Remembering Farley Granger.

The news that classic film actor Farley Granger recently passed away may have come as a surprise to those who weren’t aware that he was actually still with us. Seemingly as unassuming in real life as he was in many of his silver-screen roles, Granger’s Hollywood career was marked by his exceedingly good looks and a determination to make it as an actor on his own terms.

One of Granger’s best performances was one of his first, in the 1949 film noir They Live by Night. The movie was the first project helmed by director Nicholas Ray, who so believed in Granger’s talent that he fought the studio to cast the young star in the lead role of Bowie. Ray’s belief was not misplaced: Granger turns in a masterfully bittersweet performance. Night was filmed in 1947 under the title Thieves Like Us before being shelved for two years. Director Alfred Hitchcock saw a private screening of the film in the interim, and this led to his casting Granger in his next project.

It was an auspicious pairing, for Granger’s most notable career roles would be in two films for Hitchcock: 1948’s Rope and 1951’s Strangers on a Train. There is an almost stalwart (some would even say “wooden”) air to his performances in these films. And true enough, in both roles, Granger is not the one who attracts the audience’s eye. In Rope, he’s the subordinate partner in crime to John Dall, whom you can practically see chewing the scenery at times, and in Train, Granger is completely overshadowed by Robert Walker, whose Bruno Anthony is a masterpiece in screen villainy. Still, there is a sense of quiet desperation that Granger brings to each of his characters in these films that is ultimately quite effective.

When leading roles on screen dried up, Granger moved predominantly into television roles in the late 1950s. He even bought out his own contract with Samuel Goldwyn’s studio, a move that almost bankrupted the actor, so that he would have the freedom to choose whatever projects he wished.  Granger left Hollywood altogether in the early 1960s to concentrate on the Broadway stage, but returned to the screen for a series of films in the 1970s. Still, his resurgence was short-lived, and he moved back into television roles in the late 1970s, appearing on several soap operas and guest-starring on shows such as The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote.

Granger retired from acting in 2001. He published his memoir, Include Me Out, which detailed his career and his many love affairs with notable figures ranging from Ava Gardner to Shelley Winters to Leonard Bernstein, in 2007. Ever handsome and gracious both on and off the screen, Granger passed away on Sunday at the age of 85.

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2 thoughts on “Remembering Farley Granger.

  1. Nice tribute to a real gentleman and generally underrated actor.

    This morning I watched a “YouTube” video in which Farley Granger was interviewed at an AFI event – in the clip he talked about Robert Walker. It looks like a recent discussion – Granger looks older, but he was a very attractive older man. I’ve often read that Hitchcock would’ve preferred Wm. Holden opposite Robert Walker in “Strangers” because he thought Holden’s stronger screen persona would’ve presented more of a challenge to Walker’s character. Frankly, I’m glad he couldn’t get him. Granger’s Guy Haines is self-assured and self-involved and ambitious. But Granger has a kind of naivete or immaturity that makes it quite believable that he could be so duped and manipulated by scheming Bruno. I also think Granger’s youthful beauty added to the homoerotic undertones – Bruno seemed deeply smitten with Guy before he turned on him.
    Thought Farley Granger was great in “The Live by Night” and Luchino Visconti’s underrated “Senso.”

    • Granger’s never been one of my favorite leading men, but he was obviously more talented than he seems to have ever been given real credit for.

      It’s interesting to look back at Strangers on a Train now and recognize the homoeroticism you mentioned. I think Bruno was not only smitten with Guy, but that Guy, on some subconscious level, reciprocated. His relationship with Anne is so bland–he doesn’t honestly seem all that invested in her, but rather the advantages she can offer him politically. But his chemistry with Bruno is fiery–Guy comes alive in those scenes!

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