Today marks one year since Farley Granger's death. We look at the life of the movie star who turned his back on Hollywood. Originally published March 2011 on Obit-Mag.com.
Farley Granger, a screen idol from Hollywood’s golden years who shunned the California sun for New York’s serious theater scene, died Sunday, March 27 at 85. When he was sixteen, Granger was plucked from obscurity by talent scouts for Samuel Goldwyn. He was “thrown in” to the 1943 Goldwyn picture, The North Star, and the combination of his winning looks and pert demeanor earned him years of solid, if not spectacular film roles.
He was a tabloid fixture as well, often seen cavorting around Hollywood with young starlets like Debbie Reynolds or Jane Powell. But he grew tired of that playboy lifestyle.
It wasn’t until Alfred Hitchcock picked his face for two of his films that Granger found himself wanting for more: better scripts, intriguing roles, a chance to really act. Rope (1948) and Strangers on a Train (1951) were both critical successes, but they served Granger’s career as turning points. After the legendary auteur styled Granger’s performances, he got a taste of what the craft held in store for a true student.
In 1953, he bought out his contract with the studio and headed east, immersing himself in dramatic studies under the tutelage of Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler and making his Broadway debut seven years later in a musical adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility titled First Impressions.
His successes on Broadway were equally limited, though he appeared in productions of The Glass Menagerie, The Seagull, The Crucible, and Deathtrap. Live television turned out to be his strongest suit (later in his career he would be a soap opera favorite).
Equally intriguing as his professional journey was Granger's personal life and sexuality. His lovers included women like Patricia Neal, Ava Gardner and a highly visible affair with Shelley Winters. But for the greater part of his life, especially after he moved to New York, Granger was in love with men, including Leonard Bernstein, playwright Arthur Laurents and longtime companion Robert Calhoun.
Neil Genzlinger, who penned Granger’s New York Times obit, once asked the actor: "men or women?" Granger, never a fan of labels, replied, “That really depends on the person.”
Granger won an Obie Award for his performance in Lanford Wilson's Off-Broadway play Talley & Son, which in turn won Wilson a Pulitzer. Wilson died last week at 73.
Granger also made a few notable early Italian horror films, which continue to be classics in that genre, like Something Is Crawling in the Dark (1971), Amuck (1972), The Red Headed Corpse (1972), and So Sweet, So Dead (1972).
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