Stewart Granger

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James Lablache Stewart

Birthdate: (80)
Death: August 16, 1993 (80)
Immediate Family:

Son of Maj. James Stewart, OBE and Frederica Eliza Stewart
Ex-husband of Jean Simmons, OBE; <private> Stewart (LeCerf) and Elspeth March
Father of <private> Granger; <private> Granger; <private> Granger and Lindsey Granger

Managed by: Michael Lawrence Rhodes
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Stewart Granger

Stewart Granger (6 May 1913 – 16 August 1993) was an English-American 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, 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. When he became an actor, he was obliged to change his name in order to avoid being confused with the American actor James Stewart. (Granger[1] was his Scottish grandmother's maiden name.) Off-screen friends and colleagues would continue to call him Jimmy for the rest of his life, but to the general public he became Stewart Granger.


In 1933, he made his film debut as an extra. It was at this time 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 war, Granger enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders, then transferred to the Black Watch with the rank of second lieutenant. But Granger suffered from stomach ulcers - he was invalided out of the army in 1942.

His first starring film role was in the Gainsborough Pictures period melodrama The Man in Grey (1943), a film that helped to make him a huge star in Britain. A string of popular but critically dismissed films followed, including The Magic Bow in which Granger played Niccolò Paganini and Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945) which the critic Leslie Halliwell called "novelettish balderdash killed stone dead by stilted production". An exception was Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948), an Ealing Studios production. The screenplay was by John Dighton and Alexander Mackendrick, who would later direct The Ladykillers (1955) and Sweet Smell of Success. 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 few films of his of which he was proud.

In 1949, Granger made Adam and Evelyne, starring with Jean Simmons. The story, about a much older man and a teenager whom he gradually realises is no longer a child but a young woman with mature emotions and sexuality had obvious parallels to Granger's and Simmons's 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.

After Granger's stage production of Leo Tolstoy's The Power of Darkness (a venture he had intended to provide a vehicle for him to star with Jean Simmons) had been very poorly received when it opened in London at the Lyric Theatre on 25 April 1949, the disappointment, added to dissatisfaction with the Rank Organisation, led his thoughts to turn to Hollywood.

So in 1949, he made the move; MGM was looking for someone to play H. Rider Haggard's hero Allan Quatermain in a film version of King Solomon's Mines. On the basis of the huge success of this film, released in 1950, 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. Soon after this came the remake of The Prisoner of Zenda (1952), for which his theatrical voice, stature (6'3"; 191 cm) and dignified profile made him a natural. 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 was the third and 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 caught between the two worlds of the British colonials and the Indians. It was a routine thriller with Communist villains. His films The Little Hut (1957), a coy sex comedy, and Gun Glory (1957), a Western story of redemption, both bombed.[4] North to Alaska with John Wayne, ' a brawling comedy western', was the last Hollywood movie Granger made.

In Germany, Granger acted in the role of Old Surehand in three Western movies 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 movies, in Gern hab' ich die Frauen gekillt (Killer's Carnival) (1966). In the German Edgar Wallace movie series of the 1960s, he was seen in The Trygon Factor (1966). He subsequently replaced actor 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). Towards the end of his career, Granger even starred in a German soap-opera called Das Erbe der Guldenburgs (The Guldenburg Heritage) (1987).

Personal life

He was married three times:

Elspeth March (1938–1948); two children, Jamie and Lindsay
Jean Simmons (1950–1960), (with whom he had starred in Adam and Evelyne, Young Bess and Footsteps in the Fog); one daughter, Tracy
Caroline LeCerf (1964–1969); one daughter, Samantha

Stewart 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. Although married to Elspeth March, he states that he and Ms. Kerr went on to have an affair. Deborah Kerr disputed this claim, commenting, "He should be so lucky".

In 1956, Granger became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

He died in Santa Monica, California, from prostate cancer at the age of 80.


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Stewart Granger's Timeline

May 6, 1913
August 16, 1993
Age 80

<The Times, August 18, 1993>


Stewart Granger, actor, died of cancer in Los Angeles, on August 16
aged 80. He was born in London on May 6, 1913.

SMOULDERING good looks, a 6ft 2ins physique and a nimble athleticism
brought Stewart Granger film stardom playing swashbuckling romantic or
villainous leads in a clutch of costume dramas in the postwar years.
His starring roles in "The Man in Grey", "Fanny by Gaslight", "King
Solomon's Mines", "Scaramouche" and "The Prisoner of Zenda" led him to
being dubbed "the English Douglas Fairbanks".

For a while – along with Michael Wilding, James Mason and David Niven
– he was one of the most sought after British film actors and one of
the top ten money-spinners in the film business. Over a quarter of a
century from 1943 he made at least one, usually two, occasionally
three – and once four – films a year. But many of the productions in
which he starred were mediocre and, later, Granger was the first to
admit that, although he made more than 50 films, he never realised his
full potential as an actor.

He was a rumbustious and abrasive individual, thrice married and
divorced and given to a devil-may-care outspokenness which never
endeared him to either fellow actors, directors or studio bosses. But
he was also extremely self-deprecating about his career and blamed his
failureto make more of his opportunities mostly on his own inept
decisions. "I've seldom, if ever, made a film I have really liked or
been proud of" he told one interviewer in 1968. "To spend a life
making even reasonable films is bad enough, but to spend one, as I
have, making terrible ones, tends to be a little dispiriting."

He would probably have won more critical acclaim if he had not been
persuaded, first in Britain and then in the United States, to sign
long-term contracts that forced him to appear in too many mediocre
films. Blessed as he was with debonair handsomeness, a commanding
presence and a manner that could be supremely suave or sardonic,
Granger exuded old-style Hollywood stardom.

Stewart Granger was the son of an army officer, and brought up in
Polperro, Cornwall. His real name was James Lablache Stewart, which he
was obliged to change to avoid being confused with the Hollywood actor
James Stewart, but he remained Jimmy to his friends. Following school
at Epsom College, his first ambition was to forge a career in medicine
but this was thwarted when a change in the family's financial
circumstances led him to abandon his studies and to look for other
outlets. After a spell as a salesman for a bell-punch company he
decided to try for work as a film extra.

That gave him a taste for acting and he trained at the Webber-Douglas
drama school. His first professional job was in repertory at Hull; he
later moved to Birmingham Rep and, in 1936, to the Malvern Festival.
His first London stage appearance was as Captain Hamilton in "The Sun
Never Sets" at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1938 and the following year
he joined the Old Vic Company under Tyrone Guthrie. He played
alongside Robert Donat, as Anderson to Donat's Dick Dudgeon in "The
Devil's Disciple" and as Tybalt to his Romeo. He also had small parts
in films but his film career did not take off until he was invalided
out of the Black Watch in the middle of the Second World War.

Robert Donat recommended Granger to Gainsborough Pictures, who gave
him a part in a 1943 costume melodrama "The Man in Grey", set in
Regency times, the film – which featured Margaret Lockwood and Phyllis
Calvert – caught the imagination of the war-weary public and thrust
Granger into the limelight. Against the advice of Donat, Granger
signed a seven-year contract with Gainsborough, which was later
absorbed by the Rank Organization.

He soon became second only to James Mason as the British cinema's
biggest box-office draw. Of his films of the period, "Waterloo Road"
(1944) was a rare but effective venture into contemporary drama and he
supported Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains in the disastrously
extravagant "Caesar and Cleopatra" (1945) from the play by G.B. Shaw.
But he was more characteristically cast in such pictures as "Fanny by
Gaslight" (1943), "Love Story" (1944), "Captain Boycott" (1947) and
"Saraband for Dead Lovers" (1948).

Granger's relations with the press were never easy and they reached
their nadir when the gossip columnists made hay of his friendship with
an actress 15 years his junior, Jean Simmons. (His first marriage to
the actress Elspeth March, had ended in divorce in 1949.) After losing
most of their money producing a Russian play, "The Power of Darkness",
in an unsuccessful theatre venture in London, Granger and Simmons took
off for Hollywood and were married at Tucson, Arizona, in December,
1950. Fairly desperate for work, Granger agreed to star in "King
Solomon's Mines", a 1950 version of the Rider Haggard novel
co-starring Deborah Kerr, and on the strength of its success signed
another seven-year contract with its producers MGM.

The studio supplied a ready stream of vehicles to exploit his talent
for sword-play and riding, even if most of them were inferior re-makes
of previous films. They included "Scaramouche" (1952) - a French
Revolutionary tale featuring GRanger in a swordfight which, at six and
a half minutes, in credited with being the longest in cinema history -
"The Prisoner of Zenda" (1952) (as Rassendyll), and "Beau Brummel"
(1954). Fritz Lang's version of the smuggling story, "Moonfleet"
(1955), was a far better, if less popular, picture and Granger also
appeared to good effect in "Bhowani Junction" (1956), set in imperial
India, "The Last Hunt" (1956), a Western with Robert Taylor, and in
1960, a roistering gold rush adventure, "North to Alaska" opposite
John Wayne.

In 1956 he became a US citizen but after six years he reverted to
British nationality. His marriage to Jean Simmons was dissolved in
1960 and by this time his career was on the wane. Granger had gained a
reputation for declining to laugh at the bad jokes of producers and
for putting up none-too-gracefully with directors he regarded as

He spent the early 1960s filming on the Continent: there was a
Biblical epic, "Sodom and Gomorrah" (1962), and a surprising
successful series of German "Westerns" made in Yugoslavia and based on
the Karl May stories. But other continental ventures came to little
and Granger virtually abandoned the cinema for American television
where he joined the nine-year old Western series, "The Virginian"
(re-titled "The Men from Shiloh") and played Sherlock Holmes in "The
Hound of the Baskervilles".

His third marriage in 1964 to a 22-year-old Belgian beauty queen,
Caroline Lecerf, ended in 1969 and he devoted his professional
energies to playing the property market in Arizona and Spain.

Granger's business acumen was no better in real estate than it was in
films however and he was forced, for financial reasons, to continue
acting in such television series as "Loveboat", even taking a modest
role playing Prince Philip in one of the more excruciating American
television "faction" productions, "The Royal Romance of Charles and
Diana." He returned to the cinema screen after a ten year gap in 1978,
supporting Richard Burton and Richard Harris in a story about
mercenaries called "The Wild Geese." Granger, by this time
silver-haired 65, played a suave corrupt merchant banker. After this
his health, if not his looks, was in decline. He had part of a lung
removed in 1981 and in the same year published his autobiography
"Sparks Fly Upwards".

It had always been a matter of regret to Granger that he had not made
more of his stage career and in 1990 he returned to the boards after a
40 year absence, appearing on Broadway with fellow veterans Rex
Harrison and Glynis Johns in the Somerset Maugham play, "The Circle."
Later in the same year, following the deaths of his two co-stars, he
toured Britain with the play along side Ian Carmichael and Rosemary

Stewart Granger is survived by three daughters and a son.