Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Late Great Farley Granger

Farley Granger, who appeared in such films as Rope (1948), They Live By Night (1949), and Strangers on a Train (1951), passed at the age of 85 on 27 March 2011.

Farley Granger was born on 1 July 1925 in San Jose, California. The family moved to Los Angeles after the stock market crash of 1929 killed his father's car dealership. It was his mother who pushed young Farley Granger into entertainment, in hopes that he would become a tap dancer. He was not yet 18 when he appeared in the play The Wookie in which both Samuel Goldwyn and Lillian Hellman noticed him. He then found himself making his film debut in Hellman's The North Star (1943) at the tender age of 17. It was followed by Lewis Milestone's The Purple Heart (1944).

Farley Granger's acting career was interrupted by a stint in the Navy during World War II. Unlike many actors the war did not hinder his career. In fact, after being demobilised he found himself cast in one of his best known films by the most famous director he was ever to work with. The film was Rope (1948). The director was Alfred Hitchcock. He would be directed by another notable director, Nicholas Ray, in the classic They Live By Night (1949) before Mr. Hitchcock would use him again in Strangers on a Train (1951). In between these films he appeared in such movies as Enchantment (1948), Side Street (1950), and Edge of Doom (1950).

Sadly, Mr. Granger was not able to capitalise on his success in such films as Rope, They Live By Night, and Strangers on a Train, largely because of the roles Samuel Goldwyn chose for him. Appearing in such films as Behave Yourself (1951) and Hans Christian Andersen (1952), Farley Granger bought out his contract with Samuel Goldwyn in 1953. For the remainder of the Fifties Farley Granger appeared in the Italian film Senso (1954), The Naked Street (1955), and as Harry Kendall Thaw in The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955). He began to appear more and more on television, appearing in such series as Schlitz Playhouse, The 20th Century Fox Hour, Climax, Wagon Train, and The United States Steel Hour.

Sadly, the Fifties would be the only decade in which Farley Granger would be a matinee idol. The Sixties saw him performing on stage and appearing on television. He appeared in such series as Run For Your Life, Ironside, Get Smart, Hondo, The Name of the Game, and Hawaii Five-O. He appeared in the films Guerilla Strike Force (1970) and the spaghetti Western comedy My Name is Trinity (1970). In the Seventies Farley Granger would appear in more films, but they were most often of the low budget variety. He appeared in the films Something is Crawling in the Dark (1971), Amuck (1972), The Red Headed Corpse (1972), The Serpent (1973), The Man Called Noon (1973), Arnold (1973), and Savage City (1974). He also appeared in the TV series Nakia, Ellery Queen, The Invisible Man, One Life to Live, and The Edge of Night.

From the Eighties into the Naughts Farley Granger appeared in such films as The Prowler (1981), Death Mask (1984), Very Close Quarters (1986), The Imagemaker (1986), and The Next Big Thing (2001). He appeared on such shows as Tales from the Darkside and Murder, She Wrote.

Farley Granger was an actor whose career should have been bigger than it was. His heyday, roughly from 1948 to 1957, was all too brief. He obviously had a good deal of talent, enough to play a variety of roles. He could play the sympathetic protagonist, tennis pro Guy Haines, in Strangers on Train, but then turn around and play jealous and not quite sane husband Harry Kendall Thaw in Girl on the Red Velvet Swing. Even when he was doing low budget movies in the Seventies, Farley Granger was still an actor capable of good performances. He proved this playing none too honest lawyer Evan Lyons in the cult film Arnold. It seems likely that had Mr. Granger received better roles early in his career, he could have kept up the momentum in his career built up by Rope, They Live By Night, and Strangers on a Train. He certainly had the talent to do so.


simoncolumb said...

Farley Granger is quite the loss - his Hitchcock films alone were incredible. I linked to you on my post this week - have a gander if you get a chance.



Mercurie said...

Thanks for the link, Simon! And I just stopped by your blog and followed it. It is very well done! :-)