Saturday, April 2, 2011

Remembering Farley Granger

I remember as an impressionable 16-year old standing in the rain at the stage door of Toronto's Royal Alex theater to get Farley Granger's autograph.
The Hollywood star was starring in a 1961 bus and truck company production of Advise And Consent opposite Chester Morris and both were very good in it.
Or so thought this budding teenaged critic.
Granger willingly obliged when a fan told him to stand still for a photo and then was on his way. And when I watched the movie version of Advise And Consent a year later I had to admit I still preferred the play.
Seventeen years later later I met up with a greying but still slim Granger on the New York set of One Life To Live --I was spending a week on the set of Manhattan soapers. Unlike other former movie stars Granger offered no apologies for his daytime work --he'd already been on The Edge Of Night and would later jump to Another World.
"The work is steady, the paycheck is huge and the fan base very large. An actor goes where the work is."
In fact Granger had a huge second career on TV in almost every series going as a guest star: Wagon Train, Ironside, Hondo, Get Smart even Love Boat.
"Farley was one of the best ever actors to work with," Julie Harris once told me. "Bu his problem was simply his beauty. Male stars that good looking like Ty Power or Farley , their acting skills are often over looked."
Granger was discovered while still in high school in San Jose by an agent for producer Sam Goldwyn. In 1943, aged 18, he had a small but noticed part in The North star, a saga of the Russians fighting the invading Nazis.
After war duty he mad the classic film noir They Drive By Night with Cathy O'Donnell. "And then Goldwyn signed me to a five-year contract."
Goldywn tried to turn hin into a bobby soxer's delight in movies like Roseanna McCoy and I Want You.
Alfred Hitchcock saw something else and Granger brilliantly played off his handsomeness first in Rope (1948), an audacious reworking of the Loeb-Leopold killing and then again opposite Robert Walker in Strangers In A Train (1951).
Granger then made a series of light films as a romantic lead: Full House, Hans Christian Anderson, Small Town Girl before making his best ever film, 1954's Senso opposite Allida Valli.
TV offered him work through out the Sixties and Seventies after movies deserted him.
And then came his autobiography in 2007 Include Me Out.
For decades he lived in a New York apartment right beside Shelley Winters but they never married.
His death at 85 on March 27 was from "natural causes" --he was 85.
I still search for his work on the late show and I still have my autographed copy of Advise And Consent.
Nice guys sometimes do finish first.

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