The First Gay Couple.
The “marriage” of Hume Cronyn and John Randolph in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s “There Was a Crooked Man” (1970) is Hollywood‘s first presentation of a happy and well-adjusted gay couple. Yes, they fight and bicker all the time. However, they are clearly madly in love with each other.
No, Cronyn and Randolph are not in We-Ho or the Hamptons. They are in an extremely poor excuse for jail. As Scarlet O’Hara would put it, a horse jail! We are in the Arizona territory circa 1883. The main plot involves a $500,000 loot hidden by Kirk Douglas, who somehow also ends up in said jail and who is being hunted by Henry Fonda‘s Sheriff Woodward W. Lopeman.
This was Mank’s only Western, and it is a marvelous ride with a witty, intelligent script by David Newman and Robert Benton. The boys were fresh from their triumph with “Bonnie and Clyde.”
However, in many ways, it’s like Mank had been transported back in time to an alternate “All About Eve.” Cronyn and Randolph taking over from Bette Davis and Thelma Ritter, respectively. Two of the greatest character actors in Hollywood history, Cronyn and Randolph, play their roles with great knowingness and respect, all the while being brilliantly funny. Cheers!