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

This is the first part of a multi-piece article dealing with queer film. It is not meant to be an in-depth chronicle of queer cinema. It is queer cinema as it appeals to 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, in the mid nineteen eighties, to review movies, first for “In Dublin” and then for “The Irish Times”. I have lived in Los Angeles since the mid-nineties.

What is Queer Cinema? It is 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 posts I have attached an asterisk to the name of the gay character while the actor’s name who is playing the gay character is in parenthesis.

If an actor in the movie or the film’s writer or director is (was) gay in real life, their names are also listed.

Since more gay movies have been made as the years have unfolded, the time periods covered in the succeeding posts will get progressively shorter as I want to keep the number of movies listed to less than 50 per post.

Today’s post spans the years 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, any 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, but at the same time disguising, a gay character.

The next fifty-four Queer Films were all released during the Hays Code era (1934-1967).

forty-seven were APPROVED.

“Kind Hearts and Coronets” and ‘Persona” required cutting before release in the US. These scenes have now been restored.

“Victim” was released without a stamp of approval.

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

1. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The Bride of Frankenstein: Queer Cinema.
James Whale
(APPROVED)

 GAY CHARACTER

*Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR: James Whale

ACTOR: Ernest Thesiger

 Director James Whale’s (see “Gods and Monsters” later in the series) masterpiece is as close to Susan Sontag’s definition of high camp as the movies can deliver. Meanwhile, in the title role, sporting the most creative “do” in cinema history, Elsa Lanchester’s star is born. 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.

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2. Top Hat (1935)

Top Hat: Queer Cinema.
Mark Sandrich
(APPROVED)

 GAY CHARACTERS

*Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton)

*Bates (Eric Blore)

 GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTOR: Edward Everett Horton

ACTOR: Erik Rhodes

 The Best of the Astaire-Rogers movies.

Cinematography: David Abel
Production Design:
Carroll Clark and Van Nest Polglase
Songs
: Irving Berlin

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3. Sylvia Scarlett (1935)

Sylvia Scarlett (Queer Cinema)
George Cukor
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTER

*Sylvia/Sylvester Scarlett (Katherine Hepburn) – Both gay and trans, Sylvia/Sylvester set the bar impossibly high for years to come.

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR: George Cukor

ACTOR: Cary Grant

ACTRESS: Katherine Hepburn

Hepburn plays a female con-artist who dresses as a boy to avoid the police. One of the great financial disasters of the 1930s almost brought RKO to its knees. The first of four Hepburn/Grant pairings which consistently got better: “Holiday” and “Bringing Up Baby” (both 1938) and “The Philadelphia Story” (1940), being the others.

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4. The Women (1939)

The Women: Queer Cinema.
George Cukor
(APPROVED)

 GAY CHARACTER

*Nancy Blake (Florence Nash)

 GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR: George Cukor

ACTRESS: Marjorie Main

In “The Women” every character in the movie and every animal featured was female. Also, every piece of art featured in the movie was by a woman. 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). Unfortunately, this being 1939, everyone behind the camera was male albeit, with Hollywood’ s greatest 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 obvious lesbian, an “old maid” who always wears slacks – no, it’s not Katherine Hepburn – is played by Florence Nash.

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5. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The Wizard of Oz: Queer Cinema.
Victor Fleming
(APPROVED)

 GAY CHARACTER

*Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

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” that captures 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!

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6. Rebecca (1940)

Rebecca: Queer Cinema.
Alfred Hitchcock
(APPROVED)

 GAY CHARACTER

*Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTRESS: JUDITH ANDERSON

Hitchcock preferred casting gay actors in gay parts whether it was Judith Anderson, Farley Granger, or Anthony Perkins.

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7. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The Maltese Falcon: Queer Cinema.
John Huston
(APPROVED)

 

 GAY CHARACTERS

*Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet)

*Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre)

*Wilmer Cook (Elisha Cook Jr)

 Everyone knows that Peter Lorre’s character Joel Cairo is gay. Even Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) 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 tern for “kept boy” or homosexual. Since he is Kasper Gutman’s kept boy, I can only assume that Sydney Greenstreet’s character is also gay. Splendid Dear Boy!

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8. The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)

The Man Who Came to Dinner: Queer Cinema.
William Keighley
(APPROVED)

 

 GAY CHARACTER

*Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Wooley)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTOR: Monty Wooley


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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9. Laura (1944)

Laura: Queer Cinema.
Otto Preminger
(APPROVED)

 GAY CHARACTERS

*Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb)

*Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price)

*Anne Treadwill (Judith Ander

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTOR: Clifton Webb

ACTOR: Vincent Price

ACTRESS: Judith Anderson

One of the reasons given for the firing of “Laura’s” original director Rouben Mamoulian was his attitude towards 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. A stroke of sheer genius which will never be forgotten.

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10. Double Indemnity (1944)

Double Indemnity: Queer Cinema.
Billy Wilder
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS

*Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray)

*Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson)

The love affair is between Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) and Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson). That is the way Billy Wilder adapted (with Raymond Chandler from the novel by James M. Cain) and directed it. The attraction between Walter and Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) is more of a power dynamic. There is no love there.

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11. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

The Picture of Dorian Gray: Queer Cinema.
Albert Lewin
(APPROVED)

 GAY CHARACTERS

*Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield)

*Basil Hallward (Lowell Gilmore)

 GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTOR: Hurd Hatfield

ACTOR: Lowell Gilmore

Albert Lewin, having worked as Irving Thalberg’s closest assistant for most of the Thirties at MGM, became a producer himself over 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 Summerset Maugham’s “The Moon and Sixpence”. However, back at MGM he directed his masterpiece, a superb adaptation of Oscar Wild’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 right to me. He’s like Tyrone Power with a permanent facial mask. Beautifully handled by Lewin, it is one of MGM 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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12. Gilda (1946)

Gilda (Queer Cinema)
Charles Vidor
(APPROVED)

 GAY CHARACTERS

*Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford)

*Ballin Mundson (George Macready)

 Although both Glenn Ford and George Macready always insisted that they believed their characters to be gay, director Charles Vidor disagreed. Personally, I find it difficult to detect a gay subtext in this movie. In fact, the story is so muddled that it is difficult to uncover anything at all.

That’s not to say that the movie is not worth seeing. It is. Feast your eyes on Vidor’s stylish direction, Rudolph Mate 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.

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13. Night and Day (1946)

Michael Curtiz
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS

*Cole Porter (Cary Grant) – Played as a “Straight Man” in this movie.

*Monty Wooley playing himself

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTOR: Cary Grant

ACTOR: Monty Wooley

In Warner Bros. highly fictionalized biography of Cole Porter, we get a heterosexual Porter (played by Cary Grant) who is happily married to wife Linda (played by Alexis Smith). 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 – which was an enormous success.

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14. Red River (1948)

Red River
Howard Hawks
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS

*Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift)

*Cherry Valance (John Ireland)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

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. John Wayne, in one of his most emblematic roles, 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 great script by Borden Chase and Charles Schnee. The year was1948 and Clift was breaking out all over, his star being born repeatedly in his dramatic confrontations with Wayne, his 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 its 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 great gay moments in 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. Cinematography (black and white) by Russell Harlan. The rousing score is by Dimitri Tiomkin.

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15. Rope (1948)

Rope: Queer Cinema.
Alfred Hitchcock
(APPROVED)

 

Filmed in 8 x 10-minute takes.

 GAY CHARACTERS

*Rupert Cadell (James Stewart)

*Brandon Shaw (John Dall)

* Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger)

 

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTOR: Farley Granger

ACTOR: John Dall

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 cinema 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 in each scene, the position of the actors and the movement of the actors in each 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 camera?

There is a problem, however, in that each film’s roll only lasts 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.

Still, the story, which is based on the Leopold and Loeb case and, which I shall revisit in “Swoon” later in the series, is irresistible.
Granger and Dall are perfection and Jimmy Stewart is also amazing, even if you think that he may not have been in on the ruse!

The result: “Rope”, which is based on Patrick Hamilton’s play, is surprisingly good. However, you are always aware that Hitch is handicapped by having half of the language of cinema taken away from him. It’s like he’s working with half a brain.

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16. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

Kind Hearts and Coronets: Queer Cinema.
Robert Hamer
(Approved After Major Revisions)

GAY CHARACTER

*Lady Agatha D’Ascoyne (Alec Guinness)


GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR: Robert Hamer

ACTOR: Alec Guinness

ACTOR: Dennis Price

It’s my all-time-favorite British movie. With exquisitely intelligent and stylish direction by Robert Hamer, it flows like dark chocolate over a mouthwatering sundae. It stars the deliciously urbane Dennis Price as a lowly draper’s assistant. Finding himself distantly in line to a dukedom and infuriated by this aristocratic family’s cruel treatment of his mother, he turns serial killer. In other words, he sets out to systematically murder everyone ahead of him in line to the seat of D’Ascoyne. 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 warm air balloon while she is distributing leaflets. Since this is the first in a series of posts 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 indeed.

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17. Adam’s Rib (1949)

Adam's Rib
George Cukor
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTER

*Kip Lurie (David Wayne)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR: George Cukor

ACTRESS: Katherine Hepburn

ACTRESS: Hope Emerson

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. Clearly gay with his closely cropped hair (so fashionable today!) and flamboyant behavior he is the constant butt of Adam’s putdowns such as 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 “Farewell Amanda” (composed by Cole Porter). Thanks to Wayne’s inspired performance, Kip is one of Hollywood’s most memorable gay characters from the Hays code era. 

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18. All About Eve (1950)

All About Eve: Queer Cinema.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
(APPROVED)

 

GAY CHARACTERS

*Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter)

*Addison DeWitt (George Saunders)

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?

“All About Eve”. Screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

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19. Caged (1950)

Caged: Queer Cinema
John Cromwell
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS

*Evelyn Harper the sadistic matron (Hope Emerson)

*Kitty Stark the murderous shoplifter (Betty Garde)

*Ruth Benton the reformist prison superintendent (Agnes Moorhead)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

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.

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21. Young Man with a Horn (1950)

Young Man With A Horn: Queer Cinema.
Michael Curtiz
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTER

*Amy North (Lauren Bacall)

Like Mildred Pierce“, this is another Michael Curtiz movie that works equally well as drama and camp. Lauren Bacall is Kirk Douglas’ young man with a horn’s 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. Anyway, this time Kirk has had enough. He clinches his teeth as only Kirk can and proclaims, “YOU’RE A SICK GIRL AMY“, turns the other cheek, and runs off with a Warner’s-era Doris Day. Douglas’ character is based on the famous trumpet player Bix Beiderbecke.

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20. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

A Streetcar Named Desire
Elia Kazan
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTER

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

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

PLAY AND ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Tennessee Williams.

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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22. Strangers on a Train (1951)

Strangers on a Train: Queer Cinema.
Alfred Hitchcock
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTER

*Bruno Antony (Robert Walker)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTOR: Farley Granger

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”) holds the honor of being Hitchcock’s least favorite actress.

Walker died, aged thirty-two, a few weeks after the film’s release.

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23. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Howard Hawks
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS

*The Boys in the Gym.

Jane Russell cannot understand – but gives us the wink-wink that she really 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” and Russell is singing “Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love” while the boys only have eyes for themselves and their buddies. Meanwhile, Marilyn is more interested in a certain kind of rock which leads to an even more spectacular musical number.

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24. Johnny Guitar (1954)

Johnny Guitar: Queer Cinema
Nicholas Ray
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS

*Vienna (Joan Crawford)

*Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR: Nicholas Ray


High camp on the range thanks to two of Hollywood’s most melodramatic thespians. A Western with two female leads is that rarest of cinematic jewels and, although both Crawford and McCambridge play to the gallery under Ray’s ultra-mannered direction, this is essential viewing both as Queer Cinema and as part of the Ray canon.

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.

25. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Rebel Without A Cause: Queer Cinema.
Nicholas Ray
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTER

*Plato (Sal Mineo)


GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR: Nicholas Ray

ACTOR: Sal Mineo

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.

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26. Written on the Wind (1956)

Written on the Wind
Douglas Sirk
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTER

*Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack) – and A LOW SPERM COUNT

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTOR: Rock Hudson

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.

Robert Stack received his only Oscar nomination for this role.

“Written on the Wind” is not available for streaming. However, the DVD can be purchased on Amazon.

27. The Bad Seed (1956)

The Bad Seed
Mervyn LeRoy
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTER

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

Director Mervyn LeRoy’s High Wire Act
Rhoda Penmark is raised in a comfortable home by loving parents. However, Rhoda is a killer, a bad seed

When Mervyn LeRoy first saw Maxwell Anderson’s play “The Bad Seed” he informed screenwriter John Lee Mahin to adapt 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 is the embodiment of evil.

LeRoy brough 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 that she deserved. In fact, we later discover that Rhoda is a sociopath and a serial killer. And so was her grandmother, but the expression of the “bad seed gene” ended up skipping a generation

William Hopper as Col. Kenneth Penmark, Rhoda’s father. He is away on business for most of the movie.

Eileen Heckart (Oscar nomination Best Supporting Actress) as Hortense Daigle, Claude’s mother.

Frank Cady as Henry Daigle, Clause’s father

Henry Jones as Leroy Jessop, the caretaker.

Evelyn Varden as Monica Breedlove, the neighbor who spoils Rhoda.

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 as 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 such classics of the genre as Robert Aldrich’s “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” and Brian De Palma’s “Carrie”.

How do we know that little Clause 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, there mine” have entered the gay lexicon. In fact, Rhoda has the honor of being one the most sought-after parts in gay theatre groups in the US, and the thespians stepping into her shoes are usually large and male. 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’ character was later taken, fully formed, and transported to Seattle for Ernie Hudson in “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle”.

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28. Tea and Sympathy (1956)

Tea and Sympathy: Queer Cinema
Vincente Minnelli
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS

*Tom Robertson Lee (John Kerr)

*Bill Reynolds (Leif Erickson)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR: Vincente Minnelli

Both John Kerr and Deborah Kerr reprised their roles from 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 Vicente Minnelli) gives it a beauty and delicacy, especially in Deborah’s sublime performance. And there is her haunting closing voice-over: “One day, when you talk about this, and you will, be kind”.

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29. Funny Face (1957)

Stanley Donen
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTER

*Maggie Prescot (Kay Thompson)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

PRODUCER: Roger Edens

WRITER: Leonard Gershe

PHOTOGRAPHER: Richard Avedon

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 then whisked off to Paris for Fashion Week.

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 (both literally and figuratively) during the relationship.

Fred Astaire plays a Richard Avedon-like fashion photographer and all the photographs in the movie are by Richard Avedon.

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

Audrey does all her own singing, and she 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 Roger Edens, 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: “everything from the Montmartre to Jean-Paul Sartre“)

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30. A Touch of Evil (1958)

A Touch of Evil
Orson Welles
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTER

*Mexican gang leader (Mercedes McCambridge)

Yes, that is Mercedes McCambridge as 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”.

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31. Auntie Mame (1958)

Auntie Mame: Queer Cinema.
Morton DaCosta
(APPROVED)

 

 GAY CHARACTER

*Vera Charles (Coral Browne)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR: Morton DaCosta

WRITER: (Original novel: “Mame”): Patrick Dennis (a pseudonym for Edward Everett Tanner III)

ACTRESS: Coral Browne

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 kind of fugue state at the very mention of her name. Gay director Morton DaCosta (his real name) directs like he is still in the theatre – he did better in his second and final 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 post.

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32. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Queer Cinema
Richard Brooks
(APPROVED)

 

GAY CHARACTER

*Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman)

 

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTRESS: Judith Anderson

PLAYWRIGHT: 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 clearly ain’t gettin’ any, when she says that 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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33. Suddenly Last Summer (1959)

Suddenly Last Summer: Queer Cinema.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
(APPROVED)

GAY 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 beach in Europe.

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTRESS: Katherine Hepburn

ACTOR: Montgomery Clift

PLAYWRIGHT: Tennessee Williams

 Another Southern Gothic, this time from a less-than-inspired Tennessee Williams’ play Suddenly Last Summer. We never get to meet the film’s central gay character Sebastian Venable since he is already deceased; his body torn to pieces and eaten by hordes of young men on a beach in Europe. 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. The sore point for Violet is that, when her beauty faded, she was replaced by Catherine – Sebastian used both to attract the boys. Clift, just 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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34. Some Like it Hot (1959)

Some Like It Hot: Queer Cinema.
Billy Wilder
(Not Submitted)

GAY CHARACTER

*Daphne (Jack Lemmon)

Billy Wilder’s gag every other second movie is the greatest comedy of all-time. In Jack Lemon’s “Daphne”, it gives us one of the cinema’s greatest comedic creations as Lemon takes “Daphne” to a place nobody had dared take a character before. “Daphne” really believes he’s a woman. Even better, he has you believing that he really believes he’s a woman.
Stupendous work also from Curtis and Monroe. And Joe E. Brown, who delivers the film’s classic closing line.

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

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35. Pillow Talk (1959)

Pillow Talk (Queer Cinema)
Michael Gordon
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS

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

*Tony Walters (Nick Adams)

*Jonathan Forbes (Tony Randall)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTOR: Rock Hudson

ACTOR: Nick Adams

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, when they meet, it’s love, although not exactly at first sight.

In order to seduce Miss Day’s Jan, Hudson’s Brad invents a gay alter ego, a Texan named “Rex”. “Rex” then proceeds to mercilessly tease Jan by showing an interest in effeminate things, thereby implying “Rex’s” homosexuality. So, we have a gay actor playing a straight man who is pretending to be gay.

Gay actor Nick Adams, who died at the age of 36 in 1968, is the butt of most of the homophobic humor in the movie’s Oscar-winning screenplay.

As Rock Hudson’s buddy/rival in all three of the Day/Hudson pairings, Tony Randall was always brushing up against same sex inuendo.

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36. Ben Hur (1959)

William Wyler
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS

*Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston)

*Stephen Boyd (Messala)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

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.

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 Gore 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 lend some credence to Vidal’s quote. But, more importantly, you feel that there is more than just a bromance going on here. Feel that if Wyler hadn’t yelled CUT, Heston and Boyd would have become very intimate indeed!

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

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37. The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960)

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
Delbert Mann
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTER

*Sonny Flood (Robert Eyer)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

SOURCE MATERIAL: PLAY: 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 Staits”. This beautiful adaptation, directed by Delbert Mann in his interim period between Paddy Chayefsky slice-of-life realism and Doris Day 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 s 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 not available for streaming. However, the DVD can be purchased at Amazon.

38. Spartacus (1960)

Spartacus
Stanley Kubrick
(APPROVED)
The scene between General Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier) and his slave Antoninus (Tony Curtis) was originally cut from the 1960 version but saved from the cutting from floor and when the slave revolt epic was restored in 1991.

GAY CHARACTER

*Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTOR: Laurence Olivier

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

Cher (Alicia Silverstone) in “Clueless”

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”

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 gently informs his boyish new slave Antoninus (played by Curtis) a singer of songs, that he likes both and will, therefore, will be vigorously fucking him for the duration of his “employment”. As Crassus exits his bath, this news is enough to make Antoninus disappear and join the growing ranks of Spartacus’ army. It is also at this very moment, that Cher decides to strike a sexy pose. However, she miscalculates and falls off the bed. Christian, the cinema aesthete that he is, barely notices.!

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”

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39. Psycho (1960)

Psycho: Queer Cinema.
Alfred Hitchcock
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTER
*Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTOR: Anthony Perkins


One of Hitchcock’s seven masterpieces.


Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates made him immortal while, at the same, time, ending his career in Hollywood. He had crossed a line with this incredibly brave performance, and there was no way back.

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40. Victim (1961)

Victim: Queer Cinema.
Basil Dearden
(Denied due to its frank treatment of homosexuality. Released without a seal a approval. Years later received a PG/12 rating from the MPAA)

GAY CHARACTERS

*Melville Farr (Dirk Bogarde)

*Boy Barrett (Peter McEnery)

*P.H. (Hilton Edwards)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTOR: Dirk Bogarde

ACTOR: Hilton Edwards

Dirk Bogarde plays a successful, happily married (to a woman), lawyer who is being blackmailed because of a gay affair in his past.

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 himself was a known gay actor (you cannot say an OUT gay actor since this was not possible in 1961). She was right. We owe you one Dirk Bogarde.

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 who is fed all the gossip by his younger sighted friend. He could be the blackmailer! Edwards and his life partner Micheál Mac Liammóire ( Alfred Wilmore also in London) were the founders of Dublin’s Gate Theatre which nurtured such talents as Orson Welles, Geraldine Fitzgerald, and James Mason. When I was growing up, they were Irelands “only” homosexual couple. Although fêted by all their union was always illegal – both were long dead before homosexuality was finally decriminalized in Ireland in 1993.

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41. A Taste of Honey (1961)

A Taste of Honey: Queer Cinema.
Tony Richardson
(Not Submitted)

 GAY CHARACTER

*Geoffrey Ingham (Murray Melvin)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR: Tony Richardson

ACTOR: Murray Melvin


Although he was playing a teenager, gay actor Murray Melvin was almost thirty when he made “A Taste of Honey” with Rita Tushingham. One of the first openly gay actors he worked often with Tony Richardson and particularly 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.

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42. The Children’s Hour (1961)

The Children's Hour: Queer Cinema
William Wyler
(APPROVED)

GAY 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 and, fresh from of his triumph with “Ben Hur”, Wyler decides to remake it, this time 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 not ready for an all-out gay film so he had to be furtive. Not having the courage of his convictions, what started out as bravery ended in cowardice and it’s a shame. If only he had waited until, say 1970, he could have had a triumph on his hands. There are moments, from MacLaine 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)

 GAY CHARACTER

*Senator Brig Anderson (Don Murray)

 GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTOR: Charles Laughton

 FIRST LOOK INSIDE AN AMERICAN GAY BAR

 Preminger always liked to be innovative, and he was with “Advise and Consent” a beautifully written, acted and directed movie. It also treats its gay subplot with great tenderness and respect with the always 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.

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44. Whatever Happened Baby Jane? (1962)

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (Queer Cinema)
Robert Aldrich
(APPROVED)

 GAY CHARACTER

*Edwin Flagg (Victor Buono)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTOR: Victor Buono

Robert Aldrich’s masterpiece works as both drama and camp thanks to Lukas Heller’s superb adaptation of the Henry Farrell novel. 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 gives an equally impressive performance as Blanche, Jane’s wheelchair-bound former movie queen sister whose career ended 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 also to Australian actress Marjorie Bennett who plays his mother Dehlia Flagg – she is straight out of a John Water’s 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!”

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45. That Touch of Mink (1962)

That Touch of Mink
Delbert Mann
(APPROVED)

 GAY CHARACTER

*Roger (Gig Young)

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 cowritten 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)’s Rolls Royce splashes Cathy Timberlake (Miss Day) while she is on her way to a job interview, we know that this is a love-hate relationship that can only end with a wedding ring. And, although the chemistry is not exactly scorching, it’s a pleasant journey with gorgeous cinematography by Russell Metty and a bonus trip to Bermuda.

The funniest part of That Touch of Minkis the gay subplot which involves Gig Young, playing Grant’s financial adviser Roger, and his psychiatrist Dr. Gruber (Alan Hewitt). Because he leaves the room as some essential information is being relayed by Roger about Cathy, Dr. Gruber thinks that 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 understandably astonished Gruber!

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46. The L-Shaped Room (1963)

The L-Shaped Room: Queer Cinema.
Bryan Forbes
(APPROVED)

 GAY CHARACTERS

*Mavis (Cicely Courtneidge)

*Johnny (Brock Peters)

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

Writer/director Bryan Forbes lovely and faithful adaptation of the Lynne Reid Banks novel boasts Leslie Caron’s greatest performance. She is a young woman who is unmarried and waits out a pregnancy in a strange city where she rents the L-shaped bedroom of the title. Brock Peters having just appeared in “To Kill a Mockingbird” plays Johnny, a shy, gay musician while 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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47. The Haunting (1963)

The Haunting (Queer Cinema)
Robert Wise
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTER

*Theo (Theodora) (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 is always putting the moves on the film’s doomed heroine Eleanor (“Nell”) who is played by Julie Harris in her most emblematic screen performance. However, the moves are always subtle and done with great care and concern by Theo, 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 comes 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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48. The Servant (1963)

The Servant
Joseph Losey
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS

*Hugo (Dirk Bogarde)

*Tony (James Fox)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

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. Remade, in all but name, by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg as “Performance” in1970 with Fox in a similar role and Mick Jagger stepping into Bogarde’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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49. The Leather Boys (1964)

The Leather Boys: Queer Cinema.
Sidney J. Furie
(Not Submitted)

GAY CHARACTERS

*Pete (Dudley Sutton)

*Reggie (Colin Campbell) – until the copout ending.

 Canadian journeyman Sidney J. Furie, who would really 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 begin to live increasingly separate lives. Meanwhile, Reggie becomes more involved with his biker friends, especially the, shall we say, somewhat “eccentric” Pete (Dudley Sutton). There is an unfortunate scene in a gay bar towards the end which leads to an abrupt cop out ending. However, the movie’s long closing tracking shot is classic filmmaking.

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

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

Influenced Katherine Bigelow’s movie debut “The Loveless” (1981).

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50. The Loved One (1965)

The Loved One: Queer Cinema.
Tony Richardson
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTER

*Mr. Joyboy (Rod Steiger)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR: Tony Richardson

WRITER: Christopher Isherwood

ACTOR: John Gielgud

ACTOR: Roddy McDowell

ACTOR: Liberace


Great fun was had by all, and Haskell Wexler’s black and white photography is quite stunning but, understandably, it was not a hit at the box office and ruined any chance of a Hollywood career for Richardson. It now has a cult following and is very highly regarded in some quarters including TheBrownees!

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51. Darling (1965)

Darling
John Schlesinger
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTER

*Miles Brand (Dirk Bogarde)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR: John Schlesinger

ACTOR: Dirk Bogarde

ACTOR: Laurence Harvey

So fashionable in 1965, so dated today. Never has a film demonstrated how rapidly modishness withers. Still, it does feature a star-making and Academy Award winning turn by the impossibly beautiful Julie Christie, even if far more people saw in 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 Will 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 next post on Queer Cinema: “Queer Cinema Comes Out (1967 – 1976).”

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52. My Hustler (1965)

My Hustler: Queer Cinema.
Andy Warhol and Chuck Wein
(Not Submitted)

GAY CHARACTERS

*Ed – the client (Ed Hood)

*Joe – the older hustler (Joe Campbell)

*Paul – the younger hustler (Paul America)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

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 who is always an enormous influence and at around 70 minutes it’s quite a joy to sit through. I have lots of STRAIGHT friends who really like this movie.

“My Hustler” is the only extant Factory Film which 1) has been transferred to digital media and 2) has turned a profit.

NOW STREAMING ON INTERNET ARCHIVE

 53. Persona (1966)

Persona: Queer Cinema.
Ingmar Bergman
(Approved with two scenes edited out. These have since been restored)

 GAY CHARACTERS

*Alma (Bibi Andersson)

*Elisabet (Liv Ullmann)

Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece or, to put it another way, one of the ten greatest films ever made. What is it all about? I think each of us brings our own baggage to this one and is then transported with their own individual epiphanies. What I do know is that it has a beautiful scene in which the leading ladies Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson caress as their personalities merge and then diverge. Two of the world’s greatest actresses under the gaze of one of the greatest movie directors the world has ever known.

NOW STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO AND ON APPLE TV+

54. Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967).

Reflections in a Golden Eye: Queer Cinema.
John Huston
(APPROVED)

  GAY CHARACTERS

*Anacleto (Zorro David)

*Major Weldon Penderton (Marlon Brando)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTOR

ACTOR: Zorro David

WRITER: Original 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 amazing with his closeted gay character who is married to Elizabeth Taylor who is having an affair with their best friend Brian Keith whose wife Julie Harris has just chopped off her nipples with the garden sears in protest. Her only friend and confident is her very flamboyant Filipino houseboy, Anacleto, brilliantly played by gay actor Zorro David. If you think that you have just entered Carson McCullers country, you are correct.

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

The haunting score is by Toshiro Mayuzumi.

NOW STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO AND ON APPLE TV+
Queer Cinema Under the Hays Code: DirectorsQueer Cinema Under the Hays Code: ActorsQueer Cinema Under the Hays Code: Actors (Continued)Queer Cinema Under the Hays Code: Writers
Alfred Hitchcock (4)Dirk Bogarde (3)John Ireland (1)Tennessee Williams (3)
George Cukor (3) Judith Anderson (2)John Kerr (1)Patrick Dennis (1)
Michael Curtiz (2)Mercedes McCambridge (2)Bert Lahr (1)Christopher Fry (1)
Howard Hawks (2)Monty Wooley (2)Jack Lemmon (1)Leonard Gershe (1)
John Huston (2)Nick Adams (1)Peter Lorre (1)William Inge (1)
Joseph L. Mankiewicz (2)Paul America (1) (uncredited)Shirley Maclaine (1)Carson McCullers (1)
Delbert Mann (2)Bibi Anderson (1)George Macready (1)Gore Vidal (1)
Otto Preminger (2)Lauren Bacall (1)Peter McEnery (1)
Nicholas Ray (2)Anne Baxter (1)Murray Melvin (1) 
Tony Richardson (2)Claire Bloom (1)Sal Mineo (1)
Billy Wilder (2)Eric Blore (1)Agnes Moorhead (1) 
William Wyler (2)Stephen Boyd (1)Don Murray (1)
Robert Aldrich (1)Marlon Brando (1)Florence Nash (1) 
Ingmar Bergman (1)Coral Browne (1)Paul Newman (1) 
Richard Brooks (1)Victor Buono (1)Laurence Olivier (1) 
John Cromwell (1)Raymond Burr (1)Anthony Perkins (1) 
Morton DaCosta (1)Colin Campbell (1)Brock Peters (1) 
Basil Dearden (1)Joe Campbell (1) (uncredited)Vincent Price (1) 
Stanley Donen (1)Montgomery Clift (1)Tony Randall (1) 
Victor Fleming (1)Elisha Cook Jr (1)Edward G. Robinson (1) 
Bryan Forbes (1)Cicely Courtneidge (1)George Saunders (1) 
Sidney J. Furie (1)Joan Crawford (1)Robert Stack (1) 
Michael Gordon (1)Zorro David (1)Rod Steiger (1) 
Robert Hamer (1)Hilton Edwards (1)Dudley Sutton (1) 
Howard Hawks (1)Hope Emerson (1)Kay Thompson (1)
Elia Kazan (1)Leif Erickson (1)Liv Ullmann (1)
 William Keighley (1)Robert Eyer (1)Robert Walker (1)
Stanley Kubrick (1)Glenn Ford (1)David Wayne (1)
Mervin LeRoy (1)James Fox (1)Clifton Webb (1) 
Joseph Losey (1)Betty Garde (1)Gig Young (1)
Vincente Minnelli (1)Lowell Gilmore (1)
Mark Sandrich (1)Cary Grant (1) * 
Douglas Sirk (1)Sydney Greenstreet (1) 
John Schlesinger (1)Alec Guinness (1) 
Charles Vidor (1)Hurd Hartfield (1) 
Andy Warhol and Chuck Wein (1)Katherine Hepburn (1) 
Orson Welles (1)Ed Hood (1) (uncredited) 
James Whale (1)Charlton Heston (1) 
Robert Wise (1)Rock Hudson (1)
*For playing a straight Cole Porter in “Night and Day”


A History of Queer Cinema.

Post 1: Fifty-Four Queer Films Made Under the Hays Code (1934-1967)

Post 2: Twenty-Seven Queer Films 1967-1976.  Queer Cinema Comes Out.

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3 Comments

  1. Laurie

    I am always amazed when films I have liked for so long are brought to new life and meaning by reviews like this. I have always believed that good film making must go deep into and beyond the celluloid in order to deserve the title of “best” in whatever genre is being discussed. Thank you for making me watch so many old films again just to catch what I missed the first time.

    • Patrick

      Thank you Laurie. That means a lot to me.

      Patrick

  2. Patrick

    Thank you. I will check it out right now!

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