ONE-TIME SCREEN IDOL FARLEY GRANGER TELLS OF BISEXUAL PAST
In Farley Granger's newly published memoir ''Include Me Out,'' the former screen idol makes a revelation that is unusual among Hollywood tell-all books: He was bisexual.
Granger describes a Honolulu night that epitomized his life. A 21-year-old virgin and wartime Navy recruit, he was determined to change his status. He did so with a young and lovely prostitute. He was about to leave the premises when he encountered a handsome Navy officer. Granger was soon in bed again.
''I lost my virginity twice in one night,'' he writes.
The 81-year-old Granger, who starred in the Alfred Hitchcock thrillers ''Rope'' and ''Strangers on a Train,'' and other movies, recently talked about his relationships in an interview from his apartment in New York.
''My lifelong romance with Shelley (Winters) was very much a love affair. It evolved into a very complex relationship, and we were close until the day she died,'' he said.
A briefer affair with Ava Gardner began when both quarreled with their dates at a Hollywood Christmas party. ''We met at the bar and left together,'' he recalled. ''It was a short but pretty intense and enormously fun affair.''
Granger also writes about his same-sex celebrity affairs. For a time, he lived with Arthur Laurents, writer of the stage and movie versions of ''West Side Story'' and ''Gypsy.'' In New York, Granger says he had a two-night fling with Leonard Bernstein. Since the 1960s, Granger's companion has been Robert Calhoun, who shares the writing credit on ''Include Me Out.''
The title comes from a legend about Granger's first boss in Hollywood, Samuel Goldwyn. When leaders at other studios joined in promoting an industry matter, Sam reportedly uttered his most famous Goldwynism, ''Include me out.''
Until now, Granger has not discussed his bisexuality publicly.
''I had never hidden anything, and nobody asked me any questions,'' he said. ''My only outing came eight or 10 years ago when I was an old man. Arthur Laurents gave an interview in which he outed me publicly.''
Homosexuality was a difficult matter during most of Hollywood's history. William Haines, a popular light comedian in silents and early talkies, lost his career when he was involved in a public homosexual matter. He became an interior decorator. Ramon Novarro, star of the silent ''Ben-Hur'' and romantic films, faded when his fondness for boys became well-known in Hollywood. In later life, he became a character actor.
Rock Hudson allegedly had to marry to quell reports of his affairs with men. Only when he was dying of AIDS was his true background disclosed.
''I think it was a gentlemen's agreement to keep such matters quiet,'' comments Kevin Thomas, longtime movie writer and critic for the Los Angeles Times, now semiretired. ''That was a different era. Confidential magazine would threaten and blackmail and out somebody, but I think that in the mainstream press, it was taboo.''
Thomas cites the Tab Hunter and Richard Chamberlain autobiographies as examples of a new era of candor through self-outing.
Farley Granger Jr. was born in San Jose, where his father owned a thriving auto dealership. The 1929 stock market crash impoverished the family, and they moved to Los Angeles for better opportunities.
Young Granger entered the movie trade the old-fashioned way. He was spotted in a local play, underwent a movie test and was awarded a $100 weekly contract with Goldwyn's studio, MGM. His father signed the contract because Farley was only 17. He first played a Russian youth in ''North Star,'' then was loaned to 20th Century Fox for another war film, ''Purple Heart.'' When he turned 18, he enlisted in the Navy and spent most of the war in an entertainment unit in Hawaii.
Back in Hollywood, his darkly handsome looks attracted an enthusiastic following of teenage girls. Some of his films were youth romances, but he also starred in the prestigious Hitchcock thrillers.
His film career dwindling, Granger moved to New York in the 1950s and began a busy life in live television dramas, soap operas, Broadway and roadshow theater.
Granger managed to keep his bisexuality a secret during his Hollywood career.
''There were cliques for gays, like the one that met at (director) George Cukor's house,'' he recalled. ''I was never invited, and I don't think I would have gone if I had been. I was fortunate to join the musical crowd.'' He became friends with Judy Garland, actress Betty Garrett, composers Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and others who met Sundays at Gene Kelly's house for competitive sports in the backyard and The Game (charades) indoors.
When choreographer Jerome Robbins was visiting Hollywood, Granger asked him whom he would want to meet. Robbins immediately replied, ''Charlie Chaplin.'' Granger arranged a dinner at his house and was surprised when Chaplin accepted an invitation. After dinner, The Game was played. But Chaplin, the great pantomimist, proved to be a failure at charades. Chaplin later asked Robbins about a dance step. Robbins demonstrated it, and Chaplin joined him. They continued their odd duet to everyone's delight.
Granger feels lucky to have been part of Hollywood's Golden Age. He writes about what may have been the quintessential Hollywood party. Gary Cooper called to invite Granger to a party for Clark Gable. Granger quickly accepted. And would he escort Barbara Stanwyck, newly divorced from Robert Taylor? Of course.
The Cooper estate overflowed with the town's elite: Greer Garson, Ronald Colman, Jimmy Stewart, David Niven, Ray Milland, James Mason, Deborah Kerr, Myrna Loy and many others.
''Clark Gable arrived late, and it was an entrance to remember,'' Granger writes. ''He stopped for a moment at the top of the stairs that led down into the garden. He was alone, tanned, and wearing a white suit. He radiated charisma. He really was The King.''