Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In Memory: Farley Granger (July 1, 1925 – March 27, 2011).

Farley Granger(July 1, 1925 – March 27, 2011), career spanned over several decades and was best known for his two films with Alfred Hitchcock, Rope(1948) and Strangers on a Train (1951). I'm kind of freaking out.. I wrote this tribute a couple of weeks ago to add to N and CF in April.

Farley Granger, father owned a automobile dealership and following the stock market crash in 1929, the Grangers were forced to sell their homes. The family moved to a small apartment in Hollywood. Wanting, to become a tap dancer Granger, enrolled at Ethel Meglin's, the dance and drama studio where Judy Garland and Shirley Temple trained.

It was not long before the family could afford a small house in Studio City, one of their neighbors was actor/dancer Donald O'Connor. Granger's father meet Harry Langdon, who said he should take his son to open auditions for the film, The Wookie. Granger's Cockney accent impressed the director and he was cast in many roles. The opening night audience included talent agent Phil Gersh and Samuel Goldwyn casting director Bob McIntyre, and the next day Gersh, contacted Granger to come to his office to discuss the role in the film, The North Star(1943)(pictured below).

The North Star, is a war film directed by Lewis Milestone and written by Lillian Hellman. Cast: Anne Baxter, Dana Andrews, Walter Huston, Walter Brennan and Erich von Stroheim. The music was written by Aaron Copland, the lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and the cinematography was by James Wong Howe. The film is about the resistance of Ukrainian villagers, through guerrilla warfare, against the German invaders of Ukraine. The film was a pro-Soviet propaganda film.

For Granger's next film, The Purple Heart (1944). Another war film directed by Lewis Milestone. It is loosely based on the trial of eight airmen who took part in the April 18, 1942, Doolittle Raid {Three were executed and one died as a POW}. It starred Dana Andrews as the leader of the downed crew and was directed by Lewis Milestone. Eighteen-year-old, Farley Granger had a supporting role. Granger become close friends with supporting cast member Sam Levene. He also became friends with Roddy McDowall and found himself linked with June Haver in the tabloids. After completion of The Purple Heart, Granger enlisted in the United States Navy.

When, Granger returned to civilian life he was introduced to Saul Chaplin and his wife Ethyl, who became his lifelong, confidante. Through the couple, Granger met Gene Kelly, who invited him to join his open house gatherings. Most influential among his new friends was director Nicholas Ray, who cast Granger in his film noir, They Live by Night (1949), based on Edward Anderson's Depression-era novel, Thieves Like Us. The film was directed by Nicholas Ray and starred Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell. The movie was the first of many "couple on the run" films. The story begins when Bowie, escapes from prison with bank robbers Chicama and T-Dub. Bowie is unfairly convicted of murder. Bowie needs the money to hire a lawyer to prove he's innocent. Bowie, injured in an auto accident, finds refuge with the daughter of the owner of a gas station. They marry and plan to live an honest life. But then Chicamaw and T-Dub return and demand that Bowie come with them for one more job. Bowie refuses but finds that he is unable to escape from being hunted by the law.

Granger, was in New York when he got the call to return to Hollywood and discuss the film, Rope (1948) with Hitchcock. A crime film based on the play, Rope(1929). By Patrick Hamilton and adapted by Hume Cronyn and Arthur Laurents. Starring James Stewart, John Dall and Farley Granger, it is the first of Hitchcock's Technicolor films. The original play was said to be inspired by the real-life murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks in 1924, by University of Chicago students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.

After completion of Rope, Goldwyn cast Granger, Teresa Wright, David Niven and Evelyn Keyes in the film, Enchantment(1948). Another romantic film starring David Niven and Teresa Wright. Directed by Irving Reis. It was based on the novel, Take Three Tenses by Rumer Godden.Granger's next two films, Edge of Doom(1950), film noir shot in black and white. The film was directed by Mark Robson. The screenplay was written by Philip Yordan. The film is based on a novel by Leo Brady. Cinematography by Academy Award winner Harry Stradling Sr. The film has never been released on video because of the subject matter. The film is considered one of the bleakest films of the 1950s.

He went on to film, Strangers on a Train, psychological thriller produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It was shot in the autumn of 1950 and released by Warner Bros. on June 30, 1951. The film stars Farley Granger, Ruth Roman and Robert Walker, and features Leo G. Carroll, Patricia Hitchcock and Laura Elliott. Strangers on a Train, proved to be the first major success of Granger's career, and his "happiest film making experience."

Wanting to work with Vincente Minnelli, Granger accepted a role opposite Leslie Caron and Ethel Barrymore in, Mademoiselle(1953), one of three segments in the film, The Story of Three Loves. Granger's next film, was Small Town Girl, a musical with Jane Powell, Ann Miller and Bobby Van.

After its completion, he bought his release from Goldwyn, a decision that left him with financial problems. Granger was determined to move to Manhattan to study acting and perform on stage, but his agent convinced him to accept a role in Senso, directed by Luchino Visconti and co-starring Alida Valli. Filming in Italy lasted nine months. During his time in Venice, Granger met Mike Todd, who wanted him into making a cameo in his epic, Around the World in Eighty Days. When he returned to Hollywood he was happy about the experience. Darryl Zanuck offered Granger a two-picture deal:

The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955), is a film directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Joan Collins, Ray Milland and Farley Granger. Originally planned was Marilyn Monroe in the title role, and then suspended her when she refused to do the film. It is the fictionalized story of Evelyn Nesbit, a model and actress, and the scandal surrounding the murder of her former lover, architect Stanford White, by her current husband rail tycoon Harry Kendall Thaw.

The Naked Street (1955), is a crime film noir directed by Maxwell Shane. The drama features Farley Granger, Anthony Quinn and Anne Bancroft. The story is about a tough racketeer, who pulls strings to get his sister's boyfriend out of the death house.


  1. I think the first Farley Granger film I ever saw was "The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing" - Joan Collins was lovely in it, but one can only imagine Marilyn Monroe in the part.
    My favorite of Granger's films is "Strangers on a Train," but I saw a screening last year at San Francisco's Int'l. Film Festival of Visconti's '50s film, "Senso," in which Granger starred. Gorgeous film. Operatic. I believe Visconti was after Ingrid Bergman for the female lead, but settled for Alida Valli. Bergman would have been better, but the film is still stunning.
    Interesting, Dawn, that you were preparing to write about Granger next month. I had a similar experience last week...I was working on a post about "Father of the Bride" when suddenly Elizabeth Taylor died. I decided to postpone that one for a while.

  2. My favorite and my first Farley Granger film was,"Strangers on a Train,". How Awesome that you saw a screening of the film,"Senso,". That must have been a great experience.

    Yes, I was going to put together a Farley Granger bio. like I did in the month of March for Bette Davis. But.. I have changed my mind.

    I can not wait to read "Father of the Bride" article. I hope that you post it soon. :)

  3. I'm glad you wrote this. So much focus was on the death of Elizabeth Taylor last week that Granger's death was overlook. He deserved a nice tribute like this.

  4. I almost missed the news of his passing until I read Tom's blog.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.