40 Queer Films from 1967-1976: Queer Cinema Comes Out

This is the second part of a two-part essay on Queer Cinema which spans the years 1934 to 1976.

With the death of the Hays code in 1967 and the formation of the MPAA rating system in 1968, Queer Cinema was ready to come out of the closet. The period of 1967-1976 can be seen as Queer Cinema’s Stonewall with:

  • The first documentary to focus on an American gay man, a masterpiece of cinéma vérité.
  • The first movie where all the characters are gay, echoing “The Women” thirty years earlier.
  • A gay man directs the only Best Picture to get an X-rating, and it’s about a gay hustler!
  • In 1962, we saw the inside of a gay bar in “Advice and Consent.” In 1968, we got to see the inside of a lesbian bar. Cheers!
  • The blending of Queer Cinema and New German Cinema thanks to the genius and the astonishing productivity of actor/writer/director Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
  • The irrepressible John Waters and his gorgeous star Divine arrive on the scene in 1972.
  • One of the seminal American movies about the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany has a gay character in the leading role and some of the best musical numbers ever to hit the silver screen.
  • The Maysles brothers make “Grey Gardens”, a gay cult classic, in 1975.
  • Of the 39 narrative features listed, 13 are from original screenplays, and 26 are adapted from another medium. Source material in the latter category includes novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Frederick Forsyth, William Goldman, James Leo Herlihy, Stephen King, Thomas Mann, Philip Roth, William Makepeace Thackeray, and D. H. Lawrence (x2). There is a song by Bobbie Gentry. And plays by Mart Crowley, Charles Dyer, John Van Druton, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Enjoy!

1. Portrait of Jason (1967) A

Portrait of Jason

Shirley Clarke

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER: HIMSELF

*Jason Holliday (né Aaron Payne playing Himself)

A true breakthrough and a film that has improved with age, documentary filmmaker Shirley Clarke interviews gay African-American hustler and aspiring cabaret performer Jason Holliday in his apartment at the Hotel Chelsea. Jason is a STAR in his living room. He is magnetic and the sole screen presence in the film. As he narrates his troubled life story to the camera – there are several songs and numerous costume changes – Clarke and her partner behind the camera, Carl Lee, use cinéma vérité techniques to reach the sadness underlying Jason’s theatrical exaggerated persona. Like so many, Jason was ahead of his time.

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2. No Way to Treat a Lady (1968) C

No Wat to Treat a Lady

Jack Smight

SYLVIA: You Homo. DORIAN: That does not mean that you are a terrible person.

DORIAN: Isn’t that fantastic and breathtaking?

DORIAN: Well, honestly, the suspicion of some people.

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Christopher Gill aka “Dorian” (Rod Steiger)

THE SWISHY MINCING FAG | FAIRY | QUEEN WAS A STAPLE OF HOLLYWOOD FROM THE MID-SIXTIES TO THE MID-EIGHTIES. STEIGER’S DORIAN IS THE FIRST OF FOUR FAIRY QUEENS IN THIS ESSAY.

THIS CHARACTER STILL POPS UP OCCASIONALLY – WITNESS THE CHOREOGRAPHER IN PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON’S “LICORICE PIZZA.”

FAIRY QUEEN NUMBER ONE

Christopher Gill (Rod Steiger) is a serial killer fixated on his late mother, a noted stage actress. Gill preys on older women who remind him of Mama. A Broadway theatre owner and director, he adopts various disguises, such as a priest, policeman, plumber, hairdresser, etc., to put his victims at ease (and avoid being identified) before strangling them!

“Dorian,” Gill’s hairdresser persona, is gay with a classic sibilant-rich delivery. In the movie’s best scene, just as he is caressing the neck of his next intended victim, Miss Belle Poppie (a wonderful Barbara Baxley who has a house full of cats) during a wig fitting – “Isn’t that fantastic and breathtaking” – he is interrupted by the arrival of her sister Sylvia (Doris Roberts, always so good at putting someone in their place) who knows that something is not quite right. Dorian reacts with “Well, honestly, the suspicion of some people” – and after Sylvia’s “you homo” delivers the movie’s classic line “Well, that doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person.” As a gay man, I should be disturbed by Steiger’s queer turn. However, this scene always ends with me rolling on the floor with laughter.

“No Way to Treat a Lady” was adapted by John Gay from William Goldman’s novel of the same name and directed by Jack Smight—it also stars George Segal, Eileen Heckart, and an underused but still captivating Lee Remick.

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3. The Fox (1968) B+

The Fox

Mark Rydell

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Jill Banford (Sandy Dennis)

*Ellen March (Anne Heywood)

Director Mark Rydell (“The Rose,” “On Golden Pond”) moves the location of D.H. Lawrence’s short story to rural Canada, where our lesbian couple Jill Banford (Sandy Dennis) and Ellen March (Anne Heywood) support themselves by raising chickens. They are happy and content. There is genuine chemistry between the two actresses without things being overtly physical. Then, unexpectedly, in the dead of winter, merchant seaman Paul (Keir Dullea) arrives on the property in search of his grandfather.

Yes, a fox keeps killing the chickens, and there is a dying oak tree, which we begin to realize is the Canadian equivalent of Chekov’s gun. Like John Huston’s “Reflections in a Golden Eye,” released the previous year, “The Fox” does interesting things with color saturation (Bill Fraker was the cinematographer), and the Lalo Schifrin score has entered the jazz canon.

All three leads are impressive, and although the ending is a disappointment from a gay perspective, the movie is well worth seeing.

“THE FOX” IS NOT AVAILABLE FOR STREAMING. THE DVD CAN BE PURCHASED FROM AMAZON.

4. The Detective (1968) D+

The Detective

Gordon Douglas

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Colin MacIver (William Windom)

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COSTUME DESIGNER: Donald Brooks

Frank Sinatra does his best under the circumstances, playing a policeman investigating the deaths of several gay men in New York City. However, the awful script by Abby Mann – doing for homosexuals what he did for Jews in “Judgement at Nuremberg” – and the mediocre direction by Gordon Douglas put the kibosh on everything. William Windom plays the type of gay character that makes every adolescent gay boy want to jump off a bridge. It’s awful but worth seeing as a pre-Stonewall period piece. The underperformance of “The Detective” relative to “Rosemary’s Baby” played a significant part in the Farrow-Sinatra breakup.

Adapted from the novel by Roderick Thorp

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5. The Boston Strangler (1968) C-

The Boston Strangler

Richard Fleischer

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Terence Huntley (Hurd Hatfield)

*Eve Collyer (Ellen Ridgeway)

*Gwyda Donhowe (Alice Oakville)

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ACTOR: Hurd Hatfield

Released the same year as “The Detective,” “The Boston Strangler” is another serial killer movie that, although not part of Queer Cinema per se, is filled with “queers” and “faggots” as the police comb the gay demimonde in search of the strangler (Tony Curtis, whose brave performance is the film’s only redeeming feature). Hurd Hatfield, a long way from his Dorian Gray days, has a good scene in a gay bar where Henry Fonda is questioning him. He has been fingered by two nasty dykes played by Eve Collyer and Gwyda Donhowe, in a gay-turning-on-gay scene that has to be seen to be believed – let’s hope both actresses lived to regret ever making this movie. The screenplay by Oscar-winner Edward Anhalt (“Becket”) is so nonchalantly homophobic it makes you glad you live in a more enlightened era. Richard Fleischer directs with so many split screens it’s distracting. It’s a nasty piece of filmmaking, voyeuristic, but not in the cinematic sense. It makes you feel like a peeping tom! It makes you feel dirty.

Adapted from the novel by Gerold Frank.

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6. The Killing of Sister George (1968) B

The Killing of Sister George

Robert Aldrich

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*June “George” Buckridge (Beryl Reid)

*Alice “Childie” McNaught (Susannah York)

*Mercy Croft (Coral Browne)

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ACTRESS: Carol Browne

THE FIRST LOOK INSIDE A LESBIAN BAR

Beryl Reid is marvelous as “George.” That’s not her name. It’s the name of the character she plays in a beloved long-running BBC series. She is in a lesbian relationship with the much younger Childie (Susannah York) and thinks she is about to get canned from the show. Enter Carol Browne as a BBC executive with the hots for Childie, and George cannot get a break.

Robert Aldrich does an excellent job here, just like he did with Bette and Joan in “Baby Jane.” The relationship between George and Childie seems precisely right, and Browne is also very believable as the predatory suit who holds all the cards – the film’s only major error is a gratuitous and embarrassing seduction scene that should have been left on the cutting-room floor.

“The Killing of Sister George” follows in the footsteps of “Advice and Consent” six years before, only this time, it’s a lesbian bar.

Lukas Heller, who also adapted “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”, did the respectable adaptation of the 1964 British novel by Frank Marcus.

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7. Rachel, Rachel (1968) B-

Rachel, Rachel

Paul Newman

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Calla Mackie (Estelle Parsons)

Paul Newman produced and directed (his debut) Rachel, Rachel,” a slight tale about a schoolteacher’s (Newman’s wife Joanne Woodward) sexual awakening in her mid-thirties in a small Connecticut town. Highly regarded at the time of its release (NYFCC awards going to Newman as Best Director and Woodward as Best Actress), it seems a bit underwhelming today. However, it does offer one of the first sympathetic portraits of a lesbian character in an American Film: Rachel’s fellow schoolteacher, Calla. Calla, who has a crush on Rachel, is nicely played by Estelle Parsons, coming off her Oscar in “Bonnie and Clyde.” The screenplay is by Stewart Stern.

Adapted from the novel “A Jest of God” by Margaret Laurence.

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8. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) A

2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*HAL 9000 Computer voiced by actor Douglas Rain.

THE HAL 9000 COMPUTER BECOMES AIs FIRST GAY SUPERSTAR.

In Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, HAL 9000 is the psychotic gay computer (brilliantly voiced by Canadian actor Douglas Rain with just the right amount of queerness!) aboard Discovery One. The starship is bound for Jupiter with mission pilots and scientists Dr. David “Dave” Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood). HAL is in love with Dave and quickly dispatches Frank and the other three astronauts journeying in suspended animation.

I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do

HAL 9000 Computer

Original screenplay by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke.

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9. The Sergeant (1968) C+

John Flynn

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*MSgt Callan (Rod Steiger)

Master Sergeant Callan was Rod Steiger’s second gay role of 1968, but unlike “Dorian,” his mincing hairstylist persona in “No Way to Treat a Lady,” hardly anybody saw it.

The subject matter, its release during the Christmas season of 1968, and a couple of scathing (and homophobic) reviews by some of the foremost critics of the time (Kael, Crist, and Canby were among them) that resembled a shark-feeding frenzy, quickly sealed its fate. The film is not terrible. Directed by John Flynn, making his directorial debut, and produced by his former boss, director/producer Robert Wise, it is eerily similar, in so many ways, to John Huston’s “Reflections in a Golden Eye,” which was released the previous year with Marlon Brando.

Both movies feature a martinet who revels in the life of men among men. Callan rules over his military camp (in this case, it’s rural France in 1952 – there is a black-and-white precredit sequence set during the closing days of WWII) with an iron fist, all the while lusting after a beautiful young man. In “Reflections,” that obscure object of desire was Robert Forster, mostly bare-assed and riding Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite horse. Here it is John Phillip Law, looking beautiful between his star-making role in “The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming” and the blind angel in Roger Vadim’s “Barbarella.”

But while “Reflections” had the genius of McCullers and Huston (not to mention Brando, Taylor, Julie Harris, and Brian Keith), “The Sergeant” can only rise a little above its pedestrian screenplay on occasion. The sanctimonious parallel heterosexual romance between Law and a young French woman (Ludmila Mikael) does not help matters. The best moments are thanks to the above-average performances of both leading men. Steiger – arguably the most flamboyant of all the great American actors – has a few memorable scenes, all of which border camp.

There is a kiss, but it’s more of the Judas than the Cupid variety.

Adapted from the novel by Dennis Murphy

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10. The Damned (1969) B-

The Damned

Luchino Visconti

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Martin von Essenbeck (Helmut Berger)

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DIRECTOR: Luchino Visconti

ACTOR: Dirk Bogarde

ACTOR: Helmut Berger

Many of the old German families sided with Hitler in the closing days of the Weimar Republic. Luchino Visconti’s “The Damned” centers on the Essenbecks (loosely based on the Krupp family) on the night of the Reichstag fire in early 1933. After a grand opening, the film misfires. Part of the reason is that Visconti edited the film around his then-lover Helmut Berger, who did his famous Marlene Dietrich impersonation. However, the absolute destruction came from Hollywood lopped off an additional thirty minutes on the film’s American release. As a result, Dirk Bogarde, Charlotte Rampling, and Helmut Griem, despite giving their all, fade in and out of the picture.

Original screenplay by Nicola Badalucco, Enrico Medioli and Visconti

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11. Staircase (1969) C-

Staircase

Stanley Donen

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Charles Dyer (Rex Harrison)

*Harry C. Leeds (Richard Burton)

Richard Burton and Rex Harrison are Harry C. Leeds and Charles Dyer (the names are anagrams of one another), an aging gay couple who own a barber shop in the East End of London. The shop is always empty, but that’s the least of their problems. Charles is about to go on trial for dressing as a woman in public. The movie is essentially a two-hander, adapted by director Stanley Donen from Charles Dyer’s play. Although it has been “opened up” to include the character’s mothers (Kathleen Nesbit as Harry’s bedridden mum and, in a horrific piece of overacting, Beatrix Lehmann, as Charles’ mother from hell) and various passers-by, the film consists mainly of the two leads discussing their loving but often volatile past together and pondering their possible futures without each other.

They have their tender moments, but they mostly bicker, and while the same could be said of the gay couple played by Hume Cronyn and John Randolph in “There Was a Crooked Man,” the two relationships are light years apart. You immediately fall in love with the two old queens in an Arizona prison circa 1883 and believe in their love for one another. Not so with this relationship. Harrison’s performance is all affectation and condescension. Burton does better. His character has alopecia, and he spends the entire movie wearing a turban, which is funny. He has the occasional moment. Unfortunately, the film is never really taken seriously by its director, a man who showed such a light touch throughout his career from “Singing in the Rain” to “Funny Face” to “Charade.” That touch is missing here, and the souffle falls flat. What a pity!

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12. Midnight Cowboy (1969) A

Midnight Cowboy (I'm Walking Here)

John Schlesinger

“I’M WALKIN’ HERE!”

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Joe Buck (Jon Voight)

*Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman)

*Towny (Bernard Hughes)

*Young Student (Bob Balaban)

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

DIRECTOR: John Schlesinger

SOURCE MATERIAL: Adapted from the 1965 novel “Midnight Cowboy” by James Leo Herlihy

John Schlesinger’s American debut is the only X-rated movie to win Best Picture. Dated now, it still boasts two great performances courtesy of Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffmann. The gay thing is a bit primitive, with tortured souls getting killed by their tricks and numerous queer types from The Village in small parts, so the audience will not know the more basic details of the Joe Buck/Ratso Rizzo relationship. And like “Darling,” “Midnight Cowboy” is almost ruined by that long Warhol-inspired psychedelic party scene. With Bob Balaban, Bernard Hughes, and Sylvia Myles, who received an Oscar nomination for a few minutes’ work. The movie is based on the novel by gay writer James Leo Herlihy, who took his own life with an overdose of sleeping tablets in Los Angeles in 1993. He was sixty-six.

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13. Goodbye Columbus (1969) B-

Larry Peerce

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Ron Patimkin (Michael Meyers)

Ali McGraw’s movie debut was a vast BO success and paved the way for her sensational turn in “Love Story” the following year. Directed by Larry Peerce and based on the 1959 novella of the same name by Phillip Roth, with an adapted screenplay by Arnold Schulman, the movie centers on Neil Klugman (Richard Benjamin), a nice middle-class Jewish boy from the Bronx who falls under the spell of Brenda Patimkin, a wealthy Radcliffe student whose parents are nouveau riche Jews who have grown rich in the plumbing business – there are similarities between this movie and Neil Simon/Elaine May’s “The Heartbreak Kid” from 1972, except in that movie the golden girl, played by Cybill Shepard, is a Shiksa. In contrast, Ali McCraw’s character is a Jewish American Princess.

The Queer element in the film comes from Brenda’s older brother Ron (played by the late Michael Meyers, a name that had yet to become synonymous with a horror franchise). Ron is a star athlete – the film’s title alludes to a song he plays when he gets nostalgic for his glory days at Ohio State in Columbus – and he has his mind set on being a college coach. However, he has the hots for Neil, who he keeps inviting back to his room and slapping on the butt. And then there is the scene outside the bathroom where Ron, having just washed his jockstrap in the sink, regards Neil with such a goofy grin that he is enraptured with him. To seal the deal, he is an avid collector of what he calls “semi-classical” music, and he prides himself in his extensive collection of Andre Kostelanetz and Montovani!

Unfortunately, Schulman and Peerce aren’t interested in Ron’s character. He marries a nice, rich Jewish girl whom Brenda supposes he has never slept with. And that’s that! The straight audiences who saw this in 1969 probably had no clue that Ron was a closeted homosexual. They were left feeling sorry for him because he was forced to work for his father-in-law’s business and, as a result, had to give up on his athletic dreams. It is unlikely that they would be grieving for his life in the closet and his loveless marriage.

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14. The Sterlike Cockoo (1969) B-

Alan J. Pakula

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Charlie Schumacher, Jerry’s roommate (Tim McIntire)

In so many ways, Liza Minnelli’s Oscar-nominated turn as quirky, oddball, and very needy “Pookie” Adams in producer Alan J. Pakula’s directorial debut is a preview of her Oscar-winning performance three years later in Bob Fosse’s “Cabaret.” But while Sally Bowles was a creation for the ages, Pookie is a half-formed character that comes at you in spurts. Her justly famous telephone monologue comes to mind. However, sometimes, she seems lost in the moment and can be irritating and cruel. What she does have on Sally, though, is her gaydar. Sally was clueless that her lover and her (male) best friend were lovers. Pookie thinks that her shy boyfriend (Wendell Burton in his film debut) ’s roommate Charles (played by Tim McIntire) is gay. I think she was correct on this point. McIntire, the son of actors John McIntire and Jeanette Nolan, had made three movies before this one, and he is more comfortable on screen than his costars. It’s a lovely, understated performance; you can feel his love for Jerry. The fact that she outs him in a most uncaring fashion makes us care about him all the more. Quite a coup in the year of Stonewall!

Adapted from the novel by John Nichols.

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15. Performance (1970) B-

Performance

Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Chas (James Fox)

*Turner (Mick Jagger)

*Pherber (Anita Pallenberg)

This psychedelic ménage à trois involving a gangster (James Fox), a reclusive rock star (Mick Jagger), and the lady he lives with (Anita Pallenberg), was made in 1968 but held back from release by Warner Bros. because of its sexual content and graphic violence. And, although the reviews were awful on release, the film has grown in stature over the years, and rightly so.

With obvious references to the Harold Pinter/ Joseph Losey masterpiece “The Servant,” the casting of the boyish Fox (who also starred in “The Servant”) opposite the androgynous Jagger (slipping into Dirk Bogarde’s shoes) works, the latter playing the role of a jaded rock star to perfection.

There will always be an argument about who the real auteur behind the camera is. Nicolas Roeg, one of the few great cinematographers (“The Masque of the Red Death,” “Petulia”), to transition to the great director (“Walkabout,” “Don’t Look Now”) is the obvious choice. Unfortunately, Donald Cammell’s post- “Performance” career was a series of failed projects (many involving Marlon Brando), with only the less than stellar “Demon Seed” (1997), White of the Eye” (1987), and “Wild Side” (1995, with the director’s cut in 1999) seeing completion before he died in 1996. As an iconoclast and a Hollywood outsider, however, he has his champions.

The Movie is based on an “original” screenplay by Cammell – see “The Servant” in my previous essay on Queer Cinema.

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16. Women in Love (1970) B-

Women in Love

Ken Russell

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Rupert Birkin (Alan Bates)

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

ACTOR: Alan Bates

SCREENWRITER (ADAPTED): Larry Kramer

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Billy Williams

Future gay activist Larry Kramer’s (founder of both GMHC and ACT UP) adaptation of D.H Lawrence’s 1920 novel was an enormous critical and commercial success, earning four Oscar Nominations:

  • Best Actress: Glenda Jackson (won).
  • Best Director: Ken Russell (nominated).
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Larry Kramer (nominated)
  • Best Cinematography: Billy Williams (selected).

The film takes place in 1920 in the midlands mining town of Beldover. Two sisters, Ursula (Jennie Lindon) and Gudrun (Glenda Jackson) discuss marriage on their way to the wedding of Laura Crich, daughter of the town’s wealthy mine owner. At the village church, a particular wedding party member fascinates each sister – Gudrun by Laura’s brother, Gerald (Oliver Reed), and Ursula by Gerald’s best friend, Rupert Birkin (Alan Bates). Ursula is a school teacher, and Rupert is a school inspector; she remembers his visit to her classroom, interrupting her botany lesson to discourse on the sexual nature of the catkin. A mutual friend later brings the four together, and as Jennie and Rupert start dating, so do Gudrun and Gerald.

What makes this a queer film is the famous nude wrestling scene by Firelight between Redd (Gerald) and Bates (Rupert). Rupert enjoys their closeness and says they should swear to love each other. Still, Gerald cannot understand Rupert’s idea of wanting to have an emotional union with a man and an emotional and physical union with a woman.

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17. There Was a Crooked Man (1970) B+

There Was a Crooked Man

Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Well-Adjusted Gay Couple, Arizona Territory 1883.

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Dudley Whiner (Hume Cronyn)

*Cyrus McNutt (John Randolph)

The “marriage” of Hume Cronyn’s Mr. Whiner and John Randolph’s Mr. McNutt in JLM’s “There Was a Crooked Man” is Hollywood‘s first presentation of a happy and well-adjusted gay couple. Yes, they fight and bicker all the time. However, they are madly in love with each other. No, Cronyn and Randolph are not in We-Ho or the Hamptons. They are in a feeble excuse for jail or, as Scarlet O’Hara would put it, a horse jail! We were in the Arizona territory circa 1883. The main plot involves a $500,000 loot hidden by Kirk Douglas, who somehow also ends up in said jail and who is being hunted by Henry Fonda‘s Sheriff Woodward W. Lopeman.

This was the uber-famous director’s only Western, and it is a marvelous ride with a witty, intelligent script by David Newman and Robert Benton. The boys were fresh from their triumph with “Bonnie and Clyde.”

However, in many ways, it’s like Mankiewcz has been transported back to an alternate “All About Eve,” with Hume Cronyn and John Randolph taking over from Bette Davis and Thelma Ritter, respectively. Two of the greatest character actors in Hollywood history, they play their roles with great knowingness and respect. In addition, all the while being brilliantly funny. Cheers!

Original screenplay by David Newman and Robert Benton.

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18. The Boys in the Band (1970) A

The Boys in the Band (1970)

William Friedkin

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Michael (Kenneth Nelson)

*Harold (Leonard Frey)

*Emory (Cliff Gorman)

*Donald (Frederick Colms)

*Hank (Laurence Luckinbill)

*Larry (Keith Prentice)

*Cowboy Tex (Robert La Tourneaux)

*Bernard (Reuben Greene)

*Alan McCarthy (Peter White)

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

WRITER: Mart Crowley

ACTOR: Kenneth Nelson (RIP 1993 AIDS-related illness)

ACTOR: Leonard Frey (RIP 1988 AIDS-related illness)

ACTOR: FREDERICK COLMS (RIP 1992 AIDS-related illness)

ACTOR: Robert La Tourneaux (RIP 1986 AIDS-related illness)

ACTOR: Keith Prentice (R.I.P. 1992 AIDS-related illness)

As we saw in the 2020 remake, Mart Crowley’s play “The Boys in the Band” has stood the test of time beautifully. The original adaption, directed by William Friedkin before he made “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist,” is essential viewing for every gay man. The standouts are Kenneth Nelson, Leonard Frey, and Cliff Gorman (stunning as Emory, and he was straight (!) in real life).

A SOMBER GATHERING

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19. Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970) A+

Diary of a Mad Housewife_Frank  Langella

Frank Perry

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*George Prager (Frank Langella)

The last movie that director Frank Perry and his screenwriter wife Eleanor made together was their best. An excellent adaptation of the bestselling novel “Diary of a Mad Housewife” by Sue Kaufman, it stars Carrie Snodgress as Tina, an upper-middle-class housewife who gets no respect from either her whining and demanding husband (Richard Benjamin, highly sought after at this point in his career before he turned director) or her arrogant and demanding lover (Frank Langella making his film debut). The movie’s only sour note, a product of its times, is that Langella’s character turns out to be gay, thus explaining all the nasty things he did to Tina throughout their relationship.

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20. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) A-

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

Billy Wilder

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Sherlock Holmes (Robert Stephens)

Billy Wilder’s affectionate, slightly parodic look at the Holmes-Watson relationship.

It’s August 1887, and Holmes is approached by a famous Russian ballerina, Madame Petrova, who wants to have a child and proposes that Sherlock Holmes be the father, hoping that their offspring will inherit her beauty and his intellect. Holmes extricates himself by claiming that Watson (Colin Blakely) is his lover, much to the doctor’s embarrassment. At 221B, Watson confronts Holmes about the reality of the ensuing rumors. Holmes only states that Watson is “being presumptuous” by asking Holmes whether he has had relationships with women.

Director Billy Wilder has said he originally intended to portray Holmes explicitly as a repressed homosexual, stating:

I should have been more daring. I have this theory. I wanted to have Holmes homosexual and not admitting it to anyone, including maybe even himself. The burden of keeping it secret was the reason he took dope.

Billy Wilder: Gemünden, Gerd (2008). A Foreign Affair: Billy Wilder’s American Films. Brooklyn: Berghahn Books. p. 147ISBN 978-1-78533-475-7.

This is, without a doubt, the underrated gem in the Wilder canon. Excellent work by Robert Stephens (his best screen performance) and Blakely, and Geneviève Page gives a gorgeous melancholy performance as a German spy secretly in love with Holmes. The Russian Ballet/Tchaikovsky sequence is a classic and represents Wilder at best.

Original screenplay by Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond

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21. Death in Venice (1971) A-

Death in Venice

Luchino Visconti

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Gustav von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde)

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DIRECTOR: Luchino Visconti

ACTOR: Dirk Bogarde

WOULDN’T YOU JUST DIE WITHOUT MAHLER?

After “The Damned,” Visconti and Bogarde collaborated on adapting the Thomas Mann novel “Death in Venice.” It’s gorgeous if a bit slow-moving. Visconti’s best idea was changing von Aschenbach’s profession from a writer to a composer, opening the movie to the magnificent Gustav Mahler Adagietto (Symphony No.5). The object of beauty, who was presented after a massive Visconti-lead talent search, is Bjorn Andresen – he did NOT vanish. We recently saw him, to great effect, in Ari Aster’s “Midsommar”.

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22. The Garden of the Finzi Continis (1971) A-

The Garden of the Finzi Cortinis

Vittorio De Sica

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Alberto Finzi Contini (Helmut Berger)

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ACTOR: Helmut Berger

SOURCE MATERIAL: Based on the novel of the same name by Giorgio Bassani

Directed by Vittorio De Sica, “The Garden of the Finzi Continis” is based on the semi-autobiographical novel by gay Italian writer Giorgio Bassani. His character in the book and the film, Alberto, is played by gay actor Helmut Berger fresh from Visconti’s “The Damned” and it’s a very different performance. Alberto is clearly in love with his friend Malnate, a young man with imposing physicality and communist leanings, played by Fabio Testi. Alberto delights to be in Malnate’s presence and reacts jealously when he senses that his sister Micol (Dominique Sanda) and Malnate may be getting closer. Will Alberto’s love be reciprocated? Of course, the Finzi Contini’s are living on borrowed time. Beyond their wall-off compound, the Jews of Mussolini’s Italy are being rounded up with an express ticket to the concentration camps.

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23. Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) A

Sunday Bloody Sunday

John Schlesinger

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Daniel Hirsh (Peter Finch)

*Bob Elkin (Murray Head)

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DIRECTOR: John Schlesinger

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Billy Williams

FEATURES THE FIRST AFFECTIONATE ONSCREEN KISS BETWEEN TWO MEN IN A TALKING MOTION PICTURE

In “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” Murray Head plays a free-spirited bisexual who is having simultaneous relationships with a divorced recruitment consultant (Glenda Jackson) and a gay Jewish doctor (Peter Finch). Although you always feel that Glenda’s character will “win out,” Peter Finch gives a beautiful, thoroughly convincing performance. He is also one of the first gay characters on film to be comfortable in his skin. Compared to Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo in Schlesinger’s previous film “Midnight Cowboy,” Finch’s doctor is positively walking on sunshine. He also gets an excellent monologue at the film’s end – “I am happy, apart from missing him” – which is spoken directly to the camera. It’s an acting tour de force that has never been bettered. Look out for Daniel Day-Lewis in a small role.

Original screenplay by Penelope Gilliatt.

NOW STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME, APPLE TV+, YOUTUBE (SCREENPIX)

24. The Anderson Tapes (1971) D

The Anderson Tapes

Sidney Lumet

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Haskins (Martin Balsam)

FAIRY QUEEN NUMBER TWO

Just three years before they made their landmark gay movie “Dog Day Afternoon,” director Sidney Lumet and writer Frank Pierson gave us a nasty gay stereotype in Haskins (played by heterosexual actor Martin Balsam), an antique dealer (of course!) who helps a just-out-of-jail Sean Connery carry out the robbery of a luxury apartment building – his job is to show, with a very limp wrist, his fellow robbers the best pieces to steal. Hamming it up and mincing all over the place, this is a cringe-worthy performance made all the worse by the fact that the character is rarely referred to by his given name, just The Fag. As for the movie, it’s a bore – its only claim to fame is the credit; “Introducing Christopher Walken,” who makes his film debut here.

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25. Cabaret (1972) A+

Cabaret

Bob Fosse

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Brian (Michael York)

*Baron Maximillian (Helmut Griem)

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WRITER: Christopher Isherwood (book)

WRITER: John Van Druton (play)

Berlin,1931—the closing days of the Weimer Republic. The Nazi party will be in power in less than two years. We are with Brian (Michael York), the delectable Miss Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli), and Baron Maximilian (Helmut Griem).

“Fuck Maximillian!” “I do!” “So do I.”

These are some of the sweetest words ever spoken on film.

The film is based on the 1966 Broadway musical “Cabaret” by Kander and Ebb, which was adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s semi-autobiographical novel “The Berlin Stories” (1945) and the John Van Druten play “I Am a Camera” which was itself adapted from the same work. With Bob Fosse’s revolutionary choreography and direction and Liza’s stunning performance, this is one of the best films ever made. Don’t forget Joel Grey’s irrepressible host at the Kit Kat Club and those amazing Kander and Ebb songs.

Adapted by J. Presson Allen from the autobiographical novel “The Berlin Stories” by Christopher Isherwood, the play “I Am a Camera” by John Van Druten and the 1966 Broadway music “Cabaret” by Kander and Ebb.

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26. Pink Flamingos (1972)

Rated C (Solo) High Camp at a Midnight Screening

John Waters

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Babs Johnson (Divine)

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

DIRECTOR (John Waters)

ACTOR (Divine né Harris Glenn Milstead)

After two under-the-radar curiosities, John Waters and his star, the fabulous drag queen Divine (né Harris Glenn Milstead), arrived on the scene in the fall of 1972 with “Pink Flamingos,” a very sick-and-twisted black comedy and the first part of his “Trash Trilogy”, which also includes “Female Trouble” (1974) and “Desperate Living” (1977). Divine plays a criminal named Babs Johnson, who is proud to be the filthiest person alive. While living in a trailer with her mother, Edie (Edith Massey), and companion Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce), she is confronted by the Marbles (David Lochary and Mink Stole), a pair of criminals envious of her reputation who try to outdo her in filth. The scene in which Divine eats dog poop is not for the faint at heart.

Like “Valley of the Dolls” and “Rocky Horror,” the ONLY way to see “Pink Flamingos” is as a GROUP EXPERIENCE with a very gay crowd. Like the majority of his films, “Pink Flamingos” is set in Waters’s hometown of Baltimore, which he affectionately calls the “white trash capital of the world.”

Original screenplay by Waters.

The Dreamlanders

John Waters’s group of stock players. Most live, or lived, in the Baltimore area. Divine, Edith Massey, Mink Stole and Rikki Lake were essential to Water’s transition from cult favorite to “acceptance” by mainstream America with “Polyester” and particularly “Hairspray.”

Actor and/or Crew
Pink Flamingos
(1972)

Female Trouble
(1974)

Desperate Living
(1977)
Polyester
(1981)

Hairspray
(1988)


Cry-Baby
(1990)

Serial Mom
(1994)
DivineYesYesYesYes
David LocharyYesYes
Susan LoweYesYesYesYesYesYes
Edith MasseyYesYesYesYes
Cookie MuellerYesYesYesYes
Mary Vivian PearceYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Channing WilroyYesYesYesYes
Jean HillYesYes
Mink StoleYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
George FiggsYesYesYesYesYes
Elizabeth CoffeyYesYesYesYes
George StoverYesYesYesYes
Patty HearstYesYes
Pat MoranYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Vincent PeranioYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Val SmithYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Steve YeagerYesYesYesYes
Ricki LakeYesYesYes
Traci LordsYesYes

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

27. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972) A

The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant

Rainer Werner Fassbinder

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Petra von Kant (Margit Carstensen)

*Marlene (Irm Hermann)

*Karin Thimm (Hanna Schygulla)

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

WRITER: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

DIRECTOR: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

QUEER CINEMA MEETS NEW GERMAN CINEMA: PART ONE.

A landmark in both Queer Cinema and the New German Cinema, Fassbinder’s examination of the dynamics of a lesbian love triangle was shot, in true Fassbinder fashion, over a few hours in der Wunderkind’s apartment. However, “Petra Von Kant” is as influential today as in 1972. Based on Fassbinder’s play, it takes place entirely in the home of its eponymous heroine, an outrageously spoilt fashion designer. When a new sexually fluid young thing arrives from Australia (Hanna Schygulla), Petra (Margit Carstensen) begins to turn her attention away from her loyal friend and caretaker Marlene (Irm Hermann), leading the viewer down avenues of emotional codependency you never knew existed. If the plot sounds familiar, it was remade in 1998 by Lisa Cholodenko as “High Art” with Ally Sheedy, Patricia Clarkson, and Radha Mitchell.

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28. Pete ‘n’ Tillie (1972) B-

Pete 'n' Tillie

Martin Ritt

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Jimmy Twitchell (René Auberjonois)

Tillie (Carol Burnett) is single in her late thirties. At a party, she is introduced to Pete (Walter Matthau), a confirmed bachelor. On their first date, given a choice of beverages from Burnett, Matthau answers, “Whatever’s the most trouble.” It’s the best line in the movie, and it occurs way too early.

Next thing you know, they are a married couple and are double blessed – or have a good fortune – since Pete is an avowed Atheist – when Tillie gives birth to a little boy they call Robbie (Lee Montgomery). The years go by, and although they have problems, the marriage is stable until one day, when he is nine, Robbie is diagnosed with a fatal illness.

Both Burnett and, mainly, Matthau were at the top of their game when this movie came out in 1972. Matthau’s next film, Don Siegel’s “Charley Varrick,” contains his most outstanding performance. However, “Pete’ n’ Tillie” is flat. The two stars seem afraid to let go, and the script gives them nothing to hold on to. It looks and feels like a movie of the week when that term was used in a derogatory sense.

Each of them deals with the tragedy in their own way. Pete moves out, starts having affairs, and drowns his sorrows in alcohol. Tillie finds comfort in the company of her best friend, Gertrude, played by Geraldine Page. This was Page’s fifth of her eight Oscar nominations. She gets a lot of mileage out of the fact that Gertrude never divulges her age. Then there is the long-drawn-out catfight with Burnett, which inspired the Anne Bancroft-Shirley MacLaine brawl in “The Turning Point” five years later. However (and I am a huge fan), she did not deserve the nod. It’s one of her least impressive performances. And then there is her other best friend, Jimmy, the film’s token gay guy, played by René Auberjonois, who had one of the most memorable names in cinema.

There is nothing special about Jimmy except that he knows Gertrude’s actual age (well, he is the token gay guy). Meanwhile, director Martin Ritt and screenwriter Julius J. Epstein (Oscar nomination) make him a kind of saint with no life. All he wants to do is take care of Tillie, and he even offers to marry her if that would make her happy (she wisely refuses). It’s not precisely a gay stereotype, but it’s a bit one-dimensional.

Original screenplay by Julius J. Epstein.

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29. Play It As It Lays (1972) C-

Play It As It Lays

Frank Perry

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*BZ. Mendenhall (Anthony Perkins)

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

Anthony Perkins

Director Frank Perry’s first film following his divorce from screenwriter wife Eleanor, and she is sorely missed.

His choice was Joan Dideon’s novel “Play It As It Lays.”

Adaptation: Perry with Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne

Producers: Perry with Didion’s brother-in-law Dominick Dunne

Tuesday Weld’s Maria is a movie actress who strolls on the grounds of a mental hospital, recalling the traumatic events that led to her breakdown. She is married to an unfaithful, self-engrossed director (Adam Roarke) who neglects her. Following a series of one-night stands, she becomes pregnant. Her husband divorces her, and she has an illegal abortion. Maria’s only friend is B.Z., a homosexual movie producer played by Anthony Perkins. World-weary, he tells Maria that he has discovered the meaning of life is nothing. He invites her to commit suicide with him. However, she decides to live and cradles him as he dies after overdosing on sleeping tablets.

It’s a very Seventies movie, adapted from one of Didion’s weaker novels. Unfortunately, despite a good performance by Weld, the film only comes alive when she is driving endlessly around LA’s spectacular freeways. Perkins is passable in the underwritten role of another doomed homosexual.

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30. Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973) B-

Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams

Gilbert Cates

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Bobby Walden (Ron Rickards)

In 1973, four years before we became accustomed to Woody Allen presenting us with various versions of Manhattan in all his movies, from “Annie Hall” (1977) to “Melinda and Melinda” (2004), Gilbert Cates gave us a very Allenesque avant la lettre film “Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams.” A Manhattan where our leading lady shops at Saks, goes to excellent restaurants, and whose idea of a pleasant afternoon is seeing a screening of Ingmar Bergman’s “Wild Strawberries” at a revival house with her mother.

That person is Rita Walden, played beautifully by Joanne Woodward in what may be her best performance (Oscar nomination and the second of her three NYFCC awards for Best Actress). Rita is about to go through a midlife crisis triggered by the death of said mother (a marvelous Sylvia Sidney who was also Oscar-nominated). There’s her mother’s estate to be taken care of. Then, Rita questions her choice to marry her ophthalmologist husband, played by Martin Balsam, in a beautifully understated performance that dominates the latter half of the film.

Her son Bobby (Ron Rickards), who has moved incommunicado to Amsterdam, is gay. Bobby only gets one scene, and it’s of the very creepy homophobic variety. Woodward accidentally intrudes on a potentially intimate moment between him and his “friend” in Bobby’s bedroom. Bobby behaves abominably in that nasty way that only gay male characters can muster in Hollywood films. All the while, his friend, a ballet dancer (of course!), keeps doing his little pirouettes and demi plies, maintaining eye contact with Joanne in a vaguely confrontational manner. Well! This flashback occurs as part of Rita’s dream after she nods off at the above “Wild Strawberries” screening.

The original screenplay is by Stewart Stern, who had dealt more sympathetically with homosexuality in such films as “Rebel Without a Cause” (original) and “Rachel, Rachel” (adapted).

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31. The Day of the Jackel (1973) A

The Day of the Jackel

Fred Zinnemann

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Jules Bernard (Anton Rodgers)

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

Derek Jacobi

In director Fred Zinnemmann’s superb edge-of-your-seat 142-minute adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s 1971 novel of the same name, two innocent people are murdered as the French and English police – led by French actor Michel Lonsdale – try desperately to find “The Jackal.” That is the code name of the hit man for hire who plans to assassinate President Charles de Gaulle as he hands out medals on the Place du 18 juin 1940, in Paris, on Liberation Day, 1963. The first murder results from a heterosexual affair, so it gets more attention. Also, this first victim is an upper-class French woman, Madame de Montpellier, who is played by the gorgeous French star Delphine Seyrig, then at the peak of her stardom following “Last Year at Marienbad,” “Muriel” and “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.” “The Jackal,” brilliantly played by Edward Fox, meets her at an expensive hotel, and later, as the police close in around him, he follows her to her mansion and, after she tells him that the police have been to see her, he kills her.

The second murder results from a homosexual affair, so it gets less screen time. Back in Paris, with the murder of Madame de Montpellier on the news stations and the police now knowing his nom de guerre and having alerted all of the hotels in Paris, “The Jackal” knows that he must find somewhere else to stay. So, barely escaping the police at the train station, he asks the taxi driver to take him to a Turkish Bath where, as he hoped, he is hit on by a French man named Jules Bernard (played by English actor Anthony “Anton” Rodgers) who invites him back to his home to spend the evening. All seems to go as planned until Jules overhears the newsflash on the television, and like Madame de Montpellier before him, he is immediately dispatched, in his case, to that great gay sauna in the sky.

What we have here is another example of a gay character whose sole purpose in the movie is to be killed.

Our consolation is that Zinnemmann and Rodgers treat him with a modicum of respect – we get a glimpse of his life outside the bathhouse, and Rodgers manages to do his best with his few minutes of screentime. That his murder is a mirror image of Seyrig’s also eases the pain (a little).

Otherwise, I always sit back and enjoy this beautifully made film, which reminds me of what a great director Fred Zinnemmann could be when working from suitable material.

Openly gay actor Derek Jacobi is among the marvelous cast, a virtual who’s who of excellent English and French character actors, plus the occasional star.

Oscar nomination for Best Editing of 1973 (Ralph Kemplen)

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32A. Save the Tiger (1973) B-

Save the Tiger

John G. Avildsen

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Rico (Harvey Jason)

FAIRY QUEEN NUMBER THREE

Jack Lemmon and Jack Guilford go to see a porn movie at The Mayan, and there is a fashion show at The Biltmore. But the most fascinating thing about this movie is its attitude toward one gay character. Fifty years ago, if you were gay, the center of the entertainment industry was not a friendly place.

A time capsule. A time capsule of how horrific it was to be a gay man in 1973. The head seamster, Meyer (William Hansen), has been through the Holocaust and pogroms back in the old country. Still, he cannot stand to work with The Fairy (heterosexual actor Harvey Jason) – HE CANNOT BE IN THE PLAYPEN WITH FAIRIES, EVEN TALENTED FAIRIES – who has designed the entire collection that Jack Lemmon and his partner Jack Gilford’s financially struggling Los Angeles apparel company Capri Casuals (Oh come on! Who is the real fairy here?) is entirely dependent on to get through the next 12 months. The writer Steve Shagen, an educated Jew, is in the Stone Age when it comes to a human being who has a different sexual preference than himself. Again, it always amazes me that a tribe whose people have been so oppressed themselves and have such a passion for learning and the arts can be so virulently homophobic. Back in the seventies, gay men and women had to endure a parade of dykes and sissies trotted out by the supreme purveyors of Jewish humor Mel Brooks and Neil Simon. However, The Fairy is supposed to be an actual person. He is a real character treated with absolute contempt by the man who created him. Meyer will not refer to his coworker by his given name, just The Fairy.

The sad thing is that there is a lot to admire about this movie, which was shot on location in the garment district of LA. Although Lemmon misses the mark, Jack Gilford is superb as the voice of reason, and Thayer David has a few choice moments as the arsonist in the movie theatre balcony with whom Lemmon and Gilford have a clandestine meeting as a porno movie plays in the background. The director is John G. Avildsen, who would win an Oscar for directing “Rocky.”

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32B. A Touch of Class (1973) C+

A Touch of Class

Melvin Frank

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Cecil (Timothy Carlton Congdon Cumberbatch – uncredited)

FAIRY QUEEN NUMBER FOUR

The year is 1973. The setting is London, and we have Glenda Jackson and George Segal in Melvin Frank’s declasse “ A Touch of Class,” another movie that nobody sees today because the bloom has faded from the rose (Jackson’s Oscar for Best Actress is on a par with Jack Lemmon’s Best Actor for “Save the Tiger” that same year – utterly undeserved and the worst of that year’s five choices – Joanne Woodward’s reaction to her being named the winner is priceless). Jackson’s character works in the garment industry, so we are on fairy alert. And, wouldn’t you know it, one of them does descend on her office just as Segal is visiting. He’s got a swishy fairy attitude, which he unwisely unleashes on Jackson as he minces about her office. His name is Cecil, and he is played, believe it or not, in an uncredited part by Benedict Cumberbatch’s dad, Timothy Carlton Congdon Cumberbatch, who is known professionally as Timothy Carlton. Jackson wonders why a particular document is not typed. The dialogue is as follows:

You know I only type with one finger and (pause), I’ve hurt it

Cecil

Don’t tell me how!

Jackson, dripping contempt.

Original screenplay by Melvin Frank and Jack Rose.

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33. The Great Gatsby (1974) B

The Great Gatsby

Jack Clayton

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Nick Carraway (Sam Waterston)

*Jordan Baker (Lois Chiles)

I love to see you at my table, Nick. You remind me of a – of a rose, an absolute rose

Daisy Buchanan – The Great Gatsby

I hope she will be a fool

Daidy Buchanan – The Great Gatsby

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they made

Nick Carraway – The Great Gatsby

Produced by David Merrick and directed by Jack Clayton, from an adaptation by Francis Ford Coppola, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age masterpiece, a novel of astonishing economy and grace, was stretched out into a bloated 150 minutes.

This third film version of “Gatsby” – the first two were also at Paramount; as a silent film in 1926 with Warner Baxter – this film is now lost – and in 1949 with Alan Ladd as Gatsby – nevertheless boasts an astonishing collection of talent both in front of and behind the camera.

When I first saw the movie on its initial release in 1974, I felt that Robert Redford was more like a mannequin than a living person. However, I have grown to like his performance more and more over the years. Sam Waterston is superb as the narrator and our first gay character, Nick Carraway. He is more overtly gay in the novel, where his detailed physical descriptions of the other male characters, particularly Tom (Bruce Dern), catch our attention. His sensitive, almost asexual presence here is equally striking, so much so that even Redford comes alive in their scenes together. People were sharply divided by Mia Farrow’s Daisy Buchanan. I have always thought that Farrow made an endlessly fascinating Daisy. Her charm just barely disguises the emptiness and selfishness lurking underneath the surface.

Then there is the supporting cast lead by Dern, his mistress Karen Black, and her poor struggling husband played by the always underrated Scott Wilson. This brings us to the film’s more overtly gay character, Jordan Baker, who drives a car, is a professional golfer, and whose last name is a reference to a certain sexually fluid American ex-pat who, at the time of Gatsby’s publication in 1925, was the toast of Paris. Lois Chiles is beautiful but bland, and she brings this blandness over into her character, who has devil-may-care invincibility about her. Jordan seems astonished at how liberating it is to be a woman of any sexual orientation in this fantastic new decade. And unlike Daisy, whose choice is limited to choosing between Gatsby or Tom, a scandal or a trophy wife, her future as a newly liberated woman seems limitless. Chiles and Farrow would be paired again four years later in another famous adaptation, this time John Guillermin’s delightful version of Agatha Christie’s “Death on the Nile” (1978).

Meanwhile, there are the endless parties at Gatsby, including plenty of shots of female couples doing the black bottom – I would have to watch the film again to see if there are any quick cutaways to male-on-male shenanigans.

The film won two Oscars. One was for Theoni V. Aldredge’s striking costumes, which instituted a brief Gatsby fashion craze and beat out an astounding Best Costume Design lineup that year, including Anthea Sylbert for “Chinatown,” Theodora Van Runkle for “The Godfather Part II,” Tony Walton for “Murder on the Orient Express” and John Furness for “Daisy Miller.”

The second was for Nelson Riddle’s adapted score, which used the plaintive refrain from Irvin Berlin’s 1923 song “What’ll I Do” to profound effect.

The gorgeous cinematography was by Douglas Slocombe, who should have been nominated but wasn’t.

With Brooke Adams, very striking as a party guest (uncredited), and Patsy Kinset as Daisy and Tom’s daughter.

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34. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Rated C (Solo) High Camp at a Midnight Screening

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Jim Sharman

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry)

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

ACTOR: Tim Curry

Every boy and every girl, whether gay or straight, must see Richard O’Brien’s fantastical creation, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” It has been running continuously on one stage or another/one film theatre or another for almost 50 years since its debut in London’s West End in 1973 and the release of the Lou Adler-produced movie in 1975. It is a GROUP EXPERIENCE with those inspired zingers returning to the screen, resulting from a generation of audience members’ brilliant responses, which is the real entertainment. So, let’s join Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) as they find themselves in the world of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (the incredible Tim Curry), Riff Raff (O’Brien), Magenta (Patricia Quinn), Columbia, a Groupie (Nell Campbell aka Little Nell), Dr. Everett V. Scott, a rival scientist (Jonathan Adams), Eddie, an ex-delivery boy (Meat Loaf) and, finally, The Criminologist, An Expert (Charles Gray) to do …….

Science Fiction/Double Feature – The Lips (those of Patricia Quinn; the voice of Richard O’Brien).

Dammit, Janet – Brad, Janet, and Chorus.

There’s a Light (Over at the Frankenstein Place) – Janet, Brad, Riff Raff, and Chorus.

The Time Warp – Riff Raff, Magenta, The Criminologist, Columbia, and Transylvanians.

Sweet Transvestite – Frank.

The Sword of Damocles – Rocky and the Transylvanians.

Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me – Janet with Magenta, Columbia, Rocky, Brad, Frank, and Riff Raf.

Rose Tint My World – Columbia, Rocky, Janet, and Brad.

Fanfare/Don’t Dream It, Be It – Frank with Brad, Janet, Rocky, and Columbia.

Wild and Untamed Thing– Frank with Brad, Janet, Rocky, Columbia, and Riff Raff

I’m Going Home – Frank and Chorus

The Time Warp (Reprise)– Riff Raff and Magenta

Science Fiction/Double Feature (Reprise)– The Lips

Adapted from the West End musical by Richard O’Brien.

NOW SHOWING AT A LATE-NIGHT MOVIE THEATRE NEAR YOU EVERY FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHT!

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35. Barry Lyndon (1975) A

Barry Lyndon

Stanley Kubrick

LGNTQ+ CHARACTER

*Lt. Jonathan Fakenham, gay British soldier (Jonathan Cecil)

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

ACTOR: Murray Melvin

In Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” (1975), there is a moment where Barry (Ryan O’Neal) finds two soldiers naked and holding hands in a pond. They confess their love for each other. In times like this, I realize how much I care for you and how impossibly empty life would be without you. Barry overhears their conversation. He takes advantage of the situation, steals the clothes of one of the men, and assumes his identity. The scene is humorous. But does it mock the lovers? The first time I saw it, I thought so. However, I have come to look at the scene more favorably on repeated viewings. It shows that same-sex love existed in the eighteenth century. It is an incidental moment, and the scene does not go beyond this. However, the expression of true love remains with the viewer.

Gay Actor Murray Melvin plays the Reverend Runt, who, by all appearances, is devoted to Lady Lyndon (Marisa Berenson) but is cruelly dismissed by Barry’s mother (Marie Kean).

Adapted from the novel “The Luck of Barry Lyndon” (1844) by William Makepeace Thackeray.

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36. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) A+

Dog Day Afternoon

Sidney Lumet

LGBTQ CHARACTER

*Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino)

*Leon Shermer (Chris Sarandon)

WITH BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, THE BEST queer MOVIE EVER MADE.

1975: NOMINATED FOR BEST FILM | BEST DIRECTOR | BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE | BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE.

1975: OSCAR WINNER FOR BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY (FRANK PIERSON)

Sidney Lumet’s masterpiece is based on actual events. On a hot August afternoon in 1972, Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) and Sal Naturile (John Cazale) attempt to rob the First Brooklyn Savings Bank but only find $1,100 in cash and end up being surrounded by the police. Sonny wants the money to get his lover Leon a sex change, and as a long day journeys into the night, things turn into a circus.

Pacino is magnificent. With Michael Corleone in The Godfather movie, it’s his defining role. And director Sidney Lumet, working wonders in an enclosed space, gets the scenes between Sonny and Leon (Chris Sarandon, excellent) precisely right. Funny but endearing. Not a trace of condescension.

Great work by Charles Durning as the head police officer.

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37. Fox and His Friends (1975) B

Fox and His Friends

Rainer Werner Fassbinder

LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

*Franz “Fox” Bieberkopf (Rainer Werner Fasbinder)

*Eugen (Peter Chatel)

*Max (Karlheinz Böhm)

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

ACTOR: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

WRITER: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

DIRECTOR: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

QUEER CINEMA MEETS NEW GERMAN CINEMA: PART TWO.

Fassbinder’s companion piece to “Bitter Tears,” which he had made three years previously. Here, he casts himself against type as a working-class gay man who wins the lottery and then falls in love with the elegant son of an industrialist (Peter Chatel). His lover tries to mold him into a gilt-edged mirror of upper-class values, ultimately swindling the easily flattered “Fox” out of his fortune. A fascinating look at gay life in the seventies, it’s one of at least a dozen great movies Fassbinder wrote and directed in the decade before his untimely death. Karlheinz Böhm, who starred in Michael Powel’s “Peeping Tom” in 1960, is the older sophisticate who introduces Fox to his circle of wealthy friends.

 The name of Fassbinder’s character was taken from the 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz. which the director later adapted for television.

NOW STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME, APPLE TV+, The Criterion Collection, MAX (YOUTUBE)

38. Grey Gardens (1975) A+

Grey Gardens

Albert and David Maysles

LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

None. But Big and Little Edie Bouvier have entered the hearts of gay men everywhere!

I need profesional music!

Big Edie Bouvier

The film “Grey Gardens” tells the story of Big Edie and Little Edie Bouvier, the aunt and cousin of former First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. When the brothers Albert and David Maysles discovered them in the early seventies, Big Edie, who was almost eighty at the time, and Little Edie, who was 56, appeared to be stuck in another era, holding onto their aristocratic past while living in a crumbling house and caring for numerous cats and raccoons.

The Maysles were already famous for their unique style of filmmaking, which they had used in such classics as “Salesman” (1969) and “Gimme Sheler” (1970), where, at The Rolling Stones Altamont Free Concert, they unexpectedly captured on film the altercation between Altamont attendee Meredith Hunter and Hells Angel Alan Passaro that resulted in Hunter’s death. Film footage shows Hunter drawing and pointing a revolver just before being stabbed by Passaro, who was later acquitted of Hunter’s murder on self-defense grounds after the jury viewed the footage. They christened their style Direct Cinema, a type of cinéma vérité with no directorial interference, although some critics, such as Pauline Kael, accused them of staging and more!

The filmmakers gained Big Edie’s and Little Edie’s trust and filmed at Grey Gardens for several weeks. They and their co-directors, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, then carefully edited their footage to create a remarkable documentary that captured the essence of the women and their unique lifestyles. After its release, the film’s high campness – a tragic story set in the faded milieu of New York high society and some deliciously bitchy one-liners between mother and daughter – developed a significant gay following. Little Edie had a unique fashion sense, particularly with her head scarves, and, over time, some gay fashion designers credited her as an inspiration for their work. She was also a wanna-be cabaret artist, and after her mother’s death, she did achieve her goal of signing in some of Manhattan’s top Cabaret venues, mainly to the gay audiences who had grown to love her over the years since the film’s release.

The documentary received a Criterion Collection DVD release in 2001, where it is now available for screening. By the turn of the century, it had become a definitive gay cult classic, inspiring songs such as Rufus Wainright’s “Grey Gardens.” In 2006, the film was adapted into a musical play by three gay men: Doug Wright, Scott Frankel, and Michael Korie. In 2009, it was adapted into a highly successful TV movie by gay writer/directors Michael Sucsy and Patricia Rozema. It starred Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore as Big and Little Edie, respectively; Jeanne Tripplehorn as Jacqueline Kennedy; Ayre Gross and Justin Lewis as Albert and Maysles.

The Maysles brothers have returned in high style, thanks to the conceit behind the third episode, “Masquerade 1966,” of Ryan Murphy’s tremendous new limited series “Feud: Capote vs the Swans.” Written by Jon Robin Baitz and directed by Gus Van Sant, the episode brilliantly interweaves the footage the brothers filmed (with Charlotte Zwerin) for their documentary “With Love from Truman” in which Truman Capote, having just published his masterpiece, “In Cold Blood,” has reinterred New York society and is sorting the invitations (who is in and who is out) to his famous 1966 Masked Ball at the Plaza Hotel. In what has to be some of the most mesmerizing moments in television history, the entire episode – apart from the closing moments, when Truman (the excellent Tom Hollander) dances with the ghost of his dead mother (Murphy’s muse, the incredible Jessica Lang back after playing Joan Crawford in “Feud: Bette and Joan”) while The Swans – Babe Paley (Naomi Watts), Slim Keith (Diane Lane), C. Z. Guest (Chloe Sevigny) and Lee Radziwell (Calista Flockhart) look on – is shown as part of the brothers’ “footage” giving The Swans ample time to bitch and moan about Truman. Pawel Szajda plays Albert and Yuval David plays David. There is a scene where Truman flirts outrageously with Albert in the back seat of a car and another where Truman and Albert slow dance in Truman’s living room. It’s during this scene that Albert quotes Saint Theresa of Avilla: “More tears are shed over Answered Prayers than unanswered ones,” giving Truman the title of his new book on New York society that he would never publish – apart from the articles in Esquire Magazine in 1975 in which he betrayed the trust of The Swans and for which Paley and Keith never forgave him. David Maysles died from a brain hemorrhage at age 55 in 1987. Albert died at age 88 in 2015.

GREY GARDENS, THE DOCUMENTARY BY ALBERT AND DAVID MATSLES, IS NOW STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME, APPLE TV+, YOUTUBE and THE CRITERION COLLECTION

GREY GARDENS, THE TV MOVIE, IS NOW STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME, APPLE TV+ AND YOUTUBE THROUGH MAX.

FEUD: CAPOTE VS. SWANS IS CURRENTLY STREAMING ON HULU (FX)

39. Ode to Billy Joe (1976) C

Ode to Billy Joe

Max Baer

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Billy Joe McAllister (Robby Benson)

Why did Billy Joe McAllister jump off the Tallahassee Bridge?

After listening to Bobbie Gentry’s haunting song, the question we have always been asking ourselves should have remained a mystery. That was the song’s allure—the song’s magic.

Unfortunately, in the summer of 1976, the mystery was “solved” by screenwriter Herman Raucher (“Summer of ‘42″) and actor turned director Max Baer (formerly Jethro in “The Beverly Hillbillies”) whether we liked it or not.

The answer: Because he slept with a man.

Robby Benson is sympathetic as the unfortunate title character, as is Glynnis O’Connor, his girlfriend – until the plot overtakes her toward the end. Meanwhile, Joan Hotchkis is perfect as O’Connor’s mother. However, the film is reductive and backward-looking, and the final scene can only be described as outrageous.

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40. Carrie (1976) A+

Brian De Palma

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

Miss Collins, the gym teacher (Betty Buckley)

QUOTES

Plug it up! Plug it up! Plug it Up! Plug it up!

In the showers, the girls (including Sue, Chris, Norma, and Helen (Amy Irving, Nancy Allen, P.J. Soles, and Edie McClurg) throw tampons and sanitary pads at Carrie They are taking the communal shower after a game of volleyball, which Carrie is responsible for losing. Carrie, hysterical and covered in blood with her arms outstretched, runs towards the girls after she experiences, at age sixteen, her first period. Her mother (Piper Laurie), a religious fanatic, has never told her about menstruation.

That was a really shitty thing you did yesterday, a really shitty thing!

Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) to Sue (Amy Irving).

Ballots? Ballots anyone? Ballots?

Norma (P. J. Soles) collecting the ballots for the King and Queen of the school’s prom. Norma then surreptitiously exchanges these ballotts for Chris’ (Nancy Allen) preprepared ones, all of which have a check mark on the box labelled “CARRIE WHITE AND TOMMY ROSS”.

I should have given you to God when you were born. But I was weak. I was backslidin’!

Margaret White (Piper Laurie) to Carrie White (Sissy Spacek).

He took me, with the stink of filthy roadhouse whiskey on his breath. And I liked it!

Margaret White to Carrie White.

I should’ve killed myself when he put it in me!

Margaret White to Carrie White!

After the blood come the boys!

Margaret White to Carrie White.

DIALOGUE

Margaret White (Piper Laurie): These are godless times. Mrs. Snell. 

Mrs. Snell (Priscilla Pointer):  I’ll drink to that………. 

Margaret White: I pray you find Jesus!

Margaret White: I might have known it would be red. 

Carrie White: It’s pink, Mama.

Margaret White: I can see your dirty pillows. 

Carrie White: Breasts, Mama. They’re called breasts, and every woman has them.

Carrie

One of the GREAT HORROR MOVIES with tremendous performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, the latter returning to the screen after a fifteen-year absence. Brian De Palma’s masterpiece works, like “Mildred Pierce” and “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,” simultaneously as drama and high camp. We feel for Carrie while at the same time reveling in her mother’s treasure chest of unforgettable lines. It is a list so long that it will satisfy the gay sensibility of any red-blooded adolescent male! The one gay character in the movie is Betty Buckley’s gym teacher, who gets the plot rolling by coming down hard on the girls (that would be Nancy Allen and Amy Irving) after the “plug-it-up” scene in the showers. The unforgettable score, one of the all-time greats, is by Pino Donaggio.

Adapted from the novel by Stephen King.

NOW STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME AND APPLE TV+

TABLE SUMMARY OF 40 QUEER FILMS RELEASED IN THE DECADE AFTER THE HAYS CODE WAS REPLACED BY THE MPAA (1967-1976)

DIRECTORS
Directors who directed a gay character/performance in one or more of the 40 Queer Films mentioned above. If said director is/was gay, then they are highlighted in red.
ACTORS
Actors who have played a gay character in one or more of the 40 Queer Films mentioned above. If the actor was gay in real life, their name is highlighted in red.
ACTORS CONTINUED Gay Screenwriters and Gay Writers of Source Material.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder (2)Helmut Berger (2) Bernard Hughes (1)Rainer Werner Fassbinder (2) 
Stanley Kubrick (2)Rod Steiger (2) Mick Jagger (1)
Sidney Lumet (2)Harvey Jason (1)Luchino Visconti (1)
Frank Perry (2)Bob Balaban (1)Robert La Tourneaux (1)
John Schlesinger (2) Martin Balsam (1) Frank Langella (1)Giorgio Bassani (1) 
Luchino Visconti (2) Alan Bates (1)Laurence Luckinbill (1)Mart Crowley (1) 
Robby Benson (1)Michael Meyers (1)John Dyer (1) 
Robert Aldrich (1)Dirk Bogarde (1)  Tim McIntire (1)Christopher Isherwood (1) 
John G. Avildsen (1)Karlheinz Böhm (1)Kenneth Nelson (1)Larry Kramer (1) 
Max Baer (1)Carol Brown (1) Al Pacino (1)John Van Druton (1) 
Gilbert Cates (1)Betty Buckley (1) Estelle Parsons (1) 
Shirley Clarke (1)Richard Burton (1)Keith Prentice (1)
Jack Clayton (1)Timothy Carlton (1)
(uncredited)
Douglas Rain (voice only) (1) 
Brian De Palma (1)Margit Carstensen (1)John Randolph (1) 
Vittorio De Sica (1)Jonathan Cecil (1)Beryl Reid (1)
Stanley Donen (1)Eve Collyer (1) Ron Rickards (1) 
Gordon Douglas (1)Frederick Colms (1)Anton Rodgers (1) 
Richard Fleischer (1)Hume Cronyn (1) Chris Sarandon (1)
John Flynn (1)Tim Curry (1)Hanna Schygulla (1) 
Bob Fosse (1)Sandy Dennis (1)Jon Voight (1)
Melvin Frank (1)Divine (1)Peter White (1)
William Friedkin (1)Gwyda Donhowe (1)William Windom (1)
Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1)Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1)Michael York (1) 
Larry Peerce (1)Peter Finch (1)Susannah York (1) 
Paul Newman (1)James Fox (1) 
Alan J. Pakula (1)Leonard Frey (1)  
Martin Ritt (1)Cliff Gorman (1) 
Nicolas Roeg (1)Reuben Greene (1) 
Ken Russell (1)Helmut Griem (1) 
Mark Rydell (1)Rex Harrison (1)  
Jim Sharman (1)Hurd Hatfield (1)   
Jack Smight (1)Irm Hermann (1)  
John Waters (1)Anne Heywood (1)  
Billy Wilder (1)Dustin Hoffman (1)
Fred Zinnemann (1)Jason Holliday (1)   
Albert and Davis Maysles (1)

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