After sliming Walt Disney in a 1993 bio subtitled Hollywood's Dark Prince, Marc Eliot turns out to be much less of a scandalmonger in deconstructing Hollywood's quintessential leading man. Not that he doesn't poke into the private corners of Grant's life, including his often-stormy marriages and his ambiguously gay relationship with actor Randolph Scott. But Eliot bears witness without stooping to prurience, even if his prose sometimes goes laughably purple (as when he likens Grant's cleft chin to ''a beautiful woman's naked behind...on her knees in sexual supplication before the godlike monument of his face''). Through umpteen mini-production histories, he details how Grant played contractual hardball, bucking the studio system to become a free agent whose popularity peaked with 1959's Operation Petticoat. One pal may have playfully nicknamed him Sister Cary, but the man born Archie Leach was pretty bloomin' tough.