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The First Gay Movies


Metropolisforever
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Dickson Experimental Sound Film, USA (1895) - In his book The Celluloid Closet (1981), film historian Vito Russo discusses the film, claiming, without attribution, that it was titled The Gay Brothers. Russo's unsupported naming of the film has been adopted widely online and in at least three books, and his assertions that the film's content is homosexual are frequently echoed. In addition to there being no evidence for the title Russo gives the film, in fact the word "gay" was not generally used as a synonym for "homosexual" at the time the film was made. There is also no evidence that Dickson intended to present the men?presumably employees of the Edison studio?as a romantic couple. Given the lyrics of the song Dickson plays, which describes life at sea without women, it is most plausible that he intended a joke about the virtually all-male environment of the Black Maria. Still, this may be seen as one of the earliest examples of same-sex imagery in the cinema. An excerpt of the film is included in the documentary based on Russo's book, also titled The Celluloid Closet (1995).

 

Other early gay films include:

 

L'?clipse du soleil en pleine lune (The Eclipse: Courtship of the Sun and Moon), France (1907)

 

Algie the Miner, USA (1912)

 

A Florida Enchantment, USA (1914)

 

Vingarne (The Wings), Sweden (1916)

 

Anders als die Andern (Different From the Others), Germany (1919)

 

Mika?l (Michael), Germany (1924)

 

Gesetze der Liebe (The Laws of Love), Germany (1927)

 

Geschlecht in Fesseln - Die Sexualnot der Gefangenen (Sex in Chains), Germany (1928)

 

Die B?chse der Pandora (Pandora's Box), Germany (1929)

 

Das Tagebuch einer Verlorenen (Diary of a Lost Girl), Germany (1929)

 

M?dchen in Uniform (Girls in Uniform), Germany (1931)

 

The Maltese Falcon, USA (1931)

 

Lot in Sodom, USA (1933)

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interesting thread. Thank you for the little lesson in cinema.

I really enjoyed when TCM did the Screened Out series. Actually one of my favorite films that I love with B. Stanwyck. called Ladies They Talk About was included in that series. I am not really all that into the newer gay films at all, but Boys Don't Cry was amazing. I never saw Brokeback Mt, but I have my reasons, but I am sure it is very good.

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Violets...the movie you're referring to starring Capucine, Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Fonda and Anne Baxter (oh yeah...Laurence Harvey) is "Walk On the Wild Side" in glorious black and white. Not a conventional beauty, I thought Capucine was sexy as all get out!

 

DSC...you're throwing in a lot of zingers. Aren'tcha scared of backlash, retribution and revenge? (There's another threesome fer ya). Giddeeup!!!

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Russo's great book " The Celluloid Closet" was about the negative portrayal of lesbian and gay characters in mainstream Hollywood films. "Brokeback Mountain" did not open the gates- gay characters are still barely visible in mainstream cinema- so I'm not sure what ax you were referring to?

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Metropolis Forever wrote:

 

> Dickson Experimental Sound Film, USA (1895)

 

Is this the one also known as Two Men Dancing (with a fiddler as accompaniment)? TCM played it back in November 2004 as part of a series highlight the release of a DVD set of silent shorts, and I recall the film historian on with Robert Osborne saying some people considered it the first gay movie, but that it was really more likely that Edison & co. were simply using whoever they had around the building to make the picture -- and there weren't any women working there.

 

I believe the same series showed Alice Guy's interesting Falling Leaves, one of the earliest banned movies. (Banned for its portrayal of a TB patient, which fell afoul of public health guidelines.)

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A really fascinating movie about gay/gender problems is the l914 A FLORIDA ENCHANTMENT, starring the fabulous Edith Story. Although this film might not be considered "gay," the story revolves around a young socialite (Story) who consumes some magical beans and gives some to her fiance. Edith Story turns into a charming young man and her fiance transforms into an ugly woman. Both wore drag through most of the story but Story is adorable as the dashing young playboy who charms all the women while her fiance--for some reason--attracts all the men. The actor does the usual swishy things to enact a woman--he skips and bats his eyes and flips his wrists. Make-up and dresses can't hide his manly face and figure. But Edith Story is perfectly believable as both a charming young dandy and a charismatic young lady. I watched this on VHS so don't know if it's been transformed to DVD yet. The print was fantastic and the movie very elaborate for its time--filmed on location in Florida and its beaches. This one, you gotta see. Edith Story, by the way, was the most popular female star in the early 1900s but by 1920, she was considered a has been.

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Russo failed to accept the beauty in those "between-the-lines" gay films like WINGS. He wanted to find 100% victimization. There's certainly plenty of evidence for it, but, just as so much had to be unstated in many arenas related to sex, the gay themes had to be handled non-overtly, as well. Just look at WINGS, it's a stunningly beautiful film about two men in love. And Russo dismissed it with a word or two, because it didn't fit his thesis. I don't think he was able to see beyond the most obvious layer to the symbols and the feelings that were the language of the early cinema and that frequently told the real story.

 

Actually, I think the first modern film that really "opened the gates" was a British film: MAURICE. It was a beautifully shot mainstream (Merchant/Ivory) film and opened at the Paris Theater in New York -- a venerable and upmarket venue. I remember taking two gay friends to see it for their anniversary and they were (of course pleasantly) shocked to see two men kissing (etc.) on screen (and one of them was the then relatively unknown Hugh Grant)! MAURICE is a lovely film, and should be more widely shown and discussed.

 

I think BROKEBACK lost the Oscar to the mediocre CRASH for the same reason that the brilliant film REDS lost to the pretty but lesser CHARIOTS OF FIRE years earlier. The right-wing calls Hollywood "red," so the voters didn't have the courage to pick Beatty's brilliant film. The right-wing also paints Hollywood as "gay," so the voters didn't have the courage to pick BROKEBACK.

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"Actually, I think the first modern film that really "opened the gates" was a British film: MAURICE. "

 

Not disagreeing with you but I am watching The Lion In Winter On Demand as I type this. I can't help but be surprised at the film's casualness in the dealing with the affair between Dalton and Hopkins. (not to mention Henry's proclamation that he bedded little boys.) Add in the "bitchy" dialogue and it is almost as "gay" as Boys In The Band.

 

Kyle In Hollywood

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> I remember when I saw Maurice--I was impressed by the fact that this was the first gay-themed movie with a happy ending, so different from Death in Venice...

 

No offense, but when I read "Death in Venice", I didn't think of it as gay-themed so much as pedophilia-themed -- it's that creepy, if you ask me.

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I have to admit, I've only read the story; I haven't seen the movie.

 

I've also been put off the idea of Bogarde in foreign movies ever since seeing The Damned, exhibit A for the case that a movie doesn't suddenly become great just because it's a foreign film.

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