American actor and star of Strangers on a Train and Rope FARLEY GRANGER was born (d: 2011). Granger had one of the more prolific careers in Hollywood, but he is most closely associated with Alfred Hitchcock as a result of these two films. It was during his naval stint in Honolulu that Granger says he had his first sexual experiences one with a hostess at a private club and the other with a handsome Naval officer visiting the same venue, both on the same night. Ahhh youth.
He was startled to discover he was attracted to both men and women equally and in his memoir he observed, “I finally came to the conclusion that for me, everything I had done that night was as natural and as good as it felt . . . I never have felt the need to belong to any exclusive, self-defining, or special group . . . I was never ashamed, and I never felt the need to explain or apologize for my relationships to anyone . . . I have loved men. I have loved women.”
Granger’s next two films for Goldwyn, Edge of Doom and Our Very Own, were unpleasant working experiences, and the actor refused to allow the producer to loan him to Universal Pictures for an inferior magic carpet saga. When he was placed on suspension, he decided to accompany Ethyl Chaplin, who had separated from her husband, and her daughter on a trip to Paris. At the last moment they were joined by Arthur Laurents who remained behind when the group departed for London to see the opening of the New York City Ballet, which had been choreographed by Jerome Robbins. He and Granger engaged in a casual affair until the actor was summoned to return to New York to help publicize Our Very Own and Edge of Doom, both of which received dreadful reviews.
Goldwyn cancelled the nationwide openings of the latter, hoping to salvage it by adding wraparound scenes that would change the focus of the film, and Granger refused to promote it any further. Once again placed on suspension, he departed for Europe, where he spent time in Italy, Austria and Germany with Laurents before being contacted about an upcoming film by Alfred Hitchcock. In Rope, Granger and John Dall portrayed two highly intelligent friends who commit a thrill killing simply to prove they can get away with it. The two characters and their former professor, played by Jimmy Stewart, were supposed to be gay, and Granger and Dall discussed the subtext of their scenes, but because The Hays Office was keeping close tabs on the project, the final script was so discreet that Laurents remained uncertain of whether Stewart ever realized that his own character was gay.
Hitchcock shot the film in continuous, uninterrupted ten-minute takes, the amount of time a reel of Technicolor film lasted, and as a result technical problems frequently brought the action to a frustrating halt throughout the twenty-one day shoot. The film ultimately received mixed reviews, although most critics were impressed by Granger, who in later years said he was happy to be part of the experience, but wondered “what the film would have been like had [Hitchcock] shot it normally” and “had he not had to worry about censorship.”
Despite three unsuccessful Broadway experiences, Granger continued to focus on theater in the early 1960s. He accepted an invitation from Eva Le Gallienne to join her National Repertory Theatre. During their first season, while the company was in Philadelphia, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The President had attended NRT’s opening night and post-performance gala in the nation’s capital, so the news hit everyone in the company especially hard. Granger had become close friends with production supervisor Robert Calhoun, and although both had felt a mutual attraction, they never had discussed it. That night they became lovers.
Granger finally achieved some success on Broadway in The Seagull, The Crucible, The Glass Menagerie and Deathtrap. He starred opposite Barbara Cook in a revival of The King and I at the off-Broadway New York City Center and in 1979 he was cast in the Roundabout Theater Company production of A Month in The Country. In 1986 he won the Obie Award for his performance in the Lanford Wilson play Talley & Son.
In the early 1970s, Granger and his partner, Robert Calhoun moved to Rome, where the actor made a series of Italian language films, most notably They Call Me Trinity.
He also appeared on several soap operas, including One Life to Live, on which his portrayal of Will Vernon garnered him a nomination for the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, The Edge of Night and As the World Turns, produced by Calhoun. In the 1990s, Granger appeared in several documentaries discussing Hollywood in general and Alfred Hitchcock in particular. In 1995 he was interviewed on camera for The Celluloid Closet, discussing the depiction of homosexuality in film and the use of subtext in various films, including his own.
In 2003, Granger made his last film appearance in Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There. In it, he tells the story of leaving Hollywood at the peak of his fame, buying out his contract from Samuel Goldwyn, and moving to New York City to work on the Broadway stage. In 2007, Granger published the memoir Include Me Out, co-written with his life partner Robert Calhoun. In the book, named after one of Goldwyn’s famous malapropisms, he freely discusses his career and personal life. Calhoun died of lung cancer in New York City in May 2008, at age 77.