"When you’re a kid, difference embarrasses you sometimes, so there were times when I felt a little embarrassed when people would ask if he was my grandfather. And he was very vain and didn’t like that question. But mostly it was actually a really positive thing for me, because he had this kind of gallantry about him which I associate with an earlier era and maybe with older men, and it was quite lovely.
"I was his youngest, and he had a lifestyle at that point where he was doing a lot of theater and going out on the road a lot. But when he was home, he was really a stay-at-home dad, very domestic in a way that was unusual for the ’60s and ’70s. He cooked my breakfasts and made me lunch and took me to school, so we spent a lot of time together, and he told me lot of stories about showbiz….
"After a while, as I became really fascinated by history, I loved the fact that I had this very vital living link to the past that I really sort of treasured. … He would use terms like … ‘pictures’ and ‘talkies,’ and used terms to compliment my sister and I like, ‘You look very smart,’ which to me was a very sort of ’30s kind of compliment. So I came to really value that as I came to value language, and particularities of language and history."
Photo credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images