Farley Granger, best known for his starring roles in two Alfred Hitchcock films, “Strangers on a Train” and “Rope,” died Sunday of natural causes in New York City, according to a friend, Steve Bassett. He was 85.
Granger appeared in two films noir of note, both co-starring Cathy O’Donnell: Nicholas Ray’s “They Live by Night” (1949) and Anthony Mann’s “Side Street” (1950).
A native of San Jose, Calif., Granger was born into a wealthy family that was impoverished by the 1929 stock market crash. The family moved to a seedy part of Hollywood where Granger took dance and drama lessons as a child. A role in a local theater production impressed a Samuel Goldwyn Co. casting director, and Granger was signed to a seven-year contract.
His first role was in 1943’s “The North Star,” a high-profile picture penned by Lillian Hellman in which the Soviets were portrayed nobly for propaganda purposes in the midst of WWII. Next was Fox’s WWII film “The Purple Heart,” starring, like “The North Star,” Dana Andrews.
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After that film he enlisted in the Navy but spent the war in Hawaii.
Back in Hollywood, Granger soon found himself part of a social circle that included Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Leonard Bernstein and Frank Sinatra.
Thesp appeared in the “Gift of the Magi” segment of the film “O. Henry’s Full House” and the “Mademoiselle” segment, directed by Vincente Minnelli, of the film “The Story of Three Loves.”
In 1954, he traveled to Italy to appear in Luchino Visconti’s “Senso.”
He moved to New York and studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse but found little success onstage. By the mid-’50s, Granger was spending most of his professional time acting on TV in shows such as “Producers’ Showcase,” “The Ford Television Theatre,” “The 20th Century-Fox Hour” and “Robert Montgomery Presents.” He appeared with Julie Harris in a 1961 TV version of “The Heiress” and later was on “Ironside” and “Hawaii Five-O” as well as several soap operas. He drew a Daytime Emmy nom for his perf on “One Life to Live.”
During the 1960s, he began to achieve some success onstage, appearing on Broadway in “The Seagull,” “The Crucible,” “The Glass Menagerie” and “Deathtrap.” He won an Obie in 1986 for his performance in Lanford Wilson’s “Talley and Son.”
In the 1970s, he appeared in some movies in Italy, including the spaghetti Western “They Call Me Trinity.” Granger’s last narrative film appearance was in 2001’s “The Next Big Thing”; he also appeared in the 2003 docu “Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There.”
In 2007, Granger published a memoir, “Include Me Out,” in which he freely discussed life with his longtime partner, Robert Calhoun, and as a bisexual in Hollywood.
Calhoun, a producer of CBS’ “As the World Turns,” died about three years ago. Granger leaves no immediate survivors.