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The Washington Post (31/Mar/2011) - Farley Granger: Actor shined in Hitchcock thrillers



Farley Granger: Actor shined in Hitchcock thrillers

Farley Granger, 85, a dashing actor with boyish innocence who had early fame in Alfred Hitchcock's postwar thrillers "Rope" and "Strangers on a Train," and who had a wide-ranging off-screen love life with both men and women, died Sunday at his home in New York City. No cause of death was reported.

Mr. Granger's acting career had a serendipitous beginning and followed an unconventional path. Initially groomed as a big-screen up-and-comer, he later eschewed Hollywood for roles in off-Broadway plays and daytime television dramas.

In 1943, barely 18, he signed a seven-year, $100-a-week deal with producer Samuel Goldwyn. With no training, Mr. Granger's charming presence in an audition before the studio chief and playwright Lillian Hellman won him the contract.

He subsequently appeared in Lewis Milestone's 1943 production "The North Star." A year later, Mr. Granger played a prisoner of war whose tongue was cut out by Japanese captors in Milestone's "The Purple Heart."

After the production, Mr. Granger enlisted in the Navy and was sent to Hawaii.

When the war ended, he returned to Hollywood and was loaned by his studio to Hitchcock for "Rope" in 1948.

In the film, based on the 1924 Leopold and Loeb case, Mr. Granger and co-star John Dall play students who kill a classmate for the thrill of it.

Mr. Granger then starred in Nicholas Ray's 1949 film noir crime drama "They Live by Night," before Hitchcock tapped him again for "Strangers on a Train" in 1951.

As tennis player Guy Haines, Mr. Granger is lured into a murderous scheme by a psychotic character portrayed by Robert Walker, whom he meets on a train traveling between Washington and New York.

Both of his performances under Hitchcock brought Mr. Granger critical acclaim in Hollywood but left him unfulfilled.

Mr. Granger's turbulent relationship with Goldwyn ended in the 1950s, after the actor bought out the time remaining on his contract. He moved to New York and took acting lessons to perfect his craft.

In the 1960s, he landed a number of roles in Broadway productions, including as Fitzwilliam Darcy in "First Impressions," a musical adaptation of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," and as John Proctor, the lead character in a revival of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible."

Mr. Granger also spent several months in Europe during the filming of Luchino Visconti's "Senso" (1954), which featured dialogue by Tennessee Williams.

His television appearances included parts on "As the World Turns," "One Life to Live," "The Love Boat," "Hawaii Five-O" and "Murder She Wrote."

Of all his credits in his later career, he was especially proud of his role in Lanford Wilson's off-Broadway play "Talley & Son," which earned Mr. Granger an Obie Award in 1986.

Farley Earle Granger II was born July 1, 1925, in San Jose, where his father ran a car dealership. During the Depression, his family moved to Los Angeles, where Mr. Granger got his start in acting.

In his 2007 memoir, "Include Me Out," Mr. Granger wrote that he had his first sexual encounters - with both women and men - during World War II while stationed in Hawaii.

When he returned to Hollywood after the war, Mr. Granger was linked romantically to actresses Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth and Shelley Winters, whom he called "the love of my life and the bane of my existence."

He also had affairs with conductor and "West Side Story" composer Leonard Bernstein and "West Side Story" scriptwriter Arthur Laurents.

Mr. Granger, who contributed to the 1995 historical documentary "The Celluloid Closet," about gay life in Hollywood, was a decades-long companion of Robert Calhoun, an Emmy Award-winning television producer. Calhoun died in 2008.

"One of the hardest things in the world is to really find yourself," Mr. Granger told the Advocate, a gay lifestyle magazine, in 2007. "And once you find yourself, it's great. You should hang on to it. But sometimes it takes a lot of work, to really say, 'This is who I am.'"