Hitchcock Film Star Farley Granger Dies at 85

Mar 29th, 2011 | By | Category: Art and Entertainment

Actor Farley Granger, known for his starring roles in the Alfred Hitchcock films Rope and Strangers on a Train, died of natural causes at his home in Manhattan Sunday. He was 85.

E69 Farley Granger in Rope trailer 294x300 Hitchcock Film Star Farley Granger Dies at 85Farley Earle Granger was born in San Jose, California on July 1, 1925. While his parents were struggling to recover from the stock market crash of 1929, they put him through tap dance lessons at the same studio where Shirley Temple and Judy Garland got started. They eventually saved up enough to move into a house in Studio City near Hollywood, where their neighbor was dancing actor Donald O’Connor.

At the suggestion of silent film star Harry Langdon, Granger’s father arranged for his son to audition for The Wookie, a play about Londoners struggling to survive during World War II. Granger’s instinctive talent for imitating a Cockney accent impressed the director, who cast him in multiple roles. Talent agents attending the premiere spotted him and contacted his parents to discuss him playing a role as a Russian teenager in Samuel Goldwyn’s 1943 production of Lillian Hellman’s screenplay The North Star. When Montgomery Clift was unavailable for the role, Goldwyn signed Granger to a seven-year contract for $100 a week.

The studio was concerned audiences would confuse Farley Granger with actor Stewart Granger, and asked him to assume a stage name. Granger didn’t like any of the proposed names, and wanted to stick with his family name. He jokingly proposed using the name “Kent Clark.” The studio relented, and Granger kept his name.

After The North Star, Goldwyn loaned Granger out to 20th Century Fox for The Purple Heart in 1944. He spent the remainder of World War II in the Navy.

Upon returning to civilian life, Granger received a raise from Goldwyn and an introduction to composer and musical director Saul Chaplin, who became his mentor. Chaplin hosted celebrity open house gatherings, through which Granger met director Nicholas Ray. Ray cast Granger in a noir film that was completed in late 1947 but spent two years in delay due to a studio acquisition, before eventually being released in 1949 under the title They Live by Night.

While They Live by Night was awaiting release, director Alfred Hitchcock attended a private screening. He decided to cast Granger in his 1948 film Rope, an adaptation of a play based on the Leopold and Loeb murder case. Granger played one of the killers, who decide to kill a classmate for fun under the influence of the amoral teachings of their professor. The professor was played by famed actor Jimmy Stewart, and the film gained Granger popular and critical attention. He also became friends with screenwriter Arthur Laurents.

Granger then struggled through a series of unsuccessful films with Goldwyn, which placed him on suspension when he refused to work on several projects he didn’t like. While under suspension, he and Laurents visited Europe, including Italy, where he would frequently return throughout his career.

In Europe, Granger received an invitation to work with Hitchcock again in Strangers on a Train, filmed in 1950 and released in 1951. In the film, Granger plays a tennis star and aspiring politician, who becomes embroiled in a murder plot when a psychotic fan offers to kill his unfaithful wife in exchange for murdering his father. Strangers on a Train proved a box office hit and the highlight of Granger’s career. However the event was tarnished by the accidental death of Granger’s costar Robert Walker prior to the film’s release.

At the end of 1950 Granger began a relationship with actress Shelley Winters, which inspired him to begin studying acting lessons in New York. He became dissatisified with his Hollywood career, and after several unsuccessful films, he bought his release from Goldwyn and shifted his focus to stage acting and television. He moved to New York to study acting, and he began starring on Broadway, where after a slow start in the 1950s and 1960s he would eventually achieve critical success in the 1970s and 1980s. Meanwhile in 1955 he began acting on television, where he made many appearances from the 1950s to the 1990s. He received a nomination for Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his role in the soap opera One Life to Live, produced by Robert Calhoun, with whom he lived from 1963 to 2008. He also began to act periodically in films and plays in Italy.

Granger made in his last film appearance in 2004, in the documentary Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There. In 2007 he published his memoir Include Me Out: My Life from Goldwyn to Broadway.

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