Book Review by George Reddick
Book Review by George Reddick
In 1951, when Farley Granger met Richard Burton after a performance of the latter's star turn in Hamlet, the great Shakespearean asked Granger why he would want to leave Hollywood for the theatre. "He wanted the exact opposite," Granger recalls. But the young Hollywood star had fallen in love with the theatre. Granger had signed his seven-year contract with Samuel Goldwyn at the age of seventeen, and after a promising start to his career, left for service in WWII. With his time in the Armed Forces not counting toward his contract, when he returned to Hollywood, he found few roles and movies that capitalized on his promise as an actor, and several years as a contract player still ahead of him. In his new autobiography, Include Me Out (written with Robert Calhoun), Granger discusses how disillusioned and disappointed he was with his experience in Hollywood, and how he longed to become a "serious" actor.
Granger's authorial tone is conversational and he moves efficiently through the years. His style is fairly informal, and he doesn't get too bogged down by chronology, often mentioning a later event that relates to something he is discussing earlier in his life. It's easy, fun reading, without frills or attempts at writerly flourishes. Granger's partner Robert Calhoun is credited with Granger on the book, but all is told completely from Granger's first person perspective, giving the appearance of a sole author. Granger is very direct and honest about some private issues such as his sexuality, though he doesn't go into too much detail. Overall, it is a simple, straightforward account of an exciting life.
While his career in Hollywood was increasingly unfulfilling, Granger turned to an artistic community that eventually led him to visit New York, and there he became utterly enamored of the theatre. Already, he had seen a performance of the Bernstein-Robbins Fancy Free ballet, and on the very evening that he himself was shipping out ("It was as if they were doing my story," Granger says). On that first trip to New York Granger recalls seeing Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun ("She was extraordinary! She was magnificent!"), Brigadoon ("with its marvelous dances by Agnes de Mille"), those "peerless actors the Lunts" in O Mistress Mine and finally, A Streetcar Named Desire. Granger remembers, "Everyone in it was wonderful, but I couldn't take my eyes off Brando."
Another unique aspect of Granger's life story is his frank discussion of his bisexuality. He relates in no uncertain terms that he had many relationships with men and women over the years, and he relates how he lost his virginity to both a man and a woman on the same night. Granger perhaps seems a little more comfortable discussing his relationships with women at length, but this may be circumstance. He is comfortable recounting specifics of his on-again-off-again relationship with Shelley Winters, with whom he remained friends over the years, but says much less about Arthur Laurents, with whom he had a relationship beginning when they worked together on Hitchcock's Rope, but with whom Granger rather diplomatically states he has not gotten along in the succeeding years.
It was not long after first visiting New York that Granger began to yearn to work in the theatre and to study at the famed Actor's Studio where many of the greatest young actors of his generation began their work. Though it left him practically bankrupt, he eventually bought out his Goldwyn contract and, after spending several months in Italy filming Senso, finally landed in New York. There, while attempting to build his credentials as a serious actor, he appeared in several live television plays which were popular in the 1950s. His first Broadway show was playing Darcy to Polly Bergen's Elizabeth and Hermione Gingold's Mrs. Bennett in First Impressions, a musical adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Bergen and Gingold never got along and the musical failed to find an audience.
Granger's next theatrical venture was to be more successful. Eva Le Gallienne, a celebrated actress who had spent the majority of her career in her own repertory company, was now a part of the new National Repertory Theatre, which would tour classics across the country. In two seasons, Granger had the opportunity to play with many illustrious cast members in such plays as The Seagull, The Crucible, She Stoops to Conquer, Hedda Gabler, and others. On the tour, Granger met and formed a friendship with Bob Calhoun, the production manager. The two eventually formed a deeper relationship, and after Granger had briefly returned to New York and appeared in a revival of The Glass Menagerie, the two moved to Hollywood where Calhoun had opportunities working in television. Granger found that the Hollywood he had abandoned was not a particularly welcoming place, but he found work in various television projects over the years. Eventually he moved back to New York and ultimately appeared in two of his greater successes on the New York stage, first as the final Sidney Bruhl in the long-running Broadway hit Deathtrap, and finally in his Obie-award-winning role as Eldon in Lanford Wilson's Talley & Son.
In a career that has spanned over sixty years, Granger became intimately acquainted with both the worlds of Broadway and Hollywood and Include Me Out is an informative and entertaining glimpse into the glamour and hardships of both worlds.
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