Family & Companions
A handsome, polished leading man of the 1940s and 1950s, Farley Granger’s most enduring roles were polar opposite characters in films for director Alfred Hitchcock. In 1950’s "Rope," he was one-half of a scheming, self-satisfied duo who attempted to get away with the perfect crime, while in "Strangers on a Train" (1951), he was drawn into a murder plot by a deranged Robert Walker. The pictures were unfortunately the apex of his career, and he spent most of the following decades in television and on stage, as well as numerous international productions. The appeal of the Hitchcock pictures, as well as his steady presence in lesser efforts, preserved his star appeal for several decades until his death in 2011.
Born Farley Earle Granger on July 1, 1925 in San Jose, CA, he was raised in wealth: his father owned an automobile dealership, and the family spent their vacations at a summer home in Capitola, CA. However, the stock market crash of 1929 wiped out the Granger’s fortunes, and they were forced to settle into an apartment in Hollywood. There, his father became acquainted with former silent screen comedian Harry Langdon, who had fallen on equally hard times and drew unemployment benefits from the North Hollywood office where the senior Granger worked. Langdon advised him to take his son to a local theater and audition him for one of their productions. The younger Granger impressed the director with his natural talent and knack for accents, and was cast in a play. Among its opening night audience was talent agent Phil Gersh, who brought Granger in to discuss him replacing Montgomery Clift in "The North Star" (1943), a wartime drama with Walter Huston and Dana Andrews, with a script by Lillian Hellman. Granger was soon signed to a contract with producer Samuel Goldwyn, and earned his screen debut as a Russian teenager in the film.
Though the film was a critical disaster, and earned the ire of publisher William Randolph Hearst, who lambasted it as Soviet propaganda, its failure had no impact on Granger’s burgeoning career. He soon found himself cast as forthright young men in Lewis Milestone’s "The Purple Heart" (1942) and as a falsely accused prisoner on the run in Nicholas Ray’s classic thriller "They Live By Night" (1949). Offscreen, his polished good looks earned him layouts in the movie magazines, which paired him in a manufactured romance with actress June Haver. In reality, Granger was a bisexual who enjoyed relationships with both male and female paramours.
Granger’s career was put briefly on hold for service in the United States Navy during World War II. However, chronic seasickness earned him duty onshore at an enlisted men’s club in Hawaii, and later with an entertainment detail led by Maurice Evans. Upon his return to the States, he received the first of two roles that would largely define his career: that of a callow student who, with the help of a friend, commit a thrill killing to prove that they can get away with it. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and based on the real-life Leopold and Loeb murder case, "Rope" was a technical tour de force, shot entirely in unbroken 20 minute takes, though the choice caused frequent production delays. Though only a modest success following its release, "Rope" went on to become one of Hitchcock’s most audacious experiments.
Granger ran into trouble with Samuel Goldwyn after refusing to let the producer lend him to Universal for an Arabian Nights-style adventure. He was placed on suspension, which was extended after he refused to promote his last two pictures, the thriller "Edge of Doom" (1950) and the drama "Our Very Own" (1951). Frustrated with the direction of his career, he departed for Europe with his partner, "Rope" screenwriter Arthur Laurents, but was contacted by Hitchcock’s representatives about the suspense master’s next film.
"Strangers on a Train" (1951) cast Granger as a tennis player and aspiring politician who becomes embroiled in a double murder case after a chance encounter with blithe psychopath Robert Walker. A major hit with audiences, it proved to be Granger’s favorite film experience. Sadly, it would be his last positive project for many years; efforts like "I Want You" (1951), "O. Henry’s Full House" (1952) and "Hans Christian Andersen" (1952) were underwhelming projects that benefited neither their producers nor Granger’s career. He attempted to bolster his acting studies by enrolling at the Actors’ Studio, but Granger felt at odds with the study of Method acting. He eventually bought his contract from Goldwyn and accepted a chance to appear in Luchino Visconti’s lush melodrama, "Senso" (1954), which co-starred Alida Valli as a countess who falls in love with a dashing young officer (Granger). During this tumultuous period, Granger was also involved in numerous torrid affairs with such screen stars as Ava Gardner, Jean Marais and Janice Rule.
Granger returned to the United States in 1955, where he studied under Sanford Meisner at the famed Neighborhood Playhouse. He then attempted to launch a career as a stage actor with the Broadway production of "The Carefree Tree," but the show closed after only 24 performances. Subsequent stage productions, including "First Impressions," a musical adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice," were also met with mixed reviews, and Granger soon turned to television for steady work. There, he became a regular performer in episodic television, as well as the occasional TV feature.
Despite his initial struggle, Granger soon became a fixture of national theater productions, and enjoyed success with turns on Broadway in "The Seagull" and "The Glass Menagerie." Like many actors whose careers had taken a downward turn, he found frequent work in Europe, where he was cast in a wide variety of genre pictures – from the slapstick spaghetti Western hit "They Call Me Trinity" (1970) to violent thrillers like "The Red Headed Corpse" (1971) and "Amuck" (1972), which took advantage of Granger’s Hollywood pedigree to boost their ticket sales. In 1977, he won a Daytime Emmy for his performance as philandering psychotherapist Will Vernon on the soap opera "One Life to Life" (ABC, 1968- ). He returned to Broadway in 1980 for Ira Levin’s "Deathtrap," and earned an Obie Award in 1986 for Lanford Wilson’s "Talley and Son."
Granger continued to work steadily in features and television in the new millennium, but also participated in numerous documentaries about his experiences with Hitchcock and the Golden Era of Hollywood. In 1995, he was interviewed for the documentary "The Celluloid Closet," in which he discussed the industry’s depiction of homosexuality on film, as well as his own life during the 1940s and 1950s. In 2007, Granger published his autobiography, Me Inside Out, with longtime partner Robert Calhoun, whom he had met while performing with the National Repertory Theatre in the early 1960s. Granger was frank about his relationships in the book, as well as his rollercoaster career after leaving Goldwyn’s stable. Calhoun passed away from lung cancer in 2008, three years before Granger’s own death from natural causes at the age of 85 on March 27, 2011.
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Made screen debut in "The North Star"
Served in the armed forces
Returned to the screen for Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope"
Starred in the Hitchcock classic "Strangers on a Train"
Made musical debut in "Small Town Girl"
Began appearing on TV in "Schlitz Playhouse of the Stars"
Made TV-movie debut in "The Challengers"
Starred Off-Broadway in "Tally & Son"
Was one of the interviewees for the documentary "The Celluloid Closet"
Appeared in the first London production of Noel Coward's play "Semi-Monde", about a group of sophisticates who mingle at the cocktail bar of the Ritz Hotel