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Classic Films that have gay subtext or appreciation among gay community?


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Hey there,


As a gay man and classic film lover, I wanted to post this..in the hopes of getting other users feeling, opinion or suggestions to what "classic" films have a cult following among gay culture. Maybe they are films that have a gay subtext. Here are some that I have included and why I feel they are to be included. Please do not comment on anything other than suggesting a film or discussing the merits of those I have listed....

"Sunset Boulevard"-dramatic monologues, snarky one liners, and one of the ultimate divas played by Gloria Swanson.

"Queen Bee"- fabulous costumes! over the top and campy scenes with Crawford eating up the scenery. Some good one liners also

"Rope"- The two men living together, one feminine and one the more masculine and dominate. Also, the way they kill the other roommate...is a bit homoerotic.

"Strangers on a Train"- gay lust in the 1950's...Robert Walker's character is clearly! in love with Farley Granger's character.

"Suddenly, Last Summer"- I had seen this movie before, but, it was a few months ago, I discovered so many of my friends memorized whole lines and scenes from this movie...it's a bit campy sometimes and the whole story is mesmorizing in itself. Kate Hepburn also, gives some great one liners and Liz looks fierce in her white bathing suit.

"Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte"- I have noticed a lot of my list is beginning to contain some "camp" movies, but, whatever! My friends and I watch this and love all of Bette's scenes. I believe this was parodied as a drag revue recently.

"Whatever Happened to Baby Jane"- need I really even go into this one?

"Dead Ringer"- Bette Davis is great in this! and some of her lines as the evil sister..are so wicked!

"Rebecca"-Mrs. Danvers is clearly in love with Rebecca and her memory...also, I think gay men appreciate Rebecca's amazing attention to detail...ever after she is gone

"Breakfast at Tiffany's"- Besides being written by gay icon Truman Capote, it is in almost every gay man's ( I know) collection. The costumes are fabulous and we all love Holly's carefree sense of life and she gives one hell of a party!!

"All About Ever"- Ha! this movie is great..we all love Bette's lines in the movie and yet again one of the screen's best diva performances.


That is all I have so far...but hit me back with some other suggestions..anything with some fierce monologues..great one liners!

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Okay...why do people take offense..you dont have to say whether you are feminine or masculine..I was simply asking a question, and if you will please read my first post, I clearly asked that if you did not have anything to add to the list or comment in the positive...then please refrain from doing so. I didn't ask what movies appealed "across the board" and for what reasons....I ASKED, what classic films appeal to the gay community...so if you are not gay or can positively add to the continuation of the thread..then dont.

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> {quote:title=cb0355 wrote:}{quote}

> Okay...why do people take offense..you dont have to say whether you are feminine or masculine..I was simply asking a question, and if you will please read my first post, I clearly asked that if you did not have anything to add to the list or comment in the positive...then please refrain from doing so. I didn't ask what movies appealed "across the board" and for what reasons....I ASKED, what classic films appeal to the gay community...so if you are not gay or can positively add to the continuation of the thread..then dont.


Was that response meant for me or Arturo?

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Hi, cb. There are so many classic films that could be mentioned here, from films with gay actors, gay directors, campy costumes, or subtler suggestions of same-sex romantic feelings. By the way, two books you'd probably enjoy are: Screened Out by Richard Barrios (especially strong about the supporting actors like Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore who played sissies in classic films) and Behind the Screen by William Mann, which has much thoroughly researched information (not made-up wishful thinking) about directors, writers, and other gay men who worked behind the screen.


Here are 10 suggestions off the top of my head:


1. The Uninvited - Cornelia Otis Skinner's character is, for the time, clearly presented as a lesbian, like Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca

2. The Scarlet Empress, Shanghai Express, The Shanghai Gesture - these Josef von Sternberg films have the campiest costumes and sets you may ever see. The Scarlet Empress is like drag queens on acid at the Liberace Museum

3. Johnny Eager (coming up in a week or two): Van Heflin is pretty obviously in love with Robert Taylor and drinking himself to death because of it.

4. The Strange One - set at a Southern military school. Evil Ben Gazzara has an implied S&M relationship with the intellectual everyone despises.

5. The Big Sky - the scene where Kirk Douglas and Dewey Martin meet will make you think of an early Brokeback Mountain

6. Ben-Hur (1959) - the scene where Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd drink together implies that they once had an affair. Screenwriter Gore Vidal and director William Wyler told Boyd this, but they didn't tell Heston. Lots of perhaps unintentional homoerotic images with all the young galley slaves stripped to the waist, etc.

7. Torch Song (1953) - many of Joan Crawford's films are campy (ya think?), but Joan doing a stage number in blackface takes the prize

8. Camille (1930s version directed by George Cukor) - the supporting cast seems to be mostly gay guys and campy older women who enjoy their company

9. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - Jane Russell has a musical number where she laments that the bodybuilders aren't interested in her. No surprise to learn that this sequence was choreographed by a gay man.

10. The Public Enemy - The scene where Cagney is being measured for a suit by a very effeminate and very aggressive young man is hilarious. This wouldn't have passed the censors after July 1934.


There's much more, but this will get you started. Enjoy!

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CALL HER SAVAGE - gay bar (or at least a gay-friendly bar)

SHE DONE HIM WRONG - the "Cherry Sisters"

WONDER BAR - men dancing together

CAVALCADE - final montage

WINGS - Rogers & Arlen


THEIR FIRST MISTAKE - Stan breaking up Oliver's marriage

INTERNATIONAL HOUSE - Fields' & Pangborn's exchange

LADIES THEY TALK ABOUT - "She likes to wrestle"

OUR BETTERS - Tyrell Davis as Ernest


PICK A STAR - the studio makeup man

THE SEVENTH VICTIM - hint of lesbianism

DIE! DIE! MY DARLING! - Tallulah's dead son

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> {quote:title=PrinceSaliano wrote:}{quote}

> DRACULA'S DAUGHTER - Holden & Grey


Sticking with Universal Horror for a moment:


Add the original *Dracula* as well. I was just reading today that studio head Carl Laemmle Jr was concerned about the nature of the relationship between Dracula and Renfield. I re-watched it and I had to smile, because I hadn't picked up on that before.


*Bride of Frankenstein* has a very campy sensibility and humor. Dr Pretorius, as its played by Ernest Thesiger, is a raging queen.


*The Old Dark House*...The male character of Sir Roderick Femm (love the name!) is billed as being played by a man, but its actually a woman. Co-star Gloria Stuart later said she actually had no idea that "He was a She".

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> 3. Johnny Eager (coming up in a week or two): Van Heflin is pretty obviously in love with Robert Taylor and drinking himself to death because of it.


Really. I never thought of it that way. :-) Heflin steals the otherwise mediocre film with his performance, though.


One I don't think has been mentioned is Cecil B. DeMille's *The Sign of the Cross*. When Richard Barrios presented as part of the "Screened Out" series on TCM, he made a comment that DeMille wanted to show virtue triumphing over vice, and the best way to do so was to show copious amounts of vice. There's Claudette Colbert naked in a bath of goat's milk, asking her ladies-in-waiting to join her. There's Elissa Landi getting seduced (or an attempted seduction to be precise) from Joyzelle in a great lesbian dancing scene. And when the adolesent Stephanus gets tortured to reveal vital information, it looks as though he and the torturer are both into a little B&D.


And I haven't even gotten into the bread-and-circuses climax yet, or Fredric March's wearing one of those tunics designed to show off a good deal of male leg and arm.


Fun, fun stuff.


Barrios also had a great comment about *The Broadway Melody*. He said he was researching it for a book on early musicals, and he saw this costume designer character and thought to himself, "That's... out there." The character, who only has two brief scenes, is the total stereotype of the queenish gay man, and it's amazing to believe that it actually made the final cut.

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Although I don't believe The Wizard of Oz has deliberate gay subtexts, after watching it the other night, I realize why Judy was adopted as a gay icon and why "Are you a friend of Dorothy?" became a code question. The lion character plays with words and standard attitudes about masculinity throughout --- he uses the word "sissy" in his first song. The Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man all represent attributes of traditional masculinity that they define in a different way to become authentic. I have seen this movie many times, but have become friends and worked with gay colleagues only over the past 10 years, and I viewed the film very differently this time around.

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I would like to thank kingrat, hamradio, rosebette, Fedya, ChrousGirl, Swithin, JefCostello, and Prince Saliano..for reading my post and responding correctly! I appreciate you all being so open minded and really having fun with the topic..thank you!!!

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I?d like to add a very special and wonderful individual to this discussion. He was the fabulous and peculiar Franklin Pangborn. Make no mistake about it: Frank was one of the most beloved and respected character actors of Old Hollywood. His flamboyant, yet rather delicate effeminacy would become in time, his most striking and even popular trademark. Frank never hid away from who he was and what he came to represent. While some may argue that he stereotyped a gay man to the point of ridicule, he was lucky to be given roles that over the long haul of his career, gave him tremendous esteem and a reverence few character actors in Hollywood managed to acquire.


Some of his best remembered films are: ?The Bank Dick,? ?Sullivan?s Travels,? "Hail the Conquering Hero" and my personal favorite little role of his, as the ocean liner ?cruise director,? in the now classic Bette Davis melodrama, ?Now Voyager.? One of the most poignant, beautiful scenes of this melodrama is when Frank?s character tells Bette Davis that she turned out to be the most popular girl on the cruise. Frank would in a sort of interesting and different way, revive the role he played in ?Now Voyager? six years later. This turned out to be the first major film of Doris Day, ?Romance on The High Seas.?


It was obvious that Frank would continue on with his career, when television arrived. He appeared in scores of television series and worked right up to the time of his death, in 1958, as the announcer for Jack Paar?s version of ?Tonight? show. I would rank Frank as high and popular as was Edward Everett Horton. Both men were actually close and good friends, as were many gay actors throughout Hollywood. There was for its time, a close kit fraternity of gay performers that existed in the film capital. Although there was reason to stay closeted from the outside world, in general, the studio bosses came to accept the importance and dignity these performers brought to show business. Nobody who worked in town could have ever felt so threatened, annoyed or even hostile to these wonderful performers. They managed somehow to forage ahead with a decent way to live their lives, despite what numerous people outside of show business would have not accepted pertaining to their lifestyles.

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The actor in *The Broadway Melody* is Drew Demorest, not to be confused with William Demarest who is often wrongly listed in the credits for this film.


The minor *Myrt and Marge,* based on a long-running radio show, boasts a gay costumer named Clarence (Ray Hedge) who makes sardonic and waspy comments at every opportunity.


As early as 1914, a gay character appeared in *Tillie's Punctured Romance* at Tillie's society party. He prances around, waving a big white hankie. Marie Dressler just gives him evil looks.


The great *Brown of Harvard* has sickly Jack Pickford worshiping football jock William Haines. The redemption of arrogant Haines because of Pickford is very moving.


*Auntie Mame* certainly has its gay subtext with Rosalind Russell's Mame and Coral Browne's Vera Charles camping it up at every opportunity.


In the "Temptation" number in *Going Hollywood,* the crowded dance floor is not all boy-girl couples. Bing Crosby sings "Beautiful Girl" to Sterling Holloway and Marion Davies does a rather butch impression of Fifi D'Orsay.


William Haines swishes around in *Way Out West,* playing a carnival barker who becomes a tenderfoot cowboy.


Marion Davies impersonates her own brother in *Little Old New York* and captures the interest of Harrison Ford, even though she's supposedly a boy.


Humphrey Bogart does a gay act in *The Big Sleep* when he's trying he get information at a book store.


Constance Talmadge as The Mountain Girl in *Intolerance* plays an Amazonian hero, racing around in a chariot, wearing armor, and joining in the war. And she's marvelous.


In the incomplete *She Goes to War,* Eleanor Boardman (with a mustache) takes her husband's place in the trenches and interests a fellow soldier.


Wallace Beery started out in silents as Swedie, a big strapping house maid, in a series of hit comedies.

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As my offering on the subject, I point everyone to the TCM Spotlight from June 2008 -


*Screened Out: Gay Images In Film*



This bi-weekly event was co-hosted by Richard Barrios, author of the book "Screened Out: Playing Gay In Hollywood"



And there are film clips available for viewing in the TCM MediaRoom of the interstitials created to run on TCM during the month of June that year.


"Screened Out Actors"



"Gay Images (No. 1)



"Gay Images (No. 2)






"Prison Films"



Kyle In Hollywood


Edited by: hlywdkjk on Feb 18, 2011 8:48 PM

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There is that strange relationship between Joan Crawford and Mercedes

McCambridge in Johnny Guitar. Joan's a little bitchy butchy, and though

it seems like a hate-hate thing, who can tell in a ambiguous freak show like

this? It wouldn't betoo surprising to imagine a little S & M action back at the

old homestead.


I don't think it would be too much of a stretch to see some gay undertones in

Red River between Monty Clift and John Ireland. What makes a better phallic

symbol than a six-shooter. That does leave the question of their attraction to

Joanne Dru open. Well, maybe they're bi. Either way, Duke would have his hands


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One of the most talked about and famous ?gay connections? that was somewhat obvious came from the ancient historic epic ?Spartacus? in 1960. This consisted of a scene between Laurence Olivier as the Roman general ?Marcus Licinius Crassus? and Tony Curtis as the slave ?Antoninus.? Both men were seen taking a bath, while the dialog is quite suggestive. There are at least several other gay references throughout the film, especially between the Roman government and military officials.

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The scene with Montgomery Clift and John Ireland is hilarious . Viewed even with the slightest gay subtext , it's a classic 'gay' scene.

Also, I remember how hysterically funny it was watching all those "macho' guys ignoring Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Even when I was a lot younger, I thought, How could anybody possibly miss this?

nice thread

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Speaking of gay actors, Patsy Kelly must be mentioned. She was a popular comedianne in the 1930's. Always a wisecracker and a master of physical comedy. She made a lot of shorts with Thelma Todd and had one starring role in *Pigskin Parade*. Kelly disappeared for decades and turned up in *Rosemary's Baby* as one of the witches.

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Go here to see the Jane Russell number ennisdelmar2 mentioned:


The men's tiny shorts are flesh-colored and their dance moves are SO sexual. At the end, Jane ends up in the pool by accident. One of the athletes hits her while diving and she goes flying in. They left the scene in, with Jane dripping wet.

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