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Classic lesbian films

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Since there are so many threads that already focus on stories involving gay men, I thought there should be a discussion about women's films in this genre. I'm not a female, and I haven't watched many scenes in movies that involve gay women. 

 

Maybe if any open lesbian posters come along, they can share their ideas about which titles are worth checking out. Of course, anyone is free to add comments.

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TCM included a few "lesbian"-themed films in their 2007 June pride month festival. "The Children's Hour" was probably the first mainstream film to be centered around the "theme", though it's really kind of a cheat. The conceit is that the two women are wrongly accused, even though ultimately one realizes that she does in fact have real feelings for the other (and kills herself as a result). They also showed "The Fox" (1968), which also went with the device of one of the women being more committed to the relationship than the other, the less committed one eventually becoming attached to a man. The other woman is crushed to death by a tree which the man has chopped down. (Seriously?) They also had a rare television screening of "The Killing of Sister George" (1968), which was the one which really went there. In that case, one of the women was lured away by another woman, not a man, which may not seem like progress today, but it certainly did then. It's a kind of dark comedy and fairly grim overall, but the characters and the milieu are by far the most honest up to that point in time. It's pretty much wedded to the butch-femme dynamic which historically had been the stereotype for lesbian relationships, so I'd be very curious to hear what contemporary women think of it. Hope some respond here. 

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TCM included a few "lesbian"-themed films in their 2007 June pride month festival. "The Children's Hour" was probably the first mainstream film to be centered around the "theme", though it's really kind of a cheat. The conceit is that the two women are wrongly accused, even though ultimately one realizes that she does in fact have real feelings for the other (and kills herself as a result). They also showed "The Fox" (1968), which also went with the device of one of the women being more committed to the relationship than the other, the less committed one eventually becoming attached to a man. The other woman is crushed to death by a tree which the man has chopped down. (Seriously?) They also had a rare television screening of "The Killing of Sister George" (1968), which was the one which really went there. In that case, one of the women was lured away by another woman, not a man, which may not seem like progress today, but it certainly did then. It's a kind of dark comedy and fairly grim overall, but the characters and the milieu are by far the most honest up to that point in time. It's pretty much wedded to the butch-femme dynamic which historically had been the stereotype for lesbian relationships, so I'd be very curious to hear what contemporary women think of it. Hope some respond here. 

Excellent post. Personally I don't think the Hepburn-MacLaine version of THE CHILDREN'S HOUR goes far enough (it's still hampered by the production code). I love THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE..I'd say it's my fave Robert Aldrich film, and that's saying a lot, because he made many great motion pictures. 

 

About a day after I started this thread, there was an announcement that Disney's upcoming animated sequel to FINDING NEMO, called FINDING DORY, is to feature a lesbian couple. It will be released in mid-June.

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TCM included a few "lesbian"-themed films in their 2007 June pride month festival. "The Children's Hour" was probably the first mainstream film to be centered around the "theme", though it's really kind of a cheat. The conceit is that the two women are wrongly accused, even though ultimately one realizes that she does in fact have real feelings for the other (and kills herself as a result). They also showed "The Fox" (1968), which also went with the device of one of the women being more committed to the relationship than the other, the less committed one eventually becoming attached to a man. The other woman is crushed to death by a tree which the man has chopped down. (Seriously?) They also had a rare television screening of "The Killing of Sister George" (1968), which was the one which really went there. In that case, one of the women was lured away by another woman, not a man, which may not seem like progress today, but it certainly did then. It's a kind of dark comedy and fairly grim overall, but the characters and the milieu are by far the most honest up to that point in time. It's pretty much wedded to the butch-femme dynamic which historically had been the stereotype for lesbian relationships, so I'd be very curious to hear what contemporary women think of it. Hope some respond here. 

 

To me The Children's Hour works better with the 'one-sided',  unfulfilled lesbian relationship,  then it would if both women were actual lesbians,  with one still being with a man out of social stigma.      To me the film 'works better' because they are wrongly accused but only 'sort of'.   This adds 'gray areas' that I find more interesting then if they were "rightly accused" (i.e. the two women were actually having a sexual affair).

 

What I don't like about the film is Audrey's reaction to finding out her best friend is a lesbian and how that somehow impacts Audrey's characters ability to clearly state to her boyfriend she isn't a lesbian.   

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To me The Children's Hour works better with the 'one-sided',  unfulfilled lesbian relationship,  then it would if both women were actual lesbians,  with one still being with a man out of social stigma.      To me the film 'works better' because they are wrongly accused but only 'sort of'.   This adds 'gray areas' that I find more interesting then if they were "rightly accused" (i.e. the two women were actually having a sexual affair).

 

What I don't like about the film is Audrey's reaction to finding out her best friend is a lesbian and how that somehow impacts Audrey's characters ability to clearly state to her boyfriend she isn't a lesbian.   

Like the wrong-headed assumption that "Tea and Sympathy" is a play/film about Tom Lee's "homosexuality", "The Children's Hour" is often thought of as a play/second film version about that dreaded word, "lesbianism".

 

Actually, both plays/movies are about the destructiveness of a LIE, that is not really the truth - 

 

although, in the play version of "Tea and Sympathy", one of the purveyors of the lie - Laura's husband - is actually a homosexual.

 

and, in the play/second movie version of "The Children's Hour", the LIE uncovers a long-buried truth about one of the characters. 

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Like the wrong-headed assumption that "Tea and Sympathy" is a play/film about Tom Lee's "homosexuality", "The Children's Hour" is often thought of as a play/second film version about that dreaded word, "lesbianism".

 

Actually, both plays/movies are about the destructiveness of a LIE, that is not really the truth - 

 

although, in the play version of "Tea and Sympathy", one of the purveyors of the lie - Laura's husband - is actually a homosexual.

 

and, in the play/second movie version of "The Children's Hour", the LIE uncovers a long-buried truth about one of the characters. 

Interesting point about the plays.  

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But do think "Tea and Sympathy" could be revived today?  Will a modern audience accept the concept of Tom just needing a good woman to make him "straight"?  And just to keep the thread going- my favorite lesbian films are lesbian vampires... :)

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But do think "Tea and Sympathy" could be revived today?  Will a modern audience accept the concept of Tom just needing a good woman to make him "straight"?  And just to keep the thread going- my favorite lesbian films are lesbian vampires... :)

 

Tea and Sympathy uses many dated stereotypes related to homosexuality and I don't see those concepts being accepted by modern audiences (well outside of North Carolina!).     As Ray stated,  the husband is a closet homosexual man,  one that took a job to be around young athletic men, but got married to a women so that he could peruse his true passions in secret.

 

The experimentation angle is now very common in teen films today so to me that concept is being overexposed. 

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Tea and Sympathy uses many dated stereotypes related to homosexuality and I don't see those concepts being accepted by modern audiences (well outside of North Carolina!).     As Ray stated,  the husband is a closet homosexual man,  one that took a job to be around young athletic men, but got married to a women so that he could peruse his true passions in secret.

 

The experimentation angle is now very common in teen films today so to me that concept is being overexposed. 

A few years ago, "Tea and Sympathy" was revived Off-Broadway for a limited run.

 

The Off-Broadway production got very good reviews.

 

But, today, the idea that a young man who is other than "macho" just has to be gay - well, that idea just seems pretty preposterous, doesn't it?

 

Why couldn't Tom Lee be straight - because he was gentle, sensitive and loved folk music?

 

The idea of the "macho" husband being gay must've been a revelation back in the '50's.

 

This entire subplot was eliminated from the movie version and thus weakened the original concept of the play.

 

Today, the fact that "masculine" men can be gay would seem to be a given.

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Today, the fact that "masculine" men can be gay would seem to be a given.

Looks like we're discussing gay men in a thread about lesbian films. LOL

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A few years ago, "Tea and Sympathy" was revived Off-Broadway for a limited run.

 

The Off-Broadway production got very good reviews.

 

But, today, the idea that a young man who is other than "macho" just has to be gay - well, that idea just seems pretty preposterous, doesn't it?

 

Why couldn't Tom Lee be straight - because he was gentle, sensitive and loved folk music?

 

The idea of the "macho" husband being gay must've been a revelation back in the '50's.

 

This entire subplot was eliminated from the movie version and thus weakened the original concept of the play.

 

Today, the fact that "masculine" men can be gay would seem to be a given.

But  I think Minelli  was able to visually hint about what was really going on with the husbannd

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I saw Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine in The Children's Hour when I was a little girl. It's the closest thing I can remember to somewhat of a lesbian theme in an "A" movie in the early 1960's. I was reminded of this because TCM is showing the film soon.

 

The first time Hollywood did a version of Lillian Hellman's play it was called called These Three; it was made into a typical love triangle.

 

The Children's Hour just implied lesbianism - - no proof of it really--but an accusation was made.

 

So all in all, there were good performances by Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine and James Garner. Not to give away the ending, however, the whole thing ended rather negatively.

 

Has somebody already mentioned this movie?

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I saw Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine in The Children's Hour when I was a little girl. It's the closest thing I can remember to somewhat of a lesbian theme in an "A" movie in the early 1960's. I was reminded of this because TCM is showing the film soon.

 

The first time Hollywood did a version of Lillian Hellman's play it was called called These Three; it was made into a typical love triangle.

 

The Children's Hour just implied lesbianism - - no proof of it really--but an accusation was made.

 

So all in all, there were good performances by Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine and James Garner. Not to give away the ending, however, the whole thing ended rather negatively.

 

Has somebody already mentioned this movie?

Good post. Yes, it was mentioned earlier in the thread, but it's nice to get another perspective.

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I couldn't really get into a serious discussion of lesbian films, because I don't really think that I have seen that many.

 

But one that I do remember is Mark Rydell's "The Fox", because it was based on a novella by D.H. Lawrence and had an unusual cast - Keir Dullea, Sandy Dennis and Anne Heywood.

 

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I saw Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine in The Children's Hour when I was a little girl. It's the closest thing I can remember to somewhat of a lesbian theme in an "A" movie in the early 1960's. I was reminded of this because TCM is showing the film soon.

 

The first time Hollywood did a version of Lillian Hellman's play it was called called These Three; it was made into a typical love triangle.

 

The Children's Hour just implied lesbianism - - no proof of it really--but an accusation was made.

 

So all in all, there were good performances by Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine and James Garner. Not to give away the ending, however, the whole thing ended rather negatively.

 

Has somebody already mentioned this movie?

 

The Children's Hours has been discussed a lot at this forum.   To me the lesbianism isn't implied but instead very obvious.   Since only the MacLaine character was a lesbian I really don't see how the Director could have made her character being a lesbian more obvious i.e. kind of difficult to do with only ONE person, if you get my drift. 

 

As for the acting;  MacLanie gives one of her finest performances (and she has given many in her career),  but I find the acting rather weak in the scenes with just Hepburn and Garner.    Of course I don't really understand the motives behind the Hepburn's characters actions and dialog as it relates to her finding out MacLanie's character is romantically in love with her.   Therefore the acting may be first rate and it is just the character that I disapprove of.

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The Children's Hours has been discussed a lot at this forum.   To me the lesbianism isn't implied but instead very obvious.   Since only the MacLaine character was a lesbian I really don't see how the Director could have made her character being a lesbian more obvious i.e. kind of difficult to do with only ONE person, if you get my drift. 

 

As for the acting;  MacLanie gives one of her finest performances (and she has given many in her career),  but I find the acting rather weak in the scenes with just Hepburn and Garner.    Of course I don't really understand the motives behind the Hepburn's characters actions and dialog as it relates to her finding out MacLanie's character is romantically in love with her.   Therefore the acting may be first rate and it is just the character that I disapprove of.

I think that the Audrey Hepburn character is meant to be "out-of-the-loop" and doesn't really comprehend what went on with her friend's character.

 

In "The Celluoid Closet", Shirley MacLaine complained that she and Audrey Hepburn didn't really DISCUSS what was going on with their characters.

 

It's definitely a director's film, in that it has an inescapable, hypnotic quality about it - the progress of A LIE and its' consequences.

 

The little girl, who was important to both films, is AN EVIL PRESENCE with no conscience and no soul.

 

In the second film version, this child has a more mundane presence, which seems to double her lethal intent.

 

She is almost casual about getting what she wants - and damn the torpedos!

 

I would love to see a third re-make in which the leads are two young men and the disruptive child is a young boy!

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I think that the Audrey Hepburn character is meant to be "out-of-the-loop" and doesn't really comprehend what went on with her friend's character.

 

In "The Celluoid Closet", Shirley MacLaine complained that she and Audrey Hepburn didn't really DISCUSS what was going on with their characters.

Personally, I think Audrey was out of her league with this kind of material. If they were insistent on casting her, then they needed to rewrite the character to fit her more whimsical persona. It still could have worked with her being clueless about the friend's internal identity crisis, but Audrey's character could have been a bit lighter and sillier and in a serious way just trying to laugh it off-- before she begins to see the horrible consequences that are happening. But the way it is now, Audrey is supposed to play it much more earnestly and she is not quite up to the task-- and I think that is where it falls flat. Even if she had discussed the characters' private relationship with MacLaine, I doubt she would have had any deep insights into it, and MacLaine would still have been frustrated.

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