Farley Granger: Goldenboy
BY Advocate Contributors
March 29 2011 1:20 PM ET
The following interview first appeared in the August 20, 1996 issue of The Advocate. Farley Granger died Sunday, March 27, at the age of 85.
“I’ve loved both men and women in my long life,” says actor Farley Granger, “but I don’t find that talking about my preferences or saying the words ‘I am out’ will do anything to change Hollywood or the world. I see no reason to come out unless it’s important to your work or your politics.”
Granger, 71, may hesitate slightly about addressing certain aspects of his private life, but it’s a reticence that, thankfully, doesn’t extend to discussions of gay life in old Hollywood. On that topic the former leading man—he starred in nearly 40 films, most of them while under contract to Samuel Goldwyn Productions in the ’40s and ’50s—offers up an insider’s perspective and effortlessly peppers his talk with pointed anecdotes. He remembers, for example, escorting Barbara Stanwyck, who was known to be bisexual, to a party at Gary Cooper’s house sometime in the ’40s. “I had just returned from working in Europe, and I wasn’t up on the latest,” he says. After he asked Stanwyck how her husband, bisexual actor Robert Taylor, was doing, Granger says, “She just stared at me very coldly and said, ‘You mean Mr. Taylor? He’s left me. For a woman!’”
While Granger starred opposite rumored-to-be-gay performers such as Danny Kaye (in 1952’s Hans Christian Andersen), he says they didn’t gather at the studio commissary and complain about the morality clauses in their studio contracts. “We never talked about it,” he says. “We knew who was gay, but there was no big deal made about it. You didn’t get together with your gay friends and say, ‘Did you hear about so-and-so?’ You knew, and you kept it to yourself.”
The Hollywood grape-vine, however, filled in the blanks, according to Jane Withers, who costarred with Granger in his first film, 1943’s The North Star. “The most creative people usually turned out to be gay,” she says. “I’d hear that someone I knew or worked with was gay, and I’d think, I knew there was something special, something different, about him! There was something different about John Dall. Farley was different. Hurd Hatfield was very different.”
According to Granger, that differentness could be dangerous to a star’s career. The fear instilled in contract players by the then-powerful studio system was intended to protect the studios’ investments from potential blackmailers and from snoopy Tinseltown tabloids like Confidential. “Who was sleeping with whom—male or female—was hushed up by the studios,” Granger says. “They could tear up your contract and you’d be through if there was talk that you were gay.”
Then, as now, Hollywood was ruled by homophobic film producers, directors, and casting directors, many of whom were gay themselves. “You always hear about the golden age of Hollywood, but there was so much hypocrisy,” Granger says. “All the Metro kids were so beaten in the head, every move was orchestrated. To this day, they still say, ‘Oh, Mr. Mayer was so good to me. He was like our daddy.’ Bullshit. He was a raging homophobe. All the studio heads were.”
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