The London-born son of an English army officer, Stewart Granger studied at drama college in England, then started working as a film actor in 1933. During the Second World War he served with the Gordon Highlanders and the Black Watch, but was invalided out in 1942. Granger returned to acting and became a bona fide star with the 1943 film The Man in Grey.
He moved to Hollywood in 1949, and was cast as Allan Quatermain in the film of Sir Rider Haggard's 1885 adventure novel King Solomon’s Mines; and so began a twenty-year career as a Hollywood leading man – Granger became a US citizen in the 1950s.
Malcolm Lyell, then manager of the Westley Richards London shop, recalled of Granger as customer: “Soon after the 2nd World War he bought an estate near Haslemere and purchased a pair of Westley Richards best single trigger guns. In 1950, he came to tell me that he and Deborah Kerr were going to star in the film King Solomon’s Mines. He said ‘when I’m off set with Deborah, I want to get in among the buffalo.’ So I fitted out Jimmy with a best quality Westley Richards single trigger .577 double rifle, a .375 Holland and Holland Magnum magazine rifle, as well as a .240. He was a big man and very powerful. He handled that big .577 as if it were a .22! He used the rifles in Kenya, Uganda and the Congo, while on location and went back to East Africa in the years afterwards.”
“We inlaid the floating bones of the lion he shot with his .577 into the stock. We also inlaid in gold the heads of an elephant, rhino and buffalo, with numerals to show how many he had shot of each animal.”
The .577 Granger had was first built for Count Alfred Potocki in 1921, a Polish nobleman from a famous sporting and hunting family. The entry order book for the original gun (made on 12 May, 1921) was for 'One best quality double hammerless ejector .577 H.V. rifle (100 x 750) two triggers and HD locks with hinged cover plate'. On 22 May 1950 the order for Granger was to 'strip, clean & regulate, & see shooting correct. Reblack barrels if possible in time. Erase crest, & engrave J.S.G. Required by June 5th certain.'
Granger recalled his visits to the shop with affection in his memoir, Sparks Fly Upward. King Solomon’s Mines was released in November of 1950, and although the guns used in filming this and The Last Safari were not his Westley Richards guns, the .577 was the gun he used, off-screen in 1950, to shoot his first lion.
In The Last Safari in 1967 Granger plays a troubled professional hunter who decides to track down and shoot a bull elephant who has charged and killed his best friend – he is accompanied by a younger American tourist. The dramatic tension and the wildlife footage of this film make it a modern classic, at the same time capturing a particular era of big game hunting.