Cary Grant Said LSD Helped Sort His Issues With Women

By Victoria Kim 06/07/17

A new documentary chronicled the legendary actor's therapeutic use of LSD.

Cary Grant
Photo YouTube

Apparently Cary Grant had some serious “mommy issues” growing up—but he found relief after undergoing intense LSD therapy.

According to a new documentary about the classic Hollywood leading man, the actor underwent 100 LSD therapy sessions over a period of three years during the late 1950s. He was introduced to the treatment by his third wife, actress Betsy Drake, who herself “took LSD to cure herself of alcoholism,” according to Mark Kidel, the filmmaker behind Becoming Cary Grant.

The British-American movie star, born Archibald Alec Leach, was said to be frustrated by his relationships with women. By the time he delved into LSD, in his fifties, he had two out of four divorces under his belt. According to filmmaker Kidel, “He was unable to have a relationship. They were all falling apart.”

At the time, LSD was still legal. (It was first outlawed by Nevada and California in 1966, and the rest of the world followed suit soon after.) His wife at the time, Drake, introduced Grant to Dr. Mortimer Hartman, a Beverly Hills radiologist, who provided them with the LSD from a Swiss pharmaceutical company.

Apparently, the treatments had such a positive effect on the actor that he left $10,000 to Dr. Hartman after he died. And he openly discussed the impact that LSD had on him: “I learned to accept the responsibility for my own actions and to blame myself and no one else for circumstances of my own creating,” he told Look magazine in 1959. “At last I am close to happiness.”

The movie star’s relationship with his mother was no doubt unusual—some may even say disturbed. For most of his life she grieved, and blamed herself for, the death of her first son, John, at one year old. She would dress Cary, her second son, in baby clothes, making him confused at a young age as to whether he was a boy or a girl.

When Cary was nine years old, his father told him his mother had run off to a resort, never to be heard from again. The actor grew up resenting her, until he learned in his thirties that his mother was still alive, living in a mental hospital. His father had put her there, where she stayed for 20 years, until Grant freed her in 1935, the same year his father died.

According to the documentary, Grant was able to gain some meaningful insight about his mother through the psychedelic treatments. “LSD made me realize I was killing my mother through…relationships with women. I was punishing them for what she had done to me.”

Grant, who died in 1986 at the age of 82, would go on to marry three more times after his LSD treatments. 

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr