Farley Granger Dies: 'Strangers on a Train' and 'Senso' Star

Farley Granger, Rope
Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Strangers on a Train
Farley Granger in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (top); Farley Granger, Robert Walker in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (bottom)

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. Variety reports that Granger, who was 85, died of “natural causes” in New York City.

One of the best-looking men to have a career in movies, Granger (born in San Jose, Calif., on July 1, 1925) was a Samuel Goldwyn discovery of the 1940s.

Granger's big break came when the independent producer 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, best remembered for Goldwyn's own The Best Years of Our Lives.

Granger developed a following, but he was never to become a major screen star. His work for Goldwyn, then distributing through RKO, certainly didn't help. A role originally intended for him, that of a troubled war veteran in The Best Years of Our Lives, was ultimately given to non-professional, handless veteran Harold Russell, who went on to win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his efforts.

In fact, apart from They Live by Night, which has its admirers, Granger was stuck starring in mostly minor fare during his period as a Goldwyn contract player. Among his vehicles were Enchantment (1948), with Evelyn Keyes; Roseanna McCoy (1949), with Joan Evans; Our Very Own (1950), with Ann Blyth; and Behave Yourself (1952), with off-screen pal Shelley Winters. Goldwyn's Hans Christian Andersen (1952) was a big hit, but the color extravaganza belonged to Danny Kaye in the title role.

Granger fared better on two loan-outs at Warner Bros., both in Alfred Hitchcock productions: Rope in 1948 and Strangers on a Train in 1951.

In the former, Granger played John Dall's murder accomplice and (implicit) lover, characters inspired by Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold. (Whether or not this was mere coincidence, both Granger and Dall were into men in real life as well.) In the latter, Granger becomes enmeshed with Robert Walker's suave-talking psychopath, who proposes they swap murders so their crimes could never be traced to themselves. Walker's character – who clearly has the hots for Granger – plays his part in the game, and expects his “partner” to do the same.

Granger and Goldwyn parted ways following Hans Christian Andersen. “Our relationship seems to be going downhill and getting worse rather than better,” Granger wrote the producer. Goldwyn responded: “We are often our own worst enemies, and I sincerely believe that your present attitude can only be harmful to yourself. The only way out is not 'divorce' as you put it, but to live up to your agreement in all respects.” Yet, without any films lined up for his very last contract player, Goldwyn ultimately let Granger go.

Following a couple of bland leading-man roles in MGM releases, The Story of Three Loves (1953) and Small Town Girl (1953), Granger went to Europe, where he starred for Visconti in Senso. In that romantic period drama with political overtones, Granger seduces and abandons Alida Valli.

There would be two more Hollywood movies, both released in 1955: the crime drama The Naked Street and The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, as millionaire sociopath Harry Kendall Thaw, who becomes obsessed with Joan Collins' Evelyn Nesbit. Then, at the age of 30 Granger's Hollywood career was over.

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1 Comment to Farley Granger Dies: 'Strangers on a Train' and 'Senso' Star

  1. Louis

    Thanks. He was an actor I always liked, and I always wondered why his career hadn't gone further.