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


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MovieProfessor I like to add something to your post about Franklin Pangborn. I bought a paperback book back in the late 1970's called "Who Is That? The Late Late Viewer's Guide to the Old Old Movie Players" by Warren B. Meyers. (yes I did type *old* twice - no typo, ouch). Copyright 1967

 

It has a catagory, Aw, Mind your Own Business its topic is snoops, nosey people, people not minding their own business, etc. It is said the men in this catagory tended rather uniformly to be nervous, prissey little fussbudgets, operating with maddening officiousness within the small authority of a minor clerkdom.

 

On the very first page the number one is Franklin Pangborn with his photo framed within a large door keyhole. His female "counterpart" is Maude Eburne framed within the same type of keyhole. He is also on the front cover. A very nice little Hollywood stars trivia booklet.

 

Here is an online photo of the cover, sorry its sideways, it was posted like that (a hidden message, lol)

5d3379edd7a0963fb57e7110.L._SL500_AA300_

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OK . . . Here?s one that most fans seem to not remember. It?s the 1958, Nicholas Ray directed, backwoods adventure yarn, set in Florida at the turn of the 20th Century, entitled, ?Wind Across the Everglades.? The wonderful Burl Ives plays the bandit poacher, ?Cottonmouth.? He?s then being harassed by a young naturalist as played by Christopher Plummer. Everything about the movie seems routine, until Plummer seeks out and finds the hideout of ?Cottonmouth? and his band of cutthroats. Its while at the swamp laden hut of ?Cottonmouth,? there is a scene where the bandit leader decides to ease the pain of a wounded member of his band. The leader tells his gang he will care for the young stricken member. So, Cottonmouth affectionately picks up the young man, cuddling him in his big arms; carry him as if across the threshold and into their makeshift hut. The bandit leader says, ?He?ll stay with me and I?ll care for him.? There is a strong symbolism to this scene, in that all other members of the gang sleep outside of the hut. A form of envy or even jealousy appears to induce the other members of the gang. It's almost as if the swamp is their prison and therefore all they can relate to is each other beyond a simple fellowship; just as it's done in a real prison among the inmates. One has to wonder that because these men have spent so much time in the wilderness and on the run, their relationship has a deeper core or meaning. The scene is quite touching and yet can make perfect sense as to think the gang is definitely close kit as to have a sort of strong bond for one another. This sort of emotionally charged feeling among bandits has also been said of the 1969 film, "The Wild Bunch." There are interesting similarlies between both films on this deeper level of male bonding.

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MovieProfessor, thanks! I never saw this film, but I'll sure be looking for it. Seems odd... Burl Ives? But with Nicholas Ray, I believe it. Ray was involved in many gay sub-themed movies. When directing *Rebel Without a Cause* Ray had a sexual affair with sixteen-year-old Sal Mineo. Nothing in Hollywood surprises me!

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

> MovieProfessor I like to add something to your post about Franklin Pangborn. I bought a paperback book back in the late 1970's called "Who Is That? The Late Late Viewer's Guide to the Old Old Movie Players" by Warren B. Meyers. (yes I did type *old* twice - no typo, ouch). Copyright 1967

> Here is an online photo of the cover.

> 5d3379edd7a0963fb57e7110.L._SL500_AA300_

>

 

That is the reprint from about 1982 with a new cover. Here is the original 1967 cover. This is the one I have:

 

http://cgi.ebay.com/Vtg-That-Viewers-Guide-B-W-Movie-Stars-/320651943724?pt=US_Nonfiction_Book&hash=item4aa8585f2c

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Since your original list included a nod to Joan Crawford in "Queen Bee" for the over-the-top acting and costuming, I'd also like to mention late-career Lana Turner, who also excelled at emoting in GOWNS in films like "Imitation of Life" and "Portrait In Black". The one of hers that has a hilarious gay subtext is "Love Has Many Faces", depicting the "beach set" in Acapulco. Hugh O'Brien (Yes! Wyatt Earp.) plays a beach bum who shacks up with his "buddy", both of whom supposedly make a career of loving up all the rich widows who flock there. They share a beach pad and even bicker over who gets to wear the white suit that day. Sleeping arrangements aren't specifically gotten into, but there does seem to be only the one prominent bed. Watching Hugh in his Speedo doing his best lusty lothario impersonation is a hoot. Another one which sort of reminds me of "Torch Song", which has been mentioned, is "Sincerely Yours", a remake of "The Man Who Played God" starring Liberace, who actually strings along TWO leading ladies, Dorothy Malone and Joanne Dru. Yeah, right. It's so fun watching him flirt with women, like all the white-gloved older matrons who flock to his club performances. His relationships with both the leads are so chaste you want to scream, but that's what makes it so funny.

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It doesn't seem like anyone has mentioned Vito Russo's wonderful 1995(?) documentary The Celluloid Closet thus far, so I figured I'd throw in a plug.

 

It is hilarious, touching, unnerving, and often provocative in its study of gay images in the movies from the silent days to the mid-nineties and includes a lot of interviews with big stars and screenwriters (I throw in here that I am not entirely sure I agree with Shirley MacLaine's assessment of The Children's Hour (1963) as a "failure" but it's the dialogue that counts)

 

_It is available in (near) entirety on youtube_ (God bless it) although part eight is missing as there must be some kind of a rights issue or something- terrible shame since that is the part that has a provocative montage of violent death scenes of gay and ambiguously gay characters from numerous films (very eye-opening it is too.)

 

Highly recommended.

 

Edited by: JonnyGeetar on Feb 19, 2011 10:40 AM

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Oh, and..,

 

I throw in that the "Cherry Valance" subplot is actually one of the reasons why I'm not the biggest fan of Red River . It's that one (very intriguing) scene and then: pfft! It dissapears, (as does Cherry) from the plot and I feel like the story suffers for it. Combined with the happy ending that feels really tacked on to me, I have never been able to enjoy that movie as much as most everyone else seems to, and I love Hawks, Clift and Wayne.

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There are at least a couple of film noirs with a gay subtext, or at least side-story. It's hinted very strongly in *The Maltese Falcon* (1941 version) that the Sydney Greenstreet (Gutman) and Elisha Cook Jr. ( Wilbur, "the gunsel") characters have a gay relationship. Bogart keeps referring to Cook as Greenstreet's "gunsel", a word meaning not only "gun man", but also, on a more "underground" level, "of ambiguous sexuality". Also, Gutman is very upset when Sam Spade suggests they "sacrifice" Cook to the police; it's clear Spade believes there is a strong attachment between them.

 

In another much more obscure film noir, *Port of New York* (1949), there is an unmistakably gay character, "Dolly Carney" (Arthur Blake), who does impersonations at a sleezy night club. He has a quite funny scene near the film's beginning, in which he imitates Charles Laughton ( ! say no more !) from *Mutiny on the Bounty* .

The part where poor Dolly gets whacked is disturbing, because the way he is murdered has a sexual undertone to it. I don't want to describe it in detail, but anyone who has the chance to see *Port of New York* should pay special attention to this scene.

 

 

On another note, what about the famous *Bringing Up Baby* incident, where Cary Grant finds himself in Hepburn's aunt's negligee. He answers the door in this, and when the caller asks why he is wearing such a thing, he takes a little jump, and responds, "Oh I just went GAY all of a sudden ! "

No one's going to argue that the Grant character in the film is gay, but it's a funny scene, and some claim is the origin of the expression "gay" for what it means today.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Feb 19, 2011 11:02 AM

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Feb 19, 2011 11:17 AM

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Speaking of "The Celluloid Closet", there's an extremely thought-provoking film by Mark Rappaport called "The Silver Screen: Color Me Lavender". He uses many clips to make his points, the most interesting of which I found to be "The Walter Brennan Syndrome", where an older wizened pal of the hero consistently tries to steer him away from entanglements with females in order to preserve the exclusivity of their male bonding. He also goes into those popular male pairings like Hope and Crosby and Martin and Lewis and comes up with a lot of eye-opening clips to support his questions about what lay behind the show of their competitiveness for women. I recommend it to anyone who liked "The Celluloid Closet".

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Can not believe I forgot to mention these films as well!

 

 

"Young Man With A Horn"- Lauren Bacall leaves Kirk at the end for another woman

"Ben Hur"- totally forgot about the "lover" connection

"Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone"- if not enough to just watch this movie to look at Warren Beatty..but, the older diva stil trying to get a younger love...campy...and the overactin done by Leigh is great

"Walk on the Wild Side"- how could I forget this one...Barbara Stanwyck is totally in love with her two main beauties Capucine and Jane Fonda...also, some of the dialogue is great! watched this with a room of my friends and so many of them knew the lines"

"Bell, Book and Candle"- hey! it's about witches and Kim Novak looks fierce! also, it's funny how you can compare the underground "witch" scene in Greenwich Village, to that of the gay scene in the 1950's.

"Picture of Dorian Grey"- yet another one! how could I forget this...the film mentions several of Dorian's "sins" and make mention of him ruining the reputation of some upstanding young men in the social circle. Also, it is continually remarked by men in the film that Dorian is beautiful.

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I didn't like *The Celluloid Closet*. It had a chip on its shoulder (with some justification), but it refused to rejoice and find beauty in some of the sensitive depictions of gay relationships which were often "between the lines" in early movies. Susan Sarandon, as I recall, was particularly offensive in what seemed like stock anger. And I think the film misread a few of the movies it discussed.

 

Of course, the subject of this thread was "subtext", but there have been so many films which have dealt overtly with gay relationships. These are more recent films, particularly from the 1980s on, in the mainstream, but at the top of the list is of course Merchant/Ivory's gorgeous *Maurice*, based on E.M. Forster's novel.

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Just thought of a couple more film noirs with a gay side-plot/subtext:

 

*The Big Combo* (1955, dir. Joseph Lewis) : the two thugs who act as underworld boss Richard Conte's bodyguards , "Fante" and "Mingo" , are far more interested in each other than anyone or anything else in the story. They live together, they make plans together, they look out for each other -the gay relationship between them is almost overt, quite daring for 1955.

 

*The Glass Key* (1942, dir. Stuart Heisler. ): Clearly the William Bendix character gets a big kick from beating up handsome Alan Ladd. There's an unmistakable homoerotic/violence vibe going on in this scene.

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I generally share her political views but felt her assessment was a bit over the top. A friend of mine who worked on a project with her said she was really nasty. I was sorry to hear that -- one wants one's political bedfellows to be civilized human beings.

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In the case of Red River, you have to wonder how much of the gay subtext was

Hawks and how much is due to later critics emphasizing the Clift and Ireland duo.

I don't know too much about Hawks, but I can't see him doing a gay theme on

purpose, but who knows. The scene where Clift and Ireland lovingly compare and

examine their guns, whether meant with a nudge or not, is a kick. Two fetishes for the

price of one.

 

I guess there could be a hint of a gay relationship between Gutman and Wilmer (with

Wilmer mercifully on top), but to me it doesn't come to the forefront. And the very

obvious gayness of Joel Cairo tends to concentrate the mind on him.

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I think it was Hawks. The great directors made films which reflected various aspects of life. In the early days, they couldn't come right out and deal with certain issues. So they used the tools available to them -- between-the-lines, double entendre, shot setups.

 

Look at the opening of *Bride of Frankenstein* -- the scene with Mary and Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. Mary was bored because her husband was sleeping with Lord Byron. Look at how director James Whale sets up the shot. Most of those shots have Percy and Byron in one shot; Mary in another, emphasizing the distance.

 

Btw, *The Outlaw*, directed by Howard Hughes, has a definite gay subtext. And I believe Hughes got alot of advice from having worked with Hawks.

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There is also a line from Red River about how (and I paraphrase from memory here) "only thing that beats a gun is a woman or a fancy watch." There follows a rather funny line which implies Cherry would prefer the watch. It's definitely deliberate.

 

oh, and ps- I totally don't get _any_ anger, chips on the shoulder or vitriol from a single second of Celluloid Closet or Sarandon's input. Maybe you should check it out again.

 

Edited by: JonnyGeetar on Feb 19, 2011 5:42 PM

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Will check it out again, haven't seen it in years. What I remember is their agenda was to criticize -- and they seemed intentionally to have overlooked -- or glossed over -- some beauty. I believed that they mentioned but totally avoided any serious discussion of *Thunderbolt and Lightfoot*. Just look at that relationship between Eastwood and Bridges! But to have delved into it would have gone against the agenda of *Celluloid Closet*.

 

The relationship in *Wings* was also only given a nod; whereas much was made of depictions of effeminacy in other films. But I will look at it again.

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

> Just F.Y.I. there is another, newer book in addition to "Celluloid Closet." Try this (if you can find it): "Behind the Screen- How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywod- 1910-1969), ISBN 0-14-200114-7. It is very complete and well-written. I very much enjoyed reading it.

 

 

Excellent book! I was going to suggest it. It's a different look at gays in Hollywood--it focusses more on the backstage people--designers, decorators, etc who had the most influence on the "look" of Hollywood films of the studio period, rather than gay content of said films or a list of which big stars were possibly gay or bisexual.

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