Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Noir City 1: Farley Granger

Under a full moon on Friday the 13th...

...the 4th Annual San Francisco Film Noir Festival opened up a two-week run at the Palace of Fine Arts in the mudlfats of the Marina. For a schedule, click here.

The lobby, which usually feels like an airplane hangar, has been decorated to feel like a 40s/50s nightclub, complete with a band playing.

The opening night double-bill consisted of two Farley Granger movies, Hitchcock's 1948 "Strangers on a Train" with Farley as a handsome tennis pro getting entangled with charming psychopath Robert Walker, and Nicholas Ray's 1951 "They Live By Night" which was remade in the 1970s by Robert Altman (as "Thieves Like Us").

At intermission, there was an interview by "Producer/Host" Eddie Muller and the 80-year-old Farley Granger himself.

Though his memory seemed to be getting a bit hazy on account of age, repeating phrases and stories a number of times, he looked great and exuded pure charm.

He had an interesting career, starting off as a pretty-boy movie star before getting his twisted Hitchcock roles in "Rope" and "Strangers on a Train" and playing one of the leads in Visconti's "Senso." In the 1960s his movie career collapsed for some reason, possibly because he moved to New York and devoted himself to theater. He made a number of movies in Italy in the 1970s, including a few famous Spaghetti Westerns, and then worked in a lot of television.

"I much prefer working in theater to making movies. It's just more fun. In movies, you often start by filming the ending, and then the beginning and then some of the middle. It used to drive me crazy. But I love the theater and a live audience. Even those productions that were disasters, perhaps especially the disasters, they are some of the most wonderful memories. For instance, I was in a very, very bad musical version of 'Pride and Prejudice' with Hermoine Gingold and Polly Bergen. The show started with a ballroom scene and I was dancing with Polly. I started the song, "It's a beautiful night for a ball..." and then whirled Polly around who sang "It's a poyfect night for dancing," and that's when I knew we weren't going to be running for very long."

There were plenty of funny stories about Hitchcock (he HATED Ruth Roman) and Nicholas Ray ("he just sat in a corner at my friend's house drinking and staring at me") and has just finished writing a memoir. I can't wait.


Kit Stolz said...

Farley Granger is great, "They Live By Night" is one of the all-time coolest American movies, if you ask me, and it's wonderful to hear that Granger's still alive. Does Wim Wenders know? Somebody tell him, and maybe he'll cast Farley and revive his career, the way he did with Harry Dean Stanton...

p said...

yo mf-sf mike,
i din't know that he was still alive...
uau, mighty cool