- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — Farley Granger, the 1950s bobby sox screen idol who starred in the Alfred Hitchcock classics “Rope” and “Strangers on a Train,” has died. He was 85.

Granger died Sunday of natural causes at his home in Manhattan, according to a spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner’s office.

Granger was a overnight Hollywood success story: He was a 16-year-old student at North Hollywood High School when he got the notion that he wanted to act and joined a little theater group.

Talent scouts for movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn saw the handsome youngster and signed him to a contract. His first movie was “The North Star” in 1943.

“It was one of those miracle careers,” he said. “I had no talent and no training whatsoever and suddenly I was thrown … (in) with Walter Huston, Erich von Stroheim, Anne Baxter, Ann Harding and Walter Brennan.”

A decade later, at the height of his Hollywood stardom, he walked away from it — to really learn his craft. He spent the rest of his career in a mix of movies, television and stage work.

Granger was born on July 1, 1925, in San Jose, Calif., where his father was a car dealer. The business went bust during the Depression and in 1933 the family moved to Los Angeles where he was subsequently spotted.

His career halted for U.S. Navy service during World War II — “I was chronically seasick.” But when he was mustered out he returned to Hollywood and the Goldwyn publicity machine.

Goldwyn firmly believed in big hype and hoopla for his stars, so he’d publicize me in projects that were never even written just to get space in the fan magazines,” Granger once recalled.

The magazines ran pictures of Granger in swim trunks cavorting with stars like Debbie Reynolds, Ann Blyth and Jane Powell. He was voted No. 1 on a list of the country’s most eligible bachelors in 1950.

A lifelong bachelor, Granger said the only serious romance he had was with Shelley Winters. “We came close to getting married,” he recalled in a 1981 interview. “Good thing we didn’t because we would have killed each other. Instead we’ve become lasting friends.”

He made “Rope” in 1948 and “Strangers on a Train” in 1951. In the latter he played a tennis star who meets a man on a train. The other man, played by Robert Walker, turns out to be a psychotic who proposes that each of them murder the other’s troublesome relative. He tells Granger’s character, “Some people are better off dead — like your wife and my father, for instance.”

Walker’s character proceeds to carry out his part of the bargain, killing the tennis star’s estranged wife and trapping the Granger character in an ever-tightening circle of suspicion.

In addition to the two Hitchcock thrillers, Granger appeared in “They Live by Night,” ”Roseanna McCoy,” ”Side Street,” ”The Story of Three Loves,” ”Edge of Doom,” and “Hans Christian Andersen.”

But he wasn’t happy with most of the films he was offered. “I was on suspension most of the time for turning down scripts,” he recalled. Finally, in 1953, he effectively fired his boss and headed for New York.

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