March 29, 2011 / 3:00 PM / in 8 years

Actor Farley Granger dies, age 85

NEW YORK (Reuters) - American actor Farley Granger, best known as a 1950s screen idol for his starring roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s thrillers “Rope” and “Strangers on a Train,” has died. He was 85.

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

The San Jose-born actor began his film career early on as a teenager, before embarking on an acting career that spanned several decades and genres, including movies, stage and television.

As a 17-year-old he signed with legendary film producer Samuel Goldwyn, who discovered him on stage in a Hollywood play and committed him to a seven-year contract beginning at $100 a week.

Upon completing his first film in 1943, “The North Star,” he soon enlisted in the navy during World War II before returning to Hollywood and starred in 1948’s crime drama “Rope,” opposite James Stewart, in which Granger played a young pianist who commits murder.

In Hitchcock’s psychological thriller “Strangers on a Train,” released in 1951, Granger portrayed an amateur tennis player who wants a divorce from his unfaithful wife so he can marry the woman he loves, but is soon suspected of murder.

By the release of that film, he had established a reputation as a handsome, cool, eligible bachelor, and he soon bought out his Goldwyn contract, traveled to Europe, then returned to make several more Hollywood films.

But Granger ditched the movie industry for a career on Broadway, making his debut in 1959 with “First Impressions,” a musical version of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” as well appearing in several TV series in the 1950s and 60s.

His chatty 2007 memoir “Include Me Out: My Life from Goldwyn to Broadway” featured a collection of anecdotes of many of the major players of Hollywood’s Golden Age, from producer Mike Todd to actress Rita Hayworth.

In the book, he told of romantic relationships and flings with both men and women, including Ava Gardner, Shelley Winters, Leonard Bernstein and “Rope” screenwriter Arthur Laurents, with whom Granger had a one-year romance that extended to a decades-long fiery friendship.

In the memoir Granger says, “I was never ashamed, and I never felt the need to explain or apologize for my relationships to anyone...I have loved men. I have loved women.”

Since the 1960s, he lived with his longtime partner Robert Calhoun, a soap opera producer, who died in 2008. Calhoun collaborated on the memoir.

Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by Patricia Reaney and Bob Tourtellotte

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