Stewart Granger (born James Lablache Stewart; 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.
He was born James Lablache Stewart in Old Brompton Road, Kensington, 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 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.
He made his film debut as an extra in 1933. 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. However he suffered from stomach ulcers and he was invalided out of the army in 1942.
Early stardom: Gainsborough melodramas
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. He followed this with the even more popular Fanny by Gaslight (1944). The New York Times reported that Granger "is a young man worth watching. The customers... like his dark looks and his dash; he puts them in mind, they say of Cary Grant."
He was cast in some prestige films, Caesar and Cleopatra and Waterloo Road, then in Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945) which the critic Leslie Halliwell called "novelettish balderdash killed stone dead by stilted production". All these films were successful at the box office (although Caesar and Cleopatra never recouped its large cost) and in 1945 The Times reported that "this six-foot black-visaged ex-soldier from the Black Watch is England's Number One pin up boy. Only Bing Crosby can match him for popularity."
Granger followed this with Caravan and then The Magic Bow in which he played Niccolò Paganini. In 1945 he was voted the second-most popular British film star, and the ninth-most popular overall. The following year he was voted the third-most popular British star, and the sixth-most popular overall.
He went over to Rank, for whom he made Captain Boycott, Blanche Fury and then Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948), an Ealing Studios production. The screenplay was by John Dighton and Alexander Mackendrick; Mackendrick would later direct The Ladykillers (1955) and Sweet Smell of Success (1958). 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 his few films of which he was proud.
In 1949 Granger was reported as earning around £30,000 a year.
That year Granger made Adam and Evelyne, starring with Jean Simmons. The story, about a much older man and a teenager whom he gradually realizes is no longer a child but a young woman with mature emotions and sexuality, had obvious parallels to Granger's and Simmons' 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 Michael Wilding as Granger's best man.
Granger's stage production of Leo Tolstoy's The Power of Darkness (a venture he had intended as a vehicle for him to star with Jean Simmons) was very poorly received when it opened in London at the Lyric Theatre on 25 April 1949. (During the run two men attempted to cut some locks from Granger's hair.) The disappointment added to his dissatisfaction with the Rank Organisation, and his thoughts turned to Hollywood.
In 1949 Granger made his move; MGM was looking for someone to play H. Rider Haggard's hero Allan Quatermain in a film version of King Solomon's Mines. Errol Flynn was offered the role but turned it down; Granger's signing was announced in August 1949.
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. Granger's co-star Eleanor Parker said Granger was the only actor she did not get along with during her entire career. "Everyone disliked this man.... Stewart Granger was a dreadful person, rude... just awful. Just being in his presence was bad. I thought at one point the crew was going kill him."
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. The case was settled out of court.
Granger lost out on A Star Is Born, which went to James Mason instead. 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 (1955) was the 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 (again with Gardner), and Gun Glory (1957), a Western story of redemption, both bombed. 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 became a successful cattle rancher. He bought land in New Mexico and Arizona and introduced Charolais cattle to America. However he left Hollywood in the wake of the breakup of his marriage to Simmons.
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). In 1970 he described his recent movies as "movies not even I will talk about".
He later estimated that he made more than $1.5 million in the 1960s but lost all of it.
He subsequently replaced actors 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).
Granger said he accepted the role for money and because it "seemed like it could be a lot of fun", but was disappointed by the lack of character development for his role.
He played Sherlock Holmes in a poorly received 1972 TV movie version of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
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.
In the 1970s Granger retired from acting and went to live in southern Spain, where he invested in real estate and resided in Estepona, Málaga.
In 1980 he was diagnosed with lung cancer and told he had three months to live. Granger later said, "I was 67 and had smoked 60 cigarettes a day for 40 years, but the doctor said if I had an operation there might be a chance of two to four more years of life. So I said, "Who the hell needs that, but you better give me three months to put my house in order.'"
Granger underwent the operation, had a lung and a rib removed, only to be informed he didn't have cancer after all - he had tuberculosis.
He returned to acting in 1981 with the publication of his autobiography, claiming he was bored. Granger spent the last decade of his life appearing on television including 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).
He moved to Pacific Palisades, California.
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. 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.
He was married three times:
- Elspeth March (1938–1948); two children, Jamie and Lindsay
- Jean Simmons (1950–1960), (with whom he had starred in Adam and Evelyne, Young Bess and Footsteps in the Fog); one daughter, Tracy
- Caroline LeCerf (1964–1969); one daughter, Samantha
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. Although at the time he was married to Elspeth March, he states that he and Kerr went on to have an affair. When asked about this revelation, Kerr's response was, "What a gallant man he is."
In 1956 Granger became a naturalised citizen of the United States.
He died in Santa Monica, California from prostate and bone cancer at the age of 80.
His niece is Antiques Roadshow appraiser Bunny Campione, the daughter of his sister, Iris.
In 1970 Granger said "Stewart Granger was quite a successful film star, but I don't think he was an actor's actor."
Among the films that Granger was announced to star in, but that ended up being made with other actors, were Ivanhoe (1952), Mogambo (1953), The King's Thief (1955) and Man of the West (1958).
- The Song You Gave Me (1933) as Waiter (uncredited)
- Give Her a Ring (1934) as Diner (uncredited)
- Over the Garden Wall (1934) (uncredited)
- A Southern Maid (1935) (uncredited)
- Under Secret Orders (1937) as Bit part (uncredited)
- So This Is London (1939) as Laurence
- Convoy (1940) as Sutton (uncredited)
- Secret Mission (1942) as Sub-Lieutenant Jackson
- Thursday's Child (1943) as David Penley
- The Man in Grey (1943) as Peter Rokeby
- The Lamp Still Burns (1943) as Laurence Rains
- Fanny by Gaslight (1944) as Harry Somerford
- Love Story (1944) as Kit Firth
- Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945) as Nino
- Waterloo Road (1945) as Ted Purvis
- Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) as Apollodorus
- Caravan (1946) as Richard Darrell
- The Magic Bow (1946) as Nicolo Paganini
- Captain Boycott (1947) as Hugh Davin
- Blanche Fury (1948) as Philip Thorn
- Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948) as Konigsmark
- Woman Hater (1948) as Lord Terence Datchett
- Adam and Evelyne (1949) as Adam Black
- King Solomon's Mines (1950) as Allan Quatermain
- Soldiers Three (1951) as Pvt. Archibald Ackroyd
- The Light Touch (1951) as Sam Conride
- The Wild North (1952) as Jules Vincent
- Scaramouche (1952) as Andre Moreau
- The Prisoner of Zenda (1952) as Rudolf Rassendyll / King Rudolf V
- Salome (1953) as Commander Claudius
- Young Bess (1953) as Thomas Seymour
- All the Brothers Were Valiant (1953) as Mark Shore
- Beau Brummell (1954) as Beau Brummell
- Green Fire (1954) as Rian X. Mitchell
- Footsteps in the Fog (1955) as Stephen Lowry
- Moonfleet (1955) as Jeremy Fox
- The Last Hunt (1956) as Sandy McKenzie
- Bhowani Junction (1956) as Col. Rodney Savage
- The Little Hut (1957) as Sir Philip Ashlow
- Gun Glory (1957) as Tom Early
- Harry Black (1958) as Harry Black
- The Whole Truth (1958) as Max Poulton
- North to Alaska (1960) as George Pratt
- The Secret Partner (1961) as John Brent aka John Wilson
- Sodom and Gomorrah (1962) as Lot
- The Legion's Last Patrol (US: Commando) (1962) as Captain Le Blanc
- Swordsman of Siena (1962) as Thomas Stanswood
- The Shortest Day (1963) as Avvocato (uncredited)
- The Secret Invasion (1964) as Maj. Richard Mace
- Among Vultures (1964) as Old Surehand
- The Crooked Road (1965) as Duke of Orgagna
- Das Geheimnis der drei Dschunken (1965) as Michael Scott
- Flaming Frontier (1965) as Old Surehand
- Der Ölprinz (1965) (aka The Oil Prince) as Old Surehand
- Killer's Carnival (1966) as David Porter (Vienna segment)
- Target for Killing (1966) as James Vine
- Requiem for a Secret Agent (1966) as Jimmy Merrill
- The Trygon Factor (1966) as Supt. Cooper-Smith
- The Last Safari (1967) as Miles Gilchrist
- Any Second Now (1969) (TV) as Paul Dennison
- The Virginian (1970–71 TV series) (aka The Men from Shiloh) as Col. Alan MacKenzie
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972) as Sherlock Holmes
- The Wild Geese (1978) as Sir Edward Matherson
- The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana (1982, TV movie) as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
- Hotel - episodes "Glass People", "Blackout" (1983-1987) as Anthony Sheridan / Tony Fielding
- The Fall Guy - TV episode "Manhunter" (1983) as James Caldwell
- Murder, She Wrote TV episode "Paint Me a Murder" (1985) as Sir John Landry
- The Love Boat - episode "Call Me Grandma/A Gentleman of Discretion/The Perfect Divorce/Letting Go" (1985) as General Thomas Preston
- Hell Hunters (1986) as Martin Hoffmann
- The Wizard - episode "The Aztec Dagger" (1987) as Jake Saunders
- A Hazard of Hearts (1987) (TV movie) as the elder Lord Vulcan
- Das Erbe der Guldenburgs (1987) as Jack Brinkley
- Fine Gold (1989) as Don Miguel
- Pros and Cons (1991) - episode "It's the Pictures That Got Small" (final television appearance)
Box office ranking
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)
- 1946 – 6th biggest star in Britain (3rd most popular British star)
- 1947 – 5th most popular British star in Britain
- 1948 – 5th most popular British star in Britain.
- 1949 – 7th most popular British star in Britain.
- 1951 – most popular star in Britain according to Kinematograph Weekly
- 1952 – 19th most popular star in the US
- 1953 – 21st most popular star in the US and 8th most popular in Britain
- In 1944 it was reported Granger's ambition was to play Rob Roy – J. Arthur Rank announced he was interested in a Rob Roy project in 1945 but it was never made
- Digger's Republic for Leslie Arliss as Stafford Parker (1946) – this became Diamond City with David Farrar in the role instead
- Self-Made Man (1947) from a script by Alan Campbell about a cocky type who comes out of the RAF and makes and loses a million dollars
- Christopher Columbus in the title role (1947) – film was eventually made with Fredric March
- Pursuit of Love for producer Davis Lewis at Enterprise Studios (1947)
- Treacher (1947) produced by Nunnally Johnson for Universal
- The Saxon Charm (1947)
- Reported as testing for John Huston in Quo Vadis (1949)
- The House by the Sea based on book by Jon Godden, with Granger as producer (1949)
- The Donnybrook Fighter (1952)
- Robinson Crusoe (early 1950s)
- Highland Fling (1957)
- Ever the Twain (1958)
- biography of Miguel Cervantes for his own production company(1958)
- The Night Comers with Jean Simmons - adaptation of Eric Ambler book State of Siege
- The Four Winds from a 1954 novel by David Beatty - for his own production company, Tracy Productions (1958)
- I Thank a Fool (1962)
- 'Bloomer Girl' to Play Instead of Jolson Opus, Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 23 March 1946: A5.
- "FILM WORLD.". The West Australian. Perth: National Library of Australia. 28 February 1947. p. 20 Edition: SECOND EDITION. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- 'Bing's Lucky Number: Pa Crosby Dons 4th B.O. Crown', The Washington Post (1923–1954) [Washington, D.C] 3 January 1948: 12.
- 'BRITTEN'S "RAPE OF LUCRETIA": NEW YORK DIVIDED', The Manchester Guardian (1901–1959) [Manchester (UK)] 31 December 1948: 8.
- "Bob Hope Takes Lead from Bing In Popularity.". Canberra Times. ACT: National Library of Australia. 31 December 1949. p. 2. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
- "TOP STAR IN BRITAIN.". The News. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 20 December 1951. p. 22. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
- "Martin And Lewis Top U.S. Film Poll.". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 27 December 1952. p. 3. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
- NOTES FROM LONDON: Down, But Not Out By C. A. LEJEUNE. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 11 November 1945: 47.
- NOTES FROM LONDON'S FILM STUDIOS: Thriller What, No Love Affair? By C.A. LEJEUNE. 'New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 23 December 1945: X5.
- BUSY DAYS IN LONDON: Film Studios Move Into High Gear, With Full Schedule of Pictures Under Way Films Coming Up In Father's Footsteps Notes in Brief By C.A. LEJEUNE. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 25 August 1946: 51.
- RANDOM NOTES ABOUT FILMS: Hollywood and England Discover Columbus--New Theatre--Code Revised New Show House Ban Eased Professional Opinion But He Doesn't Sing By A.H. WEILER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 22 September 1946: X3.
- Looking at Hollywood Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago] 2 May 1947: 28.
- ^ Looking at Hollywood Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago] 11 September 1947: 32.
- STUDIO BRIEFS Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles] 1 October 1949: 11.
- Drama: Pirate Picture Shapes for Fairbanks; Wyman May Do Lawrence Story Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles] 20 January 1950: 23.
- Wild Elephant Feature Will Star Breen; Gardner Roles Grow More Torrid Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles] 31 October 1949: A7.
- Looking at Hollywood: Stewart Granger Will Play Role of an Irish Pugilist Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963) [Chicago] 30 October 1952: c4.
- 'Young Bess' Gets Green Light for July Start; Veterans Set for Roles Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles] 19 April 1952: 7.
- Granger Will Star in 'Highland Fling' Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles] 26 January 1957: B2.
- Comedy Slated to Star Simmons and Granger; Student Wins Top Part Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles] 27 February 1957: C9.
- ^ Scott, J. L. (8 February 1958). Star to film biography of cervantes. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/167216960
- By THOMAS M PRYORSpecial to The New,York Times. (6 March 1958). PARAMOUNT GOING ABROAD FOR MUSIC. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/114429277
- By, H. T. (8 February 1961). 2 FILM STARS POST BUSY SCHEDULES. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/115374863
Select theatre credits
- The Courageous Sex by Mary D. Sheridan – Birmingham, May 1937
- The Millionairess by George Bernard Shaw – Malvern Festival, July 1937 – with Elspeth March
- The Apple Cart – Malvern Festival, August 1937 – with Elspeth March
- Victoria, Queen and Empress – Birmingham Repertory, September 1937 – as Gladstone
- The Sun Never Sets – Drury Lane Theatre, London, 1938
- Serena Blandish – 1938 – with Vivien Leigh
- Romeo and Juliet – Buxton Festival, September 1939 – with Robert Donat and Constance Cummings, as Tybalt
- The Good Natured Man by Oliver Goldsmith – Buxton Festival, September 1939 – with Robert Donat and Constance Cummings
- Autumn – with Flora Robson
- House in the Square – St Martins Theatre, London, April 1940
- To Dream Again – Theatre Royal, August 1942
- wartime tour of Gaslight with Deborah Kerr
- The Power of Darkness adapted from by Peter Glenville from the story by Leo Tolstoy – March–April 1949 – with Jean Simmons
- The Circle – 1989 – with Rex Harrison and Glynis Johns
- At the Play: THE REPERTORY THEATRES--IV BIRMINGHAM Ervine, St John. The Observer (1901-2003) [London (UK)] 23 May 1937: 15.
- MALVERN FESTIVAL: "The. Millionairess" The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 27 July 1937: 13.
- The Week's Theatres: THE MALVERN FESTIVAL H H. The Observer (1901-2003) [London (UK)] 1 August 1937: 9.
- ANOTHER VICTORIA PLAY: Birmingham Production Our Correspondent. The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 20 September 1937: 13.
- A QUEEN VICTORIA PLAY: Comprehending and Humane CAPACITY FOR POLITICS The Scotsman (1921-1950) [Edinburgh, Scotland] 20 September 1937: 14.
- The Week's Theatres: THE BUXTON FESTIVAL The Observer (1901-2003) [London (UK)] 3 September 1939: 7.
- BUXTON FESTIVAL: "The Good-Natured Man" J M. The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 12 September 1939: 4.
- "A HOUSE IN THE SQUARE" A D. The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 6 April 1940: 10.
- GLASGOW The Scotsman (1921-1950) [Edinburgh, Scotland] 4 August 1942: 6.
- ROLE IN MOVIE TO TAKE BRITISH STAR 42,600 MILES Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles] 2 October 1949: D1.
- LONDON LETTER The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 2 March 1949: 5.
Select radio performance
- Continuous Performance – the Film – BBC, December 1946
- Verdict On the Playboy Our Radio Correspondent. The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 12 December 1946: 6.
United States radio appearances
|1952||Lux Radio Theatre||King Solomon's Mines|