Saturday Night Live. I hadn’t seen any of her movies until recently, but her story is pretty damn compelling, and could make for an interesting film.
There’s a clear beginning to the story. An aspiring actress gets a phone call that one of the biggest movie stars in the world—and arguably one of the most charming men to have ever lived—saw on her on a TV show, and wants to meet with her. And it’s not for a film. He just wants to date her. And then they go on to elope in Vegas.
During this time, Grant deals with his own issues, including his troubled relationship with his mother, who he had at one point incorrectly believed to be dead for decades, when she was institutionalized for depression. Cannon and Grant soon divorced, partially due to his LSD use, which helps make this an even more appealing role for any middle-aged leading man. Grant goes on to retire from film, making the claim that his newborn daughter needs stability.
The important thing about Cannon is that her career doesn’t end with her marriage or her divorce. She prospers in the New Hollywood, getting her first Academy Award nomination in 1969 for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, a comedy about open relationships. That was also the same year that Grant got his lifetime achievement award, for films that did not involve open relationships or changing cultural mores. So in that one ceremony, there is the contrast between the old Hollywood and the 60s counterculture, in one erstwhile relationship.
Cannon would get two more nominations, one for directing a short film and another as supporting actress in Warren Beatty’s Heaven Can Wait, further cementing her standing in the New Hollywood. Meanwhile, Grant stayed retired, getting paychecks schmoozing fellow rich people on behalf of Faberge. The film could end there. It could also explore what happened decades later, when Grant has a better reputation. As David Thomson wrote in The New Biographical Dictionary of Film…
As well as being a leading box-office draw for some thirty years, the epitome of the man-about-town, as well as being the ex-husband of Virginia Cherrell, Barbara Hutton, Betsy Drake, and Dyan Cannon, as well as being the retired actor, still handsome executive of a perfume company—as well as all these things, he was the best and most important actor in the history of the cinema.
No one ever said anything as nice about Cannon, and she doesn’t have an entry in that 1,076 page tome. This is why I think the story would be so interesting. There was a brief period when her career was better than his. But it didn’t last.