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Granger, Farley (1925-2011)  
 
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The American actor Farley Granger was perhaps best known for playing strikingly handsome yet emotionally vulnerable young men in such films as Nicholas Ray's classic noir romance They Live By Night and two Alfred Hitchcock-directed efforts with legendary homosexual subtexts, Rope and Strangers on a Train.

Although Granger was reticent about his private life, his homosexuality (or, more accurately, bisexuality) was widely known in the Hollywood and Broadway communities in which he worked. Moreover, the writer Arthur Laurents revealed in his 2000 autobiography the details of his four-year relationship with Granger during the late 1940s. Over the last several years of his life Granger himself appeared in several documentaries discussing the depiction of gay and lesbian characters in film.

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The actor was born Farley Earle Granger II on July 1, 1925 in San Jose, California. A few years later the family moved to Los Angeles.

While still a student at North Hollywood High School, Granger began appearing in local theater productions. One night in 1943 he was performing several small roles in a play (Granger once jokingly explained that his job consisted of running onstage, shouting "Fire!," and then racing off to change into a new costume and coming back as another one-word character) and was spotted by a talent scout and a casting director. They both recommended the attractive 17-year-old actor to the producer and studio owner Samuel Goldwyn, who signed him to a long-term contract.

That same year Granger debuted on-screen as a Russian youth in Lewis Milestone's war drama The North Star. The next year he appeared in another Milestone war movie, The Purple Heart (1944), playing one of eight American airmen shot down and taken prisoner by the Japanese. Shortly after the release of the film, Granger himself joined the navy.

His first film after the war was Nicholas Ray's directorial debut They Live by Night (1948). Set during the Depression, the movie chronicles the romance of a young couple trying to escape the small-town life of crime in which they have become ensnared.

Granger's sensitive portrayal of the bank robber Bowie, his first starring role, is considered by many critics to be one of his finest film performances. As the Los Angeles Times noted, "Granger's quicksilver switches from tender lover to cool killer are especially unnerving, and the film is a triumph of style and economy that retains its impact."

The celebrated director Alfred Hitchcock was impressed with Granger's performance and cast him in his next film, Rope (1948). Inspired by the notorious Leopold and Loeb murder case, Granger and co-star John Dall (whose homosexuality was also well known in the Hollywood community) were cast as two affluent young men who strangle an acquaintance merely as an intellectual challenge to commit the perfect murder.

Although the two men's sexuality is never made explicit in the film, the relationship between Granger's and Dall's characters has a strong subtext, skillfully engineered by Hitchcock and his actors through staging, art direction, and nuance. "It was just a thing assumed," Granger said many years later of his character's homosexuality. "Either you got it or you didn't."

As the film's screenwriter, Arthur Laurents, explained, "There wasn't a word of dialogue that said [the two men] were lovers or homosexual, but there wasn't a scene between them where it wasn't clearly implied."

Shot entirely in one apartment set in uninterrupted 10-minute takes to ensure a continuous flow of movement, many critics found the film too "stagey." It was not a box office success, though Granger again received generally excellent reviews for his performance.

Shortly before he began work on Rope, Granger had met Arthur Laurents at a party given by mutual acquaintances. The attraction was immediate for both men.

"As striking and improbable as Farley's looks were," Laurents wrote in his autobiography, "he seemed unaware of them; and once you knew him, what you marveled at was his sweetness. He was generous with praise for his peers and with presents for his friends as though he himself wasn't enough to give."

Granger and Laurents began living together soon after they met, although the two men had to pretend they were merely roommates because, as Laurents later explained, "we didn't have friends with whom we could be what we were." Granger was also obliged to disguise his sexuality for the sake of his career, and he and Laurents often double-dated with young actresses while continuing to live together.

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Farley Granger in the trailer to Strangers on a Train (1951).
  
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