The Last Swashbuckler by Peter Bosch

small alan

A Note from  Moira:
When I heard the news that Stewart Granger was to be July’s Star of the Month on TCM, I was delighted for two reasons. As regular readers might have guessed, part of my happiness stemmed from my lifelong enjoyment of the adventure films touched on appreciatively in last week’s nod to Errol Flynn in this blog. Such movies also were animated with renewed zest during Stewart Granger‘s high time in British and Hollywood films.

My second reason for joy was the offer by my friend, Peter Bosch, a writer and a recent TCM Fan Guest Programmer to have an interview he’d conducted with Mr. Granger published here. I think Peter, (fondly known to many of us on the TCM Message Boards as Filmlover), does an excellent job of capturing Granger‘s acerbic wit and honesty in this glimpse of the man as he launched his well done autobiography in 1981.

My elation was piqued by the thought of the neglected Granger garnering a bit of deserved attention and, as I hope you will enjoy, the actor’s personality comes across vividly in this timely piece. This actor injected each of his many roles with high style, even though, as you will see below, this panache and sense of grandeur was a gift that he seems to have undervalued in himself. My favorite Granger movies are the little known Love Story (1944) with Margaret Lockwood, the charming “April-August” romance of Adam and Evelyne (1949) with the remarkably beautiful girl (and talented actress) who became the actor’s wife, Jean Simmons, the frontier story of The Wild North with an almost unrecognizable Cyd Charisse as a gorgeous Indian maiden, and the beautifully made–and perhaps most sumptuous of all swashbucklers, Scaramouche (1952). In all, he brought a hint of good humor, naughty arrogance, and the sense that at his core, he was both a scoundrel and a gentleman. The viewer was never quite sure which way his characters might turn. Though such figures–and such acting, alas, fell out of fashion, Granger‘s ability to entertain and take us out of ourselves will be seen throughout this month’s slew of 26 scheduled Stewart Granger films on Tuesday’s in July.

Mr. Granger once cavalierly dismissed some very fine work, by claiming that “I’ve never done a film I’m proud of.” Anyone who has enjoyed his films knows better. The thirst for style, color, romance and adventure in the human heart is indestructible. One of the few actors who brought this yearning to satisfying life on screen gives us much to be appreciated and rediscovered here ~ Moira.

_____________
The Last Swashbuckler by Peter Bosch

An older, but jolly Stewart Granger around the time that Peter met him for this interviewJuly 2009 Foreword:

In 1981, I had the chance to interview Stewart Granger for a local weekly TV magazine in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, while he was in the city to promote his autobiography, “Sparks Fly Upward.”

As Stewart Granger is TCM’s Star of the Month for July 2009, I thought you might like to read that interview.
_____________________

“Everything about him is on a huge scale — his physique, his voice, his laugh, his enthusiasm, his frustrations, his temperament and his generosity.”
~ That’s the way Richard Carlson described fellow actor Stewart Granger in 1951.

Thirty years later, it is early morning in May 1981 in the Vancouver, British Columbia, hotel suite where Stewart Granger is talking about his autobiography, “Sparks Fly Upward,” an extremely entertaining book I read in one sitting.  (The phrase comes from Job 5:7 “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.”)

“It’s a lovely life,” Granger stated, “but it’s all in the past. It’s all over and it’s gone so quickly. That’s another thing that struck me as incredible. I suddenly realize I’m 68. I’m very young mentally, I’m just old physically.  I can’t run up the stairs and I can’t swashbuckle…and that’s rather sad. Although you’ve had a hell of a life, that doesn’t help me now, does it?”

And it has been a hell of a life, if the book is any indication.  With a great deal of humor, he tells in the autobiography of his rise from film extra to leading stage actor to major film star.  He also relates with frankness his love affairs with Deborah Kerr, Jean Simmons, Hedy Lamarr and others, but without ever being offensive.

However, not everything was love and kisses.  He reports the great battles with director Richard Brooks, his producers, Howard Hughes, and the acid-tongued Hedda Hopper, (seen below, at left) at whose name he would suddenly become infuriated.  “That bloody Hedda Hopper ruined people!  Hedda would plan and would have a campaign against certain people…she’d destroy you!”

Hedda Hopper with an understandably wary Jimmy StewartOn a much lighter note, when asked why he wrote the book, he laughed and replied, “For making money.  I had a couple of friends…one was Michael Parkinson (host of England’s “The Parkinson Show”).  He was partly responsible because he said, ‘Why don’t you write a book, because you were sort of the last of the swashbucklers, you know. ‘  And I said, ‘Oh, God, come on.’  And he said, ‘You were the first of the swashbucklers in England because there was nobody in the English film industry, if you think about it, that swashbuckled.’  But I suppose he’s right in a way.  Laurence Olivier and Michael RedgraveJohn Mills and James Mason, they weren’t swashbucklers, you know.  I was the first one to jump around with a sword.  So he said, ‘Why don’t you write about it because it would be interesting, you in the Fifties and the Forties, to show how it was.  How it really was.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I will, some day.’

“Someone else, an agent it was, said, ‘It’s easy.  You get a ghost writer, and just talk into a microphone, and they’ll do it all for you.  Publishers will fall over themselves to give you the money.’  None of which is true.  I picked the worst time in the publishing business, with the recession, and the cost of printing has gone up, and newspapers are going bankrupt.  The ghost I got probably was a much better writer than me…but it wasn’t me.  It wasn’t me talking.  It was just phony.  So that had to stop.  So I had to write it and it was torture.  It was terrifying because you’ve got to take out these memories that are in the back of your head and you’ve got to examine them and say, ‘Now how do I write about this interestingly?’  Even the happy periods are unhappy to write about because you say to yourself, ‘Why the hell didn’t I know I was happy then?’”

Part of the time that was very happy for him was his childhood.  He was born James Lablache Stewart in London in 1913, the son of Major James Stewart and Frederica Lablache Stewart (whose parents had both been actors, and her grandfather was the famous opera singer, Luigi Lablache).  (So, yes, Granger was born “James Stewart” but no relation to Hollywood’s famous Mr. Stewart, and was forced to be renamed Stewart Granger when the time came).As a young actor around the time of A Man in Grey (1943)

As related in the book, much of his childhood was enjoyable, especially the time he spent at the local cinema, getting caught up in the adventures of Scaramouche (1923) and The Prisoner of Zenda (1922), never knowing he would be starring in remakes of both films one day.  There were also difficult times in his life, mostly being away at prep school, a loner among boys he didn’t get along with.

As he became a young man, he was looking for work and a friend said, “Then become a film extra.  You get a guinea a day and the best crumpet in the world.” “Crumpet,” to those who don’t know, was British slang for—well, I’ll let you look it up…but all you had to do was mention the fairer sex to the young man and he was there.   In the autobiography, he tells how on another occasion it was suggested he join an acting program at a school by trying for a scholarship.  He told the person he wasn’t interested when he heard he would receive no money, but then saw that there were only eight other male students and fifty female students. And that is how he became an actor.

The book details his start in theater, his meeting and marrying Elspeth March, his military service, and back again to being a civilian and a return to the theatre.  While starring in a play production of “Rebecca,” he was asked to audition at Gainsborough Pictures for a film called The Man In Grey, starring James Mason as the villain of the piece…a role Granger would have liked as opposed to the hero he played.As Paganini in The Magic Bow

In fact, early in his film career, Granger was famous in roles that James Mason turned down.  He took over as the hero in The Man in Grey (1943) and as Appollodorus in Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) (seen below at left) and as Nicolo Paganini in The Magic Bow (1946) (right).

Granger laughed, “He was quite clever turning them up.  Appollodorus was a terrible part. ‘The Magic Bow’ he should have played.  It was a big success, but a terrible film. For ‘The Man in Grey’, I would have swapped with him any time.  He was right to turn down the hero because the villain was much more interesting. Villains are always much more interesting.  And they’re much easier to play.  You don’t have to have that dimple, that smile, that flashing of teeth, that charm, the twinkle in the eye.  You can just glower.”Fighting with John Laurie in Caesar and Cleopatra 1945

During this early part of his career, the married Granger fell in love with a young film actress he had met socially, Deborah Kerr, and a short affair ensued.  They did break it up but it was the start of marital troubles for him and Elspeth.  Sometime later, they divorced.  Shortly after that, he began seeing Jean Simmons, who had made an impression on the public in the film, The Way to the Stars (1945).  She made an impression on him, as well, and they fell in love.

While Granger was featured in starring roles, he was helping Simmons’ career along.  During the interview, I mentioned I had heard he was against her playing Ophelia in Laurence Olivier’s film production of Hamlet (1948). “No, where did you hear that?” he asked, puzzled, but then recalled, “Ah – I went to Larry and I said I was scared for her as she’s never done Shakespeare.  I remember saying, ‘You will look after her, because I know what it is to play Shakespeare.’  Larry was a wonderful director and he said, ‘Now don’t worry, leave it to me’…and she was wonderful.  With Jean Simmons out in Hollywood during their marriageShe got nominated for that.  Yes, you’re right, I’d forgotten about that.”

While making movies, he still kept appearing on stage.  One night, Irene Selznick, ex-wife of David O. Selznick and daughter of Louis B. Mayer, was in the audience of a play he was in.  Soon after, he was winging his way to Hollywood and Fame.  M-G-M put him into King Solomon’s Mines (1950), Scaramouche (1952), and The Prisoner of Zenda (1952), which were all remakes of film classics.  But he claims that it never bothered him that the studio brought him clear across the ocean and they didn’t have anything original for him to do.  “There’s damn little new in the world for those kind of classic romantic films,“ he said, “because they don’t write them anymore.”

One of the things he confessed in the interview was that in retrospect he would not have made that change from the legitimate stage to movies if he could do it over.

“I may not have been successful,” Granger said, “I may not have made so much money, but I sure as hell would have been happier because I would have been my own boss.  I might have made mistakes.  I don’t know.  But they would have been mine.  Not some mistake like the fat Nicholas Nayfack, who was the nephew of Nicholas Schenck (MGM’s New York based CEO), who made a film, Gun Glory (1957) and looked at me drunk one night and said, ‘I hate you, you son of a bitch.’  He couldn’t direct traffic.  He couldn’t cross the street without being led.  And so that was a failure; it wasn’t because you screwed it up, it’s because he screwed it up.

The classic long duel with Mel Ferrer in Scaramouche (1952)

“And I’ll never forget when they came to me and said, ‘King Solomon’s Mines is a great success.  Christ, you’re the next Gable!  He’s out because he’s made two lousy films.’  They thought I was going to jump up and say, ‘How nice of you.’  I was outraged that they could talk about Gable like that!  And I said, ‘Yes, and do you want to know why they were no good?  Because Gable was no good?  No, because you were stupid enough to put him into two bad pictures!’  Of course, I was finished as far as they were concerned, I was a ‘difficult character.’”

In 1953, Granger starred along with Simmons (then his wife) in Young Bess, which was the story of the years in the life of Elizabeth I before she became Queen of England.As the lookalike to a king in the remake of "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1952) Simmons was the headstrong Bess, Charles Laughton was her father Henry VIII, Granger was Admiral Tom Seymour, and Deborah Kerr was Catherine Parr, Henry’s last wife.  As previously mentioned, Granger had once been in love with Kerr and was required to play romantic scenes with both her and Simmons in the film.  But any fears of Simmons and Kerr not getting along were quickly put to rest.  “They were great friends,” Granger admitted.  ”They absolutely loved each other.  Jean knew I had had an affair with Deborah…I had introduced Deborah to her husband, Tony Bartlett.  They were great friends, they used to giggle together and tell each other terrible stories in Cockney.  It was lovely working with them.”
Granger turned sad as he recalls watching the film in more recent years on television.  “I sat down and saw it and I cried,” he said, “because Laughton was dead and the man who played my brother (Guy Rolfe) was terribly sick.  And it was sad.  Lovely film.”

During the 1950s, Granger and Simmons had a chance to appear in War and Peace (1956), but it ended up starring another husband and wife team, Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn.

“Sure, because we turned it down,” Granger remarked.  “Dino De Laurentiis (the producer of the film) we thought was a joke.  He walked into our house with King Vidor to see Jean and he looked at me and suddenly said, ‘You would be beautiful for the prince.’  And I said, ‘But didn’t you come to see Jean?’  And he said, ‘Ah, yes.’  There was Jean sitting there and he was trying to get me to play the prince so I didn’t like that.  I told Jean not to touch it.”Stewart Granger with Simmons on their ranch

Sadly, sometimes even the greatest love affairs end, and it was true in the case of Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons.  They divorced in 1960.  Shortly after that, she married director Richard Brooks whom Granger loathed.  “I didn’t like it at all.  I thought she was stupid.”  (2009 note: the following line was edited out of the published article, probably because Brooks was still alive at that time, but I remember Granger adding: “She thought she could turn him into a human being.”)

During that period, he was also working in every film that came along to pay off a ranch he had bought. One of those films was North to Alaska (1960), in which he costarred with John Wayne and Ernie KovacsGranger and Kovacs had a running joke that would absolutely burn WayneGranger remembered, “He got $666,000 for eight weeks work, eight hours a day.  We worked out how much he’s earning a minute.  We’d be sitting around in chairs and old Duke would be walking up and down and Ernie would call out, ‘Duke, you just made $556.’  And he’d go mad!  ‘Duke, you just made another $27, just walking from there to there.’

North to Alaska with John Wayne

“And I remember old Duke, who wasn’t too careful throwing his punch, absolutely pollaxing a man.  One of those shots where the man was coming towards him and he had to stop his punch in front of his face.  And he belted the guy and knocked him out.  And old Duke said, ‘You came too far forward.  It’s your fault.’”

Granger in Tangiers in the late '50s at the beginning of his peripatetic career phaseIn the 1950s, Stewart Granger had been a box-office draw…but between 1960 and 1967 he appeared mostly in foreign films, low-budget Italian epics and the like…movies he recalled as, “Awful, awful films.”  He made them for one reason, “Because it was tax-free.  For the first time in my life, I was making tax-free money.  I didn’t care what I did as long as I got the money.  I blew it.  It was stupid.”

He made only two more films, both for television, and starred for one season in The Men from Shiloh (formerly The Virginian).  He then decided to retire from acting.

“I thought I was rich,” he admitted.  “I didn’t need them.”

However, nothing is permanent, so he made a guest appearance in the 1978 film, The Wild Geese.  “I remember Richard (Burton) and I couldn’t remember our lines,” Granger said, laughing.  “Here we are telling each other what professionals we are, and drying up left, right, and center.”

Granger in the the later phase of his careerAfter he wrote the autobiography, he began feeling terrible pains in his chest.  He went to a doctor who thought he might have a bronchial infection so it was x-rayed.

Granger said, “I’ll never forget when they hung up those dripping negatives and you see this great big ghastly white patch right on this black lung.  And I said, ‘Is it?’ and he said, ‘I’m afraid so.’”

It was diagnosed as cancer, but later it was learned the doctor was wrong.  Unfortunately, Granger didn’t know that at the time as he looked at the x-rays that could be showing his death.  “Do you know what he said to me?  ‘I’m not telling you to make your will tomorrow, but don’t wait too long.’  That’s what he said.  And your heart sinks, BWHAMM!  But because you’re an actor, you carry it off.  So he thought I wasn’t terribly upset, so he asked me for my autograph.  I thought that was in very poor taste.  So when he sent me the bill, I sent him a bill for the autograph.  And it was £10 more than the bill he sent me, and I haven’t heard from him since.”

Suddenly, my interview with Granger was interrupted by the incredibly loud sound of the fire alarm in the hotel corridor.  We tried ignoring it at first, figuring it to be a false alarm, but when it persisted I began to feel a little nervous.  Granger, on the other hand, was merely annoyed at the interruption of the interview.  We discovered the management was “thoughtfully” testing their alarm at that early hour and we returned to my tape recorder which turned out to be more frightened than I as it was now chewing up my remaining tape.

Coupling that with the fact that Judi, the publisher’s pressed-for-time representative, was pushing me out the door so the actor-turned-author could make his next appointment, we concluded the interview.

But what of all the untold stories in his life from 1960 on that are not covered in “Sparks Fly Upward”?  “That comes in my next book,” he quickly assured me.
_________________________________

2009 Endnote: I had hoped he would write that second book.  Unfortunately, Stewart Granger died in 1993 without ever writing it.

I will always have fond memories of meeting him and interviewing him.  He was the first celebrity I interviewed.  And while there were many after, there was something special about this man that has always stayed with me.  He was a man of life and energy and wit.  You don’t come across many like that.  To me, he will always be of the joyous grin as he runs up stairs, engaging in swordplay, and swashbuckling with the very best.

THE END

Stewart Granger in his prime

The following glimpses give us a taste for the dashing presence and good humor that Stewart Granger brought to his many roles:

This luridly romantic trailer from his very early supporting role in The Man in Grey (1943) gives a hint at what Granger meant above about James Mason’s gifts and their parallel careers:[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_TekKYWBj0]

In the clip below from The Woman Hater (1947) Granger’s comedic and romantic style, pre-Hollywood is evident in this playful scene with Edwige Feuillard:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQBEtgIkyhg]

A featurette dramatizing the lengths the cast and crew went to to make King Solomon’s Mines (1950):
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGSnk66UDbI]

In what many believe is the best-staged sword duel in screen history in Scaramouche (1952):
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFp0jpk_o_I]

In The Wild North (1952), Granger had a chance to show his rough and ready side in this tale of the Yukon. Don’t miss the character’s accent or the wolves! A must for all aficionados of scenery-chewing at its most entertaining:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wrAFb7-lww]

Young Bess (1953), a beautifully told story of the young Elizabeth, offering good roles for Jean Simmons, Deborah Kerr & Granger, as well as Charles Laughton:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9EVluc9rNw]

The rarely seen sea saga included in this month’s lineup on TCM is All the Brothers Were Valiant (1953):
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3zhB7jLQug]

The magnificently mounted Beau Brummel (1954) boasts a great cast, and scads of Regency flavor thanks to them and the art direction from the legendary Alfred Junge and cinematographer Oswald Morris:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaOJfGnrc4s]

Bhowani Junction (1956) is a colorful look at Indian society and individuals caught up in personal and political conflicts of race and freedom at the end of the British Raj. Ava Gardner, Granger and Bill Travers make a compelling triangle in the midst of one of George Cukor’s more challenging late career films:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ecoa41X2e84]

Prisoner of Zenda, Bhwonai Junction and Moonfleet

34 Responses The Last Swashbuckler by Peter Bosch
Posted By Al Lowe : July 1, 2009 9:39 am

James Robert Parish and Don Stanke published The Swashbucklers in 1976, with chapters on Granger, Fairbanks, Power and Flynn, among others.

Here are some things I learned about Granger from that chapter:

He was enormously popular in England during the war years. C.A. Lejune was the tough film critic for the London Observer; for example she dismissed Van Johnson’s No Leave, No Love with “No comment.” But she loved Granger and her comments about him were mash notes. “Mr. Stewart Granger doesn’t need to bother about being out of practice in acting, he looks so scrumptious.”

THIS book told about Granger advising Simmons to turn down the role in Hamlet. He was 37 and she was 21 when they married in December, 1950.

At a Hollywood party Granger addressed the guests by saying: “I hear there’s a rumor that I’m not interested in women.” In frank, earthy terms he told why and how he liked women.

The mountains and snow of Idaho substituted for the Canadian woods in The Wild North.

He didn’t renew his contract with MGM because he wanted more money than they could afford.

Granger was never one of my personal favorites, although I liked him okay. I have the DVD of Wild Geese. I appreciated the story about Burton and Granger filming their scenes together. All the DVD has in way of extras is a lot of publicity material.

Posted By Al Lowe : July 1, 2009 9:39 am

James Robert Parish and Don Stanke published The Swashbucklers in 1976, with chapters on Granger, Fairbanks, Power and Flynn, among others.

Here are some things I learned about Granger from that chapter:

He was enormously popular in England during the war years. C.A. Lejune was the tough film critic for the London Observer; for example she dismissed Van Johnson’s No Leave, No Love with “No comment.” But she loved Granger and her comments about him were mash notes. “Mr. Stewart Granger doesn’t need to bother about being out of practice in acting, he looks so scrumptious.”

THIS book told about Granger advising Simmons to turn down the role in Hamlet. He was 37 and she was 21 when they married in December, 1950.

At a Hollywood party Granger addressed the guests by saying: “I hear there’s a rumor that I’m not interested in women.” In frank, earthy terms he told why and how he liked women.

The mountains and snow of Idaho substituted for the Canadian woods in The Wild North.

He didn’t renew his contract with MGM because he wanted more money than they could afford.

Granger was never one of my personal favorites, although I liked him okay. I have the DVD of Wild Geese. I appreciated the story about Burton and Granger filming their scenes together. All the DVD has in way of extras is a lot of publicity material.

Posted By Chris : July 1, 2009 3:08 pm

Peter:

This is a terrific piece you have shared with us. I knew a little about Granger but you’ve given us some more good stuff and it’s so nice to have it straight from him. He sounds like a fun guy to hang around and is not afraid to share his foibles as well as the fun he had doing it all. I hope if another chance presents itself and you have anymore of these gems laying around we’ll get to see them too. Thanks so much.

(Moira – thanks for sharing it with us as well.)

Posted By Chris : July 1, 2009 3:08 pm

Peter:

This is a terrific piece you have shared with us. I knew a little about Granger but you’ve given us some more good stuff and it’s so nice to have it straight from him. He sounds like a fun guy to hang around and is not afraid to share his foibles as well as the fun he had doing it all. I hope if another chance presents itself and you have anymore of these gems laying around we’ll get to see them too. Thanks so much.

(Moira – thanks for sharing it with us as well.)

Posted By Knitter45 : July 1, 2009 3:57 pm

Confession time….North to Alaska is one of my favorite John Wayne movies. The best parts are with Capucine at the beginning of the movie, when he meets and “courts” her for Stewart Granger, who could be a romantic devil, and very funny, when the part called for it. Stewart Granger is one of those stars I always add “sigh” to, when I see his name. After reading Moira’s and Peter’s articles about him, I definitely will be looking for his book. Thanks for sharing, Peter. (loved your spot on the guest programmer’s evenings.)

Posted By Knitter45 : July 1, 2009 3:57 pm

Confession time….North to Alaska is one of my favorite John Wayne movies. The best parts are with Capucine at the beginning of the movie, when he meets and “courts” her for Stewart Granger, who could be a romantic devil, and very funny, when the part called for it. Stewart Granger is one of those stars I always add “sigh” to, when I see his name. After reading Moira’s and Peter’s articles about him, I definitely will be looking for his book. Thanks for sharing, Peter. (loved your spot on the guest programmer’s evenings.)

Posted By suzidoll : July 1, 2009 10:48 pm

What a wonderful interview. I was just going to take a quick look because I am in the middle of something but ended up reading the whole thing word for word. Thanks for sharing.

And, I agree with Knitter 45 about North to Alaska.

Posted By suzidoll : July 1, 2009 10:48 pm

What a wonderful interview. I was just going to take a quick look because I am in the middle of something but ended up reading the whole thing word for word. Thanks for sharing.

And, I agree with Knitter 45 about North to Alaska.

Posted By su : July 2, 2009 2:34 am

Thanks for revealing the covered TCM classics. Nice blog with very interesting video interest the visitors. keep it up the good work.

Posted By su : July 2, 2009 2:34 am

Thanks for revealing the covered TCM classics. Nice blog with very interesting video interest the visitors. keep it up the good work.

Posted By roadsho1 : July 2, 2009 3:46 am

Hi Peter:
This is your old friend Don from Vancouver. I remember when you first wrote this article way back when. it’s so nice to see that you are doing well and to revisit the article once again. Hope all is well and keep up the good work.

Posted By roadsho1 : July 2, 2009 3:46 am

Hi Peter:
This is your old friend Don from Vancouver. I remember when you first wrote this article way back when. it’s so nice to see that you are doing well and to revisit the article once again. Hope all is well and keep up the good work.

Posted By Peter : July 2, 2009 8:15 am

Don, wow, how are you??!!! Send me a PM through the regular TCM message board site under my screenname of filmlover. I want to catch up on everything that has been happening with you. It’s amazing to hear from you.

Posted By Peter : July 2, 2009 8:15 am

Don, wow, how are you??!!! Send me a PM through the regular TCM message board site under my screenname of filmlover. I want to catch up on everything that has been happening with you. It’s amazing to hear from you.

Posted By Lzcutter : July 2, 2009 2:49 pm

Peter,

Great interview! I really enjoyed it as Stewart Granger was always one of my favorites. Would love to see more of your interviews in the future!

M- thanks for allowing Peter to share this with all of us!

Posted By Lzcutter : July 2, 2009 2:49 pm

Peter,

Great interview! I really enjoyed it as Stewart Granger was always one of my favorites. Would love to see more of your interviews in the future!

M- thanks for allowing Peter to share this with all of us!

Posted By moirafinnie : July 2, 2009 6:23 pm

What a pleasure it’s been “bringing” Peter‘s well done interview to this site. I was very taken with the way that he caught the voice of Stewart Granger, the yarn spinner extraordinaire, in this account. It has added to my enjoyment to read your many responses.

Please allow me to mention a couple of Stewart Granger items I came across while recently re-reading A Life on Film by Michael Powell (as in Powell and Pressburger). Granger heard that the director was preparing a film about the ballet and needed a “girl who could talk and dance.” The newly successful actor, who in Powell’s words was “a guy who knew all the girls”, told him there was “a Scottish girl in the Sadler Wells [ballet]..with red, very red hair. You have to see her!”

One legendary film later, and Moira Shearer will be immortal as the star of one of the best ballet films ever, The Red Shoes (1948).

Another story Powell told about Granger just before Stewart was leaving for Hollywood. On one hectic, rainy late night on the streets of London when Granger was futilely attempting to hail a taxi, his suitcase popped open and his clothes were strewn in the gutter. A passing group of revelers paused to laugh at his plight. Sputtering with rage, he shouted oaths at them, ending with the admonition “Don’t laugh at me! I’m a movie star!”

I honestly don’t know if he was kidding or not. I like to think so.

Btw, I recently came across another interview of Stewart Granger‘s in 1970. Perhaps he was trying to mollify an insistent reporter, but he mentioned that perhaps there was one film in which he thought he was passable as an actor: Waterloo Road (1944), in which he played a bounder, but a modern, realistic one who’s a Cockney sweet-talker in a story set during WWII. The BFI tells more about this Sydney Gilliat feature here

Posted By moirafinnie : July 2, 2009 6:23 pm

What a pleasure it’s been “bringing” Peter‘s well done interview to this site. I was very taken with the way that he caught the voice of Stewart Granger, the yarn spinner extraordinaire, in this account. It has added to my enjoyment to read your many responses.

Please allow me to mention a couple of Stewart Granger items I came across while recently re-reading A Life on Film by Michael Powell (as in Powell and Pressburger). Granger heard that the director was preparing a film about the ballet and needed a “girl who could talk and dance.” The newly successful actor, who in Powell’s words was “a guy who knew all the girls”, told him there was “a Scottish girl in the Sadler Wells [ballet]..with red, very red hair. You have to see her!”

One legendary film later, and Moira Shearer will be immortal as the star of one of the best ballet films ever, The Red Shoes (1948).

Another story Powell told about Granger just before Stewart was leaving for Hollywood. On one hectic, rainy late night on the streets of London when Granger was futilely attempting to hail a taxi, his suitcase popped open and his clothes were strewn in the gutter. A passing group of revelers paused to laugh at his plight. Sputtering with rage, he shouted oaths at them, ending with the admonition “Don’t laugh at me! I’m a movie star!”

I honestly don’t know if he was kidding or not. I like to think so.

Btw, I recently came across another interview of Stewart Granger‘s in 1970. Perhaps he was trying to mollify an insistent reporter, but he mentioned that perhaps there was one film in which he thought he was passable as an actor: Waterloo Road (1944), in which he played a bounder, but a modern, realistic one who’s a Cockney sweet-talker in a story set during WWII. The BFI tells more about this Sydney Gilliat feature here

Posted By morlockjeff : July 2, 2009 7:55 pm

Perfect timing for this candid interview with Granger, TCM’s star of the month. I am curious if Granger had anything to say about Scaramouche, probably my favorite Granger film. There was nothing about it here but I’ve heard conflicting stories about his opinion of it. On one side, I heard he was forced to do it against his will and on the other that it was one of the roles he coveted. Anybody know the truth?

Posted By morlockjeff : July 2, 2009 7:55 pm

Perfect timing for this candid interview with Granger, TCM’s star of the month. I am curious if Granger had anything to say about Scaramouche, probably my favorite Granger film. There was nothing about it here but I’ve heard conflicting stories about his opinion of it. On one side, I heard he was forced to do it against his will and on the other that it was one of the roles he coveted. Anybody know the truth?

Posted By moirafinnie : July 3, 2009 11:09 am

In response to Morlock Jeff‘s inquiry about the conflicting stories regarding Stewart Granger’s ambivalence about the film, Scaramouche(1952):

I’m not sure we know the truth, but think that the actor’s mixed feelings about the movie reflect some lifelong insecurity about his talent and career. I hope that if others have more info on this topic, they will post, but here’s what I’ve found–

In SG’s “Sparks Fly Upward” he was–as he so often seemed to be–in the midst of complicating his life quite a bit by arguing pretty much non-stop with powerful MGM figures such as Benny Thau just before Scaramouche began to be planned. Thau, the top casting man at the studio around the time of pre-production for Scaramouche, grudgingly mentioned to Granger that he was in the running for the part, but did not commit himself to this final casting choice. Granger knew that the role was particularly suited to his strengths as an actor, and expressed fear that it would be a musical. He knew that this meant that he might find himself competing against powerhouse Gene Kelly, whose highly successful The Three Musketeers (1948) had originally been planned as a musical. (Granger also felt obliged to mention more than once that the Irish-American Kelly was shorter than he–and was perhaps too American to convincingly play a secret aristocrat of French blood in the Sabatini story).

When he secured the role in Scaramouche, SG trained diligently with famed USC instructor Jean Heremans to perfect his fencing. The actor sustained injuries to his shoulder during a fall from a balcony during the long dueling scene, a knee injury, and had his eyelid slashed open as well during shooting. In later years he sometimes admitted these may have been caused because of his own insistence on performing his own stunts. He also described MGM budgetary and time pressures on his director, George Sidney as leading to the carelessness that contributed to these events. Granger claimed that after sustaining a twisted knee, he was crumpled on the floor of the set nearly unconscious. When an assistant called out impulsively, “the poor b*****d’s dead”, allegedly Sidney cried, “What the hell are we going to do? The picture’s only half-finished!.” Others who worked with Sidney over the years contradicted this report.

Director George Sidney gave an interview on the BBC to film historian Tony Sloman in 1993 in which the director mentioned that he had considered making this story into a musical. Yet, after running Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), he was so impressed with Granger‘s athletic “Apollodorus”, (playing yet another part the actor disparaged in his memoir), that Sidney knew he’d found his “André Moreau”.

During production Sidney reported that there were “grumbling moods” that came over his star at times. There were issues about the perceived slights experienced by Granger at MGM, a number of injuries he’d experienced during production, and frustrations with simply being thought of as tall, good looking and dashing rather than a serious actor. When Spencer Tracy visited the Sidney set, SG reportedly told the esteemed actor that all of his roles put together, including Scaramouche, did not amount to anything compared to one great Tracy performance. Taken aback, the aging, then non-athletic Tracy said he’d have given them all to play Scaramouche, since that was the kind of wonderful role that attracted him to performing in the first place.

Lastly, there were several times when the competitive Granger expressed resentment over his status at the studio, artistically and financially. He reportedly felt resentful because he had to occasionally audition for parts, even at MGM. I haven’t found evidence that he had to do so for Scaramouche, but when the film was released, it proved to be wildly successful critically and popularly. Despite this, there were some sniping articles that appeared in the press, saying that the current crop of British stars had failed to captivate Hollywood. Granger, again suspicious about his studio’s sometimes Byzantine inner workings, suspected that MGM had planted the articles. That seemed to leave a bad taste in his mouth about the period of his career too.

Having seen the down-to-earth, if perennially self-critical Granger, interviewed over the years on television once or twice, I do recall that when asked about the film, he always seemed to mention the memories of his lifelong injuries sustained to his shoulder and knee during production more than the literate, visual extravaganza that resulted from the work.
He also seemed to have been dissatisfied with his performance, even decades later, which seems a shame. As Granger mentioned in his above interview with Peter, it might be a case of ‘Why the hell didn’t I know I was happy then?’

Some of the sources for the information in this response were:

“Sparks Fly Upward” by Stewart Granger (Granada, 1981)
“Stewart Granger: The Last of the Swashbucklers” by Don Shiach (Aurum, 2006)
The British Journalism Review
BBC Radio

Posted By moirafinnie : July 3, 2009 11:09 am

In response to Morlock Jeff‘s inquiry about the conflicting stories regarding Stewart Granger’s ambivalence about the film, Scaramouche(1952):

I’m not sure we know the truth, but think that the actor’s mixed feelings about the movie reflect some lifelong insecurity about his talent and career. I hope that if others have more info on this topic, they will post, but here’s what I’ve found–

In SG’s “Sparks Fly Upward” he was–as he so often seemed to be–in the midst of complicating his life quite a bit by arguing pretty much non-stop with powerful MGM figures such as Benny Thau just before Scaramouche began to be planned. Thau, the top casting man at the studio around the time of pre-production for Scaramouche, grudgingly mentioned to Granger that he was in the running for the part, but did not commit himself to this final casting choice. Granger knew that the role was particularly suited to his strengths as an actor, and expressed fear that it would be a musical. He knew that this meant that he might find himself competing against powerhouse Gene Kelly, whose highly successful The Three Musketeers (1948) had originally been planned as a musical. (Granger also felt obliged to mention more than once that the Irish-American Kelly was shorter than he–and was perhaps too American to convincingly play a secret aristocrat of French blood in the Sabatini story).

When he secured the role in Scaramouche, SG trained diligently with famed USC instructor Jean Heremans to perfect his fencing. The actor sustained injuries to his shoulder during a fall from a balcony during the long dueling scene, a knee injury, and had his eyelid slashed open as well during shooting. In later years he sometimes admitted these may have been caused because of his own insistence on performing his own stunts. He also described MGM budgetary and time pressures on his director, George Sidney as leading to the carelessness that contributed to these events. Granger claimed that after sustaining a twisted knee, he was crumpled on the floor of the set nearly unconscious. When an assistant called out impulsively, “the poor b*****d’s dead”, allegedly Sidney cried, “What the hell are we going to do? The picture’s only half-finished!.” Others who worked with Sidney over the years contradicted this report.

Director George Sidney gave an interview on the BBC to film historian Tony Sloman in 1993 in which the director mentioned that he had considered making this story into a musical. Yet, after running Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), he was so impressed with Granger‘s athletic “Apollodorus”, (playing yet another part the actor disparaged in his memoir), that Sidney knew he’d found his “André Moreau”.

During production Sidney reported that there were “grumbling moods” that came over his star at times. There were issues about the perceived slights experienced by Granger at MGM, a number of injuries he’d experienced during production, and frustrations with simply being thought of as tall, good looking and dashing rather than a serious actor. When Spencer Tracy visited the Sidney set, SG reportedly told the esteemed actor that all of his roles put together, including Scaramouche, did not amount to anything compared to one great Tracy performance. Taken aback, the aging, then non-athletic Tracy said he’d have given them all to play Scaramouche, since that was the kind of wonderful role that attracted him to performing in the first place.

Lastly, there were several times when the competitive Granger expressed resentment over his status at the studio, artistically and financially. He reportedly felt resentful because he had to occasionally audition for parts, even at MGM. I haven’t found evidence that he had to do so for Scaramouche, but when the film was released, it proved to be wildly successful critically and popularly. Despite this, there were some sniping articles that appeared in the press, saying that the current crop of British stars had failed to captivate Hollywood. Granger, again suspicious about his studio’s sometimes Byzantine inner workings, suspected that MGM had planted the articles. That seemed to leave a bad taste in his mouth about the period of his career too.

Having seen the down-to-earth, if perennially self-critical Granger, interviewed over the years on television once or twice, I do recall that when asked about the film, he always seemed to mention the memories of his lifelong injuries sustained to his shoulder and knee during production more than the literate, visual extravaganza that resulted from the work.
He also seemed to have been dissatisfied with his performance, even decades later, which seems a shame. As Granger mentioned in his above interview with Peter, it might be a case of ‘Why the hell didn’t I know I was happy then?’

Some of the sources for the information in this response were:

“Sparks Fly Upward” by Stewart Granger (Granada, 1981)
“Stewart Granger: The Last of the Swashbucklers” by Don Shiach (Aurum, 2006)
The British Journalism Review
BBC Radio

Posted By Al Lowe : July 4, 2009 6:22 am

I was impressed by Moirafinnie’s contribution. I can add some more material from the Swashbucklers, by Parish and Stanke, that I quoted from earlier.

When King Solomon’s Mines was a big hit, Metro announced Granger’s future projects, including: Soldiers Three (which he did, unfortunately), Robinson Crusoe, Scaramouche and Ivanhoe. UA, not MGM, made Crusoe and Robert Taylor, not Granger, starred in Ivanhoe.

Regarding Scaramouche, MGM first announced that Granger would play a double role, both the part he played and the Mel Ferrer role. The next announcement was that Fernando Lamas and Ricardo Montalban – instead of Granger – would play the roles instead. Finally, Granger and Ferrer were assigned their parts. Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner were considered for the female leads; Janet Leigh and Eleanor Parker got them instead.

I like Scaramouche. But I am always intrigued by alternative casting – What Might Have Been. Imagine Scaramouche, starring Fernando Lamas, Ricardo Montalban, Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner. It might have been very interesting!

Posted By Al Lowe : July 4, 2009 6:22 am

I was impressed by Moirafinnie’s contribution. I can add some more material from the Swashbucklers, by Parish and Stanke, that I quoted from earlier.

When King Solomon’s Mines was a big hit, Metro announced Granger’s future projects, including: Soldiers Three (which he did, unfortunately), Robinson Crusoe, Scaramouche and Ivanhoe. UA, not MGM, made Crusoe and Robert Taylor, not Granger, starred in Ivanhoe.

Regarding Scaramouche, MGM first announced that Granger would play a double role, both the part he played and the Mel Ferrer role. The next announcement was that Fernando Lamas and Ricardo Montalban – instead of Granger – would play the roles instead. Finally, Granger and Ferrer were assigned their parts. Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner were considered for the female leads; Janet Leigh and Eleanor Parker got them instead.

I like Scaramouche. But I am always intrigued by alternative casting – What Might Have Been. Imagine Scaramouche, starring Fernando Lamas, Ricardo Montalban, Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner. It might have been very interesting!

Posted By moirafinnie : July 4, 2009 11:10 am

Thanks, Al~
I thought those alternative casting choices were most appealing. Though the beauteous Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner would have brought quite a bit of glamour to the roles, I like the innocence projected by Janet Leigh, and think that Eleanor Parker nearly stole Scaramouche, lock, stock and Commedia dell’Arte out from everyone as the lusty, honest and temperamental Lenore.

I would love to see Eleanor Parker and especially Jean Simmons as Stars of the Month in the future, if possible–especially since those ladies are still here to, one hopes, enjoy the attention.

On reflection, it occurs to me that another reason that Stewart Granger may have had mixed emotions about Scaramouche was that he realized that he had reached his peak as an actor and movie star. There are several movies of his that I enjoy made after this one, but perhaps it seemed unlikely to him that he could ever hope to match the production values and good casting found in this film.

Posted By moirafinnie : July 4, 2009 11:10 am

Thanks, Al~
I thought those alternative casting choices were most appealing. Though the beauteous Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner would have brought quite a bit of glamour to the roles, I like the innocence projected by Janet Leigh, and think that Eleanor Parker nearly stole Scaramouche, lock, stock and Commedia dell’Arte out from everyone as the lusty, honest and temperamental Lenore.

I would love to see Eleanor Parker and especially Jean Simmons as Stars of the Month in the future, if possible–especially since those ladies are still here to, one hopes, enjoy the attention.

On reflection, it occurs to me that another reason that Stewart Granger may have had mixed emotions about Scaramouche was that he realized that he had reached his peak as an actor and movie star. There are several movies of his that I enjoy made after this one, but perhaps it seemed unlikely to him that he could ever hope to match the production values and good casting found in this film.

Posted By Jeff : July 7, 2009 9:50 am

Thanks to Moira and Al for the information about Scaramouche which makes Granger’s occasional negative comments about it make sense in terms of his relationship with MGM and the injuries suffered on set. Bad memories I suppose. It’s one of the great swashbucklers though and yes, it’s also my favorite Eleanor Parker performance – what fun she has with that character.

Posted By Jeff : July 7, 2009 9:50 am

Thanks to Moira and Al for the information about Scaramouche which makes Granger’s occasional negative comments about it make sense in terms of his relationship with MGM and the injuries suffered on set. Bad memories I suppose. It’s one of the great swashbucklers though and yes, it’s also my favorite Eleanor Parker performance – what fun she has with that character.

Posted By filmlover : July 7, 2009 4:10 pm

Hi, Moira,

Thanks for adding in the info about Scaramouche with regards to his feelings on it. You got in before I had a chance to get the question answered. I appreciate it.

Peter

Posted By filmlover : July 7, 2009 4:10 pm

Hi, Moira,

Thanks for adding in the info about Scaramouche with regards to his feelings on it. You got in before I had a chance to get the question answered. I appreciate it.

Peter

Posted By Neveadodcaple : December 28, 2009 10:46 am

Привет! С удовольствием почитал Ваш блог. Хочу также поздравить Вас и всех читателей этого блога с новым 2010 годом. Удачи всем, новых жизненных побед и исполнения всех ваших замыслов. :)

Posted By Neveadodcaple : December 28, 2009 10:46 am

Привет! С удовольствием почитал Ваш блог. Хочу также поздравить Вас и всех читателей этого блога с новым 2010 годом. Удачи всем, новых жизненных побед и исполнения всех ваших замыслов. :)

Posted By Lady Eve : January 1, 2011 7:01 pm

I don’t know if I’m allowed to leave a reply, but I wanted to comment on the Michael Powell story about Stewart’s suitcase. This is a recycled, rehashed story that when it is retold, the year, location, and whose suitcase pops open changes. I understand that this story is probably not a true and its one of those stories that started out as something else and when retold grew into this story. One version of the story tells it that it was his wife, Elspeth’s, suitcase that popped open in 1944 when she was standing at a bus to take her to the hospital to deliver their first child. In this version, it seems doubtful that a woman who had miscarried three times and had to lay on her back for 7 months with this baby so she wouldn’t miscarry would be waiting for at a bus stop for a bus to take her to the hospital as the fear of delivery complications was there. It seems more likely that she and Stewart would have driven themselves to the hospital.

Posted By Lady Eve : January 1, 2011 7:01 pm

I don’t know if I’m allowed to leave a reply, but I wanted to comment on the Michael Powell story about Stewart’s suitcase. This is a recycled, rehashed story that when it is retold, the year, location, and whose suitcase pops open changes. I understand that this story is probably not a true and its one of those stories that started out as something else and when retold grew into this story. One version of the story tells it that it was his wife, Elspeth’s, suitcase that popped open in 1944 when she was standing at a bus to take her to the hospital to deliver their first child. In this version, it seems doubtful that a woman who had miscarried three times and had to lay on her back for 7 months with this baby so she wouldn’t miscarry would be waiting for at a bus stop for a bus to take her to the hospital as the fear of delivery complications was there. It seems more likely that she and Stewart would have driven themselves to the hospital.

Leave a Reply

Current day month ye@r *

MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
See more: facebook.com/tcmtv
See more: twitter.com/tcm
3-D  Action Films  Actors  Actors' Endorsements  Actresses  animal stars  Animation  Anime  Anthology Films  Art in Movies  Autobiography  Avant-Garde  Aviation  Awards  B-movies  Beer in Film  Behind the Scenes  Best of the Year lists  Biography  Biopics  Blu-Ray  Books on Film  Boxing films  British Cinema  Canadian Cinema  Character Actors  Chicago Film History  Cinematography  Classic Films  College Life on Film  Comedy  Comic Book Movies  Crime  Czech Film  Dance on Film  Digital Cinema  Directors  Disaster Films  Documentary  Drama  DVD  Early Talkies  Editing  Educational Films  European Influence on American Cinema  Experimental  Exploitation  Fairy Tales on Film  Faith or Christian-based Films  Family Films  Film Composers  Film Criticism  film festivals  Film History in Florida  Film Noir  Film Scholars  Film titles  Filmmaking Techniques  Films of the 1980s  Food in Film  Foreign Film  French Film  Gangster films  Genre  Genre spoofs  HD & Blu-Ray  Holiday Movies  Hollywood history  Hollywood lifestyles  Horror  Horror Movies  Icons  independent film  Italian Film  Japanese Film  Korean Film  Literary Adaptations  Martial Arts  Melodramas  Method Acting  Mexican Cinema  Moguls  Monster Movies  Movie Books  Movie Costumes  movie flops  Movie locations  Movie lovers  Movie Reviewers  Movie settings  Movie Stars  Movies about movies  Music in Film  Musicals  Outdoor Cinema  Paranoid Thrillers  Parenting on film  Pirate movies  Polish film industry  political thrillers  Politics in Film  Pornography  Pre-Code  Producers  Race in American Film  Remakes  Revenge  Road Movies  Romance  Romantic Comedies  Satire  Scandals  Science Fiction  Screenwriters  Semi-documentaries  Serials  Short Films  Silent Film  silent films  Social Problem Film  Sports  Sports on Film  Stereotypes  Straight-to-DVD  Studio Politics  Stunts and stuntmen  Suspense thriller  TCM Classic Film Festival  Television  The British in Hollywood  The Germans in Hollywood  The Hungarians in Hollywood  The Irish in Hollywood  Theaters  Thriller  Trains in movies  Underground Cinema  VOD  War film  Westerns  Women in the Film Industry  Women's Weepies