Sixty-Six Queer Films Made Under the Hays Code (1934-1967).

INTRODUCTION

This is a two-part essay on Queer Film.  Part One is on Queer Film under the notorious Hays Code from 1934-1967.  Part two covers the explosion in Queer Films in the ten years (1967-1976) after the demise of the Hays code and its replacement by the MPAA.  The essays are not meant to be an in-depth chronicle of Queer Cinema.  They reflect the big screen portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community as seen by me, a gay man who, although a medical doctor by profession, fell in love with movies at an early age.  A gay man who grew up and went to college and medical school in Ireland and, by chance, got the opportunity to review movies in the mid-nineteen eighties, first for “In Dublin” and then for “The Irish Times.” I have lived in Los Angeles since the mid-nineteen nineties.

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

In these essays, I have attached an asterisk to the name of the gay character while the actor’s name playing him or her is in parenthesis. If an actor in the movie or someone behind the camera is/was gay, or If the movie is based on an original idea, novel, or play by a gay writer, that person is also noted.

1934: THE HAYS CODE

1934 Hayes Code: Queer Cinema.

It says something about the ingenuity of Hollywood during this period that only three Queer Films (4.5% of the total), all three of them foreign, ran into problems with the Hays Office. The only Queer Film to be denied a seal of approval remains the “Basil Dearden/Dirk Bogarde’s film “Victim” from Britain in 1961. Unfazed, Rank Films pressed ahead with a US release where, thanks to some good reviews by the critics, it generated moderate box office. When “Victim” was released on VHS in the US in 1986, it received a PG-13 rating by the MPAA. The other two, “Kind Hearts and Coronets” (England, 1949) and “Persona” (Sweden, 1967) required cutting before they were released in the US. These scenes have since been restored.

“Some Like It Hot,” “The Leather Boys,” and “My Hustler” did not seek approval and were released with a big “fuck you” to the Hays Office. Many regard director Billy Wilder’s decision not to submit the Marilyn Monroe classic as the death knell for Breen’s Office. However, it must be mentioned that director/producer Otto Preminger was the first to bypass Breen when he released “The Moon is Blue” without submission in 1953.

LGBTQ IN HOLLYWOOD

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

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

The other LGBTQ+ Hollywood personalities mentioned in these essays are known to have had same-sex trysts and relationships going back decades.

Here is a short list of such names, expanded for each of the 66 movies in this essay and 52 in the next.

  • Marlene Dietrich
  • Greta Garbo
  • Tallulah Bankhead—her longtime lover, actress Patsy Kelly, best known as the wisecracking sidekick to Thelma Todd in a series of short comedy films produced by Hal Roach in the 1930s and a small but memorable part in “Rosemary’s Baby” posed as her personal assistant when they were on the road together. In addition to being linked with both Dietrich and Garbo, Bankhead was rumored to have romantic liaisons with actresses Hattie McDaniel, Alla Nazimova, Blyth Daly and Eva Le Gallienne, in addition to writer Mercedes de Acosta and singer Billie Holiday.
  • Jean Arthur
  • Barbara Stanwyck
  • Marlon Brando
  • Montgomery Clift
  • James Dean
  • Walter Pidgeon
  • Cary Grant – long-term relationships with actor Randolph Scott and costume designer Orry-Kelly.
  • Laurence Olivier – long-term relationship with Danny Kaye
  • Anthony Perkins – relationship with fellow actor Tab Hunter in the late fifties. They double-dated some of Hollywood’s most beautiful actresses during this period.
  • Husband and wife Vincent Price and Coral Browne.
  • Director George Cukor, probably the most famous gay man in Hollywood during this period, was instrumental in fostering two lavender marriages/relationships: Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy and their close friends, the writers Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin. Hepburn and Tracy cared deeply for one another, but their relationship was a scam set up by their studio, MGM, to squash rumors of their homosexuality. Both couples lived in cottages on the Cukor estate during their time in Hollywood.
  • Dirk Bogarde gradually evolved to a more OUT persona as his career developed, although he never officially broached the subject.
  • Alec Guinness, Dennis Price, Charles Laughton, and Laurence Harvey were all known to be gay throughout their careers. Their adoring public may have felt there was something. Still, hey, they were English (by way of Lithuania and South Africa in Harvey’s case), so like Olivier, a bit of affectation came with the territory.
  • Rock Hudson is the classic Hollywood closet case. Everyone in town knew the story – including the sham marriage – but the public was clueless until a diagnosis of advanced AIDS forced his hand in coming out, with only a few more weeks to live, in the summer of 1985.

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

  • Minnelli, who was married to gay icon Judy Garland, managed to have a stellar Hollywood career with little to no interference from his studio (MGM). Whale and Cukor, however, suffered for their sexual preference.
  • Cukor was fired from “Gone with the Wind” after a few weeks of filming. We will never know the real reason, but no matter how many times Olivia de Havilland vehemently opined against it, the William Haines-Clark Gable rumors and Cukor’s knowledge of what happened between them still have an air of truth today.
  • As for Whale, being the most OUT of the great Hollywood directors and being in a well-known relationship with Warner Bros. producer David Lewis didn’t help, especially when tastes changed, and his penchant for high camp lost favor with the public as the thirties progressed.
  • The Fifties and Sixties gave us gay directors Nicholas Ray, Tony Richardson, Andy Warhol, and John Schlesinger. Ray directed one of the seminal 1950s (and Los Angeles) movies, “Rebel Without a Cause,” which featured Sal Mineo’s Plato as Hollywood’s first adolescent gay character.
  • Meanwhile, Broadway theatre director Morton DaCosta showered his meager (three) Hollywood films with a very gay theatrical style, so much so that his feature debut, “Auntie Mame,” is regarded by many as a camp classic.
  • Gay Hollywood power couples existed then, as they do now. Roger Edens and his partner of many years, Leonard Gershe, made the deliciously urbane and witty Audrey Hepburn-Fred Astaire vehicle, “Funny Face.”
  • Famous gay stage designer Oliver Messel was Oscar-nominated for one of his few forays into Film, “Suddenly Last Summer.”
  • The source material during this period came from a rich collection of gay playwrights and novelists: Tennessee Williams and William Inge, Patricia Highsmith, Oscar Wilde, Patrick Dennis, and Herman Melville.
  • Of the 66 movies listed in essay one, 16 are based on original screenplays, while 50 are adapted from another medium.

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

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

LGBTQ, BUT NOT READY FOR HOLLYWOOD

Finally, there are two movies that were based on Queer material, but because of the times in which they made their respective debuts – 1934 on Broadway for Lillian Hellman’s play “The Children’s Hour” and 1945 for Richard Brooks’s novel “The Brick Foxhole” – American movie screens were not ready to hear the words homosexual, gay, queer or lesbian.

As a result, Hellman herself reworked “The Children’s Hour” into a heterosexual triangle. Directed by William Wyler under the title “These Three” for Samuel Goldwyn, it was a major success. Wyler later reworked the material using Hellman’s original storyline in 1961 to lesser effect.

With a screenplay by John Paxton, “The Brick Foxhole” was made into the 1947 Oscar-nominated movie “Crossfire” by director Edward Dmytryk; it featured a great cast that included Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, and Sam Levene. The book’s homophobia, however, was replaced by anti-semitism, the country’s ability to sympathize with certain minority groups only extending so far in the late nineteen forties.

MY MAJOR INFLUENCES

My major influences in writing these essays are the following:

  1. The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies: Vito Russo’s landmark 1981 non-fiction book.
  2. Queer & Now & Then: Michael Koreskys series of articles on Queer Cinema in the magazine Film Comment.
  3. Homosexuality in Film Noir: Richard Dyer’s seminal 1977 article on Homosexuality in Film Noir in the magazine JUMP CUT
  4. I Lost It at the Movies (1965), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1968) and When the Lights Go Down (1980): Three essential collections of film criticism by my favorite film critic, Pauline Kael.

SIXTY-SIX QUEER FILMS

FOUR of the movies listed won Best Picture, while NINE MORE were nominated IN THIS CATEGORY.

1. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

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The Bride of Frankenstein: Queer Cinema.

James Whale

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger)

LGBTQ+ DIRECTOR | ACTOR

DIRECTOR: James Whale

ACTOR: Ernest Thesiger

Susan Sontag: Notes on Camp: 1964: The Partisan Review

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

Susan Sontag: The Partisan Review 1964

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

Susan Sontag: The Partisan Review 1964

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

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

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2. Top Hat (1935)

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Top Hat: Queer Cinema.

Mark Sandrich

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

*Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton)

*Bates (Eric Blore)

LGBTQ+ ACTORS | CHOREOGRAPHER | COSTUME DESIGNER

ACTOR: Fred Astaire

ACTOR: Eric Blore

ACTOR: Edward Everett Horton

ACTOR: Erik Rhodes

CHOREOGRAPHER: Hermes Pan

COSTUME DESIGNER: Bernard Newman

More plural personalities

HORACE HARDWICK (EDWARD EVERETT HORTON) ON FIRST MEETING BATES (ERiC BLORE) in “TOP HAT”

 The Best of the Astaire-Rogers movies.

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

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

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

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

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

SONGS BY IRVING BERLIN

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

ASTAIRE-ROGERS AT RKO

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

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3 Sylvia Scarlett (1935)

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Sylvia Scarlett (Queer Cinema)

George Cukor

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Sylvia/Sylvester Scarlett (Katherine Hepburn)

LGBTQ+ DIRECTOR | ACTORS | COSTUME DESIGNER

DIRECTOR: George Cukor

ACTOR: Cary Grant

ACTRESS: Katherine Hepburn

COSTUME DESIGNER: Bernard Newman

Depressed after his wife’s passing and plagued by mounting gambling debts, Henry Scarlett (Edmund Gwenn) flees France for England with teenage daughter Sylvia (Katherine Hepburn) in tow. Since Henry plans to continue his nefarious ways by smuggling yards of lace into England to sell on the black market (and avoid import tax), Sylvia dresses as a boy, who she christens Sylvester, to throw the police off their scent. On the Channel ferry to London, they meet charming con man Jimmy Monkley (Cary Grant), and, before you can say “Southampton,” the duo soon becomes a trio despite Jimmy turning Henry over to the authorities to avoid being accosted himself.

This was the first time that Grant’s famous Cockney persona began to register on film, and he all but steals the picture. Unfortunately, the film’s themes of sexual fluidity were ahead of its time, and it was a financial disaster for RKO Studios, losing a reported $363,000. It also led to Hepburn being labeled box office poison, a moniker from which she would not recover until signing with MGM in 1940.

The film’s standing with critics and the public has gradually improved over the years, and it wears its Queerness proudly. Hepburn continues to do drag even after it is not necessary anymore for the character, and, in one memorable scene, he/she is kissed by a woman! It also marks the only time in which Hepburn, a gay actress, overtly channeled her own sexuality on screen.

The film marked the first of four Hepburn/Grant pairings – the others being the next Queer Film on our list Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby” (1938) and the Cukor-directed “Holiday” (also 1938) and “The Philadelphia Story” (1940). The latter was a triumph for all concerned, including Cukor, Hepburn and Grant.

Adapted from the 1918 novel by Compton MacKenzie, the movie also features Brian Aherne as an Englishman who shows an interest in Hepburn’s character but whose ardor quickly vanishes when Sylvester reverts back to Sylvia!

Mel Berns, the head of the RKO Makeup Department, created Hepburn’s impressive makeup and hair design. Berns’s work on films such as “Citizen Kane” and “Notorious” still resonates today.

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4. Bringing Up Baby (1938)

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Bringing Up Baby

Howard Hawks

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*David Huxley (Cary Grant)

LGBTQ+ ACTORS | COSTUME DESIGNER

ACTOR: Cary Grant

ACTRESS: Katherine Hepburn

COSTUME DESIGNER: Howard Greer

Because I just went gay all of a sudden

DAVID HUXLEY (CARY GRANT) in “BRINGING UP BABY “

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

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

REMADE AS “WHAT’S UP DOC” BY PETER BOGDANOVICH IN 1972.

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5. The Women (1939)

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The Women: Queer Cinema.

George Cukor

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Nancy Blake (Florence Nash)

 LGBTQ+ DIRECTOR | ACTORS |COSTUME DESIGNER

DIRECTOR: George Cukor

ACTRESS: Marjorie Main

COSTUME DESIGNER: Gilbert Adrian

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

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6. The Wizard of OZ (1939)

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The Wizard of Oz: Queer Cinema.

Victor Fleming

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr)

 LGBTQ+ COSTUME DESIGNER

Gilbert Adrian

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

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

Adapted from the novel by L. Frank Baum.

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7. Rebecca (1940)

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Rebecca

Alfred Hitchcock

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson)

LGBTQ+ ACTORS

ACTOR: Laurence Olivier

ACTRESS: Judith Anderson

REBECCA IS ONE OF HITCHCOCK’S SEVEN PERFECT FILMS.

Hitchcock LIKED to cast gay actors in LGBTQ ROLES.

Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers IN REBECCA, ANTHONY PERKINS IN PSYCHO and Farley Granger AND JOHN DAHL IN ROPE

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

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

Adapted from the novel by Daphne du Maurier.

Hitchcock’s cameo: 2:06:57 He is the man in a bowler hat and trenchcoat who crosses paths with George Sanders.

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8. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

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The Maltese Falcon: Queer Cinema.

John Huston

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre)

*Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet)

*Wilmer Cook (Elisha Cook Jr)

LGBTQ+ COSTUME DESIGNER

Orry-Kelly

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

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

Outstanding cinematography by Arthur Edeson.

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9. The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)

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The Man Who Came to Dinner: Queer Cinema.

William Keighley

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Wooley)

LGBTQ+ ACTOR | SOURCE MATERIAL | COSTUME DESIGNER

ACTOR: Monty Wooley

SOURCE MATERIAL: Alexander Woollcott (The character of Whiteside is modeled on the famously acerbic gay theatre critic)

COSTUME DESIGNER: Orry-Kelly

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

Nurse Preen (Mary Wickes) in “THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER”

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

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

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

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


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

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10. Casablanca (1942-1943)

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Michael Curtiz

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS IN ONE OF MANY POSSIBLE FUTURES:

*Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart)

*Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains)

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship

Humphrey Bogart to Claude Rains in “Casablanca”

After Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and Victor (Paul Henreid) are safely away on their plane and Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) is dead, Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Captain Renault (Claude Rains) walk away together into the mist as Rick recites one of the movie’s most famous lines to Louis. For a moment, it is possible to feel that Rick and Louis are really in love, and one of their possible futures is a long and happy life together.

The film takes place in Casablanca, Morocco, with most of the action happening at a tavern called Rick’s, named for the hero of the story, played by Bogart. The plot begins when an old flame, Ilsa Lund (Bergman), suddenly appears with her husband, Victor Laslow (Henreid), who’s wanted by the Nazis. Rick has to decide whether to put aside his feelings for Ilsa to help Victor escape so he can help the Resistance. With Dooley Wilson as Sam, the piano player.

Herman Hupfeld’s song “As Time Goes By” was used to great effect in the movie, and the song’s melody was incorporated into Max Steiner’s famous score and used as a leitmotif throughout the film. However, the song was not written for the movie.  It was originally written for the Broadway show “Everybody’s Welcome” in 1931. Arthur Edesen did the gorgeous cinematography.

Written on the fly by the fabulous Epstein twins (Philip and Julius) together with Howard Koch and directed by Michael Curtiz with what can only be described as the hand of God, “Casablanca” is one of the most romantic and enjoyable of all the great Hollywood movies. In addition to our lead quote, some other mouthwatering examples of the screenwriters’ craft are shown at the end of this piece.

“Casablanca” had its world premiere on November 26, 1942, in New York City to coincide with the Allied invasion of North Africa and was released in Los Angeles and nationally on January 23, 1943, to coincide with the Churchill-Roosevelt Casablanca conference. Hence, according to the AMPAS rules at the time, the film was eligible for the 1943 Academy Awards even though it was released in New York in 1942. At the 16th Academy Awards held at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Thursday, March 2, 1944, it won Best Film (Hal B. Wallis producer), Best Director (Curtiz) and Best Adapted Screenplay (the Epstein brothers and Koch). Jack Warner’s run to the podium to accept the award deeply upset Wallis, who resigned from Warner Bros. and formed his own production under the Paramount banner.

Adapted from the play “Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison.

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11. Laura (1944)

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Laura: Queer Cinema.

Otto Preminger

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb)

LGBTQ+ ACTORS

ACTOR: Clifton Webb

ACTOR: Vincent Price

ACTRESS: Judith Anderson

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

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

Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker in “Laura.”

Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) is investigating the murder of a young, beautiful advertising executive, Laura Hunt (a magnificent Gene Tierney in a star-making performance) killed by a shotgun blast to the face just inside the doorway of her apartment. He first interviews newspaper columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb, becoming a Hollywood star at fifty), an imperious, effete (read homosexual) older man who has become Laura’s mentor. McPherson also questions Laura’s parasitic playboy fiancé, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), a “kept man” tethered to her wealthy socialite aunt (Judith Anderson) Ann Treadwell. One night, the detective falls asleep in Laura’s apartment in front of her portrait. He is awakened by a woman entering with her own key and is shocked that it is Laura. She finds a dress in her closet that belonged to one of her models, Diane Redfern. McPherson concludes that the body assumed to have been Laura was Redfern, drawn there for a liaison by the unfaithful Carpenter while Laura was away in the country. With Laura still alive, unmasking the killer becomes even more urgent.

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

Adapted from Vera Caspary’s novel by Samuel Hoffenstein, Elizabeth Reinhardt and an uncredited Ring Lardner Jr. The Oscar-winning cinematography is by Joseph LaShelle (trumping John Seitz’s equally stunning work on “Double Indemnity”), and the haunting score -one of the all-time greats – is by David Raksin.

REMADE AS SHARKY’S MACHINE BY BURT REYNOLDS IN 1981

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12. Double Indemnity (1944)

A+

Double Indemnity: Queer Cinema.

Billy Wilder

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

*Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray)

*Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson)

LGBTQ+ ACTOR | COSTUME DESIGNER

ACTRESS: Barbara Stanwyck

COSTUME DESIGNER: Edith Head

MY FAVORITE FILM NOIR OF THE FORTIES.

JAMES M. CAIN’S FIRST MASTERPIECE TO BE ADAPTED FOR THE SCREEN

ONE OF THE QUINTESSENTIAL LA MOVIES.

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

WERE NEFF AND KEYES QUEER FOR EACH OTHER?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REMADE AS BODY HEAT IN 1981 BY LAWRENCE KASDAN

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13. Murder My Sweet (1944)

B+

Edward Dmytryk

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Lindsay Marriott (Douglas Walton)

ONE OF THE QUINTESSENTIAL LA MOVIES.

HE SMELLS REAL NICE!

(Elevator Boy about Marriott)

YOU’D BETTER PUT YOUR FLAPS DOWN, OR YOU’LL TAKE OFF

(Marlow to Marriott)

I’M NOT IN THE HABIT OF GIVING PEOPLE GROUNDS FOR BLACKMAIL, MR. MARLOWE

(Marriott)

“Murder, My Sweet” was released under its original book title of “Farewell My Lovely” in the United Kingdom but was retitled to a less mellifluous moniker for its United States release. It was the first film to feature author Raymond Chandler’s primary character, the hard-boiled private detective Philip Marlowe and here, I think, is a good time to dig a little deeper and list those actors who have played Marlowe down through the years:

1944

Dick Powell

“Murder My Sweet/Farewell My Lovely”

1946

Humphrey Bogart

“The Big Sleep

1947

Robert Montgomery

“Lady in the Lake”

1969

James Garner

“Marlowe”

1973

Elliott Gould

“The Long Goodbye”

1975

Robert Mitchum

“Farewell My Lovely

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

Powell is in very good company, and he acquits himself admirably. He also gets props for being the first to play Marlowe and for making a successful transition from Warner Bros. crooner to hard-boiled private dick. It must not have been easy, especially since director Edward Dmytryk’s and screenwriter John Paxton’s plot lines become as confusing as Howard Hawks’s narrative twists in “The Big Sleep.” But while the supporting cast is fine – Esther Howard, Anne Shirley, Claire Trevor, Otto Kruger, Miles Mander and the marvelous Mike Mazurki – there is nothing here to compare with Humphrey Bogarts’s bookstore dalliance with Dorothy Malone in Hawk’s masterpiece.

Which brings us to our LGBTQ+ character. His name is Lindsay Marriott, and he is played by character actor Douglas Walton. He only has two scenes before he is horribly dispatched in true Queer fashion. We even sense his Queerness before we set eyes on him – the elevator boy, who has let him up, in advance, to Marlowe’s office, thinks, “He Smells Nice.” And, finally, there he is, mincing around the office in his fabulous overcoat and ascot tie, as nervous as Bette Davis without a cigarette. And despite his protestations, he is clearly being blackmailed to make a money-for-jewels exchange. How sad!

Dmytryk and the film’s producer, Adrian Scott, were members of the Hollywood Ten and spent time in jail for being members of the Communist Party and taking the First Amendment. Blacklisted from working in Hollywood, Dmytryk changed his mind and named names – including that of film director Jules Dassin – and his career recovered. But at what cost? Scott did not name names and moved to England like many in his situation. Anne Shirley, who married Scott and retired from acting following this film, sent him a Dear John letter asking for a divorce, which she obtained in 1948 after four years of marriage. She lived the rest of her life in Los Angeles.

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14. The Uninvited (1944)

B-

The Uninvited

Lewis Allen

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

*Pamela Fitzgerald (Ruth Hussey)

*The Ghost of Mary Meredith (Lynda Grey, uncredited)

*Stella Meredith (Gail Russell)

*Miss Holloway (Cornelia Otis Skinner)

*The Ghost of Carmel (Betty Farrington, voice only, uncredited)

 LGBTQ+ ACTOR | COSTUME DESIGNER

ACTRESS: Cornelia Otis Skinner

COSTUME DESIGNER: Edith Head

A Queer Ghost Story with so many lesbian characters that it’s challenging to keep count! It’s either FOUR (three living and one dead) or FIVE (three living and two dead). “The Uninvited” was a big hit back in 1944 and still entertains. The film opens with lesbian number one, Pamela Fitzgerald, played by Ruth Hussey. Pamela and her brother Rick (Ray Miland, then at the peak of his Hollywood stardom) fall in love with an old house on the Cornwall coast of England. The way director Lewis Allen introduces his film, you initially think they are newlyweds, which is quite naughty of him. It’s only after you notice Hussey’s very boyish “do” that you know this cannot be the case! Heavens! Our brother and sister combo discover a room with a chill – it’s a few degrees cooler than the rest of their dream house. Turns out the ghost of lesbian number two haunts it. That would be Mary Meredith. Mary, like Hitchcock’s Rebecca four years earlier, died under mysterious circumstances by falling off a nearby cliff, and it seems that she wants her daughter Stella (Gail Russell, looking beautiful before the effects of her alcoholism began to show) to die in the same way. However, the communication between mother and daughter feels more erotic than maternal, and Stella likes it! Good grief, it’s lesbian number three. It also transpires that Mary, before she passed to the other side of the Sapphic divide, had a female lover, leading us to lesbian number four, Miss Holloway, played by gay writer and actress Cornelia Otis Skinner. And then there is a second more benevelont ghost named named Carmel who, like Meridith, appears to have a deep bond with Stella. Is this lesbian number five?

The movie gives you the occasional shiver, and it’s fun to see how Hussey and Skinner interpret their Queer characters – Hussey taking the comedic approach and Skinner giving us a variation on Judith Anderson’s Mrs. Danvers. Today, what dazzles are Charles Lang’s immaculate, Oscar-nominated, black-and-white cinematography and Victor Young’s haunting theme for Stella, which was later made into a song with lyrics by Ned Washington entitled “Stella by Starlight.” The costumes are by gay costume designer Edith Head.

The film was so popular that director Allen and star Russell went on to make another horror movie/ghost story called “The Unseen,” also at Paramount. This monster hit was released the following year.

Now, as to the sexual preferences of Ray Milland’s Rick. Well, he is a music critic……………. Hmmmm!

Adapted by Dodie Smith and Frank Partos from the novel “Uneasy Freehold” by Dorothy Macardle.

“The Uninvited ” is unavailable for streaming. However, the DVD can be purchased at Amazon.

15. Mildred Pierce (1945)

A+

Michael Curtiz

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ ACTOR | COSTUME DESIGNER

ACTOR: Zachary Scott

COSTUME DESIGNER: Milo Anderson

Mildred’s original home, 1143 Corvallis Street, where all the houses looked alike, is actually 1143 North Jackson Street at East Stocker Street in Glendale,

JAMES M. CAIN’S SECOND MASTERPIECE TO BE ADAPTED FOR THE SCREEN

ONE OF THE QUINTESSENTIAL LA MOVIES.

THE SECOND HOLLYWOOD FILM TO CAPTURE THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF LOS ANGELES

Joan Crawford plays Mildred, and Ann Blyth plays Veda, the most ungrateful daughter in Cinema history in “Mildred Pierce,” director Michael Curtiz’s masterful adaptation (from an Oscar-nominated script by Ranald MacDougall and several other uncredited writers) of the 1941 novel by James M. Cain. It was Crawford’s first starring role for Warner Bros. after leaving MGM, and she deservedly won the Academy Award for Best Actress of 1945.

Pierce” is the centerpiece of the mid-1940s Cain triptych, the other two movies being Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (film number 12, above), produced at Paramount in 1944, and Tay Garnett’s “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” produced at MGM in 1946. All three movies are characterized by plots that hook you immediately and superb acting.

Opening with a stunning shot of the Santa Monica Pier and the murder of Monte Bergeron (Zachary Scott), Mildred’s second husband, the sequence ends with a magnificent closeup of Crawford’s Mildred bathed in fur. The police tell Mildred that her first husband, Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett), is guilty of the murder because he owns the gun, has a motive, and does not deny the crime. Mildred protests that he is too kind to commit murder and begins to tell her story to the officer.

LIKE MOST OF THE GREAT FILM NOIRS FROM THE FORTIES, “MILDRED PIERCE” BEGINS WITH CRAWFORD’S NARRATION, AND THE NARRATIVE UNFOLDS IN FLASHBACK

Mildred and Bert Pierce are an unhappily married couple living in the LA suburb of Glendale, California. After Bert splits with his business partner, Wally Fay (Jack Carson), Mildred must sell her baked goods to support the family. Bert accuses Mildred of favoring their two daughters over him. Their quarrel intensifies after a phone call from Bert’s mistress, Maggie Biederhof (Lee Patrick), and they separate.

Mildred retains custody of sixteen-year-old Veda (Blyth), a bratty social climber, and ten-year-old Kay (Jo Ann Marlowe), a genial tomboy. Because they live in working-class Glendale, as opposed to the more sophisticated, adjacent Pasadena, Veda lives her life in a constant state of shame and has to be placated by a stream of material possessions by Mildred, who gets an additional job as a waitress which she hides from Veda. However, Veda learns the truth and treats her mother with contempt.

Mildred meets the wealthy Pasadena playboy Monty Bergeron and, although she does not love him, marries him so that she can open what turns out to be a highly successful chain of chicken-and-waffle restaurants called “Mildred’s” which she runs with her good friend Ida, beautifully played by Eve Arden in her only Oscar-nominated role. Because of Arden’s unique delivery, Ida becomes, both literally and figuratively, the film’s voice of reason.

All of Mildred’s Herculean efforts are to please Veda, but she is betrayed at every turn.

Brilliantly filmed in high Germanic style by a wondrously talented bunch of ex-pat Viennese uber talents (in addition to Curtiz, we have Anton Grot’s production design and one of Max Steiner’s better scores)—plus Ernest Haller’s stunning black-and-white cinematography—“Mildred Pierce” is one of the great film noirs of the forties.

Although there is no identifiable gay character, Curtiz’s presentation of high melodrama bordering on camp makes “Pierce” a Queer Film par excellence. And gay actor Zachary Scott, whose Hollywood career suffered because of his sexual orientation, gives Monty a fey touch, always raising the possibility that his sexual proclivities also extended to men.

I also love Mildred Pierce” for its lack of subtlety in the health department. Watching it reminds me that when a character coughs, even just a single cough, in a pre-1960 Hollywood movie, you know that they will be dead in the next scene or certainly in the scene after that. Remember poor Elizabeth Taylor in “Jane Eyre”. From that first delicate hack, you knew she was a goner.

This scenario plays out in “Pierce” with Kay, the good daughter. With just one cough, we know that Kay’s fate is sealed and that her chances of surviving the trip to Lake Arrowhead with Veda and Bert are slim!

Astonishingly, she does make it back to Glendale – but in an oxygen tent! This allows Curtiz to set up one of the most memorable scenes in the movie. When poor Kay takes her last breath, even before Mildred or Veda has time to react, the nurse rushes to turn off the precious oxygen supply.

This scene never ceases to send me into paroxysms of laughter. However, I never stop caring. Like Robert Aldrich’s “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,” “Mildred Pierce” plays as drama and camp simultaneously with no dichotomy involved. And for that, I am always grateful.

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16. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

A

The Picture of Dorian Gray: Queer Cinema.

Albert Lewin

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

*Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield)

*Basil Hallward (Lowell Gilmore)

 LGBTQ+ ACTORS | COSTUME DESIGNER

ACTOR: Hurd Hatfield

ACTOR: Lowell Gilmore

COSTUME DESIGNER: Arlington Valles

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

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

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17. Gilda (1946)

A-

Gilda (Queer Cinema)

Charles Vidor

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

*Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford)

*Ballin Mundson (George Macready)

LGBTQ+ CHOREOGRAPHER AND COSTUME DESIGNER

CHOREOGRAPHER: Jack Cole

COSTUME DESIGNER: Jean Louis

WERE FARRELL AND MUNDSON QUEER FOR EACH OTHER?

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

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

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

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18. Brute Force (1947)

B+

Brute Force

Jules Dassin

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

*Captain Munsey (Hume Cronyn)

“Brute Force” was among several noir films made by director Jules Dassin during the postwar period. The others were “Thieves’ Highway,” “The Naked City,” and “Night and the City.” The latter is that rare film noir which is set in London. Britain had its own glorious period of film noir thanks to the genius of Carol Reid and “The Odd Man Out,” “The Fallen Idol” and “The Third Man” in addition to John Boulting’s “Brighton Rock” and J. Lee Thompson’s “Yield to the Night.” However, none of them made London City a character in the movie like Dassin did in “Night and the City.” He had gone to London because of rumors that he was going to be investigated by HUAC. Shortly after his return to the US, he was named by a recanting Edward Dmytryk, and his Hollywood career was over.

It’s an expertly told prison break story with an above-average original screenplay by future director Richard Brooks. Our LGBTQ+ character is the hateful Captain Munsey, a sadist who speaks in a slightly higher octave than the rest of the male cast and the prison’s lone female warden. Munsey is fastidious about his looks – there is a beautiful and lovingly choreographed shaving sequence – and he is interested in art and music. There is no doubt about it. He is a raving homosexual and a very nasty one at that! Hume Cronyn, a consummate actor, plays Munsey’s queerness to the hilt. Cronyn has played a number of gay parts on stage and screen and he also helped gay writer Arthur Laurents adapt “Rope” for Hitchcock; his performance is never insulting. In fact, we are constantly on the edge of our seats in case he orders another unfortunate inmate to his office for another round of torture. But Cronyn is not the only actor who you cannot take your eyes off. A superb Burt Lancaster, who had just become a star in Producer Mark Hellinger’s “The Killers,” is back in Hellinger territory as Joe Collins, a prisoner who cannot take the Munsey treatment and is planning a breakout. His fellow prisoners consist of such greats as Charles Bickford, Sam Levene, Jeff Corey, Whit Bissell, and Art Smith, who, as the prison’s alcoholic doctor, gets to break the fourth wall and make an appeal to the audience as the closing credits begin to roll.

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19. Red River (1948)

A-

Red River

Howard Hawks

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

*Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift)

*Cherry Valance (John Ireland)

LGBTQ+ ACTOR

Montgomery Clift

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

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

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

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

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20. Rope (1948)

A-

Rope: Queer Cinema.

Alfred Hitchcock

(APPROVED)

 

Filmed in 8 x 10-minute takes.

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

*Rupert Cadell (James Stewart)

*Brandon Shaw (John Dall)

* Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger)

LGBTQ+ ACTORS | SCREENWRITER | COSTUME DESIGNER

ACTOR: John Dall

ACTOR: Farley Granger

SCREENWRITER: Arthur Laurents

COSTUME DESIGNER: Gilbert Adrian

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

HITCHCOCK’S FIRST FILM IN COLOR

Hitchcock’s famous experiment could have evolved over coffee with Eisenstein. The two great directors, having mastered the language of cinema many times over, now know that it is a marriage of two separate yet complementary entities:


1) Mise-en-scene: the production design, costume design, camera position and movement and actors’ positions and movement within a scene.
2) editing, or what you fashion from your mise-en-scene to make your movie.

But Hitchcock wants to know what a movie would be like if you eliminated editing and only had mise-en-scene. Would it be like a filmed play, taken by someone in the audience with a movie camera? There was a problem, however, in that each film’s roll only lasted 10 minutes. Hitchcock overcame this by backing the camera up to an inanimate object, such as furniture, and quickly changing the film.

Adapted from Patrick Hamilton’s play by actor/writer Hume Cronyn with a screenplay by gay writer Arthur Laurents, the story is based on the famous Leopold & Loeb case from the early twenties. Farley Granger and John Dall are perfect as Phillip Morgan and Brandon Shaw, the two young aesthetes (read homosexual couple) who strangle to death their former classmate from prep school in their Manhattan penthouse apartment. They commit the crime as an intellectual exercise: they want to prove their superiority by committing the “perfect murder.” After hiding the body in a large antique wooden chest, Brandon and Phillip host a dinner party – using the chest as a buffet table for the food – at the apartment, which has a panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline. The guests, who are unaware of what has happened, include the victim’s father, Mr. Kentley (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) and aunt (Constance Collier). Brandon and Phillip’s idea for the murder was inspired years earlier by conversations with their prep-school housemaster, publisher Rupert Cadell (Jimmy Stewart, who is also excellent). While they were at school, Rupert had discussed with them, in an apparently approving way, the intellectual concepts of Nietzche’s “Superman” as a means of showing one’s superiority over others. He, too, is among the guests at the party since Brandon, in particular, thinks that he would approve of their “work of art.” It is also intimated that Cadell is the boys’ former lover.

The end result is an astonishing achievement and one of Hitchcock’s best films. Yet, despite the film’s overall excellence, you are aware that Hitch is disabled by having half of the silver screen’s vernacular off limits. It’s like he’s working with only the right (spatial) side of his brain.

Hitchcock’s cameos: “Rope” is one of FIVE Hitchcock films in which he makes not one but TWO cameo appearances. The others are “The Lodger” (1927), “Suspicion” (1941), “Under Capricorn” (1949), and “Strangers on a Train” (1951).

Cameo one: 0:01:51: Just after Hitchcock’s credit towards the end of the opening sequence, walking alongside a woman.

Cameo two: 0:55:00 Through the window, we see a red flashing neon sign of his trademark profile

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21. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

A+

Kind Hearts and Coronets: Queer Cinema.

Robert Hamer

Approved After Major Revisions, later restored.

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Lady Agatha D’Ascoyne (Alec Guinness)


LGBTQ+ DIRECTOR | ACTORS | SCREENWRITER
| COSTUME DESIGNER

DIRECTOR: Robert Hamer

ACTOR: Alec Guinness

ACTOR: Dennis Price

SCREENWRITER: Robert Hamer

COSTUME DESIGNER: Anthony Mendleson

MY FAVORITE BRITISH MOVIE

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) is the most delicious concoction ever produced by Michael Balcon and Michael Relph’s Ealing Studios, and it is my favorite British film. Robert Hamer’s exquisitely intelligent and stylish direction, based on a screenplay he wrote with John Dighton (“The Man in the White Suit” and “Roman Holiday”), flows like dark chocolate over a mouthwatering sundae.

Starring the deliciously urbane Dennis Price as lowly draper’s assistant Louis Mazzini, who finds himself distantly in line for a dukedom. Infuriated by this aristocratic family’s cruel treatment of his mother – she eloped with his father, who was a lowly musician – he becomes a serial killer, setting out to systematically murder all eight of the Ascoyne-D’Ascoynes ahead of him in line for the seat of D’Ascoyne-Chalfont.

Alec Guinness has fun playing all nine D’Ascoynes – in a short flashback involving the elopement of Louis’ father and mother, we catch a glimpse of him as a ninth D’Ascoyne, the 7th Duke of Chalfont, Etheired’s father. That’s three generations and both sexes, with the older generations offering a delicious tongue-in-cheek glimpse into the professions favored by the male members of the British upper classes in the Edwardian era. By the time Louis finds himself in the employ of the Banker, Lord Ascoyne D’Ascoyne, the first of Louis’ casualties, Young Ascoyne D’Ascoyne, has already died in a boating accident. The names of Louis’ other victims and their method of dispatch are as follows:

Ethelred D’Ascoyne, 8th Duke of Chalfont (hunting accident)

The Reverend Lord Henry D’Ascoyne (poisoned)

The General, Lord Rufus D’Ascoyne (bomb)

The Admiral, Lord Horatio D’Ascoyne. (Goes down with his ship)

Louis’s employer and the final victim is the banker, Lord Ascoyne D’Ascoyne. He dies of shock on learning that he is the last D’Ascoyne standing.

Lady Agatha D’Ascoyne, Ethelred’s sister, is a militant suffragette whom Louis shoots down from her hot air balloon while she is distributing leaflets over London. Since this is part one of a two-part essay on Queer Film, we must assume that Lady Agatha is most assuredly gay. Price, Guinness, and Hamer were all homosexuals, making this a very gay affair, indeed.

The younger generation consists of the philandering Young Ascoyne D’Ascoyne, whose arrogance causes Louis to get fired from his original draper’s assistant position and whose drowning sets Louis’ killing spree in motion. Then, the one good egg in the basket, Young Henry D’Ascoyne, is married to the beautiful Edith. His passion for amateur photography allows Louis to switch some chemicals in his darkroom, leading to death by explosion.

However, Price is the star of “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” helped immeasurably by his two magnificent leading ladies. The plum-voiced Joan Greenwood dazzles as that little minx Sybella, her every utterance at once an aphrodisiac and a condemnation. And the aristocratic Valerie Hobson was never better than as the pure-at-heart Edith D’Ascoyne, widow of Young Henry D’Ascoyne, and the person on whom Louis sets his sights to marry. Miles Matheson has a few hilarious moments as “The Hangman.”

It was adapted from Roy Horniman’s 1907 novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal. The novel’s strong anti-Semitic sentiment had to be removed.

Douglas Slocombe’s stunning black-and-white cinematography marked a visual peak for Ealing.

POINTS OF INTEREST

Both Robert Hamer and Dennis Price suffered from alcoholism, and both of their careers peaked with this movie.

Valerie Hobson found herself in a life-imitating art scenario when she stood by her husband, the disgraced politician John Profumo, during the 1963 scandal.

Leeds Castle in Kent was used for Chalfont, the family home.

The film’s title comes from the antepenultimate stanza of the poem “Lady Clara Vere de Vere” by Lord Alfred Tennyson, published in 1842: “However it be / it seems to me, / ’Tis only noble to be good. / Kind hearts are more than coronets, / And simple faith than Norman blood,”

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22. Adam’s Rib (1949)

A

Adam's Rib

George Cukor

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Kip Lurie (David Wayne)

LGBTQ+ DIRECTOR | ACTORS |SCREENWRITERS | COSTUME DESIGNER

DIRECTOR: George Cukor

ACTOR: Spencer Tracy

ACTRESS: Katherine Hepburn

ACTRESS: Hope Emerson

SCREENWRITER: Ruth Gordon

SCREENWRITER: Garson Kanin

COSTUME DESIGNER: Walter Plunkett

MY FAVORITE TRACY-HEPBURN MOVIE

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

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

Oscar-nominated original screenplay by Ruth Gordan and Garson Kanin.

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23. All About Eve (1950)

A+

All About Eve

Joseph L. Mankiewicz

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

*Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter)

*Addison DeWitt (George Saunders)

LGBTQ+ COSTUME DESIGNERS

COSTUME DESIGNER: Edith Head

COSTUME DESIGNER: Charles LeMaire

EVERYONE’S FAVORITE BETTE DAVIS MOVIE

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

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

Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) to Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) in “All About Eve”.

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

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

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24. Caged (1950) C-

Caged: Queer Cinema

John Cromwell

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

*Evelyn Harper, the sadistic matron (Hope Emerson)

*Kitty Stark, the murderous shoplifter (Betty Garde)

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

LGBTQ+ ACTORS

ACTRESS: Hope Emerson

ACTRESS: Agnes Moorehead

“Hype the New Fish”

Betty Garde, on seeing Eleanor Parker for the first time

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

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

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25. Young Man with a Horn (1950)

B

Young Man With A Horn: Queer Cinema.

Michael Curtiz

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Amy North (Lauren Bacall)

*Miss Carson (Katherine Kurasch, uncredited)

LGBTQ+ COSTUME DESIGNER

Milo Anderson

A LESBIAN COUPLE OUTWITS THE HAYS OFFICE

Like Mildred Pierce, “this is another Michael Curtiz movie that works equally well as drama and camp. Lauren Bacall is Kirk – “young man with a horn” – Douglas’ society wife, who is also a closeted lesbian. But not for long! One evening, she brings home a beautiful and sophisticated date, a certain Miss Carson (Katherine Kurasch, uncredited). Miss Carson is an artist, and Betty has been checking out her collection! Also, when Bacall makes the introduction, “This is my husband, Miss Carson, I told you about her,” the placement of the three actors in the scene and the inflection in Bacall’s voice makes it seem that it is Miss Carson who is Bacall’s life partner, not Douglas. This time, Kirk has had enough. He clinches his teeth as only Kirk can and proclaims, “YOU’RE A SICK GIRL, AMY.” Turning the other cheek, he runs off with a Warner Bros-era Doris Day to presumably live happily-ever-after – as all straight characters who manage to get out of the clutches of a gay partner do in Hollywood (and Canadian – see “The Fox” in the next essay) movies.

Douglas’ character is based on trumpet player Bix Beiderbecke.

Adapted from the novel by Dorothy Baker.

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26. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

A+

A Streetcar Named Desire

Elia Kazan

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

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

LGBTQ+ ACTOR | SCREENWRITER | SOURCE MATERIAL

ACTOR: Marlon Brando

SCREENWRITER: Tennessee Williams

SOURCE MATERIAL: Tennessee Williams (adapted from his play “A Streetcar Named Desire”)

HOLLYWOOD’S BEST STAGE TO SCREEN ADAPTATION

TWO OF THE GREATEST PERFORMANCES IN MOVIE HISTORY

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

Blanche DuBois (VIVIEN LEIGH): “A Streetcar Named Desire”.

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

Blanche DuBois (VIVIEN LEIGH): “A Streetcar Named Desire”.

Brando and Leigh give the greatest performances of any male/female duo in Cinema history. Only Burton and Taylor came close in “Virginia Woolf.”

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27. Strangers on a Train (1951)

A-

Strangers on a Train: Queer Cinema.

Alfred Hitchcock

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Bruno Antony (Robert Walker)

LGBTQ+ ACTOR | SOURCE MATERIAL

ACTOR: Farley Granger

SOURCE MATERIAL: Patricia Highsmith (based on her novel “Strangers on a Train”)

HITCHCOCK TACKLES HIGHSMITH

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

Architect Guy Haines (Granger), a professional tennis player, wants to divorce his unfaithful wife, Miriam (Kasey Rogers), in order to marry the woman he loves, Anne Faulkner (Roman). While on a train to see his wife, he meets Charles Anthony Bruno (Walker), a psychopathic playboy who proposes an idea to “exchange murders”: Bruno will kill Miriam if Guy kills Bruno’s father (Jonathan Hale); neither of them will have a motive, and the police will have no reason to suspect either of them. Guy does not take Bruno seriously, but Bruno kills Guy’s wife while Guy is away in Mexico. Now Bruno wants Guy to keep up his side of the bargain.

Gay writer Patricia Highsmith also wrote five novels featuring the gay sociopath character Tom Ripley, which have seen numerous TV and movie adaptations, the most famous of which is “Purple Noon” (René Clément, 1960) – see below, movie number 47- with Alain Delon, “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (Anthony Mingella, 1999) with Matt Damon and the eight-episode limited series on Netflix written and directed by Steve Zaillian, photographed in black-and-white by Robert Elswit and starring a superb Andrew Scott.

The movie was a huge success, ending a Hitchcock dry spell that included “Under Capricorn” (1949) and “Stagefright” (1950), and it contains several of Hitch’s most famous sequences, such as the tennis match and the out-of-control-carousel. Walker is stunning here, showing, as he did in a polar opposite role with Judy Garland in Vincente Minnelli’s “The Clock” from 1945, what a superb actor he could be, making his untimely death all the more tragic. Special mention also to Marion Lorne who has one memorable scene as Bruno’s mother – she appears to be as crazy as her son. The movie also contains Hitchcock’s daughter Patricia Hitchcock’s largest film role as Roman’s younger sister, and she acquits herself nicely – although I don’t think the movie-going public was surprised when she gradually drifted to work on the other side of the camera.

Granger is fine. However, unlike in “Rope,” where he is perfectly cast, here as the straight leading man, something is lacking in his performance, and it hurts the movie. He is not a star. For this reason, “Strangers on a Train” does not rank among Hitchcock’s SEVEN PERFECT FILMs for all its great moments.

Hitchcock’s cameos: “Strangers on a Train” is one of FIVE Hitchcock films in which he makes not one but TWO cameo appearances. The others are “The Lodger” (1927), “Suspicion” (1941), “Rope” (1948), and “Under Capricorn” (1949).
Cameo one: 0:02:22 He’s on the book’s cover that Farley Granger is reading.
Cameo two: 0:10:34 He’s seen boarding a train with a double bass as Farley Granger gets off in his hometown. The double bass is no accident since Hitchcock fills the movie with doubles and criss-crosses.

REMADE AS THROW MOMMA FROM A TRAIN BY DANNY DE VITO IN 1987

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28. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

B+

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Howard Hawks

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

*The Boys in the Gym.

LGBTQ+ CHOREOGRAPHER | COSTUME DESIGNER

CHOREOGRAPHER: Jack Cole

COSTUME DESIGNER: William Travilla

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

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

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29. Calamity Jane (1953)

B

Calamity Jane

David Butler

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Calamity Jane (Doris Day)

LGBTQ+ COSTUME DESIGNER

Howard Shoup

BEST QUEER SONG

“MY SECRET LOVE”

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

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

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30. Johnny Guitar (1954)

B

Johnny Guitar

Nicholas Ray

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

*Vienna (Joan Crawford)

*Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge)

LGBTQ+ DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR: Nicholas Ray

A LESBIAN DUEL IN THE SUN!

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

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

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

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

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31. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

A

Rebel Without A Cause: Queer Cinema.

Nicholas Ray

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Plato (Sal Mineo)


LGBTQ+ DIRECTOR | ACTORS |COSTUME DESIGNER

DIRECTOR: Nicholas Ray

ACTOR: James Dean

ACTOR: Sal Mineo

ACTOR: Nick Adams

COSTUME DESIGNER: Moss Mabry

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

ONE OF THE QUINTESSENTIAL LA MOVIES.

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

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

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32. The Big Combo (1955)

B-

The Big Combo

Joseph H. Lewis

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

*Fante (Lee Van Cleef)

*Mingo (Earl Holliman)

LGBTQ+ ACTOR

ACTOR: Earl Holliman

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

Fante (LEE VAN CLEEF) to Mingo (EARL HOLLIMAN) in “The Big Combo”

A SECOND GAY (MALE) COUPLE DECEIVES THE HAYS OFFICE

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

Original screenplay by Philip Yordan.

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33. Written on the Wind (1956)

B+

Written on the Wind

Douglas Sirk

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack)

LGBTQ+ ACTOR | COSTUME DESIGNER

ACTOR: Rock Hudson

COSTUME DESIGNER: Bill Thomas

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

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

Robert Stack received his only Oscar nomination for this role.

Adapted from the novel by Robert Wilder.

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34. The Bad Seed (1956)

B+

Nature brought her here, and nature took her away!

The Bad Seed

Mervyn LeRoy

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

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

LGBTQ+ COSTUME DESIGNER

Moss Mabry

Director Mervyn LeRoy’s High Wire Act

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

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

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

How do we know that Little Claude Daigle was gay?

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

Then there is Miss Patty McCormack’s sweet-as-pie eight-year-old killer whose bratty pronouncements such as “Give me those shoes, they’re mine have entered the gay lexicon.

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

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35. Tea and Sympathy (1956)

A-

Tea and Sympathy: Queer Cinema

Vincente Minnelli

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Tom Robertson Lee (John Kerr)

*Bill Reynolds (Leif Erickson)

LGBTQ+ DIRECTOR

Vincente Minnelli

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

Laura Reynolds (DEborah kerr) in “Tea and Symphony”.

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

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

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

Adapted from the play by Robert Anderson.

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36. Funny Face (1957)

A+

Stanley Donen

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Maggie Prescot (Kay Thompson)

LGBTQ+ PRODUCER | ACTOR | SCREENWRITER | SONGWRITERS | CHOREOGRAPHER |COSTUME DESIGNER | PHOTOGRAPHER

PRODUCER: Roger Edens

ACTOR: Fred Astaire

SCREENWRITER: Leonard Gershe

SONGWRITER (COMPOSER): Roger Edens

SONGWRITER (LYRICIST): Leonard Gershe

Choreographer: Eugene Loring

COSTUME DESIGNER: Edith Head

PHOTOGRAPHER: Richard Avedon

AUDREY’S MOST BEAUTIFUL PERFORMANCE

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

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

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

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

The movie was responsible for establishing Audrey’s relationship with her favorite fashion designer, Hubert de Givenchy.

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

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37. A Touch of Evil (1958)

A

A Touch of Evil

Orson Welles

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Mexican gang leader (Mercedes McCambridge)

LGBTQ+ COSTUME DESIGNER

Bill Thomas

You’re a mess, honey

Tanya (Marlene Dietrich) in “A Touch of Evil”

He was some kind of man

Tanya (Marlene Dietrich) in “A Touch of Evil”

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

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

With Charleton Heston, Joseph Celleia, Akin Tamiroff, Ray Collins, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Dennis Weaver as the motel night manager and Welles as larger-than-life crooked policeman Hank Quinlan. Joseph Cotton turns up in a bit part as a coroner.

Adapted from the novel by Whit Masterson

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38. Auntie Mame (1958)

C+

Auntie Mame: Queer Cinema.

Morton DaCosta

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Vera Charles (Coral Browne)

LGBTQ+ DIRECTOR | ACTOR | SOURCE MATERIAL |COSTUME DESIGNER

DIRECTOR: Morton DaCosta

ACTRESS: Coral Browne

SOURCE MATERIAL: Patrick Dennis, a pseudonym for Edward Everett Tanner III (based on his novel “Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade”)

COSTUME DESIGNER: Orry-Kelly

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

It was adapted from Patrick Dennis’s 1955 novel Auntie Mame and the play Mame by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee. Russell had created the role on the Broadway stage.

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39. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

B+

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Queer Cinema

Richard Brooks

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman)

LGBTQ+ ACTOR | SOURCE MATERIAL

ACTRESS: Judith Anderson

SOURCE MATERIAL: Tennessee Williams (based on his play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”)

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

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

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40. Suddenly Last Summer (1959)

C-

Suddenly Last Summer: Queer Cinema.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

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

LGBTQ+ ACTORS | SCREENWRITERS | SOURCE MATERIAL | PRODUCTION DESIGNER | COSTUME DESIGNER

ACTOR: Montgomery Clift

ACTRESS: Katherine Hepburn

SCREENWRITERS: Gore Vidal and Tennessee Williams

SOURCE MATERIAL: Tennessee Williams (based on his play “Suddenly Last Summer”)

PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Oliver Messel

COSTUME DESIGNER: Oliver Messel

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

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

Hepburn, Taylor and Messel were nominated for Oscars. It was only the second time in Oscar history that two actresses from the same film were nominated for Best Actress. The first time was nine years previously when Bette Davis and Anne Baxter became the first actresses to compete against one another for their work in “All About Eve.” That film, coincidentally, was also directed by a certain Mr. Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

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41. Some Like It Hot (1959)

A+

Some Like It Hot: Queer Cinema.

Billy Wilder

(Not Submitted)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Daphne (Jack Lemmon)

LGBTQ+ COSTUME DESIGNER

Orry-Kelly

MY FAVORITE QUEER COMEDY

Arguably the greatest Hollywood comedy of all time, Billy Wilder’s (with I.A.L. Diamond) classic screenplay was actually adapted from twin sources: The1935 French comedy “Fanfare of Love” courtesy of screenwriters Max Bronnet, Michael Logan, Pierre Prevert, Rene Pujol and Robert Thoerem and its 1951 German remake of the same title credited to Logan, Thoeren and Heinz Pauck. Wilder’s version has a gag every other minute, and the movie blesses us with one of the great comedic performances, Jack Lemon’s Jerry/Daphne. Lemon took his character to a place nobody had dared take one before. Jerry really believes that he is a woman. Even better, he has you believing it! Tremendous work, too, from Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe as well as Joe E. Brown, who delivers the film’s classic closing line.

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

Monroe sings a gorgeous version of Gus Kahn’s “I’m Through With Love”

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42. Pillow Talk (1959)

B

Pillow Talk (Queer Cinema)

Michael Gordon

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS

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

*Tony Walters (Nick Adams)

*Jonathan Forbes (Tony Randall)

LGBTQ+ ACTORS | COSTUME DESIGNER

ACTOR: Nick Adams

ACTOR: Rock Hudson

ACTOR: Tony Randall

COSTUME DESIGNER: Bill Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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43. Ben Hur (1959)

B

Ben Hur

William Wyler

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston)

*Messala (Stephen Boyd)

LGBTQ+ SCREENWRITERS

SCREENWRITER (UNCREDITED): Christopher Fry

SCREENWRITER (UNCREDITED): Gore Vidal

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

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

A THIRD GAY (MALE) COUPLE DECEIVES THE HAYS OFFICE

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

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

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

Adapted from the novel by Lew Wallace.

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

A-

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs

Delbert Mann

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Sonny Flood (Robert Eyer)

LGBTQ+ SOURCE MATERIAL

William Inge (adapted from his play “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs”)

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

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

45. Spartacus (1960) B

(with just a twist of Clueless 1995)

Spartacus

Stanley Kubrick

(APPROVED)

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

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier)

LGBTQ+ ACTOR | COSTUME DESIGNER

ACTOR: Laurence Olivier

COSTUME DESIGNER: Bill Thomas

With special mention to Amy Heckerling’s “Clueless.

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

Cher (Alicia Silverstone) in “Clueless”

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

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

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

Crassus (LAURENCE OLIVIER) to his boy slave Antoninus, (TONY CURTIS) a singer of songs, in “Spartacus”

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

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

Cher (Alicia Silverstone) in “Clueless”

The film was adapted by the formerly blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo from Howard Fast’s novel, and, although Olivier, Charles Laughton and Peter Ustinov (Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) keep you watching, the film itself, although based on truth, comes across as one hoary cliche after another with poor Jean Simmons having to suffer many insults to both her person and her craft as Kirk Douglas chews the scenery in the title role. It’s no surprise that after the film’s completion, director Stanley Kubrick left Hollywood forever for England, where he proceeded to make a series of masterpieces –

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46. Psycho (1960)

A+

Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins)

GAY ACTOR

ACTOR: Anthony Perkins

PSYCHO IS ONE OF HITCHCOCK’S SEVEN PERFECT FILMS.

IN THE FINAL SCENE, HITCHCOCK HAS PERKINS BREAK THE FORTH WALL.

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

During a Friday afternoon affair in a Phoenix hotel, real estate secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and her boyfriend Sam Loomis (John Gavin) discuss their inability to get married because of Sam’s debts. Marion returns to work, steals $40,000, and drives to Sam’s home in Fairvale, California. She stops for the night at the Bates Motel, located off the main highway during a heavy rainstorm, and hides the stolen money inside a newspaper. Proprietor Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) descends from a large house overlooking the motel, registers Marion under an alias, and invites her to dine with him. After Norman returns to his house, Marion overhears him arguing with his mother about his wish to dine with Marion. Marion decides to drive back to Phoenix in the morning to return the stolen money. As she showers, a shadowy figure appears and stabs her to death. Norman cleans up the murder scene, putting Marion’s body, her belongings, and the hidden cash in her car, and sinks it in a swamp.

Hitchcock used a small crew, assembled from his TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, to film the movie. The most notable change was cinematographer John L. Russell replacing Hitchcock regular John Burks for the film’s striking black-and-white lensing. However, Hitchcock regulars George Tomasini, Bernard Herrmann, and Saul Bass remained in post-production. Their contributions to the editing, score, and title sequence are all essential to the film’s success.

Never was Hitchcock’s ability to manipulate an audience’s sympathies more evident than in the “car in the pond” scene. Within just a few minutes of her horrific death, we have forgotten about Janet Leigh. We are now rooting for her killer, Anthony Perkins, and we all breathe a massive sigh of relief when, after a gut-wrenching pause, the car containing Janet’s body (and the $40,000) finally goes under the water.

Norman may not be gay because of his sexual attraction to Marion. However, he is most assuredly queer, thus cementing the fifth letter in our LGBTQ acronym. Hitchcock liked to cast Queer actors in Queer parts. A known gay actor who had relationships with several famous male stars of the day, including Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter, Perkins died from complications of AIDS in 1992 after having been married and fathering two children. Norman is a crossdresser who is smothered by an overbearing mother and displays traits associated with traditional “feminine” behavior, hinting that Norman is repressing his genuine desire for a same-sex partner.

Screenplay by Joseph Stefano based on the novel “Psycho” by Robert Bloch.

Hitchcock’s cameo: 0:06:59. Seen through an office window wearing a Stetson cowboy hat as Janet Leigh comes through the door

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47. Purple Noon (1960)

B+

Purple Noon

Rene Clement

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Tom Ripley (Alain Delon)

LGBTQ+ SOURCE MATERIAL

Patricia Highsmith (based on her novel “The Talented Mr. Ripley”)

The first adaptation of Queer author Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel “The Talented Mr. Ripley” covers the same ground as the titular 1999 Anthony Minghella version and the eight-episode limited series on Netflix written and directed by Steve Zaillian and starring Andrew Scott. Gay sociopath Tom Ripley (an almost impossibly beautiful Alain Delon in his movie debut) kills and then assumes the identity of the wealthy and spoiled Dickie Greenlief (Maurice Ronet).

Although it lacks the emotional depth and the great supporting cast of Minghella’s film, this version has a unique style thanks to the directorial talents of French two-time Oscar winner Rene Clement (“Forbidden Games”) and his master cinematographer Henri Decae (“The 400 Blows”). Italy has never looked so beautiful. As for Delon, he is sensational. The world had no choice but to sit up and take notice. A superstar is born before our eyes.

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48. Victim (1961)

B+

Victim: Queer Cinema.

Basil Dearden

Denied due to its frank treatment of homosexuality and released without a seal of approval.

Years later, it received a PG/13 rating from the MPAA

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Melville Farr (Dirk Bogarde)

*Boy Barrett (Peter McEnery)

*PH (Hilton Edwards)

LGBTQ+ ACTORS

ACTOR: Dirk Bogarde

ACTOR: Hilton Edwards

DIRK BOGARDE’S BRAVE PERFORMANCE

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

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

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

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

Original screenplay by Janet Green and John McCormick.

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49. A Taste of Honey (1961)

B+

A Taste of Honey: Queer Cinema.

Tony Richardson

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Geoffrey Ingham (Murray Melvin)

LGBTQ+ DIRECTOR | ACTOR

DIRECTOR: Tony Richardson

ACTOR: Murray Melvin

QUEER KITCHEN SINK REALISM!


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

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

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50. The Children’s Hour (1961)

C

The Children's Hour: Queer Cinema

William Wyler

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Martha Dobie (Shirley MacLaine)

ITS QUEERNESS RESONATED MUCH MORE EFFECTIVELY WHEN WYLER MADE IT A THINLY DISGUISED HETEROSEXUAL DRAMA IN 1936

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. And it worked beautifully. What’s more, the Queer subtext was there. Released as “These Three,” it was a considerable success, paving the way for a series of classic movies Wyler made under the Godwyn banner.

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

Unfortunately, Wyler was stuck between two periods. 1961 was unprepared for an all-out gay film, so he had to be furtive. Not having the courage of his convictions, what started as bravery ended as cowardice. This time, it’s all text and no subtext! He might have had a triumph on his hands if he had waited another decade. There are moments, from MacLaine in particular, but they are not enough. The result is 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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51. Advice and Consent (1962)

A-

Advice and Consent: Queer Cinema

Otto Preminger

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Senator Brig Anderson (Don Murray)

 LGBTQ+ ACTORS | COSTUME DESIGNER

ACTOR: Charles Laughton

ACTOR: Walter Pidgeon

COSTUME DESIGNER: Bill Blass

 THE FIRST LOOK INSIDE AN AMERICAN GAY BAR

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

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

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

Adapted from the novel by Allen Drury.

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52. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

A+

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (Queer Cinema)

Robert Aldrich

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Edwin Flagg (Victor Buono)

LGBTQ+ ACTOR

ACTOR: Victor Buono

DAVIS AND CRAWFORD ARE SPECTACULAR!

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

The excellent movie score is by Frank De Vol.

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53. That Touch of Mink (1962)

C+

That Touch of Mink

Delbert Mann

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Connie (Audrey Meadows)

*Roger (Gig Young)

LGBTQ+ ACTORS

ACTOR: Cary Grant

ACTOR: Richard Deacon (uncredited)

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

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

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

However, when he thinks that Roger is gay, he immediately calls his broker to discard the previous purchase because Roger is now of unsound mind.
He also goes back to Vienna for a refresher course.

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

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

Original screenplay by Stanley Shapiro and Nate Monaster.

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54. Billy Budd (1962)

C

Billy Bud

Peter Ustinov

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Billy Budd (Terence Stamp)

*John Claggart (Robert Ryan)

*Peter Ustinov (Edward Vere)

LGBTQ+ SOURCE MATERIAL | COSTUME DESIGNER

SOURCE MATERIAL: Herman Melville (based on his novel “Billy Budd Foretopman” )

COSTUME DESIGNER: Anthony Mendleson

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

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

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

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

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

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55. Walk on the Wild Side (1962)

C-

Walk on the Wild Side

Edward Dmytryk

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Hallie (Capucine)

*Jo (Barbra Stanwyck)

LGBTQ+ ACTOR | COSTUME DESIGNER

ACTRESS: Barbara Stanwyck

COSTUME DESIGNER: Charles LeMaire

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

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

Directed by Edward Dmytryk. Music by Elmer Bernstein.

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

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56. The L-Shaped Room (1963)

A-

The L-Shaped Room

Bryan Forbes

(APPROVED)

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Mavis (Cicely Courtneidge)

*Johnny (Brock Peters)

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

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

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57. The Haunting (1963)

B+

The Haunting (Queer Cinema)

Robert Wise

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Theo (Theodora) (Claire Bloom)

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

Mrs. Dudley, the housekeeper (ROSALIE CRUTCHLEY) in “THE HAUNTING”

LESBIAN CHIC COURTESY OF CLAIRE BLOOM

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

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

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58. The Servant (1963)

A

The Servant

Joseph Losey

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Hugo (Dirk Bogarde)

*Tony (James Fox)

LGBTQ+ ACTOR

ACTOR: Dirk Bogarde

Adapted by Harold Pinter from Robin Maugham’s novella and directed by Joseph Losey,The Servant” has a tenuous current of homoeroticism lurking beneath its master (James Fox) and servant (Dirk Bogarde) power play. In fact, much of the tension emanates backward in time from Donald Cammell/Nicolas Roeg’s “Performance” (1970 – see my next essay on Queer Cinema “Queer Cinema Comes Out (1967 – 1976).”), a film which was clearly influenced by “Servant” and stars Fox in a similar role. Losey and Pinter, however, are more concerned with examining how the waning British class system stood circa 1963 with the addition of Sarah Miles as Bogarde’s “sister” and Wendy Craig as Fox’s girlfriend.

Winner of Best Screenplay of 1964 from the NYFCC. The stunning black and white cinematography is by Douglas Slocombe.

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59. The Leather Boys (1964)

B

The Leather Boys: Queer Cinema.

Sidney J. Furie

(Not Submitted)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Pete (Dudley Sutton)

*Reggie (Colin Campbell)

LGBTQ+ COSTUME DESIGNER

COSTUME DESIGN: Harry Haynes

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

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

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

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

Original screenplay by Gillian Freeman.

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60. The Loved One (1965)

A-

The Loved One: Queer Cinema.

Tony Richardson

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Mr. Joyboy (Rod Steiger)

LGBTQ+ | DIRECTOR | ACTORS | SCREENWRITER WRITER |COSTUME DESIGNER

DIRECTOR: Tony Richardson

SCREENWRITER: Christopher Isherwood

ACTOR: John Gielgud

ACTOR: Tab Hunter

ACTOR: Liberace

ACTOR: Roddy McDowell

COSTUME DESIGNER: Rouben Ter-Arutnian

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

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

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

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61. Darling (1965)

B

Darling

John Schlesinger

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Miles Brand (Dirk Bogarde)

LGBTQ+| DIRECTOR | ACTORS

DIRECTOR: John Schlesinger

ACTOR: Dirk Bogarde

ACTOR: Laurence Harvey

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

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

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

The Oscar-winning Original Screenplay is by Frederic Raphael.

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62. My Hustler (1965)

B+

My Hustler: Queer Cinema.

Andy Warhol and Chuck Wein

(Not Submitted)


“My Hustler” is the only extant Factory Film that Has been transferred to digital media AND Has turned a profit.

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Ed – the client (Ed Hood, uncredited)

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

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

LGBTQ+ PRODUCER | DIRECTOR | CINEMATOGRAPHER

Andy Warhol

LGBTQ+ DIRECTOR

Chuck Wein

LGBTQ+ ACTOR

Ed Hood (uncredited)

Paul America (uncredited)

Joe Campbell (uncredited)

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

Warhol and Wein originally conceived the idea of the film. Much of the dialogue was improvised, and there is no screenwriting credit. Paul Morrissey acted as the (uncredited) camera operator with Warhol credited as cinematographer.

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 63. Persona (1966)

A+

Persona: Queer Cinema.

Ingmar Bergman

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

 LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Alma (Bibi Andersson)

*Elisabet (Liv Ullmann)

My favorite film THAT IS not in the English language.

TWO OF THE GREATEST PERFORMANCES IN MOVIE HISTORY

One of the Jungian archetypes, the persona – as formulated by Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung – enables an individual to interact with the surrounding environment by reflecting on the role in life that the individual is playing. In that way, one can arrive at a compromise between one’s innate psychological constitution and society.

Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona” is a cinematic masterpiece that examines the complex and intimate relationship between two women, Elisabet (played by Liv Ullmann) and Alma (played by Bibi Andersson). Elisabet, a theatre actress, suddenly becomes mute during a performance of “Electra,” and Alma, a nurse, is assigned to care for her. They move to a cottage on Fårö (aka “Bergman”) island off the coast of Sweden, where, in their isolation, the women develop a deep emotional bond that blurs the lines between reality and imagination. Elizabet’s silence and withdrawal contrast with Alma’s volubility and desire for emotional connection. Eventually, Alma begins having trouble distinguishing herself from her patient.

Bergman’s revolutionary script and direction delve into topics such as vampirism, motherhood, abortion, and the Jungian theory of persona while highlighting what is fundamentally a love story between two women. Andersson’s and Ullman’s performances rank among the greatest in movie history.

In addition, the movie gives us not just one but two supremely erotic moments. The first is Andersson’s now famous monologue in which Alma recounts an episode from her youth where she and her friend Katarina engaged in a spontaneous orgy on a beach. The sensuality of the moment is centered on Alma’s memory of the intimate connection between herself and her friend as they were, in turn, penetrated by an unknown man while another watched. The second is a series of intimate compositions of the two women filmed in black-and-white and in extreme close-ups by the legendary Swedish cinematographer Sven Nykvist. These images have become iconic.

Original screenplay by Ingmar Bergman

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64. The Group (1966)

C

The Group

Sidney Lumet

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Lakey (Candice Bergen)

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

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

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

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65. Valley of the Dolls (1967)

Rated C (Solo)

High Camp at a Midnight Screening

Valley of the Dolls

Mark Robson

(APPROVED)

LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

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

LGBTQ+ COSTUME DESIGNER

William Travilla

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

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

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

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

Neely O’ Hara (PATTY DUKE) in “VALLEY OF THE DOLLS”

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

Neely O’ Hara (PATTY DUKE) in “VALLEY OF THE DOLLS”

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66. Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967).

A+

Reflections in a Golden Eye: Queer Cinema.

John Huston

(APPROVED)

  LGBTQ+ CHARACTER

*Anacleto (Zorro David)

*Major Weldon Penderton (Marlon Brando)

ACTOR |SOURCE MATERIAL

ACTOR: Marlon Brando

ACTOR: Zorro David

SOURCE MATERIAL: Carson McCullers(based on her novel Reflections in a Golden Eye ).

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

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

The haunting score is by Toshiro Mayuzumi.

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