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Farley Granger, 1925 - 2011

"Farley Granger, best known for the Alfred Hitchcock thrillers Rope (1948) and Strangers on a Train (1951), and for Luchino Visconti's period romantic drama Senso (1954), has died," reports Andre Soares at the Alt Film Guide. "Granger's big break came when the independent producer [Samuel Goldwyn] cast him in Nicholas Ray's film noir They Live by Night (1949), in which the 24-year-old played a rebellious young man opposite minor leading lady Cathy O'Donnell."

Duane Byrge in the Hollywood Reporter: "In 2007, Granger published a memoir, Include Me Out, in which he told of being bisexual, documenting affairs with Shelley Winters, Ava Gardner and Patricia Neal as well as playwright Arthur Laurents and a two-night fling with Leonard Bernstein. Since the 1960s, he lived with his longtime partner Robert Calhoun, a soap opera producer, who died three years ago."

Bilge Ebiri has "been reading James Kaplan's pretty great biography Sinatra: The Voice, and there is, as you might imagine, a lot in there about the naked power of male vulnerability (or seeming vulnerability), which Sinatra perfected and wielded with the efficiency of a laser-guided missile. So maybe it's just on my mind, but Granger had a similarly magnetic delicacy. But his never felt manipulative, never felt aimed. Even when his characters were using it specifically as a manipulative tactic (Senso is actually a perfect example), there was something very honest and raw about it. Here, you thought, was a guy who really was wounded, and not just playing at it."

Jonathan Marlow interviewed Granger for GreenCine in 2007; Greg Ferrara took down some fun quotes from a Q&A in 2008. Sam Adams got a few words with him in 2007.

Updates: What happened after the 50s, when Granger found himself "meandering into television, some stage work and often indifferent European and American movies," as Brian Baxter puts it in the Guardian? "Granger refused to play the publicity or marrying game common among other gay stars and turned down roles he considered unsuitable, earning a reputation — in his own words — for being 'a naughty boy.' He was also the victim of bad luck, notably when Howard Hughes, the egomaniacal owner of RKO studios, took against They Live By Night, shelving it for a year before releasing it without fanfare. While his contemporary Charlton Heston had maintained that it was impossible not to launch his own acting career from two Cecil B DeMille movies, Granger had the far more difficult task of springboarding from his Hitchcock films, where the director had been the star."

The Playlist's Kevin Jagernauth collects five trailers featuring Granger. And From the Guardian's Andrew Pulver, "a life in clips."

The New Yorker's Richard Brody on They Live by Night: "Granger (who was actually 22 when the film was shot) and O'Donnell bring tremulous wonder and aching tenderness to scenes of a quiet, intense emotional frankness. It was the first feature film directed by Nicholas Ray, and no one ever filmed better than Ray the lives of deeply wounded, fatally divided men of vast but inhibited sensibility. He got some of the most powerful and complex actors of all time to embody those lives — Humphrey Bogart, Sterling Hayden, Robert Ryan, Robert Mitchum, James Dean, Richard Burton, James Mason — and he brought out not just the best in them, but something that no other director would ever elicit from them. Farley Granger's haunted performance is the first of them, and worthy to stand in that company."

Update, 3/30: "O'Donnell was so good paired with Granger that MGM reunited them in Side Street (1950)," writes the Boston Globe's Mark Feeney. "It's like Thieves Like Us turned inside out: set in New York, told from the cops' point of view, with a different very good director (Anthony Mann), and the ending is almost the exact opposite of… well, hardly anyone's seen it, so best not to say. That so few people have seen Side Street is a real shame since — cognoscenti heresy alert! — it's a better movie than They Live by Night, or at least it's a lot less uneven."

Update, 3/31: "He actually was a fine actor. And for directors who knew how to expose the emotional instability behind that gorgeous facade, he was the troubled soul of postwar America's moral turmoil — softer than Brando, darker than Dean." Time's Richard Corliss revisits the filmography.

Update, 4/4: David Cairns on They Live by Night: "Farley, of course, is a minor miracle — arguably too sweet and innocent for someone who's been in prison seven years on a murder rap, but Ray didn't have a problem with occasional sentimental distortions for dramatic effect."

Update, 4/7: The Siren: "From this week's issue of Nomad Wide Screen, an excerpt from my tribute to the late Farley Granger, consisting of a look at the two films he made with Alfred Hitchcock: the sublime Strangers on a Train and the severely underrated Rope."

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Bummer. It’s too bad he wasn’t able to navigate the increasingly hostile waters of Hollywood in the 60s. His story wasn’t all that different from other actors like Anthony Perkins or Laurence Harvey.
“Hello girl. I’m gonna miss you. I gotta do it this way… I’ll send for both of you when I can… no matter how long it takes, I gotta see that kid… he’s lucky; he’ll have you to keep him squared around.” Those were his final words in They Live by Night. R.I.P.
That’s so sad, and right as SENSO comes out on Criterion…his book INCLUDE ME OUT is hilarious, touching and life-affirming as well as a litany of juicy bisexual tidbits and catalalogs of fabulous nights of drink, dining and songs with troupers like Judy Garland and Vincente Minelli. He seemed fine with being out of movies, because more than anything else, he loved theater. God rest his greasepainted and gorgeous soul

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