New Husband and a New Film Help Dyan Cannon Put Her Ex, Cary Grant, Behind Her at Last

UPDATED 05/22/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/22/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT

Dyan Cannon's greatest ambition as a young woman was to be a good wife, and in Cary Grant she thought she had found her perfect match. "God, he was awesome," Cannon says today. She was 27 and he was 61 when they married in 1965. But within three years they were divorced, and Cannon was overwhelmed by "a feeling of total despair and helplessness, of not being in control."

Two decades later Cannon, 51, is celebrating the recovery of her sense of self-worth by writing, directing and starring in One Point of View, a cinematic roman à clef that chronicles a woman's recovery from a nervous breakdown precipitated by the breakup of her marriage. Scheduled to be shown next fall, the $3.1 million independent production is now wrapping in Los Angeles. Says Cannon: "It's about a woman learning how to deal with her emotions and triumphing over herself."

In Cannon's own case, she had first to deal with her anger. During divorce proceedings in 1968, she spoke bitterly about Grant's use of LSD and his violent outbursts. She won custody of their daughter, Jennifer, then 2, and retreated to a home in Malibu. But after earning an Academy Award nomination as best supporting actress a year later for Bob & Carol & Ted& Alice, it was Cannon's turn to flake out. She tried everything from Esalen to marijuana to primal-scream therapy.

In the early '70s, Cannon dropped out of show business entirely. "I had vowed not to work while Jennifer was a little kid," she says. "And then the offers stopped coming." She also shunned romance because "I had to understand why my marriage had gone amok." Grant was faithful about providing child support for Jennifer, but by 1977 Cannon had run through her savings and came close to losing her house. "Jen had saved $100 to buy a horse, and she brought it to me," Cannon recalls. "I said, 'I couldn't take that, honey.' But I did."

Cannon resumed her career a few months later with roles in Revenge of the Pink Panther and Heaven Can Wait. But success entailed prolonged separations from her daughter, who graduated from Stanford in 1987. Over the years, Grant and Cannon worked out a detente, for the sake of Jennifer. "Jennifer loved her dad with all her heart," says Cannon.

Cannon's own attitude toward Grant had softened by the time he died of a stroke in 1986. "We were good friends at the end," she says. Cannon is incensed by Charles Higham and Roy Moseley's recent book, Cary Grant: The Lonely Heart. "I didn't read it," she says, "and I don't intend to read it, but I've heard about the terrible things in that book. That wasn't Cary they were writing about. And the allegations of homosexuality are so ridiculous and horrible. I'll tell you right now, kiddo. There was never any doubt that that man was a man."

For Cannon, years of bitterness were swept away in December 1984, when she met real estate mogul Stanley Fimberg, then 50. The couple wed four months later. "Stanley asked me to marry him before he even held my hand," she says. "It's just a beautiful, old-fashioned romance." Cannon moved into Fimberg's hillside home overlooking Beverly Hills and took a three-year sabbatical from acting to settle into married life again.

One Point of View, which co-stars John Heard and was financed primarily by Cannon's friends, is something of a coming-out party for her. Originally the script called for Cannon's heroine to be swept off her feet by a man at the end. But despite her own newfound happiness, Cannon felt such a denouement was too good to be true. "I had tied the story up in a red bow because I had been conditioned to believe a woman's life is not complete without a man," she says. "My life is better because of Stan. But I've also come to realize it was okay alone, before him."

—David Grogan, Doris Bacon in Los Angeles

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