Close Encounters of the Celebrity Kind...
Fabu-lush Farley Granger
Special to the Chicago Tribune
by Richard Knight, Jr.
Granger in July of 2007 with partner of 43 years (and co-author) Robert Calhoun, Granger's memoir, and in his most memorable
film, Strangers on a Train, with co-star Ruth Roman
“Include Me Out: My Life from Goldwyn to Broadway,” the title of actor Farley Granger’s memoir has a triple meaning for him. It’s
the famous malapropism uttered by legendary movie producer Samuel Goldwyn who discovered Granger at 18, it’s the phrase
Granger used with his agent trying to free himself from the vise-like contract years later and, finally, it’s the actor’s public
acknowledgement of his bisexuality. “It means ‘include me out of the closet, too,’” the 81 year-old Granger said in a telephone
interview from the home in New York he shares with his partner of 34 years (and co-author of the book), Robert Calhoun. “It’s now
or never,” Granger added.
Granger was in Chicago recently for an appearance at the Music Box Theatre. After a double matinee of his two most famous films,
both from director Alfred Hitchock, 1948’s Rope and Strangers on a Train from 1951, Granger discussed his celebrity filled life and his
other well known films (including They Live By Night just out on DVD) in a lively Q&A session with moderator, film historian and author
Foster Hirsch. The making of the two Hitchcock suspense classics and an autograph session for his fans (the theatre was packed)
RICHARD KNIGHT, JR. (Rkj): Both Rope and Strangers on a Train have a distinct gay undertone. Was that even hinted at when you
were making them?
FARLEY GRANGER (FG): No. I think audiences did get it in Rope but I don’t think they did in Strangers. Nobody ever said the word
“homosexual” aloud in Hollywood in those days.
Rkj: Any idea what happened to the famous cigarette lighter with the little tennis racket engraving that provides the key suspense
element in Strangers?
FG (laughs): No!
Rkj: Speaking of tennis – did you learn to play for the film?
FG: I had played before so I knew a bit about it. When Bill Tilden the tennis champ was down and out Charlie Chaplin very
generously invited him up to his house to give lessons on his court and then Charlie called all his friends and said, “Come take
lessons if you care to” and I did.
Rkj: Can you talk about filming the climactic carousel sequence?
FG: We shot most of it inside the studio. Hitchcock had shots of the carousel going berserk and there was the background of the
people and the carnival. Then there were wind machines going at us and we did go around a little bit but Hitchcock sped up the film
to make it look like it was going faster and faster.
Rkj: Here’s some weird Strangers trivia for you: Marion Lorne who plays Robert Walker’s mother and Kasey Rogers (who made
Strangers under the name Laura Elliott) who plays your wife were both recurring characters on “Bewitched.”
FG (laughs): Oh really?!
Rkj: Yes – Lorne played Samantha’s daffy Aunt Clara and Rogers played Larry Tate’s wife. What are the odds? Did they ever offer
you Dr. Bombay or Uncle Arthur?
FG (laughs): No, but wouldn’t that have been fun? I loved both those ladies. I didn’t have scenes with Marion but I loved her; I
just thought she was marvelous. And Kasey and I had that great fight scene at the beginning of the movie.
Rkj: How was working with your co-star Robert Walker, Jr. who was sort of the tabloid darling at the time?
FG: He was terrific. I really got to know him and love him. At that point Bob was in trouble with getting drunk and being taken in by
the police. He had been institutionalized. Hitch said to me before filming started, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if he did something on
the set?” I said, “Oh, Hitch! Stop it, that’s terrible.” But he didn’t, Bob didn’t. A couple of weeks after filming was finished we ran
into each other at a party and he said, “We’ve got to get together” and a couple of days later he was dead at 32.
Rkj: How sad. Talk of a remake has been going around for years now. If that comes to pass would you like to do a Hitchcock-like
cameo in it?
FG (emphatic): No!
Rkj: Anybody in your life you’ve ever had the inclination to switch murders for?
FG (laughs): No – not even Goldwyn.