Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Farley Granger, 1925-2011

Farley Granger on making movies: "I love to see them. I just don't like to make them."  We will miss you dear Farley.
The first time I remember seeing Farley Granger was in the film that most people first saw Farley Granger.  The young actor had done two films prior to starring in Alfred Hitchcock's experimental suspense thriller Rope, but it was his portrayal of the reluctant murderer Phillip Morgan in Hitchcock's classic (inspired by Leopold and Loeb) that brought him to the attention of the public - or at the very least, the critics.  Granger's fame actually is predicated on just four movies - the aforementioned Rope, the tense film noir They Live by Night (the directorial debut of Nicholas Ray), Hitchcock's (again) Strangers on a Train and the gorgeous Visconti epic, Senso.  I suppose one could include the often wrongly overlooked Side Street in there as well (for those more die hard among us), but his film career was sadly short-lived, and he never reached the heights of stardom his ability should have granted him.
The always intensely grounded Granger would concentrate more on the stage (and TV) later in his career (perhaps the stage was more welcoming for an openly gay actor in the fifties and sixties than Hollywood), but for all those cinephiles all over the world (your humble narrator included), his roles as the doe-eyed youth gone bad (usually by circumstance, not character) will forever be in our minds.  The image of him asleep on Cathy O'Donnell's shoulder in They Live By Night (my personal favourite Granger performance) and enjoying, albeit unknowingly, one of the few moments of peace his troubled forgotten youth receives in the film, will always be first and foremost in this particular cinephile's mind.

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