STARS OF STRIPES
Francis J. 'Red' Grandy: prolific photographer covered celebs, presidents and wars alike
By NANCY MONTGOMERY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 5, 2017
Francis J. "Red" Grandy sure got around.
If he wasn't in Koblenz, Germany, catching the priceless look on Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's face at the precise moment he learned a key piece of news, he was in Libya documenting the devastation following an earthquake, or in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, shooting the Olympic Games or on the Mediterranean Sea capturing F-4 Phantom jets streak across the sky over the USS John F. Kennedy.
Or he was maneuvering his way into Elizabeth Taylor's party at Cannes or a presidential inaugural ball or Sophia Loren's hotel room to drink cocktails. Time after time, Gandy outfoxed others and insinuated himself up close and personal to take some of most iconic photographs in the world. "He's with us," Mitzi Gaynor or Walter Winchell or some other grandee who'd just met him would say.
That mix of canniness, charm and chutzpah, combined with technical skill, made Grandy — Stars and Stripes chief photographer for more than three decades — a legend. His take on his craft was that good photography required luck but was more reliant on "anticipation."
The usually besuited Grandy was born in 1922 on a dairy farm in upstate New York. Starting in 1942, he spent four years in the Army Air Corps, then studied photography at the University of Southern California. In 1950, he sailed for Europe to work on a master’s degree in cinema. In 1951, he hired on as a photographer at Stars and Stripes, and quickly made an impression.
Within four months, he'd snapped a photo of Eisenhower at the moment the supreme Allied commander in Europe was told that his fellow five-star general Douglas D. MacArthur had been dismissed as Korean War commander by President Harry Truman. The photo was published all over the world and was named by the Associated Press as best news photo of the year for 1951.
Two weeks later, Grandy caught the reunion in Vienna, Austria, of Robert Vogeler and his wife, Lucille, when the business executive was released after 527 days in a Hungarian jail for spying. That image was named second-best news photo.
Grandy was promoted to chief photographer, a post he held for the next 35 years.
He was competitive. Stars and Stripes' small staff of six shooters won major newspaper photo contests year after year under his supervision.
His enviable assignments took him to military maneuvers, natural disasters, plane crashes, sporting events and film and jazz festivals in 37 countries. It was "movie stars, cocktail bars and shiny cars," he told one interviewer at age 91.
Grandy, 95, lives in upstate Hermon, N.Y., on the Grass River, where he's proprietor of the historic Lazy River Playground and owner of an Amphicar. Grandy imported the German vehicle, operable on land and water, in 1965 after seeing one in use on the way to an assignment near Koblenz. There's a photo of him in a 2013 edition of the Watertown Daily Times at the wheel of the sleek vessel, sporting a yachting cap as he cruises along the river.