Stewart Granger was an English film actor who was hugely popular during the mid-twentieth century. Born in Kensington, West London, Granger rose to fame primarily through his appearances in the Gainsborough melodramas, which were a sequence of films produced by Gainsborough Pictures, a popular British film studio of that time. After appearing in minor roles in multiple films, as well as doing several stage roles, he played his first important role in the hit film 'The Man in Grey'. The film was a huge hit, and soon turned Granger into a star. Throughout the next few years, he appeared in other successful films, such as 'Fanny by Gaslight' and 'Love Story' in significant roles. Both the films earned him massive popularity. Other roles he is known for include his portrayal of Apollodorus, one of the most loyal followers of Queen Cleopatra, in the film 'Caesar and Cleopatra'. The film earned an Oscar nomination. He also gained popularity for his role in the Oscar winning film 'The Prisoner of Zenda', which was based on a popular novel of the same name by Anthony Hope. He also appeared in numerous other hit films in his career, which made him one of the most popular British stars of his time. He passed away due to prostate and bone cancer at the age of 80.
Childhood & Early Life
Stewart Granger was born as James Lablache Stewart on 6th May 1913, in Old Brompton Road, Kensington, in West London. His father was Major James Stewart and his mother was Frederica Eliza. He had a sister named Iris.
Granger did his schooling from Epsom College, and later attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. He changed his name to “Stewart Granger” after he began his acting career, in order to avoid being confused with the popular American actor James Stewart.
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Stewart Granger initially began his film career by doing minor uncredited roles. He appeared in several films such as ‘The Song You Gave Me’ (1933), ‘Over the Garden Wall’ (1934), ‘Convoy’ (1940), and ‘Secret Mission’ (1942). At the same time, he was also involved in theatre, appearing in plays, such as ‘The Sun Never Set’ (1938) and ‘The House in the Square’ (1940).
Granger rose to popularity after he starred in a main role in the 1943 British film ‘The Man in Grey’, which was made by Gainsborough pictures. In the film directed by Leslie Arliss, Granger played the role of a character named Rokeby. The film was a commercial success, and was also loved by the critics. It was voted the second best film during 1939-45 by readers of the ‘Daily Mail.’
He next appeared in Leslie Howard’s ‘The Lamp Still Burns’. The film revolved around a woman architect, who after much frustration with her career, chooses to become a nurse instead. Granger plays the role of Laurence Rains, her love interest.
In 1944, Granger appeared in the British drama film ‘Fanny by Gaslight’. Directed by Anthony Asquith, the film did quite well, and became the second most popular film of the year. The same year, he also played the main role in the romance film ‘Love Story’. The film became hugely popular in the UK.
Granger played his first antagonistic role in the 1945 film ‘Waterloo Road’. Directed by Sidney Gilliat, the film was a commercial success. The same year he played a supporting role in the film ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’, playing the role of Appolodorus, who was a loyal follower of Queen Cleopatra. The film was directed by Gabriel Pascal. Though the film was a commercial failure, it won the ‘Academy Award’ for Best Art Direction.
Over the years, Stewart Granger played important roles in numerous significant films such as ‘Adam and Evelyne’ (1949), ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ (1950), ‘The Light Touch’ (1951), ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’ (1952), ‘Green Fire’ (1954) and ‘Footsteps in the Fog’ (1955).
Some of his most successful works include ‘The Little Hut’, (1957), in which Granger played a main role opposite Ava Gardner and ‘North to Alaska’ (1960), which was directed by Henry Hathaway.
He starred in many films during the 1960s, such as ‘Swordsman of Siena’ (1962), ‘The Secret Invasion’ (1964), ‘Flaming Frontier’ (1965) and ‘The Last Safari’ (1967).
In 1972, he portrayed the famous fictional private detective Sherlock Holmes in the TV film ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’, which was directed by Barry Crane. The film was based on the popular crime novel of the same name by Arthur Conan Doyle.
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His last works included the 1987 romantic TV movie ‘A Hazard of Hearts’, and the 1989 Spanish drama film ‘Fine Gold’.
‘The Man in Grey’ a 1943 British melodrama was the first significant work in Stewart Granger’s career. Directed by Leslie Arliss, the film also starred Margaret Lockwood, Phyllis Calvert, and James Mason in lead roles. The film was a big commercial success.
Granger played an important supporting role in the 1945 movie ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’. Directed by Gabriel Pascal, the film was an adaptation of the play of the same name by famous Irish playwright and writer George Bernard Shaw. The film starred actors Claude Rains, Vivien Leigh, Flora Robson, and Francis L. Sullivan in addition to Granger. Though the film was a commercial failure, it earned a nomination for the Oscars.
Granger played one of the main roles in the 1950 adventure film ‘King Solomon’s Mines’. The film was an adaptation of a popular novel of the same name by Henry Rider Haggard. It was directed by Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton. Other actors who starred in the film were Deborah Kerr, Richard Carlson, Hugo Haas and Lowell Gilmoore. The film was a huge commercial success, and won multiple Oscars.
The 1952 film ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’, another one of Granger’s major works, was an adaptation of Anthony Hope’s popular novel of the same name. Directed by Richard Thorpe, the film starred Granger in the lead role, along with actors Deborah Kerr, Louis Calhern, Robert Douglas and James Mason. The film was a commercial success.
‘The Last Hunt’ is another one of Stewart Granger’s successful works. The film was based on novel of the same name by Milton Lott. Directed by Richard Brooks, the film starred Robert Taylor, Stewart Granger, Debra Paget, Lloyd Nolan, and Russ Tamblyn. The film was a commercial success.
Awards & Achievements
Stewart Granger won the Bambi Award twice. He won it first in 1948 for ‘Best Actor’ for the films ‘Captain Boycott’ and ‘The Magic Bow’. He won the award for ‘Best Actor’ again in 1950 for the film ‘Adam and Evelyne’.
In 1956, he won the ‘David de Donatello Award’ (shared with Jean Simmons) for his performance in the film ‘Footsteps in the Fog’.
Personal Life & Legacy
Stewart Granger was married three times. His first wife was EIspeth March, whom he married in 1938. They had two children. The couple divorced after ten years.
His next wife was Jean Simmons, with whom he had starred in a few films. They were married from 1950 to 1960. They had one daughter, Tracy.
His third and last wife was Caroline LeCerf, with whom he got married in 1964. They had one daughter, Samantha. However, they too divorced after a few years.
Granger also had an extramarital affair with actress Deborah Kerr.
He died of prostate and bone cancer in Santa Monica, California, on 16 August 1993. He was eighty years old at the time of his death.
Granger had stated that even though he had starred in numerous movies throughout his career, he couldn’t stand any of them. However, he mentioned in his autobiography, that his 1948 film ‘Saraband for Dead Lovers’ was the only film that he actually liked.
A chain smoker, he used to smoke as many as 60 cigarettes per day!
His niece is Bunny Campione, who is popular for her appearances in the British TV program ‘Antiques Roadshow’.