Queer Cinema 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 all of these movies were directed by gay men 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 43 Queer Films were all released during the Hays Code era (1934-1967).

36 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 CHARACTERS
*Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger)


GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
DRECTOR: 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/DIRECTORS
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 CHARACTERS
*Sylvester/Sylvia Scarlett (Katherine Hepburn) – MORE TRANS THAN GAY BUT DEFINITELY LGBTQ.

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
DIRECTOR: GEORGE CUKOR
ACTOR: CARY GRANT – ESPECIALLY DURING HIS “MARRIAGE” TO RANDOLPH SCOTT.

ACTRESS:
KATHERINE HEPBURN – GENERALLY ACCEPTED THAT THE SPENCER TRACY RELATIONSHIP WAS AN ENDURING FRIENDSHIP.

Hepburn plays a female con-artist who dresses as a boy to avoid the police. One of the great financial disasters of the 1930s it almost brought RKO to it’s 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 CHARACTERS
*Nancy Blake (Florence Nash)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
DIRECTOR: GEORGE CUKOR

ACTRESS: MARJORIE MAIN

Every character in the movie and every animal featured was female. 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 CHARACTERS
*Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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 CHARACTERS
*Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
ACTRESS: JUDITH ANDERSON

Hitchcock had a preference for casting gay actors in gay parts whether it was Judith Anderson, Farley Granger, John Dall, Raymond Burr 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 CHARACTERS
*Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Wooley)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
ACTOR: MONTY WOOLEY



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

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9. Laura (1944)

Laura: Queer Cinema.
Otto Preminger
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS
*Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb)
*Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price)
*Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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 probably 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/DIRECTORS
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 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 pretty 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 almost impossibly beautiful Hurd Hatfield as Dorian – the fact that his performance was subtle to the point of understatement has always seemed just 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.

Quotes:

“When we’re good, we’re not always happy.” Lord Henry Wotton
“I sent my soul through the invisible, Some letter of that after-life to spell: And by and by my soul returned to me, And answered, ‘I myself am Heaven and Hell’.” The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.

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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 movie is not worth seeing. It is. Feast your eyes on Vidor’s stylish direction, Rudolph Mate lush black-and-white cinematography (relatively 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 STRAIGHT MAN IN THIS MOVIE.
*Monty Wooley playing himself

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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 a big success.

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14. Rope (1948)

Rope: Queer Cinema.
Alfred Hitchcock
(APPROVED)

Filmed in one continuous take!
Actually 8 x 10 minute takes.

GAY CHARACTERS
*Rupert Cadell (James Stewart)
*Brandon Shaw (John Dall)
* Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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 a given scene, the position of the Actors and the movement of the Actors in a given scene
2) editing, or what you take from your mise-en-scene to make your movie.

But Hitchcock wants to know WHAT WOULD A MOVIE BE LIKE IF YOU “ELIMINATED EDITING” AND ONLY HAD MISE-EN-SCENE. Would it be like a filmed play, filmed by someone in the audience with a camera?
But there is a problem in that each film 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.

The result: “Rope”, which is based on Patrick Hamilton’s play, is surprisingly good but you know that Hitch is handicapped by having half of the language of cinema taken away from him. Its like he’s working with half a brain.
Still, the story, which is based on the Leopold and Loeb case and which I shall revisit in “Swoon” later on 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 joke!

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15. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

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

GAY CHARACTERS
*Lady Agatha D’Ascoyne (Alec Guinness)


GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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. Above all, 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 a ball playing all eight of the unfortunate D’Ascoynes. This includes Lady Agatha D’Ascoyne, a militant suffragette whom Louis shoots down from her hot air balloon while she is distributing leaflets. Since this is the first in a series of posts on Queer Film we have to 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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16. 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?”

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17. 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/DIRECTORS
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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18. Young Man With A Horn (1950)

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

GAY CHARACTERS
*Amy North (Lauren Bacall)

Like “Mildred Pearce”, 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 sophisticated wife who is also a closeted lesbian. But not for long! One evening, she brings home an extra crunchy granola lesbian (with glasses, no less) and this time, Kirk has had enough. He clinches his teeth as only Kirk can and proclaims “YOU’RE A VERY 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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19. Strangers on a Train (1951)

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

GAY CHARACTERS
*Bruno Antony (Robert Walker)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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.

Robert Walker died, aged 32, a few weeks after the film’s release.

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20. Johnny Guitar (1954)

Johnny Guitar: Queer Cinema
Nicholas Ray
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS
*Vienna (Joan Crawford))
*Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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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21. Rear Window (1954)

Rear Window: Queer Cinema.
Alfred Hitchcock
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS
*Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
ACTOR: RAYMOND BURR

One of Hitchcock’s six masterpieces.

Raymond Burr’s Lars Thorwald may not be an obvious gay character. After all we are never properly introduced. The closest we get is seeing him across the courtyard doing some very dastardly deeds. However he fits the Hitchcock pattern of a gay actor playing a gay character. The scene above where Grace Kelly is showing Jimmy Stewart and Thelma Ritter that she has THE KEY ranks as one of the supremely suspenseful moments in the history of cinema.

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22. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

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

GAY CHARACTERS
*Plato (Sal Mineo)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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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23. Written on the Wind (1956)

Robert Stack and Lauren Bacall. Written on the Wind: Queer Cinema.
Douglas Sirk
(APPROVED)

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

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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.

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24. Tea and Sympathy (1956)

Tea and Sympathy: Queer Cinema
Vicente Minnelli
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS
*Tom Robertson Lee (John Kerr)
*Bill Reynolds (Leif Erickson)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
DIRECTOR: VICENTE 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 maybe 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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25. Funny Face (1957)

Stanley Donen
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS
*Maggie Prescot (Kay Thompson)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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 of 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 of her own singing and she has a lovely voice which, arguably, 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 Monmartre to Jean-Paul Sartre”)

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26. Auntie Mame (1958)

Auntie Mame: Queer Cinema.
Morton DaCosta
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS
*Vera Charles (Coral Browne)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
DIRECTOR: MORTON DaCOSTA
WRITER (ORIGINAL NOVEL: “MAME”): PATRICK DENNIS (A PSEUDONYM FOR EDWARD EVERETT TANNER III)
ACTRESS: CORAL BROWNE

I have to admit that I am not a big 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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27. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

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

GAY CHARACTERS
*Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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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28. Suddenly Last Summer (1959)

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

GAY CHARACTERS
*Sebastian Venable – we never meet him since he has already been torn to pieces and eaten alive by hoards of young men on a beach in Europe.

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
PLAYWRIGHT : TENNESSEE WILLIAMS
ACTRESS: KATHERINE HEPBURN
ACTOR: MONTGOMERY CLIFT

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 hoards 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 psycho-surgeon (Montgomery Clift) to lobotomize Catherine to stop her from talking.

The movie is risible, it’s few pleasures coming 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 really sore point for Violet is that, when her beauty faded, she was replaced by Catherine – both were used by Sebastian to attract the boys. Clift, just post-accident, looks ill while Taylor does her worst screen work in that awful monologue where she has to recall of events of that terrible summer’s day.

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29. Some Like it Hot (1959)

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

GAY CHARACTERS
*Daphne (Jack Lemmon)

“Some Like It Hot” was the first mainstream Hollywood movie NOT to be submitted to the Hays Office. Billy Wilder thought that it did not stand an chance of getting approved without cuts. It was released unrated and became an instant smash hit. This marked the beginning of the end of the Hays code.

Billy Wilder’s hilarious gag every other second and arguably the greatest comedy of all-time with one of the greatest comedic performances; Jack Lemon’s Daphne who took a character to a place nobody had dared take one before. He really believes that he is a woman. Even better, he has you believing it.

Stupendous work from Curtis and Monroe as well. And Joe E. Brown who delivers the films classic closing line.

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30 . 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)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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.

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31. Psycho (1960)

Psycho: Queer Cinema.
Alfred Hitchcock
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS
*Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
ACTOR: ANTHONY PERKINS


One of Hitchcock’s six masterpieces.



Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates is more obviously Queer than Raymond Burr’s Lars Thorwald. Norman Bates stayed with Perkins his entire life whereas Raymond Burr was able to cast aside Lars and move on to other characters like Perry Mason and Ironside.

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32. 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/DIRECTORS
ACTOR: DIRK BOGARDE

ACTOR: HILTON EDWARDS



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 one and all their union was always illegal – both were long dead before homosexuality was finally decriminalized in Ireland in 1993.

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33. A Taste of Honey (1961)

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

GAY CHARACTERS
*Geoffrey Ingham (Murray Melvin)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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 probably the card game in Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” with its natural candle light and Schubert’s Piano Trio in E Flat.

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34. The Children’s Hour (1961)

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

GAY CHARACTERS
*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 big 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 actress 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 CHARACTERS
*Senator Brig Anderson (Don Murray)


GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
ACTOR CHARLES LAUGHTON

FIRST LOOK INSIDE AN AMERICAN GAY BAR


Preminger always liked to be cutting edge 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. The first look inside an American Gay Bar.

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36. Whatever Happened Baby Jane? (1962)

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

GAY CHARACTERS
*Edwin Flagg (Victor Buono)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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 came to an abrupt end, following a 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’ 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. Almost 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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37. 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 just about 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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38. The Haunting (1963)

The Haunting (Queer Cinema)
Robert Wise
(APPROVED)

GAY CHARACTERS
*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 wont 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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39. 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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40. The Loved One (1965)

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

GAY CHARACTERS
*Mr. Joyboy (Rod Steiger)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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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41. 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/DIRECTORS
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 very different film with a a solid narrative and surprisingly good performances. Warhol codirects with Chuck Wein who is always a great influence and at around 70 minutes its 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.

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42. 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 their own baggage to this one and are 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.

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43. Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)

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

GAY CHARACTERS
*Anaclato (Zorro David)
*Major Weldon Penderton (Marlon Brando)

GAY ACTORS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS
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 its 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, Anaclato, 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 almost the entire movie naked while riding Elizabeth Taylor’s horse!

The haunting score is by Toshiro Mayuzumi.

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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 (5)Judith Anderson (2)Ed Hood (1) (uncredited)Tennessee Williams (2)
George Cukor (2)Monty Wooley (2)Edward Everett Horton (1)Patrick Dennis (1)
Michael Curtiz (2)Nick Adams (1)Rock Hudson (1)Carson McCullers (1)
John Huston (2)Paul America (1) (uncredited)John Kerr (1) Leonard Gershe (1)
Joseph L. Mankiewicz (2)Bibi Anderson (1)Bert Lahr (1) 
Otto Preminger (2)Lauren Bacall (1)Jack Lemmon (1) 
Nicholas Ray (2)Anne Baxter (1)Peter Lorre (1) 
Tony Richardson (2)Claire Bloom (1)Florence Nash (1) 
Billy Wilder (2)Eric Blore (1)Paul Newman (1) 
Robert Aldrich (1)Dirk Bogarde (1)Shirley Maclaine (1) 
Ingmar Bergman (1)Marlon Brando (1)Fred MacMurray (1) 
Richard Brooks (1)Coral Browne (1)George Macready (1) 
John Cromwell (1)Victor Buono (1)Mercedes McCambridge (1) 
Morton DaCosta (1)Raymond Burr (1)Peter McEnery (1) 
Basil Dearden (1)Colin Campbell (1)Murray Melvin (1) 
Stanley Donen (1)Joe Campbell (1) (uncredited)Sal Mineo (1) 
Victor Fleming (1)Elisha Cook Jr (1)Agnes Moorhead (1) 
Bryan Forbes (1)Cicely Courtneidge (1)Don Murray (1) 
Sidney J. Furie (1)Joan Crawford (1)Anthony Perkins (1) 
Michael Gordon (1)Zorro David (1)Brock Peters (1) 
Robert Hamer (1)Hilton Edwards (1)Vincent Price (1) 
William Keighley (1)Hope Emerson (1)Edward G. Robinson (1) 
Albert Lewin (1)Leif Erickson (1)George Saunders (1) 
Vincente Minnelli (1)Glenn Ford (1)Robert Stack (1) 
Mark Sandrich (1)Betty Garde (1)Rod Steiger (1) 
Douglas Sirk (1)Lowell Gilmore (1)Dudley Sutton (1) 
Charles Vidor (1)Cary Grant (1)Ernest Thesiger (1) 
Andy Warhol and Chuck Wein (1)Sydney Greenstreet (1)Kay Thompson (1) 
James Whale (1)Alec Guinness (1)Liv Ullmann (1) 
Robert Wise (1)Hurd Hartfield (1)Robert Walker (1) 
William Wyler (1)Katherine Hepburn (1)Clifton Webb (1) 

TO BE CONTINUED:

PART TWO: THE BOYS IN THE BAND

PART TWO: CABARET

PART TWO: THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT

PART TWO: DEATH IN VENICE

AND MUCH MUCH MORE…

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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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