Farley Granger: Goldenboy
BY Advocate Contributors
March 29 2011 1:20 PM ET
Granger never married, and that, coupled with several gay film roles, fueled rumors that he was gay himself. In 1951’s Strangers on a Train, for example, he was pursued by killer sissy Bruno Antony, played by Robert Walker. Four years later Granger portrayed real-life gay socialite Harry Thaw in The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, although the character’s sexuality isn’t addressed in the film. “I knew Thaw was gay,” Granger says, “but they didn’t want me to play it that way. His sexuality wasn’t important to the story.”
Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, from 1948, on the other hand, depended on the sexual tension of its murderous young lovers, portrayed by Granger and Dall (the latter’s gay dalliances are practically Hollywood legend). Granger insists that the director didn’t discuss the characters’ sexuality with either actor: “And John didn’t want to talk about it either. He wasn’t very friendly. At least not to me.”
Granger recalls being told by several colleagues at the time of Rope’s release that he shouldn’t have played a gay character on the screen. “But it was an opportunity to work with Hitch,” he says, “and I’ll play any good role, regardless of its sexual orientation.”
Not according to gay playwright Robert Patrick. He says that when Granger starred in a Chicago production of Patrick’s Kennedy’s Children in the late ’70s, the actor erased his character’s sexuality altogether. “Farley managed to forget every line written to indicate that his character was gay,” Patrick recalls. The writer says the production, which costarred Winters, was a disaster that ended Patrick’s theater career in America. “They were both awful to work with, but they were the best luncheon companions I’ve ever had. They gossiped like hairdressers.”
These days Granger confines his conversations to safe topics. He won’t discuss whether he’s involved in a romantic relationship, but he’s happy to share his opinions on the state of gay affairs in Hollywood today.
“Things haven’t changed much,” he says. “You still hear a lot of rumors—now they’re about John Travolta and Richard Gere—and there are still plenty of marriages of convenience. But actors today are getting so much money, they have to get married or risk losing an enormous income.”
Gay movie roles, he says, have changed little since Franklin Pangborn swished across the screen in the ’30s and ’40s. “There are more homosexuals in movies today, but they’re silly, campy people or murderers,” he states. “Or they’re in dresses. People are seeing these stereotypes and thinking that must be how we are. But what can be done about it? There are enough gay people in the industry that we should be able to pull ourselves together somehow. Yet we’re still not depicted responsibly.”
Granger cites recent gay films as examples of how little progress has been made. He dismisses It’s My Party as “old-fashioned but not in a good way. The campy dialogue seemed dated—I don’t think most young gay men talk that way anymore.” He didn’t bother to see To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, saying, “One more drag-queen movie isn’t doing us any good.” However, he thought The Celluloid Closet, the documentary based on Vito Russo’s book about gay characters in cinema, was well-made. Granger appears briefly in the film—in a clip from Rope and in an interview about the making of that film.
But while he’ll go on record bemoaning the hazards of the Hollywood closet, Granger is not interested in outing himself. “I like being ambiguous,” he insists. “I’m an old man. I just want to be left alone now.”
Old Hollywood habits die hard, according to author Boze Hadleigh, who’s made a career of documenting the lives of gay movie stars. “It’s the self-loathing of that whole generation that keeps them from saying the words ‘I am gay,’” Hadleigh says. “Plus the fact they still believe everything the studios told them—that if they tell anyone, everything’s over. If they live to be a hundred years old, these actors will never come out.”
Granger doesn’t feel it’s his responsibility to take on the Hollywood closet. “There’s this new attitude that you’re either out or you’re a bad guy,” he says. “That’s ridiculous. There’s no personal choice in that kind of thinking.
“I am more or less retired,” he continues, “so any impact my words would have would be minimal. It would take someone big, someone who’s hot today, to come out and make a difference in the movie business. And that,” Granger says, “will never happen.”