Stewart Granger

This article is about the actor. For the Canadian former basketball player, see Stewart Granger (basketball).
Stewart Granger

Granger in 1970.
Born James Lablache Stewart
(1913-05-06)6 May 1913
Kensington, London, England
Died 16 August 1993(1993-08-16) (aged 80)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Resting place Ashes Given to Family
Other names Jimmy Stewart
Occupation Actor
Years active 193389
Spouse(s) Elspeth March (1938–48) (divorced) two children
Jean Simmons (1950–60) (divorced) one child
Caroline LeCerf (1964–69) (divorced) one child
Children Lindsey Granger, Jamie Granger
Tracy Granger (b. 1956)

Stewart Granger (born James Lablache Stewart; 6 May 1913  16 August 1993) was an English film actor, mainly associated with heroic and romantic leading roles. He was a popular leading man from the 1940s to the early 1960s, rising to fame through his appearances in the Gainsborough melodramas.

Early life

He was born James Lablache Stewart in Old Brompton Road, Kensington, West London, the only son of Major James Stewart, OBE and his wife Frederica Eliza (née Lablache). Granger was educated at Epsom College and the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. He was the great-great-grandson of the opera singer Luigi Lablache and the grandson of the actor Luigi Lablache.[3] When he became an actor, he was advised to change his name in order to avoid being confused with the American actor James Stewart. (Granger[4] was his Scottish grandmother's maiden name.) Offscreen friends and colleagues continued to call him Jimmy for the rest of his life, but to the general public he became Stewart Granger.


He made his film debut as an extra in 1933. It was at this time that he met Michael Wilding and they remained friends until Wilding's death in 1979. Years of theatre work followed, initially at Hull Repertory Theatre and then, after a pay dispute, at Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Here he met Elspeth March, a leading actress with the company, who became his first wife.

At the outbreak of World War II Granger enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders, then transferred to the Black Watch with the rank of second lieutenant.[5] However he suffered from stomach ulcers and he was invalided out of the army in 1942.[6]

Early stardom: Gainsborough melodramas

In a trailer for Young Bess

His first starring film role was as the acid-tongued Rokeby in the Gainsborough Pictures period melodrama, The Man in Grey (1943), a film that helped to make him a huge star in Britain. He followed this with the even more popular Fanny by Gaslight (1944). The New York Times reported that Granger "is a young man worth watching. The customers... like his dark looks and his dash; he puts them in mind, they say of Cary Grant."[7]

He was cast in some prestige films, Caesar and Cleopatra and Waterloo Road, then in Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945) which the critic Leslie Halliwell called "novelettish balderdash killed stone dead by stilted production". All these films were successful at the box office (although Caesar and Cleopatra never recouped its large cost) and in 1945 The Times reported that "this six-foot black-visaged ex-soldier from the Black Watch is England's Number One pin up boy. Only Bing Crosby can match him for popularity."[8]

Granger followed this with Caravan and then The Magic Bow in which he played Niccolò Paganini. In 1945 he was voted the second-most popular British film star, and the ninth-most popular overall.[9] The following year he was voted the third-most popular British star, and the sixth-most popular overall.

Rank Organisation

He went over to Rank, for whom he made Captain Boycott, Blanche Fury and then Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948), an Ealing Studios production. The screenplay was by John Dighton and Alexander Mackendrick; Mackendrick would later direct The Ladykillers (1955) and Sweet Smell of Success (1958). Granger was cast as the outsider, the handsome gambler who is perceived as 'not quite the ticket' by the established order, the Hanoverian court where the action is mostly set. Granger stated that this was one of his few films of which he was proud.

In 1949 Granger was reported as earning around £30,000 a year.[10]

That year Granger made Adam and Evelyne, starring with Jean Simmons. The story, about a much older man and a teenager whom he gradually realizes is no longer a child but a young woman with mature emotions and sexuality, had obvious parallels to Granger's and Simmons' own lives. Granger had first met the very young Jean Simmons when they both worked on Gabriel Pascal's Caesar and Cleopatra (1945). Three years on, Simmons had transformed from a promising newcomer into a star – and a very attractive young woman. They married the following year in a bizarre wedding ceremony organised by Howard Hughes – one of his private aircraft flew the couple to Tucson, Arizona, where they were married, mainly among strangers, with Michael Wilding as Granger's best man.[11]

Granger's stage production of Leo Tolstoy's The Power of Darkness (a venture he had intended as a vehicle for him to star with Jean Simmons) was very poorly received when it opened in London at the Lyric Theatre on 25 April 1949. (During the run two men attempted to cut some locks from Granger's hair.[12]) The disappointment added to his dissatisfaction with the Rank Organisation, and his thoughts turned to Hollywood.


In 1949 Granger made his move; MGM was looking for someone to play H. Rider Haggard's hero Allan Quatermain in a film version of King Solomon's Mines. Errol Flynn was offered the role but turned it down; Granger's signing was announced in August 1949.[13]

On the basis of the huge success of this film, released in 1950 and co-starring Deborah Kerr and Richard Carlson, he was offered a seven-year contract by MGM. Following two less successful assignments, Soldiers Three and The Light Touch, in 1952, he starred in Scaramouche in the role of Andre Moreau, the bastard son of a French nobleman, a part Ramón Novarro had played in the 1923 version of Rafael Sabatini's novel. Granger's co-star Eleanor Parker said Granger was the only actor she did not get along with during her entire career. "Everyone disliked this man.... Stewart Granger was a dreadful person, rude... just awful. Just being in his presence was bad. I thought at one point the crew was going kill him."[14]

Soon after this came the remake of The Prisoner of Zenda (1952), for which his theatrical voice, stature (6'2") and dignified profile made him a natural.

In 1952 he and Jean Simmons sued Howard Hughes for $250,000 damages arising from an alleged breach of contract.[15][16] The case was settled out of court.[17]

Granger lost out on A Star Is Born, which went to James Mason instead. In Moonfleet (1955), Granger was cast as an adventurer, Jeremy Fox, in the Dorset of 1757, a man who rules a gang of cut-throat smugglers with an iron fist until he is softened by a 10-year-old boy who worships him and who believes only the best of him. The film was directed by Fritz Lang and produced by John Houseman, a former associate of Orson Welles.

Footsteps in the Fog (1955) was the final film Granger and Jean Simmons made together. Simmons played a Cockney housemaid who finds that her adventurer employer (Granger) has poisoned his rich wife in order to inherit her wealth. Bhowani Junction (1956) was adapted from a John Masters novel about colonial India on the verge of obtaining independence. Ava Gardner played an Anglo-Indian (mixed race) woman caught between the two worlds of the British and the Indians, and Granger the British officer with whom (in a change from the novel) she ultimately fell in love.

His films The Little Hut (1957), a coy sex comedy (again with Gardner), and Gun Glory (1957), a Western story of redemption, both bombed.[18] North to Alaska with John Wayne, 'a brawling comedy western', was the last Hollywood film Granger made. Granger had turned down the role of Messala in the 1959 film Ben-Hur, reportedly because he did not want to take second billing to Charlton Heston.

Granger became a successful cattle rancher. He bought land in New Mexico and Arizona and introduced Charolais cattle to America.[19][20] However he left Hollywood in the wake of the breakup of his marriage to Simmons.

International career

In Germany, Granger acted in the role of Old Surehand in three Western films adapted from novels by German author Karl May, with French actor Pierre Brice (playing the fictional Indian chief Winnetou), in Unter Geiern (Frontier Hellcat) (1964), Der Ölprinz (Rampage at Apache Wells) (1965) and Old Surehand (Flaming Frontier) (1965). He was united with Pierre Brice and Lex Barker, also a hero of Karl May films, in Gern hab' ich die Frauen gekillt (Killer's Carnival) (1966). In the German Edgar Wallace film series of the 1960s, he was seen in The Trygon Factor (1966). In 1970 he described his recent movies as "movies not even I will talk about".[20]

He later estimated that he made more than $1.5 million in the 1960s but lost all of it.[21]

US television

He subsequently replaced actors Lee J. Cobb, Charles Bickford and John McIntire on NBC's The Virginian, as the new owner of the Shiloh ranch on prime-time TV for its ninth year (1971).[20]

Granger said he accepted the role for money and because it "seemed like it could be a lot of fun", but was disappointed by the lack of character development for his role.[20]

He played Sherlock Holmes in a poorly received 1972 TV movie version of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

He appeared in The Wild Geese (1978) as an unscrupulous banker, who hires a unit of mercenary soldiers (Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris and others) to stage a military coup in an African nation. His character then makes a deal with the existing government, and betrays the mercenaries.


In the 1970s Granger retired from acting and went to live in southern Spain, where he invested in real estate and resided in Estepona, Málaga.

In 1980 he was diagnosed with lung cancer and told he had three months to live. Granger later said, "I was 67 and had smoked 60 cigarettes a day for 40 years, but the doctor said if I had an operation there might be a chance of two to four more years of life. So I said, "Who the hell needs that, but you better give me three months to put my house in order.'"[22]

Granger underwent the operation, had a lung and a rib removed, only to be informed he didn't have cancer after all - he had tuberculosis.

He returned to acting in 1981 with the publication of his autobiography, claiming he was bored.[21] Granger spent the last decade of his life appearing on television (including portraying Sherlock Holmes in an American TV movie version of The Hound of the Baskervilles with William Shatner also in the cast, and a guest role in the ABC series The Fall Guy starring Lee Majors) and on the stage. He even starred in a German soap-opera called Das Erbe der Guldenburgs (The Guldenburg Heritage) (1987).

He moved to Pacific Palisades, California.

One of his last roles was in the 1989–90 Broadway production of The Circle by W. Somerset Maugham, opposite Glynis Johns and Rex Harrison in Harrison's final role.[23] The production actually opened at Duke University for a three-week run, followed by performances in Baltimore and Boston before opening on 14 November 1989 on Broadway. [24] [25]

Personal life

He was married three times:

Granger claimed in his autobiography that Deborah Kerr had approached him romantically in the back of his chauffeur-driven car at the time he was making Caesar and Cleopatra.[26] Although at the time he was married to Elspeth March, he states that he and Kerr went on to have an affair.[27] When asked about this revelation, Kerr's response was, "What a gallant man he is."[28]

In 1956 Granger became a naturalised citizen of the United States.[29]

He died in Santa Monica, California from prostate and bone cancer at the age of 80.[30]

His niece is Antiques Roadshow appraiser Bunny Campione, the daughter of his sister, Iris.[31]


In 1970 Granger said "Stewart Granger was quite a successful film star, but I don't think he was an actor's actor."[32]

Among the films that Granger was announced to star in, but that ended up being made with other actors, were Ivanhoe (1952), Mogambo (1953), The King's Thief (1955) and Man of the West (1958).[33]

Partial filmography

Box office ranking

At the peak of his career, exhibitors voted Granger among the top stars at the box office:

Unmade films

Select theatre credits

Select radio performance

United States radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Lux Radio Theatre King Solomon's Mines[69]


  3. Cerita Stanley-Little. The Great Lablache. Xlibris Corporationdate= 2009. p. 582. ISBN 9781450003049.
  4. Name for a farm bailiff. Anglo-Norman French: grainger, Old French: grangier. From Late Latin granicarius, a derivative of granica ‘granary’.
  5. In the 1985 Murder, She Wrote episode, "Paint Me a Murder", Granger wore a blazer with a metal-embroidered Black Watch breast pocket badge.
  6. Shiach, Don: Stewart Granger: Last of the Swashbucklers (chapter 1). Aurum Press, 2005
  7. 1 2 LONDON'S MOVIE NEWS: Newsreels Prove Strongest Draw -- 'The Way Ahead' an Apt War Film By C.A. LEJEUNE. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 16 July 1944: X3.
  8. REVIVING THE PAST: London Film Producers Turn to Another Era for Stories--Studio Chit-Chat In the Long, Long Ago Coming Up Odds and Ends Familiar Early Morning Broadway Scene By C.A. LEJEUNE. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 29 April 1945: X3.
  9. JAMES MASON HEADS FILM POLL The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 28 December 1945: 3.
  10. "THE STARRY WAY.". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 9 April 1949. p. 2. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
  11. Shiach 2005
  12. APE OF THE LOCK: Crowd Waned a Bit of Mr. granger's Hair The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 29 April 1949: 10.
  13. STEWART GRANGER SIGNS WITH METRO: British Star to Play Opposite Deborah Kerr for Studio in 'King Solomon's Mines' By THOMAS F. BRADY Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 3 August 1949: 27.
  14. "Eleanor Parker: Incognito, but Invincible" (PDF). Noir City Sentinel. Summer 2010.
  15. Howard Hughes May Take Stand in Trial This Week: RKO Executive's Appearance Moved Up in Suit by Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 3 July 1952: 16.
  16. Actor Granger, RKO Studios Trade Shenanigan Charges: Rival Tax Claims Made in $250,000 Suit for Damages Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles] 18 June 1952: A1.
  17. HUGHES, FILM ACTORS SETTLE COURT BATTLE Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 18 July 1952: 10.
  18. Shiach 2005 p.183
  19. Smith, C. (8 June 1958). Grangers staking all on life as ranchers. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  20. 1 2 3 4 Smith, C. (30 August 1970). GRANGER comes to SHILOH. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  21. 1 2 Stewart Granger plans his return--as actor, not star Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago] 26 November 1981: e10
  22. Stewart Granger comes full "Circle': [ALL Edition] Farson, Sibyl. Telegram & Gazette [Worcester, Mass] 6 November 1989: D3
  23. Rich, Frank (21 November 1989). "Review/Theater; Rex Harrison Back on Broadway". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 May 2009.
  24. "Coming Full `Circle`". Chicago Tribune. 29 June 1989. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  25. Treadwell, David (15 December 1989). "COLUMN ONE : Culture in the South Rises Again". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  26. Granger, Stewart. Sparks Fly Upward, Putnam; 1st American edition (1981), ISBN 0-399-12674-0
  27. "Stewart Granger". Retrieved 19 November 2007.
  28. Vallance, Tom (17 August 1993). "Obituary: Stewart Granger". The Independent. London.
  29. "The Milwaukee Journal - Google News Archive Search".
  30. "Ocala Star-Banner - Google News Archive Search".
  31. Cerita Stanley-Little, The Great Lablache, Xlibris Corporation, 2009, ISBN 1450003044, 9781450003049, page 582.
  32. Stewart Granger, 80, Star in Swashbuckler Roles By WILLIAM GRIMES. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 18 August 1993: D18.
  34. 'Bloomer Girl' to Play Instead of Jolson Opus, Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 23 March 1946: A5.
  35. "FILM WORLD.". The West Australian. Perth: National Library of Australia. 28 February 1947. p. 20 Edition: SECOND EDITION. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
  36. 'Bing's Lucky Number: Pa Crosby Dons 4th B.O. Crown', The Washington Post (1923–1954) [Washington, D.C] 3 January 1948: 12.
  37. 'BRITTEN'S "RAPE OF LUCRETIA": NEW YORK DIVIDED', The Manchester Guardian (1901–1959) [Manchester (UK)] 31 December 1948: 8.
  38. "Bob Hope Takes Lead from Bing In Popularity.". Canberra Times. ACT: National Library of Australia. 31 December 1949. p. 2. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  39. "TOP STAR IN BRITAIN.". The News. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 20 December 1951. p. 22. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  40. "Martin And Lewis Top U.S. Film Poll.". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 27 December 1952. p. 3. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  41. NOTES FROM LONDON: Down, But Not Out By C. A. LEJEUNE. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 11 November 1945: 47.
  42. NOTES FROM LONDON'S FILM STUDIOS: Thriller What, No Love Affair? By C.A. LEJEUNE. 'New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 23 December 1945: X5.
  43. BUSY DAYS IN LONDON: Film Studios Move Into High Gear, With Full Schedule of Pictures Under Way Films Coming Up In Father's Footsteps Notes in Brief By C.A. LEJEUNE. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 25 August 1946: 51.
  44. RANDOM NOTES ABOUT FILMS: Hollywood and England Discover Columbus--New Theatre--Code Revised New Show House Ban Eased Professional Opinion But He Doesn't Sing By A.H. WEILER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 22 September 1946: X3.
  45. Looking at Hollywood Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago] 2 May 1947: 28.
  46. 1 2 Looking at Hollywood Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago] 11 September 1947: 32.
  47. STUDIO BRIEFS Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles] 1 October 1949: 11.
  48. Drama: Pirate Picture Shapes for Fairbanks; Wyman May Do Lawrence Story Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles] 20 January 1950: 23.
  49. Wild Elephant Feature Will Star Breen; Gardner Roles Grow More Torrid Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles] 31 October 1949: A7.
  50. Looking at Hollywood: Stewart Granger Will Play Role of an Irish Pugilist Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963) [Chicago] 30 October 1952: c4.
  51. 'Young Bess' Gets Green Light for July Start; Veterans Set for Roles Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles] 19 April 1952: 7.
  52. Granger Will Star in 'Highland Fling' Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles] 26 January 1957: B2.
  53. Comedy Slated to Star Simmons and Granger; Student Wins Top Part Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles] 27 February 1957: C9.
  54. 1 2 Scott, J. L. (8 February 1958). Star to film biography of cervantes. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  55. By THOMAS M PRYORSpecial to The New,York Times. (6 March 1958). PARAMOUNT GOING ABROAD FOR MUSIC. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  56. By, H. T. (8 February 1961). 2 FILM STARS POST BUSY SCHEDULES. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  57. At the Play: THE REPERTORY THEATRES--IV BIRMINGHAM Ervine, St John. The Observer (1901-2003) [London (UK)] 23 May 1937: 15.
  58. MALVERN FESTIVAL: "The. Millionairess" The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 27 July 1937: 13.
  59. The Week's Theatres: THE MALVERN FESTIVAL H H. The Observer (1901-2003) [London (UK)] 1 August 1937: 9.
  60. ANOTHER VICTORIA PLAY: Birmingham Production Our Correspondent. The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 20 September 1937: 13.
  61. A QUEEN VICTORIA PLAY: Comprehending and Humane CAPACITY FOR POLITICS The Scotsman (1921-1950) [Edinburgh, Scotland] 20 September 1937: 14.
  62. The Week's Theatres: THE BUXTON FESTIVAL The Observer (1901-2003) [London (UK)] 3 September 1939: 7.
  63. BUXTON FESTIVAL: "The Good-Natured Man" J M. The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 12 September 1939: 4.
  64. "A HOUSE IN THE SQUARE" A D. The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 6 April 1940: 10.
  65. GLASGOW The Scotsman (1921-1950) [Edinburgh, Scotland] 4 August 1942: 6.
  66. ROLE IN MOVIE TO TAKE BRITISH STAR 42,600 MILES Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles] 2 October 1949: D1.
  67. LONDON LETTER The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 2 March 1949: 5.
  68. Verdict On the Playboy Our Radio Correspondent. The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 12 December 1946: 6.
  69. Kirby, Walter (30 November 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 48. Retrieved 14 June 2015 via
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