Stewart Granger

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Stewart Granger
Stewart Granger.jpg
publicity still
Born James Lablache Stewart
(1913-05-06)6 May 1913
London, England, United Kingdom
Died 16 August 1993(1993-08-16) (aged 80)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1933–89
Spouse(s) Elspeth March (1938–48) (divorced) two children
Jean Simmons (1950–60) (divorced) one child
Caroline LeCerf (1964–69) (divorced) one child

Stewart Granger (6 May 1913 – 16 August 1993) was an English film actor, mainly associated with heroic and romantic leading roles. He was a popular leading man from the 1940s to the early 1960s, rising to fame through his appearances in the Gainsborough melodramas.

Early life[edit]

He was born James Lablache Stewart in Old Brompton Road, West London, the only son of Major James Stewart, OBE and his wife Frederica Eliza (née Lablache). Granger was educated at Epsom College and the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. He was the great-great grandson of the opera singer Luigi Lablache and the grandson of the actor Luigi Lablache. When he became an actor, he was advised to change his name in order to avoid being confused with the American actor James Stewart. (Granger[1] was his Scottish grandmother's maiden name.) Offscreen friends and colleagues continued to call him Jimmy for the rest of his life, but to the general public he became Stewart Granger.

Career[edit]

In 1933, he made his film debut as an extra. It was at this time that he met Michael Wilding and they remained friends until Wilding's death in 1979. Years of theatre work followed, initially at Hull Repertory Theatre and then, after a pay dispute, at Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Here he met Elspeth March, a leading actress with the company, who became his first wife.

At the outbreak of World War II, Granger enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders, then transferred to the Black Watch with the rank of second lieutenant.[2] However, Granger suffered from stomach ulcers and he was invalided out of the army in 1942.[3]

Early Stardom[edit]

in Young Bess trailer

His first starring film role was as the acid-tongued Rokeby in the Gainsborough Pictures period melodrama The Man in Grey (1943), a film that helped to make him a huge star in Britain. A string of popular but critically dismissed films followed, including The Magic Bow in which Granger played Niccolò Paganini and Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945) which the critic Leslie Halliwell called "novelettish balderdash killed stone dead by stilted production". An exception was Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948), an Ealing Studios production. The screenplay was by John Dighton and Alexander Mackendrick, who would later direct The Ladykillers (1955) and Sweet Smell of Success. Granger was cast as the outsider, the handsome gambler who is perceived as 'not quite the ticket' by the established order, the Hanoverian court where the action is mostly set. Granger stated that this was one of few films of his of which he was proud.

In 1949 Granger was reported as earning around £30,000 a year.[4]

That year Granger made Adam and Evelyne, starring with Jean Simmons. The story, about a much older man and a teenager whom he gradually realises is no longer a child but a young woman with mature emotions and sexuality had obvious parallels to Granger's and Simmons's own lives. Granger had first met the very young Jean Simmons when they both worked on Gabriel Pascal's Caesar and Cleopatra (1945). Three years on, Simmons had transformed from a promising newcomer into a star - and a very attractive young woman. They married the following year in a bizarre wedding ceremony organised by Howard Hughes - one of his private aircraft flew the couple to Tucson, Arizona, where they were married, mainly among strangers, with actor Michael Wilding as Granger's best man.[5]

After Granger's stage production of Leo Tolstoy's The Power of Darkness (a venture he had intended to provide a vehicle for him to star with Jean Simmons) had been very poorly received when it opened in London at the Lyric Theatre on 25 April 1949, the disappointment, added to dissatisfaction with the Rank Organisation, led his thoughts to turn to Hollywood.

Hollywood[edit]

In 1949, Granger made the move; MGM was looking for someone to play H. Rider Haggard's hero Allan Quatermain in a film version of King Solomon's Mines. On the basis of the huge success of this film, released in 1950 and co-starring Deborah Kerr and Richard Carlson, he was offered a seven-year contract by MGM. Following two less successful assignments, Soldiers Three and The Light Touch, in 1952, he starred in Scaramouche in the role of Andre Moreau, the bastard son of a French nobleman, a part Ramón Novarro had played in the 1923 version of Rafael Sabatini's novel. Soon after this came the remake of The Prisoner of Zenda (1952), for which his theatrical voice, stature (6'2") and dignified profile made him a natural.

In 1952 he and Jean Simmons sued Howard Hughes for $250,000 damages arising from an alleged breach of contract.[6][7] The case settled out of court.[8]

Granger lost out on A Star Is Born, which went to James Mason. In Moonfleet (1955), Granger was cast as an adventurer, Jeremy Fox, in the Dorset of 1757, a man who rules a gang of cut-throat smugglers with an iron fist until he is softened by a 10-year-old boy who worships him and who believes only the best of him. The film was directed by Fritz Lang and produced by John Houseman, a former associate of Orson Welles. Footsteps in the Fog was the third and final film Granger and Jean Simmons made together - Simmons played a Cockney housemaid who finds that her adventurer employer (Granger) has poisoned his rich wife in order to inherit her wealth. Bhowani Junction (1956), was adapted from a John Masters novel about colonial India on the verge of obtaining independence. Ava Gardner played an Anglo-Indian (mixed race) woman caught between the two worlds of the British and the Indians, and Granger the British officer with whom (in a change from the novel) she ultimately fell in love. His films The Little Hut (1957), a coy sex comedy, and Gun Glory (1957), a Western story of redemption, both bombed.[9] North to Alaska with John Wayne, 'a brawling comedy western', was the last Hollywood film Granger made. Granger had turned down the role of Messala in the 1959 film Ben-Hur, reportedly because he did not want to take second billing to Charlton Heston.

Granger had become a successful cattle rancher but he left Hollywood in the wake of the breakup of his second marriage.

International career[edit]

In Germany, Granger acted in the role of Old Surehand in three Western films adapted from novels by German author Karl May, with French actor Pierre Brice (playing the fictional Indian chief Winnetou), in Unter Geiern (Frontier Hellcat) (1964), Der Ölprinz (Rampage at Apache Wells) (1965) and Old Surehand (Flaming Frontier) (1965). He was united with Pierre Brice and Lex Barker, also a hero of Karl May films, in Gern hab' ich die Frauen gekillt (Killer's Carnival) (1966). In the German Edgar Wallace film series of the 1960s, he was seen in The Trygon Factor (1966). He lated estimated he made more than $1 1/2 million in the 1960s but lost all of it.[10]

He subsequently replaced actor Lee J. Cobb, Charles Bickford and John McIntire on NBC's The Virginian as the new owner of the Shiloh ranch on prime-time TV for its ninth year (1971).[11]

He appeared in The Wild Geese (1978) as an unscrupulous banker, who hires a unit of mercenary soldiers (Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris and others) to stage a military coup in an African nation. His character then makes a deal with the existing government, and betrays the mercenaries.

Retirement[edit]

In the 1970s Granger retired from acting and went to live in southern Spain, where he invested in real estate. He returned to acting in 1981 with the publication of his autobiography, claiming he was bored.[10] Granger spent the last decade of his life appearing on television (including portraying Sherlock Holmes in an American TV movie version of The Hound of the Baskervilles with William Shatner also in the cast, and a guest role in the ABC series The Fall Guy starring Lee Majors) and on the stage. He even starred in a German soap-opera called Das Erbe der Guldenburgs (The Guldenburg Heritage) (1987).

One of his last roles was in the 1989–90 Broadway production of The Circle by W. Somerset Maugham, opposite Glynis Johns and Rex Harrison in Harrison's final role.[12] The production actually opened at Duke University for a three-week run, followed by performances in Baltimore and Boston before opening on 14 November 1989 on Broadway. [13] [14]

Personal life[edit]

He was married three times:

Granger claimed in his autobiography that Deborah Kerr had approached him romantically in the back of his chauffeur-driven car at the time he was making Caesar and Cleopatra.[15] Although married to Elspeth March, he states that he and Kerr went on to have an affair.[16] When asked about this revelation, Kerr's response was, "What a gallant man he is."[17]

In 1956, Granger became a naturalised citizen of the United States.[18]

He died in Santa Monica, California from prostate and bone cancer at the age of 80.[19]

Appraisal[edit]

In 1970, Granger said "Stewart Granger was quite a successful film star, but I don't think he was an actor's actor."[20]

Among the films Granger was announced to star in but ended up being made with other actors included Ivanhoe (1951), Mogambo (1953), The King's Thief (1955) and Man of the West (1958).[21]

Filmography[edit]

Box office ranking[edit]

At the peak of his career, exhibitors voted Granger among the top stars at the box office:

  • 1945 - 9th biggest star in Britain (2nd most popular British star)[22]
  • 1946 - 6th biggest star in Britain (3rd most popular British star)[23]
  • 1947 - 5th most popular British star in Britain[24]
  • 1948 - 5th most popular British star in Britain.[25]
  • 1949 - 7th most popular British star in Britain.[26]
  • 1951 - most popular star in Britain according to Kinematograph Weekly[27]
  • 1952 - 19th most popular star in the US [28]
  • 1953 - 21st most popular star in the US and 8th most popular in Britain

Unmade Films[edit]

  • The Donnybrook Fighter (1952)[29]
  • Robinson Crusoe (early 1950s)[30]
  • Highland Fling (1957)[31]
  • Ever the Twain (1958)[32]

Select Theatre Credits[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Name for a farm bailiff. Anglo-Norman French: grainger, Old French: grangier. From Late Latin granicarius, a derivative of granica ‘granary’.
  2. ^ In the 1985 Murder, She Wrote episode, "Paint Me a Murder", Granger wore a blazer with a metal-embroidered Black Watch breast pocket badge.
  3. ^ Shiach, Don: Stewart Granger: Last of the Swashbucklers (chapter 1). Aurum Press, 2005
  4. ^ "THE STARRY WAY.". The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933–1954) (Brisbane, Qld.: National Library of Australia). 9 April 1949. p. 2. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  5. ^ Shiach 2005
  6. ^ Howard Hughes May Take Stand in Trial This Week: RKO Executive's Appearance Moved Up in Suit by Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 3 July 1952: 16.
  7. ^ Actor Granger, RKO Studios Trade Shenanigan Charges: Rival Tax Claims Made in $250,000 Suit for Damages Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 18 June 1952: A1.
  8. ^ HUGHES, FILM ACTORS SETTLE COURT BATTLE Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 18 July 1952: 10.
  9. ^ Shiach 2005 p.183
  10. ^ a b Stewart Granger plans his return--as actor, not star Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 26 Nov 1981: e10
  11. ^ GRANGER comes to SHILOH Smith, Cecil. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 30 Aug 1970: k31b.
  12. ^ Rich, Frank (1989-11-21). "Review/Theater; Rex Harrison Back on Broadway". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  13. ^ "Coming Full `Circle`". Chicago Tribune. 1989-06-29. Retrieved 2012-06-17. 
  14. ^ Treadwell, David (1989-12-15). "COLUMN ONE : Culture in the South Rises Again". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-17. 
  15. ^ Granger, Stewart. Sparks Fly Upward, Putnam; 1st American edition (1981), ISBN 0-399-12674-0
  16. ^ "Stewart Granger". Retrieved 2007-11-19. 
  17. ^ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-stewart-granger-1461853.html
  18. ^ The Stewart Grangers become citizens of US
  19. ^ Movie swashbuckler Granger dies at 80
  20. ^ Stewart Granger, 80, Star in Swashbuckler Roles By WILLIAM GRIMES. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 18 Aug 1993: D18.
  21. ^ METRO CONSIDERS CAST FOR 'IVANHOE': JEAN SIMMONS MAY GET ROLE OF ROWENA--STEWART GRANGER WILL PLAY THE TITLE PART OF LOCAL ORIGIN By THOMAS F. BRADY Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 27 Dec 1950: 39.
  22. ^ 'Bloomer Girl' to Play Instead of Jolson Opus, Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 23 Mar 1946: A5.
  23. ^ "FILM WORLD.". The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879–1954) (Perth, WA: National Library of Australia). 28 February 1947. p. 20 Edition: SECOND EDITION. Retrieved 11 July 2012. 
  24. ^ 'Bing's Lucky Number: Pa Crosby Dons 4th B.O. Crown', The Washington Post (1923–1954) [Washington, D.C] 3 Jan 1948: 12.
  25. ^ 'BRITTEN'S "RAPE OF LUCRETIA": NEW YORK DIVIDED', The Manchester Guardian (1901–1959) [Manchester (UK)] 31 Dec 1948: 8.
  26. ^ "Bob Hope Takes Lead from Bing In Popularity.". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926–1954) (ACT: National Library of Australia). 31 December 1949. p. 2. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  27. ^ "TOP STAR IN BRITAIN.". News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 20 December 1951. p. 22. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  28. ^ "Martin And Lewis Top U.S. Film Poll.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842–1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia). 27 December 1952. p. 3. Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  29. ^ Looking at Hollywood: Stewart Granger Will Play Role of an Irish Pugilist Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963) [Chicago, Ill] 30 Oct 1952: c4.
  30. ^ 'Young Bess' Gets Green Light for July Start; Veterans Set for Roles Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 19 Apr 1952: 7.
  31. ^ Granger Will Star in 'Highland Fling' Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 26 Jan 1957: B2.
  32. ^ Comedy Slated to Star Simmons and Granger; Student Wins Top Part Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 27 Feb 1957: C9.

External links[edit]