James Leblanche Stewart in London, England, 6 May 1913, became U.S.
Attended Epsom College; Webber-Douglas School of Dramatic Art, London.
Served in the British Army, 1949–42; invalided out.
Married 1) the actress Elspeth March, 1938 (divorced 1948, two children:
Jamie and Lindsay; 2) the actress Jean Simmons, 1950 (divorced 1960), one
daughter; 3) Viviane Lecerf, 1964 (divorced 1969).
1935—stage debut in
in Hull; 1936–37—acted with Birmingham Repertory Company;
1938—West End debut in
The Sun Never Sets
; successful film roles in the UK during the 1940s led to MGM contract,
1950–57, and series of leading film roles; 1970–71—in
The Men from Shiloh
(continuation of series
); 1986—in TV mini-series
; 1989—on New York stage, in
Of cancer, in Los Angeles, 16 August 1993.
A Southern Maid (Hughes) (bit role)
Give Her a Ring (Woods) (as diner)
So This Is London (Freeland) (as Laurence)
Convoy (Tennyson) (as Sutton)
Secret Mission (French) (as Lt. Jackson)
Thursday's Child (Ackland) (as David Penley); The Man in Grey (Arliss) (as Peter Rokeby); The Lamp Still Burns (Arliss) (as Larry Rains)
Fanny by Gaslight ( Man of Evil ) (Asquith) (as Harry Somerford); Love Story ( A Lady Surrenders ) (Arliss) (as Kit Firth); Madonna of the Seven Moons (Crabtree) (as Nino Barucci); Waterloo Road (Gilliat) (as Ted Purvis); Caesar and Cleopatra (Pascal) (as Apollodorus)
Caravan (Crabtree) (as Richard Darrel); The Magic Bow (Knowles) (as Paganini)
Captain Boycott (Launder) (as Hugh Davin); Blanche Fury (Marc Allégret) (as Philip Thorn)
Saraband for Dead Lovers ( Saraband ) (Dearden) (as Count Philip Koenigsmark); Woman Hater (Terence Young) (as Lord Terence Datchett)
Adam and Evelyne ( Adam and Evelyn ) (French) (as Adam Black)
King Solomon's Mines (Bennett and Marton) (as Allan Quartermain)
Soldiers Three (Garnett) (as Pvt. Archibald Ackroyd); The Light Touch (Richard Brooks) (as Sam Conride); The Wild North (Marton) (as Jules Vincent)
Scaramouche (Sidney) (as Andre Moreau/Scaramouche); The Prisoner of Zenda (Thorpe) (as Rudolph Rassendyll/King Rudolph V)
Salome (Dieterle) (as Commander Claudius); Young Bess (Sidney) (as Thomas Seymour); All the Brothers Were Valiant (Thorpe) (as Mark Shore)
Beau Brummell (Bernhardt) (title role); Green Fire (Marton) (as Rian X. Mitchell)
Moonfleet (Fritz Lang) (as Jeremy Fox); Footsteps in the Fog (Lubin) (as Stephen Lowry); Bhowani Junction (Cukor) (as Col. Rodney Savage); The Last Hunt (Richard Brooks) (as Sandy McKenzie)
The Little Hut (Robson) (as Sir Philip Ashlow)
Gun Glory (Rowland) (as Tom Early)
The Whole Truth (Guillermin) (as Max Poulton); Harry Black ( Harry Black and the Tiger ) (Fregonese) (title role)
North to Alaska (Hathaway) (as George Pratt); The Secret Partner (Dearden) (as John Brent)
Sodom e Gomorra ( Sodom and Gomorrah ) (Aldrich and Leone) (as Lot); Marcia o crepa ( Legion's Last Patrol ; Commando ) (Wisbar) (as Capt. Le Blanc); Lo spadaccino di Sienna ( La congiura dei dieci ; Swordsman of Siena ) (Périer) (as Thomas Stanswood); Il giorno più corto (Corbucci) (as guest)
The Secret Invasion (Corman) (as Maj. Richard Mace); The Crooked Road (Chaffey) (as Duke of Orgagna); Unter Geiern ( La dove scenda il sole ; Among Vultures ; Frontier Hellcat ) (Vohrer) (as Old Surehand)
Das Geheimnis der drei Dschunken ( A 009 Mission to Hong Kong ; Red Dragon ) (Hofbauer) (as Michael Scott); Der Ölprinz ( Rampage at Apache Wells ) (Philipp) (as Old Shatterhand); Flaming Frontier (Vohrer) (as Old Surehand)
Das Geheimnis der gelben Mönche ( Wie tötet man eine Dame ; Tiro a segno per uccidere ; Target for Killing ) (Köhler); Spie control il mondo ( Gern hab' ich die Frau'n gekillt ; Spy against the World ; Killer's Carnival ) ("Albert Cardiff," i.e., Cardone, Lynn, and Reynolds); The Trygon Factor (Frankell) (as Supt. Cooper-Smith)
Requiem per un agent segreto ( Consigna: Tanger 67 ; Der Chef schickt seinen besten Mann ; Requiem for a Secret Agent ) (Sollima) (as John "Bingo" Merrill); The Last Safari (Hathaway) (as Gilchrist)
Any Second Now (Levitt—for TV) (as Paul Dennison); The Hound of the Baskervilles (Crane—for TV) (as Sherlock Holmes)
The Wild Geese (McLaglen) (as Sir Edward Malherson)
The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana (Levin—for TV) (as Prince Philip)
A Hazard of Hearts (Hough—for TV) (as Old Vulcan); Story of a Recluse (Reid—for TV); Code Name Alpha (Hofbauer)
Hell Hunters (Von Theumer) (as Martin Hoffmann)
Chameleons (Glen A. Larson—for TV) (as Jason)
Fine Gold (D. J. Anthony Loma—for TV) (as Don Miguel)
Sparks Fly Upwards , London, 1981.
Thompson, K., "Looking Back: the Critics and the Stewart Granger Films of 1946," in Films Illustrated (London), November 1979.
Obituary, in New York Times , 18 August 1993.
Obituary, in Variety (New York), 30 August 1993.
Obituary, in Film-Dienst (Cologne), 31 August 1993.
Ortoli, Philippe, "Stewart Granger (1913–1993)," in Mensuel du Cinéma (Paris), October 1993.
Stars (Mariembourg), Autumn 1994.
* * *
Stewart Granger's reputation as a motion picture actor rests largely on his swashbuckling roles in a series of sumptuous costume epics made for MGM in the 1950s, the waning days of this once very popular film genre. He was a throwback to the 1930s and 1940s hero roles of Errol Flynn, whose mantel he assumed (on screen at least), matching Flynn's athleticism and romantic derring-do, but adding a wry touch of world-weary self-deprecation and cynicism all his own, most notably in Scaramouche , the film for which he remains most famous.
Born James Stewart, he left premed school at the bidding of his friend, actor Michael Wilding, who suggested he try working as a film extra. He decided to accept Wilding's advice, and attended the Webber-Douglas school, then worked with the Hull and the Birmingham repertory companies. He achieved matinee idol status with the Old Vic playing opposite Vivien Leigh in Serena Blandish in 1939.
He had a number of small parts in films previously but stardom really came with So This Is London in 1940. In the hopes that Hollywood would beckon, he decided to change his name at this time to Stewart Granger, so as to avoid confusion with the well-known Hollywood actor James Stewart, the star of numerous MGM films, the studio where Granger was eventually placed under contract as well.
After the war Granger signed a seven-year contract with J. Arthur Rank. His 6' 3" physique and resonant voice at once made him romantic lead material, and he reached box-office stardom in a series of romantic leads, most notably opposite Phyllis Calvert in such films as The Man in Grey , in which he was a dashing Cavalier, and in Madonna of the Seven Moons , in which he villainously menaced Calvert. He was Apollodorus in Gabriel Pascal's Caesar and Cleopatra , from the play by George Bernard Shaw, and the draft-dodging profiteer in Waterloo Road . His last film for Rank was Adam and Evelyne starring Jean Simmons, whom he later married.
MGM finally beckoned in 1950 and he signed with them to play Allan Quartermain in a remake of King Solomon's Mines , shot in color on location in Africa. This expensive Technicolor epic was the first of nearly 20 adventure/costume films for which Granger's physique and handsome features were ready-made. He soon became a favorite of American audiences in such films as Scaramouche , The Prisoner of Zenda (opposite his King Solomon's Mines co-star, Deborah Kerr), Young Bess (opposite Jean Simmons), Beau Brummell (opposite Elizabeth Taylor), Moonfleet , Bhowani Junction , and The Little Hut (the last two opposite Ava Gardner).
Granger's MGM contract expired in 1957 with a dismal Western called Gun Glory directed by Roy Rowland. He moved to Twentieth Century-Fox to make Harry Black and the Tiger and North to Alaska with John Wayne, then headed to Europe where he appeared in a series of mostly forgettable costume epics throughout the 1960s. Two of the better ones were Robert Aldrich's Sodom and Gomorrah , in which he played Lot opposite Pier Angeli's pillar of salt, and Swordsman of Sienna , an enjoyable CinemaScope throwback to his halcyon days at MGM.
Granger returned to the United States in Henry Hathaway's The Last Safari and, while now white of hair, he was still more physically fit than most of his contemporaries. In 1970 he took the lead in the popular television series, The Virginian (renamed The Men from Shiloh ), but after a one-year stint the series ended. He played a dapper Sherlock Holmes opposite Bernard Fox's Dr. Watson in the television film The Hound of the Baskervilles and was Sir Edward Malherson in the worldwide 1978 hit The Wild Geese , co-starring Richard Burton, Roger Moore, and Richard Harris. Three years later, he published his autobiography, Sparks Fly Upwards , in which he recounted his life up until the year 1960. His memoirs revealed him to be a literate man with a self-deprecating sense of humor much like the romantic heroes he had played on-screen. He maintained that he was not proud of one of his films, always found film acting torture, and if he had been lucky enough to star in just one film like Inherit the Wind , he would have immediately retired with pride.
Granger briefly returned to the stage in 1989, making his Broadway debut in a revival of the Somerset Maugham comedy of manners The Circle opposite Rex Harrison and Glynis Johns. The play was scheduled to move to London's West End the following year, but closed following its Broadway run when Harrison suffered a stroke and died. Granger followed Harrison in death three years later, never having completed the eagerly awaited volume two of his autobiography.
—Ronald Bowers, updated by John McCarty