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Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

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TCM spotlight on 'gay hollywood'-- June 2017


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#1 ChristineHoard

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 06:29 PM

Tommy Kirk actually blames himself for the derailment of his career - he would not (could not?) control his appetites (drugs and boys).

 

Richard Deacon, a team player, if ever there was one, played Lumpy Rutherford's father on "Leave It To Beaver".

 

I also remember Richard Deacon on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW.  As for movies, I remember his scenes in the original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.  I liked him.  Good supporting actor.


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#2 rayban

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 05:59 PM

I don't quite believe that. Most everyone who knew Deacon, Romero and Mineo knew they were gay. Culp was bisexual. Kelly was open back in the tommy 40s, and it's why her screen career went into decline during the war years. In the 60s she was being hired again not because she had gone into the closet but because there was more acceptance. Her comeback film had another well-known lesbian-- Spring Byington who also costarred in PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES. So this tells me the casting directors were probably gay; and also Doris Day who had casting approval okayed these choices because Doris was pretty gay-friendly. 

 

The later films Kelly did at Disney were feminist stories-- meaning a bit of lesbianism was probably going to be included (since radical feminism tends to merge with lesbianism). And in one of those pictures Susan Clark was a lead; and Susan never came across as overly feminine. So again it's an openness to different types of femininity and masculinity, encouraged by the casting.

 

Griffin's book (and theories) don't really seem to look at the different factors and increasingly "gray" areas that occurred in the business, especially in terms of casting. It's too easy to say Kirk was gay and Walt was conservative and that derailed Kirk's career. In fact that is hindsight making such a sweeping generalization without looking at myriad other variables.

 

Personally I think Kirk was probably kind of a brat-- he didn't respect the top brass and play the game. If so, that's a bigger problem than one's sexuality. Especially in an industry where so many have always been gay or actively bisexual.

 

Incidentally I think the name of Griffin's book is (quite) a bit offensive. Instead of choosing something that sounded more scholarly, he went with a sensational title that actually promotes slurs against gay people. Archie Bunker would love it.

Tommy Kirk actually blames himself for the derailment of his career - he would not (could not?) control his appetites (drugs and boys).

 

Richard Deacon, a team player, if ever there was one, played Lumpy Rutherford's father on "Leave It To Beaver".


Edited by rayban, 26 April 2017 - 06:02 PM.

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#3 ChristineHoard

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 05:14 PM

There's a good article in THE DAILY BEAST about Johnathon Demme and his movie PHILADELPHIA (sorry I don't know how to bring to to this thread) for those who might be interested.

 

The title of the Griffin book was designed to titillate and sell copies.  I doubt the publishers cared whether it offended anybody or not.


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#4 TopBilled

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 05:02 PM

I think that may be a bit of hindsight. Here's one of several sources -- a fascinating book about Disney:

 

Tinker Belles and Evil Queens: The Walt Disney Company from the Inside Out (NYU), by Sean Griffin.

 

"A number of actors and actresses who were closeted homosexuals worked on Disney films throughout the years -- Richard Deacon, Cesar Romero, Sal Mineo, Nancy Culp, Patsy Kelly. Yet it is precisely their secretiveness that kept them employed both at Disney and in Hollywood at large. For example, it is rumoured that Carlton Carpenter was originally considered for the role of Davy Crockett's companion but was eventually passed over because executives had heard that he might be homosexual."

 

I don't quite believe that. Most everyone who knew Deacon, Romero and Mineo knew they were gay. Culp was bisexual. Kelly was open back in the 40s, and it's why her screen career went into decline during the war years. In the 60s she was being hired again not because she had gone into the closet but because there was more acceptance. Her comeback film had another well-known lesbian-- Spring Byington who also costarred in PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES. So this tells me the casting directors were probably gay; and also Doris Day who had casting approval okayed these choices because Doris was pretty gay-friendly. 

 

The later films Kelly did at Disney were feminist stories-- meaning a bit of lesbianism was probably going to be included (since radical feminism tends to merge with lesbianism). And in one of those pictures Susan Clark was a lead; and Susan never came across as overly feminine. So again it's an openness to different types of femininity and masculinity, encouraged by the casting.

 

Griffin's book (and theories) don't really seem to look at the different factors and increasingly "gray" areas that occurred in the business, especially in terms of casting. It's too easy to say Kirk was gay and Walt was conservative and that derailed Kirk's career. In fact that is hindsight making such a sweeping generalization without looking at myriad other variables.

 

Personally I think Kirk was probably kind of a brat-- he didn't respect the top brass and play the game. If so, that's a bigger problem than one's sexuality. Especially in an industry where so many have always been gay or actively bisexual.

 

Incidentally I think the name of Griffin's book is (quite) a bit offensive. Instead of choosing something that sounded more scholarly, he went with a sensational title that actually promotes slurs against gay people. Archie Bunker would love it.


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#5 Swithin

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 04:45 PM

It seems like a stretch saying Deacon was closeted. I'd say it was pretty obvious to everyone he was gay. Even Walt would have realized it. Desi Arnaz hired Deacon to replace Roger C. Carmel on the second season of The Mothers-in-Law. Deacon played Kaye Ballard's husband and had no chemistry with her. But Deacon didn't make waves and he was someone they could count on to be professional and get the job done. Deacon had a long screen career because he was a team player and knew how to deliver a line to get laughs; his success had little to do with masking his sexual orientation.

 

I think that may be a bit of hindsight. Here's one of several sources -- a fascinating book about Disney:

 

Tinker Belles and Evil Queens: The Walt Disney Company from the Inside Out (NYU), by Sean Griffin.

 

"A number of actors and actresses who were closeted homosexuals worked on Disney films throughout the years -- Richard Deacon, Cesar Romero, Sal Mineo, Nancy Culp, Patsy Kelly. Yet it is precisely their secretiveness that kept them employed both at Disney and in Hollywood at large. For example, it is rumoured that Carlton Carpenter was originally considered for the role of Davy Crockett's companion but was eventually passed over because executives had heard that he might be homosexual."


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#6 rayban

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 04:16 PM

Can anybody educate me on what happened with Tommy Kirk?  I do remember him from the Disney flicks I saw as a kid.  I never saw the Mars flick but I remember when it came out.

 

I thought BEWITCHED  was much funnier than JEANNIE.  As an adult I learned that several in the cast were gay (or alleged to be gay) and I thought that it must have been a fun set to work on.  Maybe some of the cast  members could just be themselves and that would be a freeing experience.

 

I never watched EDGE OF NIGHT but I've read that it was considered one of the best soaps ever.  I have fallen out of the soap habit but used to watch Y&R and B&B all the time.  Soaps used to be timely with some issues, like Erica's abortion on AMC and then got cold feet later on so any female who got pregnant and didn't want the baby wouldn't get an abortion but would miss-carry (usually a convenient fall or something) instead.  The last time I watched, soaps did not do a particularly good job with gay issues or gay representation.  For example, B&B takes place in LA's fashion industry yet nobody's gay.  Go figure...

"Days Of Our Lives" made daytime history when two of its' gay characters met, fell in love and got married.

 

The wedding ceremony took place over a four-day period.

 

The characters were Will Horton and Sonny Kiriakis.

 

DAYS-LIVES-GAY-WEDDING.jpg


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#7 ChristineHoard

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 04:10 PM

Thanks for the link to the Tommy Kirk info, Jlewis.  Interesting.  It seems it was the substance abuse that really derailed Tommy's acting career, not his sexuality.  


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#8 Jlewis

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 03:50 PM

Tommy is doing OK in his retirement. Back then, he also like marijuana, another no-no. You can read it all here:

 

https://en.wikipedia...#Leaving_Disney

 

Bewitched was classic TV, but I have to admit that Dick Sargent never looked as happy on screen as Dick York... and it was the former who was suffering with pain killers.


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#9 ChristineHoard

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 03:41 PM

Can anybody educate me on what happened with Tommy Kirk?  I do remember him from the Disney flicks I saw as a kid.  I never saw the Mars flick but I remember when it came out.

 

I thought BEWITCHED  was much funnier than JEANNIE.  As an adult I learned that several in the cast were gay (or alleged to be gay) and I thought that it must have been a fun set to work on.  Maybe some of the cast  members could just be themselves and that would be a freeing experience.

 

I never watched EDGE OF NIGHT but I've read that it was considered one of the best soaps ever.  I have fallen out of the soap habit but used to watch Y&R and B&B all the time.  Soaps used to be timely with some issues, like Erica's abortion on AMC and then got cold feet later on so any female who got pregnant and didn't want the baby wouldn't get an abortion but would miss-carry (usually a convenient fall or something) instead.  The last time I watched, soaps did not do a particularly good job with gay issues or gay representation.  For example, B&B takes place in LA's fashion industry yet nobody's gay.  Go figure...


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#10 rayban

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 10:48 AM

Yes, I think this is the key difference. It was a fundamental shift in attitude. A younger generation gay man (Kirk) didn't approach it in the same way that an older generation gay man did (Deacon). It wasn't that they were gay, it's how gay they were in public that might affect box office or TV ratings.

 

Incidentally, there are many episodes of the daytime soap Edge of Night on YouTube. I never watched the show when I was younger (I watched other soaps on another network). As I've been looking at these episodes and reading up on the actors, I've been surprised by how many of them were gay. Obviously the casting director (who might have been gay) and the show's producers (who might have been gay) had no trouble hiring them.

 

All they had to do was successfully perpetuate the double standard, meaning they would play hetero romantic ideals for the straight female audience and provide eye candy for the gay male audience. One of the actors who had a five year run on the show was actually a gay porn star. He used a different stage name for the adult films he made. Again, the producers (and I would imagine the network and sponsors) had no problem with his other life away from the show. And in those days before the internet, it probably was easier to maintain the double standard.

 

A soap magazine from that era was not going to mention the gay films, but it also didn't have to create a girlfriend for the actor either. So it's not that they were closeted, it's just that certain things were emphasized or de-emphasized when it came to various types of publicity. With Tommy Kirk in the 60s, he wanted greater control over what was emphasized/publicized, and that was something his bosses wouldn't allow. Again, the problem wasn't being gay, it was the fact he wouldn't play the game "correctly."

Tommy Kirk was an enormous talent - in touch with his mind and heart - he would not play "the game", that's all.

 

But, in firing him, Walt Disney did realize his mistake and did invite him back to the studio.

 

Ironically, the low-budget flicks that he did make are all "elevated" by his charm, charisma and talent.

 

He should write an autobiography.

 

He was a very courageous young man.

 

But he did step out of "the limelight" - and perhaps he'd rather stay that way.  


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#11 TopBilled

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 08:25 AM

What happened in Tommy Kirk's case, I think, was that he was more open about being gay in 1965. 

 

Yes, I think this is the key difference. It was a fundamental shift in attitude. A younger generation gay man (Kirk) didn't approach it in the same way that an older generation gay man did (Deacon). It wasn't that they were gay, it's how gay they were in public that might affect box office or TV ratings.

 

Incidentally, there are many episodes of the daytime soap Edge of Night on YouTube. I never watched the show when I was younger (I watched other soaps on another network). As I've been looking at these episodes and reading up on the actors, I've been surprised by how many of them were gay. Obviously the casting director (who might have been gay) and the show's producers (who might have been gay) had no trouble hiring them.

 

All they had to do was successfully perpetuate the double standard, meaning they would play hetero romantic ideals for the straight female audience and provide eye candy for the gay male audience. One of the actors who had a five year run on the show was actually a gay porn star. He used a different stage name for the adult films he made. Again, the producers (and I would imagine the network and sponsors) had no problem with his other life away from the show. And in those days before the internet, it probably was easier to maintain the double standard.

 

A soap magazine from that era was not going to mention the gay films, but it also didn't have to create a girlfriend for the actor either. So it's not that they were closeted, it's just that certain things were emphasized or de-emphasized when it came to various types of publicity. With Tommy Kirk in the 60s, he wanted greater control over what was emphasized/publicized, and that was something his bosses wouldn't allow. Again, the problem wasn't being gay, it was the fact he wouldn't play the game "correctly."


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#12 Jlewis

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 06:13 AM

It seems like a stretch saying Deacon was closeted. I'd say it was pretty obvious to everyone he was gay. Even Walt would have realized it. Desi Arnaz hired Deacon to replace Roger C. Carmel on the second season of The Mothers-in-Law. Deacon played Kaye Ballard's husband and had no chemistry with her. But Deacon didn't make waves and he was someone they could count on to be professional and get the job done. Deacon had a long screen career because he was a team player and knew how to deliver a line to get laughs; his success had little to do with masking his sexual orientation.

 

Back then and stretching even further back to the 1920s and '30s, the popular catch phrase in Hollywood and Beverly Hills was "I don't care what you do behind closed doors as long as it doesn't frighten the horses". Somebody can correct me here on the exact wording.

 

Even though Washington D.C. was cracking down on gays working in government positions by 1953 (never mind what either Roy Cohn or J. Edgar Hoover did behind closed doors), all Hollywood was worried about were the tabloids. Yet there was so much "negotiating" with money involved, so it wasn't like you could NOT hide anything you wanted to a.k.a. Rock Hudson.

 

What happened in Tommy Kirk's case, I think, was that he was more open about being gay in 1965. That didn't please "Uncle" Walt. Ironically his most notorious film, Mars Needs Women (a non-Disney film he had to make later to make any kind of money) was filmed quickly the very week "Uncle" died (in December 1966). I think the title summed up the Disney/Tommy dilemma in a nutshell. Mars... and "Uncle" Walt... needed women more than Tommy did.

 

Tommy would be an entertaining guest to sit down with Ben. He could tell us the full story.

 

Going a bit off topic, I was watching an old documentary on Bewitched. The years just before and after Stonewall weren't all that bad if you were an actor/actress who could stay discrete. The long running joke is that you favor I Dream Of Jeannie over Bewitched only if you are strictly heterosexual with no "gay" sensibility and likely male due to all of the pre-Lib "yes master" talk. Don't get me wrong, I loved Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden. Yet you favor the other show because it was simply "fabulous" with its many colorful and, more often than not, closeted stars. Well... not Elizabeth Montgomery and the first Darrin, Dick York (father of too many kids to count). Agnes Moorehead was likely bisexual, since she was married for only a short time and had closer-than-close girlfriends. Many others like Dick Sargent, Maurice Evans and Paul Lynn certainly weren't into women at all and didn't even pretend to be. I personally favored Bewitched over Jeannie simply because it was so much funnier and creative.


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#13 Jlewis

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 09:46 PM

I especially liked his fussy Franklyn Pangborn-ish role in About Time (1961), assistant to "King" Les Tremaine of the Planet Q. This was the last of the four (out of nine total) Bell Science shows that were produced on the Warner Brothers lot, also featuring my all-time favorite "square" Frank Baxter.


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#14 TopBilled

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 09:30 PM

He was also a character actor not a romantic leading man

 

Right. So he was not expected to exude a conventional sort of sex appeal.


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#15 jaragon

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 09:26 PM

It seems like a stretch saying Deacon was closeted. I'd say it was pretty obvious to everyone he was gay. Even Walt would have realized it. Desi Arnaz hired Deacon to replace Roger C. Carmel on the second season of The Mothers-in-Law. Deacon played Kaye Ballard's husband and had no chemistry with her. But Deacon didn't make waves and he was someone they could count on to be professional and get the job done. Deacon had a long screen career because he was a team player and knew how to deliver a line to get laughs; his success had little to do with masking his sexual orientation.

He was also a character actor not a romantic leading man


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Posted 24 April 2017 - 09:15 PM

An actor who had to be closeted in order to get work was Richard Deacon.  He did several films for Disney, who would never have hired him if they suspected he was gay.

 

 

It seems like a stretch saying Deacon was closeted. I'd say it was pretty obvious to everyone he was gay. Even Walt would have realized it. Desi Arnaz hired Deacon to replace Roger C. Carmel on the second season of The Mothers-in-Law. Deacon played Kaye Ballard's husband and had no chemistry with her. But Deacon didn't make waves and he was someone they could count on to be professional and get the job done. Deacon had a long screen career because he was a team player and knew how to deliver a line to get laughs; his success had little to do with masking his sexual orientation.


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#17 TopBilled

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 08:33 PM

Does anyone think that CROSSFIRE  would have followed the THE BRICK FOXHOLE (its source novel by Richard Brooks) and have the murdered character be gay, like in the novel, instead of Jewish?

 

I thought about this film when I was reading earlier responses in the thread. Not only was the production code strongly enforced in 1947, but also we had liberal artists (producers, directors, writers and actors) threatened with blacklisting. Some of the content in films that was technically not in violation of the code (like pro-Russian sentiment) was now targeted. Many of the people who worked on CROSSFIRE were already under investigation by the House committee. So if they had insisted on using a gay storyline, it would have pulled the noose tighter around their necks-- they would have been regarded by conservatives as even more subversive, radical and dangerous to the moral fabric of America.


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#18 Swithin

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 07:17 PM

An actor who had to be closeted in order to get work was Richard Deacon.  He did several films for Disney, who would never have hired him if they suspected he was gay.

 

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#19 ChristineHoard

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 07:11 PM

It's possible, jaragon.  Does anyone think that CROSSFIRE  would have followed the THE BRICK FOXHOLE (its source novel by Richard Brooks) and have the murdered character be gay, like in the novel, instead of Jewish?


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#20 jaragon

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 06:51 PM

Very good question.  I would like to think Hollywood would have been more open and enlightened but the stigma against homosexuality in much of "the real world" may have prevented it.  Would portrayals fall along the lines of African Americans in the movies?  Stereotypes in the 30's and 40's, a little more diverse and empathetic after WW2 and in the 50's and 60's?  For all the talk about how "liberal" Hollywood is, it's still a pretty conservative place when it comes to subject matter and not wanting to offend the moviegoing public, although every now and then there is a breakthrough of sorts especially in independent film.

Yes I agree "liberal" Hollywood is still a conservative industry town and gay character even with out the code restrictions would have been used as in that clip for shocking and humorous purposes.- but still if gay characters had not been banned would some trail blazing classic era director/ producer might have given us a more real view of the homosexual experience specially in the post war era


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