GAY FILM GENRE PART 1   Leave a comment

In 1993 I sent in a check to help make the groundbreaking 1981 “The Celluloid Closet” book by Vito Russo into a documentary and I would like to think that the award winning film was due to me though in no way was it!

As a gay kid and teenager in the 1940s and 1950s who was an avid moviegoer I had to ‘read’ into films what I didn’t see up on the screen. What I did see were the effeminate butlers or male secretaries or, once in awhile, hinted at, the gay man as a murderer and/or a psycho.

Vito Russo, first in his book and then in the documentary, covered how eventually the gay genre of movies came into their own. In 1946 we had to imagine that Glen Ford spurned George Macready in “Gilda” and the latter got revenge by marrying Rita Hayworth. In the 1951 “A Streetcar Named Desire” film version the fact that Blanche’s husband had been gay was obliquely referred to but ‘out’ gay men were still having to commit suicide under ’the movie code’. In 1962 Arthur Miller’s play “A View From The Bridge”, directed by Sidney Lumet, had to be made as a Italian-French production due to one man accusing another of being gay and kissing him full on the mouth.  In 1965 Robert Redford played a closeted gay man in “Inside Daisy Clover” and in 1968 Frank Sinatra as “The Detective” investigates a murder and a suicide.

In 1970 a milestone in American gay cinema finally hit the mainstream big screen when the play “The Boys In The Band” revolving around 8 out gay men and 1 possible in the closet friend. Today it has a rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and even back then  the reviews were favorable including those for the actors and the direction by William Friedkin, the latter in 1980 directing Al Pacino in the film “Cruising” which looked at the gay S & M scene.

An aside–the Lesbian movie history takes a different path so I am not getting into that aspect here except to relate the story about the adaptation of Lillian Helman’s “The Children’s Hour” play to the screen first in 1934 when Lesbians weren’t allowed to be portrayed on the screen so it was called “These Three” and sold as a movie about ‘a lie’

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Posted April 6, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, GAY

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