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They eloped to Las Vegas and three months later their daughter Jennifer, Grant’s only child, was born. It was downhill from there. Grant became a Svengali-like figure, remote and controlling. He refused to let her work and was overly protective of the baby - so much so that he gave away Ms. Cannon’s beloved dog, Bangs, before Ms. Cannon came home from the hospital and refused to tell her where Bangs had gone.

He encouraged her to join him in tripping out on LSD and coming down on Valium, which left her confused and spacey. Eventually, he sent his lawyer to tell her he wanted a divorce. She collapsed.

To read about her crash is chilling and disturbing, yet she managed to move on, re-establish her career and, now in her 70s, write her late ex-husband a poignant letter: “Dear Cary,

“Thanks for the romance of a lifetime and for teaching me the difference between romance and love.

“I wish I could have loved you then the way I love you now.

“All my love, Dyan.”

It is a graceful and regretful tribute to the matinee idol of all matinee idols.

• Sandra McElwaine is a Washington correspondent for the Daily Beast.