60 Queer Films Made Under the Hays Code (1934-1967)

This essay is the first part of a two-part article dealing with Queer Film. It is not meant to be an in-depth chronicle of Queer Cinema. It reflects the big screen portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community as seen by me, a gay man who, although a medical doctor by profession, fell in love with movies at an early age. A gay man who grew up and went to college and medical school in Ireland and, by chance, got the opportunity to review movies in the mid-nineteen eighties, first for “In Dublin” and then for “The Irish Times.” I have lived in Los Angeles since the mid-nineteen nineties.

What is Queer Cinema? It can mean different things to different people. If there is a gay character that is a character and not a prop for straight people to laugh at, then it’s Queer Cinema. It’s also a sensibility. A sensibility that would bring movies like “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “The Women,” and “Auntie Mame” under the queer umbrella even if they didn’t have gay supporting characters. The fact that gay men directed all these movies completes the picture!

In these essays, I have attached an asterisk to the name of the gay character while the actor’s name playing the gay character is in parenthesis.

If an actor in the movie or someone behind the camera (director, writer, songwriter, production designer) is (was) gay in real life, their names are also listed. If the movie is based on an original idea, novel, or play by a gay writer, that person is also noted.

This essay spans 1934 to 1967: Queer cinema under the notorious Hays Code, which, although formulated in the early twenties, was only enforced, in earnest, with the arrival of Joseph Breen in 1934.

1934 Hays Code

1934 Hayes Code: Queer Cinema.
Under Breen, overt references to sexuality, particularly homosexuality, were frowned upon.
As a result, gay or straight directors, writers, and actors had to be more creative in presenting while at the same time disguising a gay character.

The sixty Queer Films listed here were all released during the Hays Code era (1934-1967). Fifty-four were APPROVED as submitted.

“Kind Hearts and Coronets” and “Persona” required cutting before they were released in the US. These cut scenes have now been restored.

“Victim” was released without a stamp of approval. When it was released on VHS in the US in 1986, it received a PG-13 rating.

“Some Like it Hot,” “The Leather Boys,” and “My Hustler” did not seek approval and were released without giving any mind to the Hays Office. Billy Wilder’s decision not to submit “Some Like It Hot” signaled the beginning of the end.

As the years have passed and numerous biographies and memoirs have been written, more and more celebrities are now known to have been gay or bisexual.

  • Fred Astaire was probably in a long-term relationship (1933-1969) with his long-time choreographer and doppelganger Hermes Pan.

The other LGBTQ ACTORS | DIRECTORS | SCREEN WRITERS |SONGWRITERS | COSTUME AND PRODUCTION DESIGNERS mentioned in this essay (1934-1967) and its companion piece (1967-1976) are known to have had same-sex trysts and relationships going back decades. Here is a short list of names, which is expanded as each of the 60 movies in this essay (and 40 in the next) are discussed:

  • Marlon Brando
  • Montgomery Clift
  • James Dean
  • Walter Pidgeon
  • Cary Grant – long-term relationships with actor Randolph Scott and costume designer Orry-Kelly.
  • Laurence Olivier – long-term relationship with Danny Kaye
  • Anthony Perkins – relationship with fellow actor Tab Hunter in the late fifties. They double-dated some of Hollywood’s most beautiful actresses during this period.
  • Husband and wife Vincent Price and Coral Browne.
  • Director George Cukor, probably the most famous gay man in Hollywood during this period, was instrumental in fostering two lavender marriages/relationships: Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy and their close friends, the writers Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin. Hepburn and Tracy cared deeply for one another, but their relationship was a scam set up by their studio, MGM to squash rumors of their homosexuality. Both couples lived in cottages on the Cukor estate during their time in Hollywood.
  • Dirk Bogarde gradually evolved to a more OUT persona as his career developed, although he never officially broached the subject.
  • Alec Guinness, Dennis Price, Charles Laughton, and Laurence Harvey were all known to be gay throughout their careers. Their adoring public may have felt there was something. Still, hey, they were English (by way of Lithuania and South Africa in Harvey’s case), so like Olivier, a bit of affectation came with the territory.
  • Rock Hudson is the classic Hollywood closet case. Everyone in town knew the story – including the sham marriage – but the public was clueless until a diagnosis of advanced AIDS forced his hand in coming out, with only a few more weeks to live, in the summer of 1985.

Behind the camera were the gay directors James Whale, George Cukor, and Vincente Minnelli, who showed their gay sensibilities to variable degrees and whose careers took divergent routes.

  • Minnelli, who was married to gay icon Judy Garland, managed to have a stellar Hollywood career with little to no interference from his studio (MGM). Whale and Cukor, however, suffered for their sexual preference.
  • Cukor was fired from “Gone With The Wind” after a few weeks of filming. We will never know the real reason, but no matter how many times Olivia de Havilland vehemently opined against it, the William Haines-Clark Gable rumors and Cukor’s knowledge of what happened between them still have an air of truth today.
  • As for Whale, being the most OUT of the great Hollywood directors and being in a well-known relationship with Warner Bros. producer David Lewis didn’t help, especially when tastes changed, and his penchant for high camp lost favor with the public as the thirties progressed.
  • The Fifties and Sixties gave us gay directors Nicholas Ray, Tony Richardson, Andy Warhol, and John Schlesinger, with Ray directing one of the seminal 1950s (and Los Angeles) movies “Rebel Without a Cause” featuring Sal Mineo’s Plato as Hollywood’s first adolescent gay character.
  • Meanwhile, Broadway theatre director Morton DaCosta showered his meager (three) Hollywood films with a very gay theatrical style, so much so that his feature debut, “Auntie Mame,” is regarded by many as a camp classic.
  • Gay Hollywood power couples existed then, as they do now. Roger Edens and his partner of many years, Leonard Gershe, made the deliciously urbane and witty Audrey Hepburn-Fred Astaire vehicle, “Funny Face.”
  • Famous gay stage designer Oliver Messel was Oscar-nominated for one of his few forays into Film, “Suddenly Last Summer.”
  • The source material during this period came from a rich collection of gay playwrights and novelists: Tennessee Williams and William Inge, Patricia Highsmith, Oscar Wilde, Patrick Dennis, and Herman Melville.
  • Of the 58 movies listed, 16 are based on original screenplays, while 42 are adapted from another medium.

During the Hays Code years, there were two branches of filmmaking where being gay, if not an advantage, was undoubtedly the norm.

  • Costume Design: It may surprise you that the allure of the Costume Department to the gay sensibility applies to both sexes. Edith Head and Irene Scharaff, Hollywood’s greatest female costume designers, were gay. As for the men, well, you can just run through the list: Gilbert Adrian, Milo Anderson, Travis Banton, Bill Blass, Howard Greer, Charles Le Maire, Jean Louis, Moss Mabry, Anthony Mendleson (in London), Bernard Newman, Orry-Kelly, Walter Plunkett, Howard Shoup, Bill Thomas, William Travilla, Arlington Valles and many, many more. Some were in lavender marriages, but all expressed their gayness in their on-screen work.
  • CHOREOGRAPHY: While Fred Astaire and his longtime companion Hermes Pan choreographed the unforgettable dance sequences in “Top Hat” (1935), Fred’s career was bookended by the stunning work of another gay choreographer, Eugene Loring in “Funny Face” (1957). Meanwhile, gay choreographer Jack Cole’s contribution to the musical numbers “Put The Blame on Mame” and “Amado Mio” from “Gilda” and “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” from “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds” is the essential ingredient in making these movies immortal.

The first four films on my list are the products of RKO, Hollywood’s most liberal studio in the thirties and forties – the studio of “Citizen Kane.” Howard Hughes acquired it in the late forties. For whatever reason, or reasons, he set out to destroy it.

1. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) A-

The Bride of Frankenstein: Queer Cinema.

James Whale

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

DIRECTOR: James Whale

ACTOR: Ernest Thesiger

Susan Sontag: Notes on Camp: 1964: The Partisan Review
You thought it (camp) meant a swishy little boy with peroxided hair, dressed in a picture hat and a feather boa, pretending to be Marlene Dietrich? Yes, in queer circles they call that camping. … You can call [it] Low Camp…

Susan Sontag: The Partisan Review 1964

High Camp is the whole emotional basis for ballet, for example, and of course of baroque art … High Camp always has an underlying seriousness. You can’t camp about something you don’t take seriously. You’re not making fun of it, you’re making fun out of it. You’re expressing what’s basically serious to you in terms of fun and artifice and elegance. Baroque art is basically camp about religion. The ballet is camp about love …

Susan Sontag: The Partisan Review 1964

Director James Whale’s masterpiece is as close to Susan Sontag’s definition of high camp as the movies can deliver. Meanwhile, Elsa Lanchester’s star is born in the title role, sporting the most creative “do” in cinema history. Gay actor Ernest Thesiger, whose portrait was sketched by no less than John Singer Sargent in 1911, gives his most famous performance as Dr. Frankenstein’s gay mentor, Dr. Pretorious.

The premise was suggested by “Frankenstein,” the 1818 novel by Mary Wollencraft Shelley.

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2. Top Hat (1935) A+

Top Hat: Queer Cinema.

Mark Sandrich

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton)

*Bates (Eric Blore)

 GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Fred Astaire

ACTOR: Eric Blore

ACTOR: Edward Everett Horton

ACTOR: Erik Rhodes

CHOREOGRAPHER: Hermes Pan

COSTUME DESIGNER: Bernard Newman

 The Best of the Astaire-Rogers movies.

Of the nine films Astaire and Rogers made at RKO Pictures in the thirties, “Top Hat” is their best. It’s also their most indubitably gay, with Eric Blore doing his butler with a superior attitude and Edward Everett Horton, whose own unique variation on the double take (an actor’s reaction to something, followed by a delayed, more extreme reaction) had yet to become tiresome.

The songs by Irving Berlin are some of his best, and the dance to Cheek to Cheek, choreographed by Astaire and his longtime collaborator and alleged lover at the time, Hermes Pan, is Astaire-Rogers at their peak.

Gay actor Erik Rhodes, who had also appeared in “The Gay Divorcee” the previous year, makes an indelible impression as Alberto Beddini, a dandified Italian fashion designer with a penchant for malapropisms. Rhodes spent most of his life on Broadway; the rest of his Hollywood output was mainly forgettable.

The film’s production design (by Carroll Clark, with Van Nest Polglase being the head of the design department) marked the peak of the Art Deco movement in Hollywood.

Original screenplay by Allan Scott and Dwight Taylor from a story by Taylor.

BEHIND THE CAMERA

  • Cinematography: David Abel.
  • Original Screenplay: Allan Scott and Dwight Taylor
  • Production Design: Carroll Clark and Van Nest Polglase
  • Songs: Irving Berlin.
  • Choreography by Fred Astaire and Hermes Pan

THE PLAYERS

  • Fred Astaire as Jerry Travers
  • Ginger Rogers as Dale Tremont
  • Edward Everett Horton as Horace Hardwick
  • Erik Rhodes as Alberto Beddini
  • Helen Broderick as Madge Hardwick
  • Eric Blore as Bates

SONGS BY IRVING BERLIN

  • No Strings (I’m Fancy-Free)
  • Isn’t This a Lovely Day (to be Caught in the Rain)
  • Top Hat, White Tie and Tails
  • Cheek to Cheek
  • The Piccolino

ASTAIRE-ROGERS AT RKO

  • Flying Down to Rio (1933)
  • The Gay Divorcee (1934)
  • Roberta (1935)
  • Top Hat (1935)
  • Follow the Fleet (1936)
  • Swing Time (1936)
  • Shall We Dance (1937)
  • Carefree (1938)
  • The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939)

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3 Sylvia Scarlett (1935) B-

Sylvia Scarlett (Queer Cinema)

George Cukor

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Sylvia/Sylvester Scarlett (Katherine Hepburn)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

DIRECTOR: George Cukor

ACTOR: Cary Grant

ACTRESS: Katherine Hepburn

COSTUME DESIGNER: Bernard Newman

Hepburn plays a female con artist who dresses as a boy to avoid the police. With gay and trans themes, Hepburn’s turn as Sylvia/Sylvester Scarlett set the bar impossibly high for actors brave enough to consider working in Queer Cinema for years to come. Unfortunately, the movie is not very good, and Cukor’s direction seems off. It was one of the great financial disasters of the 1930s, and it almost brought RKO to its knees. Because of this movie and “Bringing Up Baby,” exhibitors labeled Hepburn box office poison. It marked the first of four Hepburn/Grant pairings. The complete list is as follows:

  • Sylvia Scarlett (1935, George Cukor)
  • Bringing Up Baby (1938, Howard Hawks)
  • Holiday (1938, George Cukor)
  • The Philadelphia Story (1940, George Cukor)

There is a gradual improvement, with each movie being better than the previous one. This progression culminates in the triumph that is “The Philadelphia Story,” Cukor’s masterpiece, and Hepburn’s (and Grant’s – with “Notorious” and “North By Northwest”) greatest performance.

Adapted from the novel by Compton MacKenzie.

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4. Bringing Up Baby (1938) A-

Bringing Up Baby

Howard Hawks

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*David Huxley (Cary Grant) goes gay all of a sudden when he answers the front door dressed in a négligée.

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Cary Grant

ACTRESS: Katherine Hepburn

COSTUME DESIGNER: Howard Greer

BOTTOM LINE: In Howard Hawks’s “Bringing Up Baby,Cary Grant answers the front door dressed in a négligée because Katherine Hepburn has hidden all his clothes. When Hepburn’s aunt, played by May Robson, asks him to explain, he replies exasperatedly, “Because I just went gay all of a sudden” (and leaping into the air at the word gay). There are no further references to Grant’s character being Gay/Queer/homosexual in the rest of the movie. How often was gay used as a synonym in the vernacular for homosexuality in 1938?  Can I get a linguist? Can I get a linguist? Grant plays a paleontologist who gets involved in several predicaments involving a scatterbrained heiress (Hepburn) and a leopard named Baby. The film represents the peak of Hollywood’s slapstick era, with Grant taking a couple of classic tumbles.

Adapted by Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde from a short story by Wilde, which originally appeared in Collier’s Weekly magazine on April 10, 1937.

REMADE WITH BARBRA STREISAND AND RYAN O’NEILL BY PETER BOGDANOVICH AS “WHAT’S UP DOC” IN 1972.

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5. The Women (1939) A-

The Women: Queer Cinema.

George Cukor

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Nancy Blake (Florence Nash)

 GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

DIRECTOR: George Cukor

ACTRESS: Marjorie Main

COSTUME DESIGNER: Adrian

The Women” has the distinction of being the first American film with an all-female cast. All the art featured in the movie was by women. The screenplay was by two women (Anita Loos and Jane Murfin) based on a play written by a woman (“The Women” by Claire Booth Luce from 1936). All the animals featured were female. Unfortunately, this being 1939, everyone behind the camera was male, albeit with Hollywood’s most outstanding gay director, George Cukor, at the helm just one month after being fired from “Gone with the Wind” for, by some accounts, being too gay! The only apparent lesbian, an “old maid” who always wears slacks – no, it’s not Katherine Hepburn – is played by Florence Nash.

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6. The Wizard of Oz (1939) A-

The Wizard of Oz: Queer Cinema.

Victor Fleming

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr)

 GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

COSTUME DESIGNER: Adrian

Judy Garland/Dorothy: She is the mother of all of us! Before there was Barbra, before there was Liza, before there was Madonna, before there was Lady Gaga, there was Judy.

How and why gay men came to refer to themselves as “Friends of Dorothy,” I don’t know. Judy Garland was not gay, but there was something glorious about her performance in “The Wizard of Oz,” which captured most people’s hearts, gay or straight. Something vulnerable yet confident. And there’s that incredible voice at once innocent and knowing. She gets to sing the greatest movie song ever written, “Over the Rainbow,” thanks to the genius of Harold Arlen (music) and Yip Harburg (lyrics). Photographed in glorious Technicolor by Harold Rosson (bookended by black and white for Kansas) and directed by Victor Fleming, the man who took over “Gone with the Wind” after George Cukor was fired. Queer Cinema can be a small world. Oh, of course, Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion was gay. Almost forgot!

Adapted from the novel by L. Frank Baum.

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7. Rebecca (1940) A+

Rebecca

Alfred Hitchcock

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Laurence Olivier

ACTRESS: Judith Anderson

REBECCA IS ONE OF HITCHCOCK’S SEVEN PERFECT FILMS.

Hitchcock LIKED to cast gay actors in gay ROLES.

Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers AND John Dall and Farley Granger IN ROPE.

While working for Mrs.Van Hopper (Florence Bates) in Monte Carlo, a young woman (Joan Fontaine) becomes acquainted with Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier), a recent widower. After a brief courtship, they become engaged. They marry and then head to his mansion in England, Manderly. Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), the head housekeeper at Manderly, is obsessed with the memory of Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca, who died under mysterious circumstances, and she despises the new Mrs. de Winter, whom she belittles at every opportunity. “Rebecca” marked the arrival in Hollywood (courtesy of “Gone with the Wind,” producer David O. Selznick) of the man who was, or would eventually become, the greatest director in the history of cinema. Superb performance by Joan Fontaine, who showed that she was every bit as talented as her sister, the great Olivia de Havilland. 

Music by Franz Waxman. Oscar-winning cinematography by George Barnes. Excellent work by George Sanders, Reginald Denny, and Gladys Cooper.

Adapted from the novel by Daphne du Maurier.

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8. The Maltese Falcon (1941) A-

The Maltese Falcon: Queer Cinema.

John Huston

(APPROVED)

 LBGTQ+ CHARACTER

*Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet)

*Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre)

*Wilmer Cook (Elisha Cook Jr)

 GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

COSTUME DESIGNER: Orry-Kelly

After several years as a screenwriter, John Huston made a smashing directorial debut with his adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s 1930 novel. It had been adapted once before in 1931 as a pre-code starring Ricardo Cortez and Bebe Daniels. However, Huston’s remake is now considered the definitive version. Humphrey Bogart got his big break playing Sam Spade, a San Francisco private detective dealing with three unscrupulous adventurers (Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lore), all seeking a jewel-encrusted falcon statuette. Everyone knows that Peter Lorre’s character, Joel Cairo, is gay. Even Sam knows. Sam will only slap Joel, never giving him the dignity of a punch. Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.) is referred to as “Wilmer the gunzel,gunzel being an old English term for “kept boy” or homosexual. Since he is Kasper Gutman’s kept boy, I can only assume that Sydney Greenstreet’s Kasper is also gay. Splendid, dear boy!

Bogart would remain a star until he died in 1957. One of the quintessential film noirs, “Falcon” has not stood the test of time as well as some of its contemporaries, probably because of a plot that does not make much sense. However, the performances are there to savor, with the great Ms. Astor doing a superb turn as Bridget O’Shaughnessy. Meanwhile, the gay triumvirate of Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Elisha Cook Jr. bring up the rear!

Outstanding cinematography by Arthur Edeson.

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9. The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942) A-

The Man Who Came to Dinner: Queer Cinema.

William Keighley

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Wooley)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Monty Wooley

COSTUME DESIGNER: Orry-Kelly

Monty Wooley delights himself and his audience by playing the impossibly pompous Sheridan Whiteside in William Keighley’s excellent 1941 adaptation of George Kauffman/Moss Hart’s play “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”

While passing through small-town Ohio during a cross-country lecture tour, Whiteside breaks his hip after slipping and falling on the icy steps of the house of the Stanleys, a prominent Ohio family with whom he’s supposed to dine as a publicity stunt. He insists on recuperating in their home during the Christmas holidays.

The character of Whiteside is based on the playwright’s good friend, the theatre critic Alexander Woollcott. Bette Davis is perfection playing Whiteside’s long-suffering yet understanding secretary. It’s one of her few comedic roles, making you wonder why she didn’t do more.

The excellent supporting cast includes Ann Sheridan, nicely parodying herself, Richard Travis as Miss Davis’ love interest, the irrepressible Jimmy Durante singing “Did You Ever Have the Feeling That You Wanted to Go, And Still Have the Feeling That You Wanted to Stay?”, Mary Wickes as Nurse Preen who has the unenviable task of nursing Whiteside back to health, Reginald Gardiner doing a parody of Noel Coward and Billie Burke and Grant Mitchell as the unfortunate Mr. and Mrs. Stanley.

I am not only walking out on this case, Mr. Whiteside, I am leaving the nursing profession. I became a nurse because all my life, ever since I was a little girl, I was filled with the idea of serving a suffering humanity. After one month with you, Mr. Whiteside, I am going to work in a munitions factory. From now on, anything I can do to help exterminate the human race will fill me with the greatest of pleasure. If Florence Nightingale had ever nursed YOU, Mr. Whiteside, she would have married Jack the Ripper instead of founding the Red Cross! (sic)

Nurse Preen (Mary Wickes)


Monty Wooley, Clifton Webb, and Cole Porter were at the nexus of New York’s gay scene during the Roaring Twenties.

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10. Laura (1944) A+

Laura: Queer Cinema.

Otto Preminger

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb)

*Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price)

*Anne Treadwell (Judith Anderson)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Clifton Webb

ACTOR: Vincent Price

ACTRESS: Judith Anderson

LIKE MOST OF THE GREAT FILM NOIRS FROM THE FORTIES, THE FILM BEGINS WITH A NARRATOR, AND THE NARRATIVE UNFOLDS IN FLASHBACK

“I shall never forget the weekend Laura died. A silver sun burned through the sky like a huge magnifying glass. It was the hottest Sunday in my recollection. I felt as if I were the only human being left in New York. For with Laura’s horrible death, I was alone. I, Waldo Lydecker, was the only one who really knew her. And I had just begun to write Laura’s story when – another of those detectives came to see me. I had him wait. I could watch him through the half-open door. I noted that his attention was fixed upon my clock. There was only one other in existence, and that was in Laura’s apartment in the very room where she was murdered

Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker

One of the reasons for firing “Laura’s” original director, Rouben Mamoulian, was his attitude towards Clifton Webb. His less-than-stellar treatment of the seasoned theatrical actor on the set because of his sexual orientation has become the stuff of Hollywood lore. However, a more likely reason for his dismissal was the direction he was taking the material. Remember, Mamoulian is more famous for the films he didn’t make (was fired from) than those he did – in addition to “Laura,” he was also fired from the sets of “Oklahoma” and “Cleopatra.” Zanuck then handed the film over to producer Otto Preminger. It was a stroke of sheer genius that will never be forgotten.

Adapted from the novel by Vera Caspary.

REMADE AS SHARKY’S MACHINE BY BURT REYNOLDS IN 1981

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11. Double Indemnity (1944) A+

Double Indemnity: Queer Cinema.

Billy Wilder

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray)

*Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

COSTUME DESIGNER: Edith Head

WERE THEY QUEER FOR ONE ANOTHER?

MY FAVORITE FILM NOIR OF THE FORTIES.

THE FIRST FILM TO CAPTURE THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF LOS ANGELES.

LIKE MOST OF THE GREAT FILM NOIRS FROM THE FORTIES, THE FILM BEGINS WITH A NARRATOR, AND THE NARRATIVE UNFOLDS IN FLASHBACK

Walter Neff, a successful insurance salesman for Pacific All-Risk Insurance, returns to his office building in downtown Los Angeles late one night. Clearly in pain, he sits at his desk and tells the whole story into a Dictaphone for his colleague Barton Keyes, a claims adjuster.

The greatest of the film noirs that Hollywood churned out from the mid-forties into the fifties, this 1944 crime thriller was directed by Billy Wilder, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, and produced by Buddy DeSylva. The screenplay was based on James M. Cain’s 1943 novel of the same title, which appeared as an eight-part serial for Liberty magazine in February 1936.

The film stars Fred MacMurray as an insurance salesman, Walter Neff, and Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson, the black widow spider who traps him in a plot to kill her husband and then claim the insurance money. Edward. G. Robinson also stars as MacMurray’s boss, Barton Keyes, a claims adjuster whose job is to find phony claims. Double Indemnity” refers to a clause in particular life insurance policies that doubles the payout when the death is accidental.

All three stars are superb, with Stanwyck and Robinson giving Oscar-worthy performances. At least Stanwyck was nominated, but she unjustly lost out to Ingrid Bergman in “Gaslight.” In contrast, neither MacMurray nor Robinson got any love from their peers. Robinson’s absence from the Best Supporting Actor lineup that year is arguably, the most egregious snub in Oscar history.

Wilder has stated in various interviews that he believes the real love affair was between Walter (MacMurray) and Keyes (Robinson). You can feel their deep attachment to their final beautiful and moving scene together. The dynamic between Neff and Dietrichson (Stanwyck) seems more about power than genuine emotion. There is no love there.

The film is also redolent of Los Angeles, it being the first Hollywood movie to go out and capture the sights and sounds of the city’s varied locales:

  • The Dietrichson House in Glendale (actually in the Beachwood Canyon area) is where Walter first meets Phyllis (and her ankle bracelet) for the first time.
  • The Market in Los Feliz, where Walter and Phyllis have clandestine meetings.
  • Walters’s apartment on Melrose Avenue.
  • The corner of Franklin and Vermont, where Walter drops off Lola (Jean Heather), Phyllis’ step-daughter who suspects that her mother is up to no good.
  • Walter and Lola lying on the grass behind the Hollywood Bowl as a concert shimmers in the distance.
  • Downtown Los Angeles, where the Pacific All-Risk insurance offices are located.

The magnificent score is by Miklos Rozsa. The cinematography is by John F. Seitz, who photographed Wilder’s Oscar-winning “The Lost Weekend” and “Sunset Boulevard.”

REMADE AS BODY HEAT IN 1981 BY LAWRENCE KASDAN WITH WILLIAM HURT AND KATHLEEN TURNER

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12. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) A

The Picture of Dorian Gray: Queer Cinema.

Albert Lewin

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield)

*Basil Hallward (Lowell Gilmore)

 GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Hurd Hatfield

ACTOR: Lowell Gilmore

COSTUME DESIGNER: Arlington Valles

Having worked as Irving Thalberg’s closest assistant for most of the Thirties at MGM, Albert Lewin became a producer at Paramount after the” boy wonder” passed away at age 37 in 1936. Always a man with great literary aspirations, he went one step further and became a writer/director, debuting with a mediocre adaption of Somerset Maugham’s “The Moon and Sixpence.” However, back at MGM, he directed his masterpiece, a superb adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” with an impossibly beautiful Hurd Hatfield as Dorian – the fact that his performance was subtle to the point of understatement has always seemed exactly suitable to me. He’s like Tyrone Power with a permanent facial mask.

Beautifully handled by Lewin, it is one of MGM’s best movies of the Forties, boasting superb production design and gorgeous black and white cinematography by Oscar winner Harry Stradling – breaking into color for the climactic closeup of Ivan Le Lorraine Albright’s infamous painting now at the Art Institute of Chicago. The superb cast includes George Sanders as Lord Henry Wotton, Wild’s heterosexual stand-in, scattering his bon mots like rose petals at a wedding, Angela Lansbury getting her second Oscar nomination in two years as Sybil Vane, the young girl that Dorian destroys, which seals his fate, Richard Fraser as her vengeful brother and Peter Lawford and Donna Reed both looking impossibly fresh and youthful. Finally, there is Dorian’s best friend, Basil Hallward. He is played by gay actor Lowell Gilmore, who, like Hatfield, deserved much better from Hollywood.

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13. Gilda (1946) A-

Gilda (Queer Cinema)

Charles Vidor

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford)

*Ballin Mundson (George Macready)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

COSTUME DESIGNER: Jean Louis

CHOREOGRAPHER: Jack Cole

WERE THEY QUEER FOR ONE ANOTHER?

Feast your eyes on Charles Vidor’s stylish direction, Rudolph Mate’s lush black-and-white cinematography (unusual for a noir film), the Jean Louis gowns, and, of course, Rita Hayworth as Gilda, one of Hollywood’s most iconic heroines.

Although Glenn Ford and George Macready always insisted that they believed their characters were gay, Vidor disagreed. The plot and the characters’ motivations are hopelessly convoluted, so “Gilda” is a problematic film to grade on the Queer spectrum. However, it’s Queer enough to have two of the greatest song numbers in the history of Cinema: “Put the Blame on Mame” and “Amado Mio” “sung” in grand style by Hayworth (dubbed by Anita Ellis) and stunningly choreographed by The Father of Theatrical Jazz Dance, Jack Cole. Doris Fisher and Allan Roberts wrote both of the classic songs.

Original screenplay by Jo Eisinger, Marion Parsonnet, and Ben Hecht (uncredited) from a story by E.A. Ellington.

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14. Night and Day (1946) B-

Michael Curtiz

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

*Monty Wooley playing himself

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Cary Grant

ACTOR: Monty Wooley

COSTUME DESIGNER: Milo Anderson

COSTUME DESIGNER: William Travilla

In Warner Bros.’s highly fictionalized biography of Cole Porter, we get a heterosexual Porter (played by Cary Grant) happily married (Alexis Smith plays his wife, Linda). However, never underestimate Monty Wooley, who, playing himself – he was Porter’s best friend – marks this movie as Queer Cinema. The other member of the notorious Porter-Webb-Wooley triumvirate had just become a major star and was making “The Razor’s Edge” over on Pico Blvd at TCF.

Porter loved the movie – he got to be Cary Grant for two hours, and the movie was an enormous success.

Original screenplay by Charles Hoffman, Leo Townsend, and William Bowers.

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15. Red River (1948) A-

Red River

Howard Hawks

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift)

*Cherry Valance (John Ireland)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Montgomery Clift

In one of the greatest Westerns ever made, director Howard Hawks takes us along the infamous Chisholm Trail, and the first cattle drive from Texas to Kansas. In one of his most emblematic roles, John Wayne is Thomas Dunson, the rancher who initiates the affair, while Montgomery Clift is Garth, his adopted adult son. Of course, they clash at every opportunity in the excellent script by Borden Chase and Charles Schnee. The year was 1948, and Clift was breaking out all over. In “Red River, he more than held his own in his dramatic confrontations with Wayne. Meanwhile, he was equally impressive as the American soldier in Fred Zinnemann’s “The Search” and as the unfortunate gentleman caller in William Wyler’s “The Heiress.”

“River” was his film debut, and it’s kudos all the way, particularly when you realize that he was diving in at the deep end by doing some major flirting with John Ireland’s gunslinger Cheery Valance. The two become inseparable, and, in one classic scene, Valance asks to see Garth’s gun. They compare sizes and have a shootout! It’s one of the incredible gay moments on film.

Also, with Walter Brennan, Noah Beery Jr., Joanne Dru, and Coleen Gray – Both Dru and Gray are superb, and “Red River” impresses as one of the few Westerns with not just one but two very memorable female characters. The stunning cinematography (black and white) is by Hawks’ favorite cameraman Russell Harlan. The rousing score is by Dimitri Tiomkin.

Adapted from the 1946 story “The Chisholm Trail” in The Saturday Evening Post by Borden Chase.

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16. Rope (1948) A-

Rope: Queer Cinema.

Alfred Hitchcock

(APPROVED)

 

Filmed in 8 x 10-minute takes.

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Rupert Cadell (James Stewart)

*Brandon Shaw (John Dall)

* Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Farley Granger

ACTOR: John Dall

COSTUME DESIGNER: Adrian

THE FIRST GAY (MALE) COUPLE TO DECEIVE THE HAYS OFFICE

HITCHCOCK’S FIRST FILM IN COLOR

Hitchcock’s famous experiment could have evolved over coffee with Eisenstein.

The two great directors, having mastered the language of cinema many times over, now know that it is a marriage of two separate yet complementary entities.
1) mise-en-scene: the production design, costume design, the position of the camera, the movement of the camera, the position of the actors, and the movement of the actors within a scene.
2) editing, or what you fashion from your mise-en-scene to make your movie.

But Hitchcock wants to know what a movie would be like if you eliminated editing and only had mise-en-scene. Would it be like a filmed play, taken by someone in the audience with a movie camera?

There was a problem, however, in that each film’s roll only lasted 10 minutes. Hitchcock overcame this by backing the camera up to an inanimate object, such as a piece of furniture, and quickly changing the film.

The story is irresistible and is based on the Leopold and Loeb case, adapted from Patrick Hamilton’s play. Granger and Dall are perfect, and Jimmy Stewart is also excellent, even if you think he may not have been in on the ruse!

Yet, despite the film’s overall excellence, you are always aware that Hitch is disabled by having half of the silver screen’s vernacular off limits. It’s like he’s working with only the right (spatial) side of his brain.

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17. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) A+

Kind Hearts and Coronets: Queer Cinema.

Robert Hamer

(Approved After Major Revisions)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Lady Agatha D’Ascoyne (Alec Guinness)


GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

DIRECTOR: Robert Hamer

SCREENPLAY: Robert Hamer (with John Dighton)

ACTOR: Alec Guinness

ACTOR: Dennis Price

COSTUME DESIGNER: Anthony Mendleson

MY FAVORITE BRITISH MOVIE

With exquisitely intelligent and stylish direction by Robert Hamer, it flows like dark chocolate over a mouthwatering sundae. Starring the deliciously urbane Dennis Price as lowly draper’s assistant Louis Mazzini, who finds himself distantly in line for a dukedom. Infuriated by this aristocratic family’s cruel treatment of his mother, he becomes a serial killer, setting out to systematically murder everyone ahead of him in line for the seat of D’Ascoyne-Chalfont.

Alec Guinness has fun playing all eight of the unfortunate D’Ascoynes. This includes Lady Agatha D’Ascoyne, a militant suffragette whom Louis shoots down from her hot air balloon while she is distributing leaflets. Since this is part one of a two-part essay on Queer Film, we must assume that Lady Agatha is most assuredly gay. Price, Guinness, and Hamer were all homosexuals, making this a very gay affair.

With the plum-voiced Joan Greenwood as that little minx Sybella, her every utterance at once an aphrodisiac and a condemnation. And the aristocratic Valerie Hobson was never better than as the pure-at-heart Edith D’Ascoyne, widow of Young Henry D’Ascoyne, and the person on whom Louis sets his sights to marry. Miles Matheson has a few hilarious moments as “the hangman.”

Adapted from the novel by Roy Horniman.

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18. Adam’s Rib (1949) A

Adam's Rib

George Cukor

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Kip Lurie (David Wayne)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

DIRECTOR: George Cukor

ACTRESS: Hope Emerson

ACTRESS: Katherine Hepburn

ACTOR: Spencer Tracy

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Ruth Gordon

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Garson Kanin

COSTUME DESIGNER: Walter Plunkett

MY FAVORITE TRACY-HEPBURN MOVIE

Screenwriters Ruth Gordon and husband Garson Kanin populated their court case Tracy/Hepburn (Adam/Amanda) comedy with a bunch of great supporting characters played by the likes of Judy Holliday, Jean Hagen, Hope Emerson, Tom Ewell and, as Amanda’s “gay best friend,” David Wayne’s Kip Lurie. Kip is their next-door neighbor and a Broadway composer.

Gay with his closely cropped hair (so fashionable today!) and flamboyant behavior, he is the constant butt of Adam’s putdowns, such that it wouldn’t be hard to turn Kip into a woman since he is halfway there already. Kip, nevertheless, pursues Amanda with dogged determination, to the point of composing a song especially for and about her entitled “Farewell Amanda” (written by Cole Porter, no less). Thanks to Wayne’s inspired performance, Kip is one of Hollywood’s most memorable gay characters from the Hays code era.

Original screenplay by Ruth Gordan and Garson Kanin.

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19. All About Eve (1950) A+

All About Eve

Joseph L. Mankiewicz

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter)

*Addison DeWitt (George Saunders)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

COSTUME DESIGNER: Edith Head

COSTUME DESIGNER: Charles LeMaire

EVERYONE’S FAVORITE BETTE DAVIS MOVIE

A masterpiece from one of the greatest screenplays ever written (by Mankiewicz from Mary Orr’s short story “The Wisdom of Eve”) highlighting the greatest, the most cherished, the most quoted, and the most imitated performance of all time by Hollywood’s most outstanding actress Bette Davis as Margo Channing.

With one of the greatest casts ever assembled for a motion picture: Left to Right pictured above: Gary Merrill, Bette Davis, George Sanders, Anne Baxter, Hugh Marlowe, and Celeste Holm. Also Featured were Thelma Ritter (getting the first of her six best supporting actress nominations), Gregory Ratoff, Barbara Bates, and, making quite an impression in her second major part (after “The Asphalt Jungle” over at MGM), Miss Marilyn Monroe.

Anne Baxter plays the scheming understudy Eve Harrington while George Sanders plays the influential drama critic Addison DeWitt. Both Eve and Addison are gay and Addison blackmails Eve, letting her know how much they have in common:

That I should want you at all suddenly strikes me as the height of improbability, but that, in itself, is probably the reason. You’re an improbable person, Eve, and so am I. We have that in common. Also, a contempt for humanity, an inability to love and be loved, insatiable ambition – and talent. We deserve each other…and you realize, and you agree how completely you belong to me?

Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) to Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter)

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20. Caged (1950) C-

Caged: Queer Cinema

John Cromwell

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Evelyn Harper, the sadistic matron (Hope Emerson)

*Kitty Stark, the murderous shoplifter (Betty Garde)

*Ruth Benton, the reformist prison superintendent (Agnes Moorhead)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTRESS: Hope Emerson

ACTRESS: Agnes Moorehead

“Hype the New Fish”

Betty Garde on seeing Eleanor Parker for the first time

Hollywood’s first female prison movie with an innocent Eleanor Parker (Marie) up against all those old prison dykes! Oscar nominations for Parker and Hope Emerson as the sadistic warden. As you would expect, it has not dated well but can be enjoyed as camp, particularly the performances of Emerson and Betty Garde as the inmate who gives Marie the advice she needs to survive on the inside.

Original screenplay by Virginia Kellogg and Bernard C. Schoenfeld from a story by Kellogg and Schoenfeld.

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21. Young Man with a Horn (1950) B

Young Man With A Horn: Queer Cinema.

Michael Curtiz

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Amy North (Lauren Bacall)

*Miss Carson (Katherine Kurasch, uncredited)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

COSTUME DESIGNER: Milo Anderson

THE FIRST AND ONLY LESBIAN COUPLE TO DECEIVE THE HAYS OFFICE

Like Mildred Pierce, “this is another Michael Curtiz movie that works equally well as drama and camp. Lauren Bacall is Kirk – a young man with a horn – Douglas’ society wife, who is also a closeted lesbian. But not for long! One evening, she brings home a beautiful and sophisticated date, Miss Carson (Katherine Kurasch, uncredited). Miss Carson is an artist, and Betty has been checking out her collection! Also, when Bacall makes the introduction, “This is my husband, Miss Carson, I told you about her,” the placement of the three actors in the scene and the inflection in Bacall’s voice makes it seem that it is Miss Carson who is Bacall’s life partner, not Douglas. This time, Kirk has had enough. He clinches his teeth as only Kirk can and proclaims, “YOU’RE A SICK GIRL, AMY.” Turning the other cheek, he runs off with a Warner ’s-era Doris Day. Douglas’ character is based on trumpet player Bix Beiderbecke.

Adapted from the novel by Dorothy Baker.

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22. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) A+

A Streetcar Named Desire

Elia Kazan

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*The Boy, Blanche’s late husband, a suicide.

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Marlon Brando

SCREENPLAY: Tennessee Williams

SOURCE MATERIAL: Adapted from the play “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams.

HOLLYWOOD’S BEST STAGE TO SCREEN ADAPTATION

But I was unlucky. Deluded. There was something about the boy. A nervousness, a tenderness……an uncertainty. And I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand why this boy, who wrote poetry…..didn’t seem able to do anything else. He lost every job. He came to me for help. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know anything…..except that I loved him…..unendurably. At night I pretended to sleep. I heard him crying. Crying the way a lost child cries.

Blanche DuBois: “A Streetcar Named Desire”.

I killed him. One night…..we drove out to a place called Moon Lake Casino. We danced the Varsouviana. Suddenly, in the middle of the dance, the boy I married broke away from me…..and ran out of the casino. A few minutes later…..a shot. I ran. All did. All ran and gathered about the terrible thing at the edge of the lake. He’d stuck a revolver into his mouth…..and fired. It was because…..on the dance floor…..unable to stop myself, I’d said: “You’re weak. I’ve lost respect for you. I despise you.” And then…..the searchlight which had been turned on the world….was turned off again. And never…..for one moment since, has there been any light stronger than…Than this…..yellow lantern.

Blanche DuBois: “A Streetcar Named Desire”.

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23. Strangers on a Train (1951) A-

Strangers on a Train: Queer Cinema.

Alfred Hitchcock

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Bruno Antony (Robert Walker)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Farley Granger

SOURCE MATERIAL: Based on the novel “Strangers on a Train” by Patricia Highsmith.

HITCHCOCK TACKLES HIGHSMITH

Hitchcock reverses himself here, having gay actor Farley Granger play the straight character and straight actor Robert Walker play the gay character. Unfortunately, Granger’s character finds his happy ending in the arms of the not-so-great Ruth Roman, who, together with Anne Baxter (in “I Confess”), is known to be Hitchcock’s least favorite actress. Walker died, aged thirty-two, a few weeks after the film’s release.

Gay writer Patricia Highsmith also wrote five novels featuring the gay sociopath character Tom Ripley, which have seen numerous TV and movie adaptations, the most famous of which are “Purple Noon” (René Clément, 1960) with Alain Delon and “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (Anthony Mingella, 1999) with Matt Damon.

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24. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) B+

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Howard Hawks

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*The Boys in the Gym.

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

COSTUME DESIGNER: William Travilla

CHOREOGRAPHER: Jack Cole

Jane Russell cannot understand – but gives us the wink-wink that she does understand – why all the boys in the gym won’t give her a second look. It’s Howard Hawks again, this time adapting the Jule Stein/Leo Robin Broadway smash “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” Russell is singing “Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love.” At the same time, the boys only have eyes for themselves and their buddies. Meanwhile, Marilyn is more interested in a certain kind of rock, leading to an even more spectacular musical number called “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” Like “Gilda” and its famous musical numbers “Put the Blame on Mame” and “Amado Mio,” an essential ingredient in the magic of “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds” is Jack Cole’s choreography.

It was adapted from the play by Anita Loos and Joseph Fields and the Broadway musical by Stein and Robin.

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25. Calamity Jane (1953) B

Calamity Jane

David Butler

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Calamity Jane (Doris Day)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

COSTUME DESIGNER: Howard Shoup

BEST QUEER SONG: “MY SECRET LOVE”

Doris Day was much more delightful in her tomboy Warner Bros. roles than she was playing all those professional virgins at Universal. And playing the famous Calamity Jane, she is at the apex of her Queerness. She has her hair cropped, she’s wearing buckskins, and she’s willing to draw a gun on anyone who makes fun of her. Although in love with military man Howard Keel, she doesn’t want to give up her gender-transgressing ways. Her inner conflict is finally announced to the Universe in one of the best uses of song in the history of Cinema: Day’s spectacular delivery of the Sammy Fain-Paul Francis Webster masterpiece “Secret Love,” a cri de coer that every gay person can relate to.

Original screenplay by James O’Hanlon. Directed by David Butler.

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26. Johnny Guitar (1954) B

Johnny Guitar: Queer Cinema

Nicholas Ray

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Vienna (Joan Crawford)

*Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

DIRECTOR: Nicholas Ray

A LESBIAN DUEL IN THE SUN!

On the outskirts of a wind-swept Arizona cattle town, an aggressive and strong-willed saloonkeeper named Vienna (Joan Crawford) maintains a volatile relationship with the local cattlemen and townsfolk. Not only does she support the railroad being laid nearby (the cattlemen oppose it), but she permits “The Dancin’ Kid” (her former lover) (Scott Brady) and his gang to frequent her saloon. The locals, led by John McIvers (Ward Bond) and egged on by Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge), a one-time rival of Vienna for the Dancin’ Kid’s affections, are determined to force Vienna out of town. Vienna faces them down, helped by the mysterious and just-arrived Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden), a guitar player who had an interview scheduled with her that day. McIvers gives Vienna, Johnny Guitar, Dancin’ Kid, and his sidekicks 24 hours to leave. We know we are facing a showdown, but this one’s between Vienna and Emma, the first all-female duel in the history of the West!

The result is high camp on the range thanks to two of Hollywood’s most dramatic thespians. A Western with two female leads is the rarest of cinematic jewels. Although Crawford and McCambridge play to the gallery under Nicholas Ray’s mannered direction, this is essential viewing as part of Queer Cinema, the Western and the Ray canon.

“Johnny Guitar” was adapted from Roy Chanslor’s novel by Philip Yordan, who acted as a front for the poet, documentarist, and screenwriter Ben Maddow. Maddow had adapted “Intruder in the Dust” and “The Asphalt Jungle” (Oscar nomination) for MGM before finding himself persona non grata at the studios because of past left-wing affiliations.

A critical and commercial disappointment in America, the film was highly praised in Europe, most notably by then-French film critics Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut in the magazine Cahiers du Cinema. In his 1988 release “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” gay Spanish director Pedro Almodovar paid homage to “Johnny Guitar” in the scene in which his lead character Pepa (Carmen Maura), who is a voice artist, dubbs Joan Crawford’s Vienna in Spanish.

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27. Rebel Without a Cause (1955) A

Rebel Without A Cause: Queer Cinema.

Nicholas Ray

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Plato (Sal Mineo)


GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

DIRECTOR: Nicholas Ray

ACTOR: Nick Adams

ACTOR: James Dean

ACTOR: Sal Mineo

COSTUME DESIGNER: Moss Mabry

SAL MINEO’S Plato is Hollywood’s first adolescent gay character.

Wood, Dean, and Mineo form a nuclear family under the shadow of Griffith Park Observatory. Sal Mineo’s Plato is Hollywood’s first adolescent gay character. Dean’s most emblematic performance under the soaring direction of Nicholas Ray. Jim Backus and Ann Doran are Dean’s parents, William Hopper is Wood’s father, and future Oscar nominees Dennis Hopper and Nick Adams are part of the gang at the infamous “Chicken Run.”

The stunning color cinematography is by the great Ernest Haller (“Gone with the Wind,” “Mildred Pierce,” “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”?), and the original score is by Leonard Rosenman, who also scored Dean’s other 1955 movie, Elia Kazan’s “East of Eden” – he “invented” the Dean sound! The script, by Stuart Stern, was built around an original treatment by Irving Shulman and story concepts by Shulman and Ray—one of the quintessential LA movies.

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28. The Big Combo (1955) B-

The Big Combo

Joseph H. Lewis

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Fante (Lee Van Cleef)

*Mingo (Earl Holliman)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Earl Holliman

‘The cops will be looking for us in every closet.’

Fante to Mingo in “The Big Combo”

THE SECOND GAY (MALE) COUPLE TO DECEIVE THE HAYS OFFICE

Fante and Mingo, played by Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman, are the henchmen for gangster Richard Conte. They are a gay couple. Everyone on screen seems to know it and respect their relationship. They sleep in the same bedroom, albeit in separate beds – how director Joseph Lewis managed to get by the Hays Office is a minor miracle. Their chosen profession adds to our fascination with them and adds to their sexiness. Arguably Lewis’ greatest movie and a film noir classic, it’s also worth watching for John Alton’s stunning black-and-white cinematography and the performances of Conte, Cornel Wilde, Jean Wallace, who was married to Wilde at the time, and Brian Donlevy. “The Big Combo” marked the final screen appearance of actress Helen Walker, who was so impressive opposite Tyrone Power in Edmund Golding’s “Nightmare Alley.” The memorable score is by David Raksin.

Original screenplay by Philip Yordan.

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29. Written on the Wind (1956) B+

Written on the Wind

Douglas Sirk

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Rock Hudson

COSTUME DESIGNER: Bill Thomas

ROBERT STACK’S KYLE HADLEY IS A GAY MAN WITH A LOW SPERM COUNT!

In director Douglas Sirk’s Southern Gothic melodrama, Robert Stack’s Kyle Hadley, the alcoholic heir of a Texas oil dynasty, has deeper feelings for his childhood friend Mitch (Rock Hudson) than for his lovely new wife (Lauren Bacall). Drenched in magnificent technicolor courtesy of cinematographer Russell Metty, the film’s central tenet is that Kyle and his ruthless sister Marylee (Oscar winner Dorothy Malone) lust after the same man. Kyle has the added misfortune of having a low sperm count.

Robert Stack received his only Oscar nomination for this role.

Adapted from the novel by Robert Wilder.

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30. The Bad Seed (1956) B+

Nature brought her here, and nature took her away!

The Bad Seed

Mervyn LeRoy

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Little Claude Daigle is killed off-camera as the film begins.

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

COSTUME DESIGNER: Moss Mabry

Director Mervyn LeRoy’s High Wire Act

When Mervyn LeRoy first saw Maxwell Anderson’s play “The Bad Seed,” he instructed screenwriter John Lee Mahin to adapt it with minimal changes. Meanwhile, he went to work on toning down the performances. The central character is Rhoda Penmark, a little girl in pinafore dresses and blonde pigtails who embodies evil.

LeRoy brought most of the cast from the stage to the screen intact: Nancy Kelly (Oscar Nomination for Best Actress) as Christine Penmark, Rhoda’s mother; Patty McCormack (Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress) as Rhoda, the progeny from hell who kills her classmate Little Claude Daigle because he won the penmanship medal she felt she deserved – we later discover that Rhoda is a sociopath and a serial killer just like her grandmother, but the expression of the “bad seed” gene ended up skipping a generation; William Hopper as Col. Kenneth Penmark, Rhoda’s father who is away on business for most of the movie; Eileen Heckart (Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress) as Hortense Daigle, Claude’s mother; Frank Cady as Henry Daigle, Claude’s father; Henry Jones as Leroy Jessop, the caretaker; Evelyn Varden as Monica Breedlove, the neighbor who spoils Rhoda; and Paul Fix as Christine’s father and Rhoda’s Grandfather.

In many ways, “The Bad Seed” is the gay movie experience. Running cartwheels around all the definitions of camp outlined by Ms. Susan Sontag in her famous essay, this theatrical classic is a highwire act for both the director and his actors. Nancy Kelly is ON 100% of the time, straddling the twin minefields of camp and drama yet managing to accomplish both simultaneously. Her work here influenced the performances in such genre classics as Robert Aldrich’s “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” and Brian De Palma’s “Carrie.”

How do we know that Little Claude Daigle was gay?

  • He won a medal for best penmanship.
  • He let a girl beat him up.
  • He let a girl beat him up a second time.

Then there is Miss Patty McCormack’s sweet-as-pie eight-year-old killer whose bratty pronouncements such as “Give me those shoes, they’re mine” have entered the gay lexicon. Rhoda is one of the most sought-after parts of gay theatre groups in the US, and the actors stepping into her shoes are large and male. The size disparity is even more striking when we reach that divine (intervention) ending!

Then there are the two performances which work as straight drama: a heartbreaking Eileen Heckart, playing both of her big scenes drunk, as the dead boy’s mother and a beautiful turn by Henry Jones as the simple caretaker who knows Rhoda’s secret and pays dearly for his knowledge. Jones’s character was later taken, fully formed, and transported to Seattle for Ernie Hudson in “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.”

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31. Tea and Sympathy (1956) A-

Tea and Sympathy: Queer Cinema

Vincente Minnelli

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Tom Robertson Lee (John Kerr)

*Bill Reynolds (Leif Erickson)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

DIRECTOR: Vincente Minnelli

Both John Kerr and Deborah Kerr reprised their roles on the Broadway Stage.

The consensus today is that even if Deborah’s character Laura Reynolds, the mistress of a household of college boys, manages to “save” Tom Robertson Lee’ (John Kerr) from his sensitive (read homosexual) tendencies by seducing him, she cannot save herself from the fact that she married a gay man (Leif Erickson) and is trapped in a loveless union. Bill has taken the opposite road to Tom. He is hyper-masculine, preferring the company of men to women.

In many ways, the film has improved with age. What could not be said under the Hayes code (according to Deborah, the words homosexual, gay, or queer were never mentioned during the entire production – not even, or especially, by gay director Vincente Minnelli) gives it a beauty and delicacy, especially in Deborah’s sublime performance.

And there is Deborah’s haunting closing voice-over:

“One day, when you talk about this, and you will, be kind.

Adapted from the play by Robert Anderson.

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32. Funny Face (1957) A+

Stanley Donen

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Maggie Prescot (Kay Thompson)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Fred Astaire

PRODUCER: Roger Edens

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Leonard Gershe

SONGWRITER (COMPOSER): Roger Edens

SONGWRITER (LYRICIST): Leonard Gershe

COSTUME DESIGNER: Edith Head

Choreographer: Eugene Loring

PHOTOGRAPHER: Richard Avedon

AUDREY’S MOST BEAUTIFUL PERFORMANCE

Funny Face,” the 1957 musical romantic comedy directed by Stanley Donen, boasts Audrey Hepburn’s most charming screen performance. Looking fabulous in black during the movie’s first half, she plays a lowly book clerk in a Greenwich village store who is “discovered” by Fred Astaire’s Avedon-inspired photographer Fred Avery and whisked off to Paris for Fashion Week- all the photographs in the movie are by Richard Avedon.

Writer Leonard Gershe and producer Roger Edens were one of Hollywood’s A-lister gay couples during the 1950s and ’60s. However, Gershe always maintained that he did not have enough closet space (literally and figuratively) during the relationship.

The assorted songs by George and Ira Gershwin includeHow Long Has This Been Going On?” and S’Wonderful.

Audrey does all her singing and has a lovely voice, which should also have been heard in “My Fair Lady.”

The movie established Audrey’s relationship with her favorite fashion designer, Hubert de Givenchy.

The film’s two big musical numbers, both written by Edens (Music) and Gershe (Lyrics), are Think Pink,” in which Kay Thompson’s Maggie Prescott, the lesbian doyenne of the New York fashion world, unveils her vision for the year ahead (immortal line: “think pink…..bury the beige!”) and, “Bonjour, Paris,” in which Audrey, Fred and Kay, individually, and in concert, celebrate their arrival in Paris (immortal line: Gershe manages to rhyme the Montmartre and Jean-Paul Sartre)

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33. A Touch of Evil (1958) A

A Touch of Evil

Orson Welles

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Mexican gang leader (Mercedes McCambridge)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

COSTUME DESIGNER: Bill Thomas

Yes, that is Mercedes McCambridge, the unnamed lesbian gang leader getting her kicks while watching Janet Leigh getting roughed up in her motel room in Orson Welles’ masterwork A Touch of Evil.”

Famous for its miraculous opening tracking shot at the US/Mexican border (lasting over three minutes) to Marlene Dietrich’s classic final line of dialogue, this magnificent film noir is the third and final of Welles’s three masterpieces after “Citizen Kane” and “The Magnificent Ambersons.”

You’re a mess, honey

Tanya (Marlene Dietrich)

He was some kind of man

Tanya (Marlene Dietrich)

With Charleton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles, Joseph Celleia, Akin Tamiroff, Ray Collins, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Marlene Dietrich, and Dennis Weaver as the motel night manager. And an unbilled Joseph Cotton as a coroner.

Adapted from the novel by Whit Masterson

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34. Auntie Mame (1958) C+

Auntie Mame: Queer Cinema.

Morton DaCosta

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Vera Charles (Coral Browne)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

DIRECTOR: Morton DaCosta

ACTRESS: Coral Browne

COSTUME DESIGNER: Orry-Kelly

SOURCE MATERIAL: Original novel: “Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade” by Patrick Dennis (a pseudonym for Edward Everett Tanner III)

I must admit that I am not a huge fan of Rosalind Russell, so I fail to see the glory in her performance as gay writer Patrick Dennis’ beloved Auntie Mame. However, most of my gay friends go into a fugue state at mentioning her name. Gay director Morton DaCosta ((given name Morton Tecovsky and known to his friends as Tec) directs like he is still in the theatre – he did better in his second and penultimate visit to Hollywood with “The Music Man” four years later. The film is notable for its lesbian character, Vera Charles, played by gay actress Coral Browne. We shall meet Ms. Browne again in our next essay.

Adapted from the 1955 novel “Auntie Mame” by Patrick Dennis and the play “Mame” by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee.

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35. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) B+

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Queer Cinema

Richard Brooks

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTRESS: Judith Anderson

SOURCE MATERIAL: Based on the play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams

Written (with James Poe) and directed by Richard Brooks, this very respectable adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play opens with gay ex-athlete and football player Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman in his superstar breakthrough) pining and drinking in his bedroom for the memory of his best friend (read lover) and teammate Skipper, who has recently committed suicide. So, who can blame his wife Maggie (“the cat”), beautifully played by Elizabeth Taylor, who ain’t gettin’ any, when she says that she feels like the cat in the movie’s title?

Meanwhile, downstairs, there is a party for Brick’s Daddy – that would be “Big Daddy” – played by Burl Ives in his most memorable movie role. With Judith Anderson as “Big Mamma,” Jack Carson as Brick’s brother, and Madeleine Sherwood as his awful wife and the mother of their five brats.

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36. Suddenly Last Summer (1959) C-

Suddenly Last Summer: Queer Cinema.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Sebastian Venable – we never meet him since he has already been torn to pieces and eaten alive by hordes of young men on a European beach.

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

SCREENPLAY: Gore Vidal and Tennessee Williams

ACTOR: Montgomery Clift

ACTRESS: Katherine Hepburn

PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Oliver Messel

COSTUME DESIGNER: Oliver Messel

SOURCE MATERIAL: Based on the play “Suddenly Last Summer” by Tennessee Williams

Another Southern Gothic, this time from a less-than-inspired Tennessee Williams play, “Suddenly Last Summer,” was adapted by Gore Vidal and the playwright himself. We never get to meet the film’s central gay character, Sebastian Venable, since he is already deceased; his body was torn to pieces and eaten by hordes of young men on a beach in Europe before the film begins. He was on vacation, accompanied by his cousin Catherine (Elizabeth Taylor). Understandably, since the horrific incident, Catherine has been mentally unstable and prone to relive the details. Katherine Hepburn plays Sebastian’s mother, Violet Venable, who attempts to bribe a young psychosurgeon (Montgomery Clift) to lobotomize Catherine to stop her from talking.

The movie is risible; its few pleasures come from Hepburn’s regal (but very nasty) mother who will do anything to protect her son’s memory, even if that takes turning her niece into a vegetable and for Oliver Messel’s tropical production design complete with venus flytraps. The sore point for Violet is that, when her beauty faded, she was replaced by Catherine – Sebastian used both to attract the boys. Clift, post-accident, looks ill while Taylor does her worst screen work in that awful monologue where she must recall the events of that terrible summer’s day.

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37. Some Like It Hot (1959) A+

Some Like It Hot: Queer Cinema.

Billy Wilder

(Not Submitted)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Daphne (Jack Lemmon)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

COSTUME DESIGNER: Orry-Kelly

MY FAVORITE QUEER COMEDY

Arguably the greatest comedy of all time, Billy Wilder’s (with I.A.L. Diamond) classic original screenplay has a gag every other minute, and the movie blesses us with one of the great comedic performances, Jack Lemon’s Jerry/Daphne. Lemon took his character to a place nobody had dared take one before. Jerry really believes that he is a woman. Even better, he has you believing it! Tremendous work from Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe as well. And Joe E. Brown, who delivers the film’s classic closing line.

“Some Like It Hot” was only the second production from a major Hollywood studio (following Otto Preminger’s “The Moon is Blue” in 1953) to be released without first getting the imprimatur of the Hays Office. Wilder thought it didn’t stand a chance. So, he released it unrated and it became an instant smash! It was the beginning of the end for the Hays code.

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38. Pillow Talk (1959) B

Pillow Talk (Queer Cinema)

Michael Gordon

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*“Rex,” the gay Texan, Brad Allen’s alter ego (Rock Hudson)

*Tony Walters (Nick Adams)

*Jonathan Forbes (Tony Randall)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Nick Adams

ACTOR: Rock Hudson

COSTUME DESIGNER: Bill Thomas

This was the first of three romantic comedies in which Doris Day, Rock Hudson, and Tony Randall starred together, the other two being “Lover Come Back” (1961) and “Send Me No Flowers” (1964). An enormous success, it was the biggest BO hit of 1959. Hudson plays Brad Allen, a (straight) Broadway composer and playboy who shares a party line with Miss Day’s Jan Morrow, a successful interior decorator (and a virgin) in late1950s New York City. He’s always on the phone, talking to his latest conquests, while she cannot make a single call. Of course, it’s love when they meet, although not strictly at first sight.

To seduce Miss Day’s Jan, Hudson’s Brad invents a gay alter ego, a Texan named “Rex.” “Rex” then mercilessly teases Jan by showing an interest in effeminate things, thereby implying “Rex’s” homosexuality.

So, we have a gay actor playing a straight man pretending to be gay.

Gay actor Nick Adams, who died at 36 in 1968, is the butt of most of the homophobic humor in the Oscar-winning original screenplay, which is credited to Russell Rouse, Maurice Richlin, Stanley Shapiro, and Clarence Greene.

As Rock Hudson’s buddy/rival in all three Day/Hudson pairings, Tony Randall is constantly brushing up against same-sex innuendo.

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39. Ben Hur (1959) B

William Wyler

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston)

*Messala (Stephen Boyd)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

SCREENPLAY (UNCREDITED): Christopher Fry

SCREENPLAY (UNCREDITED): Gore Vidal

I persuaded the producer, Sam Zimbalist (this was an MGM film and the writer worked not with the director but the producer; later the director, in this case William Wyler, weighed in) that the only way one could justify several hours of hatred between two lads–and all those horses–was to establish, without saying so in words, an affair between them as boys; then, when reunited at picture’s start, the Roman, played by Stephen Boyd, wants to pick up where they left off and the Jew, Heston, spurns him.

Counterpunch: Gore Vidal responds to Charlton Heston. Los Angeles Times, June 17. 1996.

THE THIRD GAY (MALE) COUPLE TO DECEIVE THE HAYS OFFICE

It’s the big one! William Wyler’s religious epic “Ben Hur” starring Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd as best friends who have a falling out and then must battle it out in a spectacular fashion – although some would argue that the chariot race in the 1925 Fred Niblo/Ramon Navarro silent version is superior – to Miklos Rozsa’s pounding score. If you believe Vidal, it was all because of a lover’s spat. Wyler and Boyd were in on the ruse, and Boyd played his scenes that way, but Heston was not.

The fact that two gay writers, Vidal and Christopher Fry, gave Karl Tunberg’s script its final polish (both went uncredited, with Tunberg getting sole authorship) and that Fry was at Wyler’s side through most of the filming process at Cinecitta Studios in Rome lends some credence to Vidal’s quote. But, more importantly, you feel that there is more than just a bromance. If Wyler hadn’t yelled CUT, Heston and Boyd would have become very intimate!

The final irony: of its 12 Oscar nominations, only Tunberg came away empty-handed. The Best Adapted Screenplay Award 1959 went to Neil Paterson for adapting John Braine’s “Room at the Top.”

Adapted from the novel by Lew Wallace.

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40. The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960) A-

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs

Delbert Mann

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Sonny Flood (Robert Eyer)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

SOURCE MATERIAL: Adapted from the play “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” by William Inge.

Robert Eyer has a few lovely moments as Sonny Flood, the little gay boy who can’t wait to show his uncle Morris (Frank Overton) his picture book of silent movie stars in gay playwright William Inge’s play “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs.” This beautiful adaptation, directed by Delbert Mann in his interim period between Paddy Chayefsky’s slice-of-life realism and Doris Day’s comedy-romance, from a great script by Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch, boasts superb performances by Robert Preston as his dad Rubin, Dorothy McGuire as his mom Cora, Shirley Knight as his sister Reenie, Eve Arden as his aunt Lotte and, above all, Angela Lansbury as Mavis Pruitt, the owner of the local beauty salon who has always loved Rubin.

“The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” is unavailable for streaming. However, the DVD can be purchased at Amazon.

41. Spartacus (1960) B

Spartacus

Stanley Kubrick

(APPROVED)

A SCENE INVOLVING General Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier) and his slave Antoninus (Tony Curtis) was initially cut from THE 1960 version. However, it WAS saved from THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR WHEN THE slave revolt epic was restored in 1991.

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Laurence Olivier

COSTUME DESIGNER: Bill Thomas

With special mention to Amy Heckerling’s “Clueless

Christian had a thing for Tony Curtis, so he brought over “Some Like it Hot” and “Spartacus”

Cher (Alicia Silverstone) in “Clueless”

Poor Cher. She finds out that her dreamboat Christian is gay through his excellent taste in film.

He is particularly taken with the justly famous “Oysters and Snails” from “Spartacus” where General Crassus (Laurence Olivier) gently informs his boyish new slave Antoninus (played by Curtis), a singer of songs, that he likes both and will, therefore, will be vigorously screwing him for the duration of his “employment.” As Crassus exits his bath, this news is enough to make Antoninus run for the hills and join the growing ranks of Spartacus’ army.

And taste is not the same as appetite and, therefore, not a question of morals

Crassus to his boy slave Antoninus, a singer of songs, in “Spartacus”

At this very moment, Cher also decides to strike a sexy pose. However, she miscalculates and falls off the bed. Christian, the cinema aesthete that he is, barely notices!

I don’t get it. did my hair get flat? Did I stumble into some bad lighting? What’s wrong with me?

Cher (Alicia Silverstone) in “Clueless”

“Spartacus” was adapted by the formerly blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo from Howard Fast’s novel.

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42. Victim (1961) B+

Victim: Queer Cinema.

Basil Dearden

(Denied due to its frank treatment of homosexuality and released without a seal of approval.
Years later, it received a PG/13 rating from the MPAA)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Melville Farr (Dirk Bogarde)

*Boy Barrett (Peter McEnery)

*PH (Hilton Edwards)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Dirk Bogarde

ACTOR: Hilton Edwards

DIRK BOGARDE’S BRAVE PERFORMANCE

Dirk Bogarde plays a successful, happily married (to Sylvia Syms) lawyer who is being blackmailed because of a gay affair in his past with Boy Barrett (Peter McEnery).

This film did more to sway public and political opinion on homosexuality in England than any parliamentary discussion. Six years later, in 1967, homosexuality was decriminalized in Great Britain.

I first saw this film in my early teens. It was on Irish television, and I remember my mom saying how brave Dirk Bogarde was to play a gay character since he was a known gay actor (you cannot say an OUT gay actor since this was not possible in 1961). She was right.

Openly gay Irish actor Hilton Edwards (born in London but immigrated to Ireland in his early twenties) has a small but very memorable scene as a blind patron of a gay bar whom his younger-sighted friend feeds all the gossip. He could be the blackmailer! Edwards and his life partner Micheál Mac Liammóire (né Alfred Wilmore, also in London) founded Dublin’s Gate Theatre, which nurtured such talents as Orson Welles, Geraldine Fitzgerald, and James Mason. When I was growing up, they were Ireland’s “only” homosexual couple. Although fêted by all, their union was always illegal – both actors being long dead before homosexuality was finally decriminalized in Ireland in 1993.

Original screenplay by Janet Green and John McCormick.

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43. A Taste of Honey (1961) B+

A Taste of Honey: Queer Cinema.

Tony Richardson

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Geoffrey Ingham (Murray Melvin)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

DIRECTOR: Tony Richardson

ACTOR: Murray Melvin

QUEER KITCHEN SINK REALISM!


Tony Richardson’s adaptation of the Sheila Delaney play still shines. Delaney wrote the screenplay with Richardson, who directed the original Broadway production of the play in 1960. The film exemplifies a gritty British film genre that has come to be called kitchen sink realism. Rita Tushingham, who embodied the spirit of British Independent Cinema in the early through the mid-sixties, plays seventeen-year-old Jo, who lives in a run-down, post-industrial area of Salford in the British Midlands. One day, Jo meets Jimmy (Paul Danquah), a cook on a boat on the Manchester Ship Canal. After a one-night stayover, Jo discovers that she is pregnant. Wanting to keep the baby but not wanting to marry Jimmy, Jo moves in with her best friend Geoff (Murray Melvin), a gay man who says that he will marry Jo and take care of her and the baby. Although he was playing a teenager, gay actor Murray Melvin was almost thirty when he made “A Taste of Honey.” One of the first openly gay actors, Melvin often worked with Richardson and director Ken Russell. His most memorable movie scene is the card game in Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” with its natural candlelight and Schubert’s Piano Trio in E Flat on the soundtrack.

Dora Bryan is particularly memorable as Tushingham’s self-centered and alcoholic mother.

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44. The Children’s Hour (1961) C

The Children's Hour: Queer Cinema

William Wyler

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Martha Dobie (Shirley MacLaine)

When William Wyler and Sam Goldwyn adapted Lillian Hellman’s play “The Children’s Hour” back in 1936, they changed the lesbian story to a straight triangle with Merle Oberon, Miriam Hopkins, and Joel McCrea and a wonderfully nasty Bonita Granville as the little brat who spreads the false rumor. It worked. It was released as “These Three” and was a considerable success.

Cut to 1961, fresh from his triumph with Ben Hur,” Wyler decides to remake it, keeping Hellman’s original same-sex theme. He casts two of the greatest actresses in Hollywood, Audrey Hepburn, and Shirley MacLaine, as the school mistresses whose lives and careers are destroyed by a rumor spread by one of their vindictive students. This time, MacLaine plays the gay character Martha, who secretly loves her friend and colleague Karen (Hepburn) but can never reveal her true feelings. Meanwhile, Karen is in a stable heterosexual relationship with Joe (James Garner).

Unfortunately, Wyler was stuck between two periods. 1961 was unprepared for an all-out gay film, so he had to be furtive. Not having the courage of his convictions, what started as bravery ended as cowardice and shame. If he had waited until 1970, he could have had a triumph. There are moments, from MacLaine in particular, but they are not enough.

For die-hard Wyler fans only.

Playing the grandmother, whose reaction to her granddaughter’s lie sets the plot in motion, Fay Bainter was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. It was her final screen role.

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Advice and Consent: Queer Cinema

Otto Preminger

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Senator Brig Anderson (Don Murray)

 ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Charles Laughton

ACTOR: Walter Pidgeon

COSTUME DESIGNER: Bill Blass

 THE FIRST LOOK INSIDE AN AMERICAN GAY BAR

Otto Preminger always liked to be innovative, and he was with “Advice and Consent,” a beautifully written, acted, and directed film. It also treats its gay subplot with great tenderness and respect, with the consistently superb (and underrated) Don Murray playing a gay senator who is being blackmailed as a new Secretary of State is going through the Senate Approval process. Preminger also likes to play tricks, and Anderson’s arch nemesis, a reactionary Southern senator, is played by gay actor Charles Laughton in his final film role.

Only those scenes with the lousy George Gizzard prevent Advise and Consent” from becoming a classic. He gives a master class in awful acting while such luminaries as Henry Fonda, Peter Lawford, Burgess Meredith, Walter Pidgeon, Lew Ayers, and Franchot Tone, in addition to Murray and Laughton, do some of the best work of their illustrious careers.

A minor deduction, too, for having to endure a sadly faded Gene Tierney as a Washington socialite whose sole purpose seems to be the thankless and needless task of explaining, to the ladies-who-lunch (and the viewer), the difference between the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Adapted from the novel by Allen Drury.

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46. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) A+

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (Queer Cinema)

Robert Aldrich

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Edwin Flagg (Victor Buono)

ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Victor Buono

DAVIS AND CRAWFORD ARE SPECTACULAR!

Thanks to Lukas Heller’s superb adaptation of the Henry Farrell novel, Robert Aldrich’s masterpiece works as both drama and camp. Both of Hollywood’s grande dames, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, are in top form, with Davis getting the showier role as faded child star Baby Jane Hudson.  However, Miss Crawford also performs superbly as Jane’s sister, Blanche. This former movie queen uses a wheelchair, her career ending abruptly following an automobile accident in the early thirties. She is the eye at the center of Bette’s hurricane. Gay actor Victor Buono is perfection as Bette’s date Edwin Flagg, who sees something he shouldn’t, leading to Davis’s famous pronouncement “He Hate’s Me.” Cheers to Australian actress Marjorie Bennett, who plays his mother, Dehlia Flagg – she is straight out of a John Waters movie. “Baby Jane” is gay sensibility incarnate. Every Davis line is immortal, but some of my favorites are “You mean all this time we could have been friends,”Because you didn’t eat your din-din,and “But you are Blanche, you are in that chair!”

The excellent movie score is by Frank De Vol.

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47. That Touch of Mink (1962) C+

That Touch of Mink

Delbert Mann

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Connie (Audrey Meadows)

*Roger (Gig Young)

ACTOR | DIRECTOR | PRODUCER | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Cary Grant

ACTOR: Richard Deacon (uncredited)

In between the Rock Hudson movies “Pillow Talk” (1959), “Lover Come Back” (1961), and “Send Me No Flowers” (1964), Doris Day paired up with Cary Grant in another movie co-written by Stanley Shapiro. The director is Delbert Mann, a graduate of television and the Paddy Chayefsky school of slice-of-life naturalism (“Marty,” “The Catered Affair,” The Bachelor Party”) who, the previous year with “Lover,” showed a surprising flair for comedy.

When Philip Shayne’s (Grant) Rolls Royce splashes Cathy Timberlake (Miss Day) while she is going to a job interview, we know this love-hate relationship can only end with a wedding ring. Unfortunately, there is minimal chemistry between the stars. This is one of Grant’s few bad performances, and he looks like he wanted to be anywhere other than with Miss Day. Their scenes together on a trip to Bermuda can only be described as creepy.

On the plus side, the film is gorgeously photographed by Russell Metty, there is a fabulous fashion show courtesy of Bergdorf Goodman, and Shapiro gives us not just one but two funny gay subplots. The first involves a perpetually soused Gig Young, playing Grant’s financial adviser, Roger, and his psychiatrist, Dr. Gruber (Alan Hewitt). Because he leaves the room as Roger relays some essential information about Cathy, Dr. Gruber thinks Roger is about to embark on an affair with Philip. This leads to the film’s famous final scene involving Roger, a baby carriage, and an astonished Gruber! Gruber is using Roger to get inside tips on the stock market.

However, when he thinks that Roger is gay, he immediately calls his broker to discard the previous purchase because Roger is now of unsound mind.

He also goes back to Vienna for a refresher course. The second involves Audrey Meadows as Connie, Cathy’s overprotective, man-hating (read closeted lesbian) roommate who works at the automat across the street from Philip and Roger’s office. She doesn’t overdo it, though. It’s a sweet and funny performance.

Gay actor Richard Deacon, although uncredited, has a memorable moment as Mr. Miller Connie’s prissy supervisor, a role that he virtually patented in numerous TV series and small movie parts throughout the sixties, seventies, and early eighties.

Original screenplay by Stanley Shapiro and Nate Monaster.

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48. Billy Budd (1962) C

Peter Ustinov

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Billy Budd (Terence Stamp)

*John Claggart (Robert Ryan)

*Peter Ustinov (Edward Vere)

ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

COSTUME DESIGNER: Anthony Mendleson

SOURCE MATERIAL: Based on the play “Billy Budd” adapted from the novel “Billy Budd Foretopman” by Herman Melville

Melville’s deep feelings for Nathaniel Hawthorne were immortalized in letters written between the two men from 1850 to 1852.

This historical drama-adventure film was produced, directed, and co-written (with Robert Rossen and DeWitt Bodeen) by Peter Ustinov. from Coxe and Chapman’s stage play of Herman Melville’s short novel and what many consider his second masterpiece after “Moby Dick, “Billy Budd.”

Billy Budd is a “handsome sailor” who strikes and inadvertently kills his false accuser, Master-at-arms John Claggart (Robert Ryan). The ship’s Captain, Edward Vere (Ustinov), recognizes Billy’s lack of intent but claims that the law of mutiny requires him to sentence Billy to be hanged.

Ustinov cast a then-unknown Terence Stamp as beautiful Billy. He became an overnight sensation, causing the otherwise unremarkable film to become hugely profitable, and he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor of 1962, losing out to Ed Begley in “Sweet Bird of Youth.” Of course, many, including myself, would argue that Billy is the picture and that the rest of the cast supports him!

Claggart’s jealousy of Billy is never explained, but we presume it is due to Billy’s stunning good looks and unbounded optimism. However, many, including gay composer Benjamin Britton, who wrote his famous opera based on the Melville novel, maintained that there is an undercurrent of homoeroticism between Billy, Claggart, and Vere. A Queer Film, therefore, based on a Queer Novel! Sometimes, I get this from the movie; sometimes, I don’t. As for “Billy Bud the Opera,” not being an opera buff, I have yet to see it!

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49. Walk on the Wild Side (1962) C-

Edward Dmytryk

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Hallie (Capucine)

*Jo (Barbra Stanwyck)

GAY ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

COSTUME DESIGNER: Charles LeMaire

Laurence Harvey‘s Dove Linkhorn and Jane Fonda‘s Kitty Twist meet on a road in Texas during the Great Depression and decide to hitchhike together to New Orleans. Dove is searching for his lost love, Hallie (Capucine), and when they arrive in The Big Easy, he finds her working at the Doll House, an upscale French Quarter bordello where Jo (Barbara Stanwyck) is the madam. A lesbian relationship is suggested between Jo and Hallie. However, Hallie, who is unhappy with her lot in life, still works for Jo as a prostitute, but she does not want to give up her comforts and risk married life when Dove proposes.

Stanwyck, looking butch, and Capucine, looking femme, have a few good scenes together. However, Harvey is wan, and Fonda does not have enough to do. It’s no fun. The film also stars Anne Baxter as the owner of a diner where Harvey gets a job, Joanna Moore (mother of Tatum O’Neill), and Juanita Moore (no relation).

Directed by Edward Dmytryk. Music by Elmer Bernstein.

 Adapted by John Fante from the 1956 novel A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren.

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50. The L-Shaped Room (1963) A-

The L-Shaped Room: Queer Cinema.

Bryan Forbes

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Mavis (Cicely Courtneidge)

*Johnny (Brock Peters)

 A recording of the song “Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty,” sung in the film by Mavis, is sampled at the beginning of the title track of the album “The Queen is Dead” by the Smiths.

Writer/director Bryan Forbes’s lovely and faithful adaptation of the Lynne Reid Banks novel boasts Leslie Caron’s most outstanding performance. She is a young woman who is unmarried and waits out her pregnancy in a strange city where she rents the L-shaped bedroom of the title. Having just appeared in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Brock Peters plays Johnny, a shy, gay musician. At the same time, Cicely Courtneidge is perfect as her understanding landlady, Mavis, who we gradually realize is not only gay but is in mourning for a lost love.

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51. The Haunting (1963) B+

The Haunting (Queer Cinema)

Robert Wise

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Theo (Theodora) (Claire Bloom)

LESBIAN CHIC COURTESY OF CLAIRE BLOOM

As a chic Greenwich Village lesbian named Theo, whose couture is designed by Mary Quant, Claire Bloom is a knockout in Robert Wise’s 1963 movie “The Haunting.” A clever adaptation of the Shirley Jackson novel, it is one of the best haunted-house movies. Theo is one of a panel of experts in the paranormal who are invited to spend a weekend at the notorious Hill House. The house has a long history of strange and tragic happenings. The locals think that it is haunted. Theo puts the moves on the film’s doomed heroine, Eleanor (“Nell”), played by Julie Harris in her most emblematic screen performance. However, Theo’s moves are always subtle and done with great care and concern, making her one of the cinema’s most enlightened gay characters up to that point in time. Cheers Claire! You always were a class act!

As the caretaker’s wife, Rosalie Crutchley has a great departure scene when bidding Theo and Nell goodbye on their first night in the house; she exits with:

“I don’t stay after six. Not after it begins to get dark. I leave before the dark, so there won’t be anyone around if you need help. No one lives any nearer than town. No one will come any nearer than that. In the night! In the dark”!

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52. The Servant (1963) A

The Servant

Joseph Losey

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Hugo (Dirk Bogarde)

*Tony (James Fox)

ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Dirk Bogarde

Adapted by Harold Pinter from Robin Maugham’s novella and directed by Joseph Losey,The Servant” has a definite current of homoeroticism lurking beneath its master (James Fox) and servant (Dirk Bogarde) power play. A savage indictment of the waning British class system, it’s one of the most chilling films ever made. It was remade by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg as “Performance” in 1970, with Fox in the Bogarde role and Mick Jagger stepping into Fox’s shoes. Winner of Best Screenplay of 1964 from the NYFCC. The stunning black and white cinematography is by Douglas Slocombe.

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53. The Leather Boys (1964) B

The Leather Boys: Queer Cinema.

Sidney J. Furie

(Not Submitted)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Pete (Dudley Sutton)

*Reggie (Colin Campbell)

ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

COSTUME DESIGN: Harry Haynes

Canadian journeyman Sidney J. Furie, who would come into his own the following year with “The Ipcress File,” does a striking job with this “gay” love story set within the milieu of London’s biker subculture. Working-class teenagers Dot (Rita Tushingham) and biker Reggie (Colin Campbell) get married. Their marriage soon turns sour, and they live increasingly separate lives. Meanwhile, Reggie becomes more involved with his biker friends, especially the somewhat “eccentric” Pete (Dudley Sutton). There is an unfortunate scene in a gay bar towards the end, which leads to an abrupt copout ending. However, the movie’s long closing tracking shot is classic filmmaking.

The Ace Cafe on London’s North Circular Road, the diner/meeting point in the film, was restored and reopened in 2001 after many years of being used as a tire depot.

The Smiths’ “Girlfriend in a Coma” features Tushingham and Campbell on the cover.

“The Leather Boys” influenced Katherine Bigelow’s movie debut, “The Loveless” (1981).

Original screenplay by Gillian Freeman.

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54. The Loved One (1965) A-

The Loved One: Queer Cinema.

Tony Richardson

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Mr. Joyboy (Rod Steiger)

ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

DIRECTOR: Tony Richardson

SCREENPLAY: Christopher Isherwood (with Terry Southern)

ACTOR: John Gielgud

ACTOR: Tab Hunter

ACTOR: Liberace

ACTOR: Roddy McDowell

COSTUME DESIGNER: Rouben Ter-Arutnian

Great fun was had by all adapting Evelyn Waugh’s 1948 short satirical novel about the funeral business in Los Angeles. However, understandably, it was not a hit at the box office and ruined any chance of a Hollywood career for director Tony Richardson. It now has a cult following and is highly regarded in some quarters, including TheBrownees. Haskell Wexler’s black-and-white photography is quite stunning. Christopher Isherwood wrote a very witty screenplay. The fantastic cast includes:

  • Robert Morse as Dennis Barlow
  • Anjanette Comer as Aimée Thanatogenos**
  • Jonathan Winters as Henery Glenworthy and Wilbur Glenworthy
  • Rod Steiger as Mr. Joyboy
  • Dana Andrews as Gen. Buck Brinkman
  • Milton Berle as Mr. Kenton
  • James Coburn, as the Immigration Officer
  • Ayllene Gibbons as Mr. Joyboy’s Mother
  • John Gielgud as Sir Francis Hinsley
  • Tab Hunter, as the Whispering Glades tour guide
  • Margaret Leighton as Mrs. Helen Kenton
  • Liberace as Mr. Starker
  • Roddy McDowall as DJ, Jr.
  • Robert Morley as Sir Ambrose Abercrombie
  • Alan Napier, as the English Club’s official
  • Barbara Nichols as Sadie Blodgett
  • Lionel Stander, as the Guru Brahmin
  • Paul Williams as Gunther Fry
  • Jamie Farr as a waiter at an English Club (uncredited)

** Aimée means BELOVED, and Thanatogenos means BORN OF DEATH.

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55. Darling (1965) B

Darling

John Schlesinger

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Miles Brand (Dirk Bogarde)

ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

DIRECTOR: John Schlesinger

ACTOR: Dirk Bogarde

ACTOR: Laurence Harvey

It was so fashionable in 1965, so dated today. Never has a film demonstrated how rapidly modishness withers. Still, it features a star-making and Academy Award-winning turn by the impossibly beautiful Julie Christie, even if far more people saw her as Laura in David Lean’s equally lackluster “Doctor Zhivago,” released the same year. Christie is Diana Scott, a young, successful model in swinging sixties London who plays with the affections of two older men (Dirk Bogarde and Laurence Harvey), one of whom is married and bisexual (Bogarde).

Bogarde and Harvey were both gay in real life, the latter gaining massive advances in his career because of his decade-long relationship with producer James Woolf, who, with his brother John, had founded Romulus/Remus Films in the early 50s and produced Harvey’s star-making performance in “Room at the Top.”

Director John Schlesinger would go on to direct far better Queer Films such as Midnight Cowboy” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” which will be covered in my follow-up essay on Queer Cinema: “Queer Cinema Comes Out (1967 – 1976).”

The Oscar-winning Original Screenplay by Frederic Raphael.

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56. My Hustler (1965) B

My Hustler: Queer Cinema.

Andy Warhol and Chuck Wein

(Not Submitted)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Ed – the client (Ed Hood, uncredited)

*Joe – the older hustler (Joe Campbell, uncredited)

*Paul – the younger hustler (Paul America, uncredited)

ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

DIRECTOR: Andy Warhol

CO-DIRECTOR: Chuck Wein

ACTOR: Ed Hood

ACTOR: Paul America

ACTOR: Joe Campbell

Prepare to be surprised. If all you have seen of Warhol is “Chelsea Girls” and “Empire State,” don’t give up. “My Hustler” is a hugely different film with a solid narrative and surprisingly good performances. Warhol codirects with Chuck Wein, a hugely positive influence; at around 70 minutes, it’s quite a joy to sit through. This is mainly due to the marvelous lead performance of an uncredited Ed Hood, who manages to create a hilarious yet sympathetic character out of what could have been just a bitchy “old” queen. I have lots of straight friends who like this movie.


“My Hustler” is the only extant Factory Film that

Has been transferred to digital media.

Has turned a profit.

The original idea was by Andy Warhol and Chuck Wein. A lot of the dialogue was improvised. Paul Morrissey acted as cinematographer.

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 57. Persona (1966) A+

Persona: Queer Cinema.

Ingmar Bergman

(Approved with two scenes edited out. These have since been restored.)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Alma (Bibi Andersson)

*Elisabet (Liv Ullmann)

My favorite film not in the English language.

Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece or, to put it another way, one of the ten greatest films ever made. What is it all about? Well, to each his own on this very personal movie. Each of us brings our own baggage to a screening of “Persona,” and we leave the movie with our own epiphanies. The film contains one unforgettable scene in which the leading ladies, Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson, caress as their personalities merge, diverge and merge again. Two of the world’s greatest actresses under the gaze of one of the greatest movie directors the world has ever known.

Original screenplay by Ingmar Bergman

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58. The Group (1966) C

The Group

Sidney Lumet

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Lakey (Candice Bergen)

*The Baroness, Lakey’s “friend” from Europe (Lidia Prochnicka)

Based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Mary McCarthy about the lives of eight female graduates (played by Joanna Petit, Jessica Walter, Mary Robin Redd, Candice Bergen, Shirley Knight, Joan Hackett, Kathleen Widdoes, and Elizabeth Hartman) from Vassar from 1933 to 1940, director Sidney Lumet’s movie is like a microcosm of his career – biting off more than he can chew. The film meanders incessantly, with only Joan Hackett’s Dottie (at the beginning), Elizabeth Hartman’s Priss (in the middle), and Shirley Knight’s Polly (at the end) getting the respect they deserve. The other five actresses and their characters get no respect or insight whatsoever. It’s a lost opportunity. This goes double for Candice Bergen, making her film debut as the film’s token lesbian character, Lakey. Lakey spends most of the movie in Europe, a place where rich lesbians were banished in movies like this before there was a “California.”

At the outbreak of WW2, Lakey returns to the United States with a Baroness in tow. However, said Baroness (Lidia Prochnicka) gets no dialogue. Her sole purpose is to be introduced to The Group at the railway station so we can see the shock on their faces; her queerness is not subtle! So, unlike Lauren Bacall and Katherine Kurasch in “Young Man With a Horn” or Sandy Dennis and Anne Heywood in “The Fox” (see my follow-up article: https://thebrownees.net/queer-cinema-comes-out-40-queer-films-from-1967-1976/) there is no relationship documented here. Probably just as well since, even though Bergen’s natural beauty is striking, she is so tightly coutured in a series of stiff “lesbian outfits” by designer Anna Hill Johnstone that it’s a wonder the poor thing could even breathe. In some of her scenes, I swear she looks like a prototype for the Corleone brothers in “The Godfather,” for which Johnstone would design her landmark costumes six years later.

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59. Valley of the Dolls (1967)

Rated C (Solo) High Camp at a Midnight Screening

Valley of the Dolls

Mark Robson

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Ted Casablanca (Alexander Davion) is a hairdresser who is often assumed to be gay by others, but his actual sexual orientation is unknown.

ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

COSTUME DESIGNER: William Travilla

Based on Jacqueline Susann’s trashy but compulsively readable novel about three women (Patty Duke, Barbara Parkins, and Sharon Tate) trying to forge careers in the entertainment industry, each descending into barbiturate addiction – the valley of the “dolls.” TCF quickly realized that they had a real turkey on their hands, but the film, coasting on the book’s popularity, was a huge hit. Over time, Fox also realized that, thanks to Miss Patty Duke’s Neely O’Hara and, to a lesser degree, the terrible performance of Susan Hayward as fading star Helen Lawson, they also were the proud owners of a gay kitsch cult classic. A movie to be seen at A MIDNIGHT SCREENING WITH A GAY CROWD, PREFERABLY AT THE CASTRO THEATRE IN SAN FRANCISCO – in other words, it’s a Rocky Horror GROUP experience. It should never be seen alone, or you will be feasting on “dolls” yourself. Duke is so bad in this movie because she thinks she is giving a shoo-in Oscar-caliber performance. Amid all the campness, Parkins and a surprisingly moving Tate survive relatively unscathed.

The campy yet haunting theme from the film was written by Andre and Dory Previn and, as sung by Dionne Warwick, reached #2 on the Hot 100 but was NOT nominated for an Oscar in the Best Original Song category.

The two Best Quotes in the movie are, of course, courtesy of Neely:

I have to get up at five o’clock in the morning and SPARKLE, Neely, SPARKLE!

Neely O’ Hara

Ted Casablanca is not a fag, and I’m the dame to prove it!

Neely O’ Hara

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60. Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967). A+

Reflections in a Golden Eye: Queer Cinema.

John Huston

(APPROVED)

  LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Anacleto (Zorro David)

*Major Weldon Penderton (Marlon Brando)

ACTOR | DIRECTOR | WRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL |SONGWRITER | COSTUME AND SET DESIGN |

ACTOR: Marlon Brando

ACTOR: Zorro David

SOURCE MATERIAL: Novel: Carson McCullers: Reflections in a Golden Eye.

Director John Huston’s favorite of all his movies. Not for everyone, but if it’s to your taste, spellbinding. Brando does something unique with his closeted gay character, who is married to Elizabeth Taylor. She is having an affair with their best friend, Brian Keith. Keith’s wife, Julie Harris, has just chopped off her nipples with the garden sears in protest. Her only friend and confidant is her flamboyant Filipino houseboy, Anacleto, brilliantly played by gay actor Zorro David. You are correct if you think you have just entered Carson McCullers’ country.

Additional goodies: Actor Robert Forster (“Jackie Brown”), making his film debut, spends almost the entire movie naked while riding Elizabeth Taylor’s horse!

The haunting score is by Toshiro Mayuzumi.

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TABLE SUMMARY OF 60 QUEER FILMS MADE UNDER THE HAYS CODE.


DIRECTORS

Directors who have directed a
gay character (or characters) in one or more of the 60 Queer Films mentioned above.
If the director is/was gay
in real life, their name is highlighted in red.

ACTORS
Actors who have
played a gay character
in one or more of the
60 Queer Films mentioned above.
If the actor is/was gay
in real life, their name is highlighted in red.
ACTORS
CONTINUED
Gay Screenwriters and
Gay Writers of Source Material.
Gay Costume Designers,
George Cukor (3)Dirk Bogarde (3) 
+1 (1967-1976)
Jack Lemmon (1)Tennessee Williams (3) Orry-Kelly (4)
Howard Hawks (3)Peter Lorre (1)Bill Thomas (4)
Alfred Hitchcock (3)Judith Anderson (2) Shirley Maclaine (1)Patrick Dennis (1) 
 Mercedes McCambridge (2)Fred MacMurray (1)Leonard Gershe (1)Gilbert Adrian (3)
Michael Curtiz (2)Monty Wooley (2) George Macready (1)William Inge (1) Edith Head (3)
John Huston (2)Peter McEnery (1)Carson McCullers (1) William Travilla (3)
Joseph L. Mankiewicz (2)
+1 (1967-1976)
Nick Adams (1)Audrey Meadows (1) Herman Melville (1) 
Delbert Mann (2)Bibi Anderson (1)Murray Melvin (1) Gore Vidal (1) Charles Le Maire (2)
Otto Preminger (2)Lauren Bacall (1)Sal Mineo (1) Moss Mabry (2)
Nicholas Ray (2) Anne Baxter (1)Agnes Moorhead (1)  Anthony Mendelson (2)
Tony Richardson (2) Candice Bergen (1)Don Murray (1)Bernard Newman (2)
Billy Wilder (2)
+1 (1967-1976)
Claire Bloom (1)Florence Nash (1) 
William Wyler (2)Eric Blore (1) Paul Newman (1) Bill Blass (1)
Stephen Boyd (1)Laurence Olivier (1)  Howard Greer (1)
Marlon Brando (1) Brock Peters (1) Harry Haynes (1)
Robert Aldrich (1)
+1 (1967-1976)
Coral Browne (1)
+1 (1967-1976)
Vincent Price (1)  Jean Louis (1)
Ingmar Bergman (1)Victor Buono (1)Lidia Prochnicka (1) Oliver Messel (1)
Richard Brooks (1)Colin Campbell (1)Tony Randall (1)Walter Plunkett (1)
David Butler (1)Capucine (1)Edward G. Robinson (1)  Howard Shoup (1)
John Cromwell (1)Montgomery Clift (1) Robert Ryan (1)Rouben Ter-Arutnian (1)
Morton DaCosta (1) Elisha Cook Jr (1)George Saunders (1) Arlington Valles (1)
Basil Dearden (1)Cicely Courtneidge (1)Robert Stack (1) 
Stanley Donen (1)
+1 (1967-1976)
Joan Crawford (1)Terence Stamp (1)
Edward Dmytryk (1)John Dall (1) Barbara Stanwyck (1) 
Victor Fleming (1)Zorro David (1) Rod Steiger (1)
+2 (1967-1976)
 
Bryan Forbes (1)Alexander Davion (1)James Stewart (1) 
Sidney J. Furie (1)Doris Day (1)Dudley Sutton (1)
Michael Gordon (1)Hilton Edwards (1) Ernest Thesiger (1)
Robert Hamer (1) Hope Emerson (1) Kay Thompson (1)
Elia Kazan (1)Leif Erickson (1) Liv Ullmann (1) 
William Keighley (1)Robert Eyer (1)Peter Ustinov (1)
Stanley Kubrick (1)
+2 (1967-1976)
Glenn Ford (1)Lee Van Cleef (1) 
Mervin LeRoy (1)James Fox (1)Robert Walker (1)
Joseph H. Lewis (1)Betty Garde (1)David Wayne (1)
Joseph Losey (1)Lowell Gilmore (1) Clifton Webb (1)
Sidney Lumet (1)
+2 (1967-1976)
Farley Granger (1) Gig Young (1)
Vincente Minnelli (1) Cary Grant (1)  
Mark Robson (1)Sydney Greenstreet (1)
Mark Sandrich (1)Alec Guinness (1)   

Douglas Sirk (1)
Hurd Hartfield (1) 
+1 (1967-1976)
 
John Schlesinger (1)
+2 (1967-1976)
Katherine Hepburn (1)  
Peter Ustinov (1)Charlton Heston (1) 
Charles Vidor (1)Earl Holliman (1)
Andy Warhol (1) Edward Everett Horton (1) Paul America
(1)
(uncredited) 
 
Chuck Wein (1) Rock Hudson (1) Joe Campbell
(1)
(uncredited)
 
Orson Welles (1)John Ireland (1)Richard Deacon (1)
(uncredited)
 
James Whale (1) John Kerr (1)Ed Hood
(1)
(uncredited)
 
Christopher Fry
(1) 
(uncredited)
Robert Wise (1)Bert Lahr (1)Katherine Kurasch
(1)
(uncredited)
Gore Vidal
(1)
(uncredited)

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