Of all of the old time movie actors, I would only describe one as a "guilty pleasure" Farley Granger. I was surprised late last night, not to learn that he had died, but to learn that he was still alive, and had just died.
Farley Granger was the 85 year-old actor who was well known to fans of film noir, who had also plied his trade on stage and on television. He was perhaps most remembered for having starred in the Alfred Hitchcock films Rope and Strangers on a Train.
News of his death at his Manhattan home was just made public but the veteran movie star passed away due to natural causes on Sunday night.
Granger was born in San Jose to a wealthy parents, who lost all at the start of the Depression. The family refugeed away from San Jose to LA with the last car from his father's former sales lot, taking up residence in West Hollywood. Farley enjoyed his experiences in high school plays and began to act in the community as a teenager.
His first major film role came along in 1943’s The North Star, a propaganda piece in favor of the Russians during the World War. Studio heads discovered him when they attended the play, signed him, and then in a press release said he had responded to a newspaper ad. Farley said he thought the truth was better. When he was signed the Goldwyn studio asked him to choose a new name, fearing that he would be confused with English actor Stewart Granger. After reviewing list upon list of generic names, he suggested Kent Clark. The studio let him preserve his name.
That role put Granger on the map and he followed that performance with Purple Heart, a 20th Century Fox production. After the film was finished Granger signed up for the US Navy but his military career was short lived as he suffered chronic seasickness on his maiden voyage to Honolulu, and remained there on base during the war, involved in entertaining the troops.
It was in Honolulu, during one fateful night, that Granger lost his virginity, both to a woman and a man, all within a matter of hours. He realized that night that he was truly bisexual. He said that through his life he never hid anything about his sexuality, and had partners ranging from Leonard Bernstein to Shelley Winters.
In 1947 he got his biggest break when he was spotted by Alfred Hitchcock in a private screening of the Nicholas Ray film noir Thieves Like Us. The film was shelved for two years after an RKO Pictures takeover by Howard Hughes, but its release in 1949 was a great success. It was released under the title They Live by Night which is perhaps Granger's best known film noir.
Hitchcock cast Granger in Rope which was filmed over a 21 day period. The 1948 film received mixed reviews, because of Hitchcock's revolutionary film techniques, which appeared stilted to some critics, but one thing every reviewer agreed on was the quality of Granger’s acting.
Granger went on to appear in 42 films and his career continued into his late 70’s. In the early 50's he bought out his Goldwyn contract, as he felt the scripts were beneath him. Practically penniless, he made his way to New York to work on his craft, taking acting lessons and being involved in a variety of projects.
I have always liked Farley Granger's acting. Although I didn't know he was still alive, I have to admit it was a shock to know he had died.
- The North Star (1943)
- The Purple Heart (1944)
- Rope (1948)
- Enchantment (1948)
- Roseanna McCoy (1949)
- They Live by Night (1949)
- Side Street (1950)
- Our Very Own (1950)
- Edge of Doom (1950)
- Strangers on a Train (1951)
- Behave Yourself! (1951)
- I Want You (1951)
- O. Henry's Full House (1952)
- Hans Christian Andersen (1952)
- The Story of Three Loves (1953)
- Small Town Girl (1953)
- Senso (1954)
- The Naked Street (1955)
- The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955)
- Rogues' Gallery (1968)
- Guerilla Strike Force (1970)
- The Spider Web (1970)
- They Call Me Trinity (1970)
- The Red Headed Corpse (1971)
- Something Is Crawling in the Dark (1971)
- Amuck (1972)
- Penetration (1972)
- Night Flight from Moscow (1973)
- The Man Called Noon (1973)
- Kill Me, My Love! (1973)
- Arnold (1973)
- Venus (1974)
- Savage City (1974)
- What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974)
- The Prowler (1981)
- Death Mask (1984)
- Very Close Quarters (1986)
- The Imagemaker (1986)
- The Whoopee Boys (1986)
- The Celluloid Closet (1995) (documentary)
- The Next Big Thing (2001)
- Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There (2003) (documentary)