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jaragon

"The City and The Pillar" (1948)

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Gore Vidal's novel  "The City and the Pillar" would make an interesting movie.  I just re-read it and realized how shocking this book must have been in 1948.  Jim, the protagonist is not just the All American boy next door who happens to be gay but he also does not seem to have any shame about his homosexual desire.  The novel traces Jim's quest to reconnect with his teenage crush which leads him on a tour of gay American culture of the period. from Hollywood, to the army to New York high society.   The book has not dated at all and Jim's romantic obsession is timeless.  Vidal revised the novel in the 60's and changed to original darker ending.   The censors would have never allowed the film to be made in 1950's but I keep imagining Tab Hunter as Jim.

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You're so right. Gore Vidal and James Baldwin were the writers whose careers survived early novels with gay themes at a time when it wasn't likely that (A) they'd even be published at all or that (B) they'd be given a second chance. But their talent was undeniable and they both eventually thrived.  Your also right that Hollywood was waaaay behind the literary world. We now know that talented gay actors, like Tab and Rock Hudson, were available and it's a shame they never got the kind of opportunities they may have excelled at. 

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25 minutes ago, DougieB said:

You're so right. Gore Vidal and James Baldwin were the writers whose careers survived early novels with gay themes at a time when it wasn't likely that (A) they'd even be published at all or that (B) they'd be given a second chance. But their talent was undeniable and they both eventually thrived.  Your also right that Hollywood was waaaay behind the literary world. We now know that talented gay actors, like Tab and Rock Hudson, were available and it's a shame they never got the kind of opportunities they may have excelled at. 

I had read "The City and the Pillar" before it affected me more this time.  The book is very daring specially on how it deal with Jim's sexuality.   I'm sure for readers in 1948 they expected gays in Hollywood but not in the Army and the Navy.  Vidal who was in the service makes this explicit.  The young Tab Hunter would have been perfect for the lead but of course that film was no going to be made in the 1950's but  I am surprised that nobody has made a movie out it by now.   But this is true of many gay lit classic like James Baldwin's "Giovanni's Room"(1956) .  These are works that deal with timeless themes and have not dated.   Vidal always said the book derailed his literary career  and that is why he had to go to Hollywood and make money as screenwriter.

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20 minutes ago, jaragon said:

I had read "The City and the Pillar" before it affected me more this time.  The book is very daring specially on how it deal with Jim's sexuality.   I'm sure for readers in 1948 they expected gays in Hollywood but not in the Army and the Navy.  Vidal who was in the service makes this explicit.  The young Tab Hunter would have been perfect for the lead but of course that film was no going to be made in the 1950's but  I am surprised that nobody has made a movie out it by now.   But this is true of many gay lit classic like James Baldwin's "Giovanni's Room"(1956) .  These are works that deal with timeless themes and have not dated.   Vidal always said the book derailed his literary career  and that is why he had to go to Hollywood and make money as screenwriter.

Would it have worked as a Merchant-Ivory adaptation? 

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52 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Would it have worked as a Merchant-Ivory adaptation? 

They made "Maurice" which was more their style .  I was thinking these new producers and directors don't read the classics anymore.  They would rather adapt something new or remake something - like the new production of " Boys in the Band" we really don't need another movie version of that play- but now it's  a marketable property.   You would have to find a producer or a director with the clout to make "The City and the Pillar" .  It's a period piece so it's not going to be cheap.   These projects usually get made in England- like "The Lost Language of Cranes" which is very American New York novel but the movie is set in London. 

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12 minutes ago, jaragon said:

They made "Maurice" which was more their style .  I was thinking these new producers and directors don't read the classics anymore.  They would rather adapt something new or remake something - like the new production of " Boys in the Band" we really don't need another movie version of that play- but now it's  a marketable property.   You would have to find a producer or a director with the clout to make "The City and the Pillar" .  It's a period piece so it's not going to be cheap.   These projects usually get made in England- like "The Lost Language of Cranes" which is very American New York novel but the movie is set in London. 

Plus I think The Lost Language of Cranes was done for British television, not for theaters. I know I saw it first on PBS, so I assumed it was from the BBC. There are so many platforms now doing original programming for television and streaming, so it's possible. The public doesn't always know what it wants but then when something like last decade's multi-part adaptation of Mildred Pierce shows up they embrace it. I'm generally a fan of Ryan Murphy's choices, so it might be something he could champion. Or Todd Haynes, who has a track record with period pieces. (Sorry, TopBilled. I can feel you cringing, so apologies in advance.)

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45 minutes ago, DougieB said:

Plus I think The Lost Language of Cranes was done for British television, not for theaters. I know I saw it first on PBS, so I assumed it was from the BBC. There are so many platforms now doing original programming for television and streaming, so it's possible. The public doesn't always know what it wants but then when something like last decade's multi-part adaptation of Mildred Pierce shows up they embrace it. I'm generally a fan of Ryan Murphy's choices, so it might be something he could champion. Or Todd Haynes, who has a track record with period pieces. (Sorry, TopBilled. I can feel you cringing, so apologies in advance.)

That's hilarious..the second I read Todd Haynes' name I cringed...then in the very next sentence, you knew that I had just cringed!

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1 hour ago, jaragon said:

They made "Maurice" which was more their style .  I was thinking these new producers and directors don't read the classics anymore.  They would rather adapt something new or remake something - like the new production of " Boys in the Band" we really don't need another movie version of that play- but now it's  a marketable property.   You would have to find a producer or a director with the clout to make "The City and the Pillar" .  It's a period piece so it's not going to be cheap.   These projects usually get made in England- like "The Lost Language of Cranes" which is very American New York novel but the movie is set in London. 

James Ivory still writes screenplays, yes? I bet he could adapt it. Then they'd just need someone young and visionary to direct it.

It shouldn't have to be done as a miniseries or a telefilm. It could easily be a feature film that plays festivals and art houses. And then gets nominated for a truckload of Oscars.

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

James Ivory still writes screenplays, yes? I bet he could adapt it. Then they'd just need someone young and visionary to direct it.

It shouldn't have to be done as a miniseries or a telefilm. It could easily be a feature film that plays festivals and art houses. And then gets nominated for a truckload of Oscars.

James Ivory is an excellent choice for screenplay.  I would make a feature, get an unknown for the lead and cast some name actors in the supporting roles- there are at least three juicy Oscar bait roles.

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2 hours ago, DougieB said:

Plus I think The Lost Language of Cranes was done for British television, not for theaters. I know I saw it first on PBS, so I assumed it was from the BBC. There are so many platforms now doing original programming for television and streaming, so it's possible. The public doesn't always know what it wants but then when something like last decade's multi-part adaptation of Mildred Pierce shows up they embrace it. I'm generally a fan of Ryan Murphy's choices, so it might be something he could champion. Or Todd Haynes, who has a track record with period pieces. (Sorry, TopBilled. I can feel you cringing, so apologies in advance.)

Yes "The Lost Language of Cranes" was a dull made for tv production  (I loved the book so was very disappointed it was not set in New York).  Todd Haynes has done similar material with "Far From Heaven" and the cold as ice "Carol". 

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I first began hearing about The City and the Pillar back in the late seventies when I began coming out into the gay community, but I never had the motivation to read it.  I considered it an old and outdated book. My first gay novel was City of Night, which I read when I was in the Army, and kept well-hidden in my billet.  Some years later, I read Dancer From the Dance, and The Best Little Boy in The World.  Those were the books that defined my coming out experience in the late seventies and early eighties.  It wasn't until a few years ago that a friend of mine was moving, and downsizing, and gave me some of his old books, including The City and The Pillar. It was a few months later that I got around to reading it.  I actually enjoyed it immensely.  The novel begins in the late 1930s, and covers approximately the next 10 years or so, the period  during and after World War II.  But the story of Jim Willard and Bob Ford is essentially timeless, and holds up as well as ever.  They start out as teenagers in high school, and are in their late twenties by the end.  I'd welcome seeing it as a movie, or as a miniseries. As mentioned in an earlier post, Vidal revised the book a  number of years after he'd written it, and changed the ending to make it less  bleak and desolate, though it still ends on a sad note.

I enjoyed seeing Gore Vidal in Gattaca. It's unfortunate that he's now deceased. He could have played the role of  Mr. Willard (Jim's father) quite well.

 

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11 hours ago, ronnoco28 said:

I first began hearing about The City and the Pillar back in the late seventies when I began coming out into the gay community, but I never had the motivation to read it.  I considered it an old and outdated book. My first gay novel was City of Night, which I read when I was in the Army, and kept well-hidden in my billet.  Some years later, I read Dancer From the Dance, and The Best Little Boy in The World.  Those were the books that defined my coming out experience in the late seventies and early eighties.  It wasn't until a few years ago that a friend of mine was moving, and downsizing, and gave me some of his old books, including The City and The Pillar. It was a few months later that I got around to reading it.  I actually enjoyed it immensely.  The novel begins in the late 1930s, and covers approximately the next 10 years or so, the period  during and after World War II.  But the story of Jim Willard and Bob Ford is essentially timeless, and holds up as well as ever.  They start out as teenagers in high school, and are in their late twenties by the end.  I'd welcome seeing it as a movie, or as a miniseries. As mentioned in an earlier post, Vidal revised the book a  number of years after he'd written it, and changed the ending to make it less  bleak and desolate, though it still ends on a sad note.

I enjoyed seeing Gore Vidal in Gattaca. It's unfortunate that he's now deceased. He could have played the role of  Mr. Willard (Jim's father) quite well.

 

"City of Night" by John Rechy is a very good  hot book you would really have to tone down the sex to get an R rating.  I love "The Best Little Boy in the World" which is very funny.  I never could get into "Dancer from the Dance" maybe there was too much disco dancing.   There is a memorable chapter in Rechy's book about a marine's experience in Hollywood-  now that's a book that could make a good Netflix series.  You are right about Vidal's acting. 

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13 hours ago, jaragon said:

James Ivory is an excellent choice for screenplay.  I would make a feature, get an unknown for the lead and cast some name actors in the supporting roles- there are at least three juicy Oscar bait roles.

Who would you select for the supporting roles?

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51 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Who would you select for the supporting roles?

Good question- the roles are Robert Shaw a closeted Hollywood star who keeps looking for love in all the wrong places.... Maria a glamorous straight lady who keeps falling for gay men and Peter a neurotic gay intellectual who drinks to much and sabotages his love life.  If I was doing in classic Hollywood I see Elizabeth Taylor as Maria. Anthony Perkins would be Peter. 

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1 hour ago, jaragon said:

Good question- the roles are Robert Shaw a closeted Hollywood star who keeps looking for love in all the wrong places.... Maria a glamorous straight lady who keeps falling for gay men and Peter a neurotic gay intellectual who drinks to much and sabotages his love life.  If I was doing in classic Hollywood I see Elizabeth Taylor as Maria. Anthony Perkins would be Peter. 

I haven't read the book. What are the characters' ages supposed to be? Would there be any roles for actors over 50?

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26 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

I haven't read the book. What are the characters' ages supposed to be? Would there be any roles for actors over 50?

Maria is suppose to be forty so 1950's  Taylor might be too young.  Peter is closer to Jim's age so he would be late twenties.   Robert Shaw could be fifty.

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Interesting. So what do you guys think the title means. Is it symbolic in any way? Why did Vidal give the story this particular title?

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

Interesting. So what do you guys think the title means. Is it symbolic in any way? Why did Vidal give the story this particular title?

It's a Biblical reference...."Two additional themes identified by Dennis Bolin are the foolishness and destructiveness of wishing for something that can never be and to waste one's life dwelling on the past, the second of which is reinforced by the novel's epigraph from the Book of Genesis 19:26 "But his wife looked back from behind him and she became a pillar of salt." 

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8 minutes ago, jaragon said:

It's a Biblical reference...."Two additional themes identified by Dennis Bolin are the foolishness and destructiveness of wishing for something that can never be and to waste one's life dwelling on the past, the second of which is reinforced by the novel's epigraph from the Book of Genesis 19:26 "But his wife looked back from behind him and she became a pillar of salt." 

Okay. I don't typically associate Vidal with religion. Could it also be that the young protagonist is a pillar of the community, despite his moving from one location to the next? That he's not unsavory.

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3 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Okay. I don't typically associate Vidal with religion. Could it also be that the young protagonist is a pillar of the community, despite his moving from one location to the next? That he's not unsavory.

Interesting point- yes to the straight world Jim would be considered the pillar of the community who lives in a small town so the city would represent his inner gay live?  Vidal had literary aspirations so he probably wanted a serious lit title .

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6 minutes ago, jaragon said:

Interesting point- yes to the straight world Jim would be considered the pillar of the community who lives in a small town so the city would represent his inner gay live?  Vidal had literary aspirations so he probably wanted a serious lit title .

Or the city would represent the possibilities of what he can do with his life. 

I am just theorizing since I haven't read it (yet).

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18 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Or the city would represent the possibilities of what he can do with his life. 

I am just theorizing since I haven't read it (yet).

You should read it.

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The City and The Pillar covers the time from the late nineteen thirties until post World War II, which is about 10 years or so. Jim Willard  and Bob Ford start off as teenagers in high-school, and age up to about thirty years old or so.  So whichever actors were chosen to portray them would have to be capable of doing this realistically.

I remember seeing the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man when it first came out in 1976 on television. The Jordache brothers Tom and Rudy (played by Nick Nolte and Peter Strauss) began as teenagers in high-school, and then aged about 25 years in the course of the series, and it was done very well. 

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