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Sexual identity in classic films


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This similar subject has popped up before somewhere here in the boards...Why not just come out (no pun intended) and say it: "Gay or gay-suggestive characters in classic films"?

 

Ernest Thesiger (who was gay) as Dr. Pretorious in *The Bride of Frankenstein*

 

Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo, Sydney Greenstreet as Casper Gutman, and Elisha Cook Jr. as Wilmer in *The Maltese Falcon*

 

Gloria Holden as The Countess in *Dracula's Daughter*

 

Some have said Bela Lugosi as Ygor in *Son of Frankenstein*

 

Farley Granger (who was gay himself) and John Dall's characters in Hitchcock's *Rope*

 

Robert Walker as Bruno in Hitchcock's *Strangers On A Train*

 

Clifton Webb in any number of his films

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>This similar subject has popped up before somewhere here in the boards...Why not just come out (no pun intended) and say it: "Gay or gay-suggestive characters in classic films"?

 

Because this is not a thread about only gay characters or gay performers. It is too easy to say something is gay or something is straight on film, especially when this is a collaborative media with people of all persuasions crafting the finished product. In the original post, I featured a photo of Liberace who was playing a heterosexual character in SINCERELY YOURS.

 

Sure, some posts will focus specifically on straight love stories and yet others will have a degree of ambiguity in them. And some will be a bit more gay, I guess.

 

It's a thread about sexual identity and the multiple interpretations that may take. It is not a thread about just the celluloid closet.

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

> Sure, some posts will focus specifically on straight love stories and yet others will have a degree of ambiguity in them. And some will be a bit more gay, I guess.

>

> It's a thread about sexual identity and the multiple interpretations that may take. It is not a thread about just the celluloid closet.

That's what I thought you might have meant, but you didn't explain in your OP. ;)

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Sorry for the confusion. It (the discussion) started over in the JESSE JAMES thread, and I figured you had read those posts.

 

There are a lot of potential subtopics here. For instance, what about all those teeny bopper films where an adolescent loses his or her virginity? Sometimes it's done as a comedy, sometimes as a drama...but in both cases, the theme is very similar, about a young person coming to terms with a sexually active lifestyle.

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Good post, and thanks for mentioning those other coming of age films. I had thought about BLUE LAGOON, which was very risque for its time. Richard Thomas made a few earlier in the 1970s, one called CACTUS IN THE SNOW, where he's a soldier being shipped to Vietnam and wants to lose his virginity before he leaves.

 

The points you raised about SINCERELY YOURS are very interesting. Imagine if it had been a more virile, sexually potent leading man instead of Liberace, then it could've been even more suggestive. As it is, I don't think audiences at the time were all that threatened by Liberace's sexuality, perceived or otherwise. Of course, SINCERELY YOURS was made on the eve of all those sex comedies that started coming out of Hollywood in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

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>I had thought about BLUE LAGOON, which was very risque for its time.

 

I saw the original sound version in a theater in 1949, with Jean Simmons and Donald Houston. I couldn't figure out how that baby got on that island. I asked my father and he said something like, "Oh, he arrived there in a different boat." But I couldn't figure out how the baby got in the boat. When Tarzan found Boy in the jungle, that was more clear. It was after a plane crash. :)

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Of course, when referencing Joan Collins, we have to mention her striptease in 7 THIEVES (she prepared for the role by studying a Los Angeles-based stripper). This is the beginning of her racier, sexier image in films. Just a short time earlier she had portrayed a nun in Fox's SEA WIFE.

 

1joan7.jpg

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We can't forget Al Pacino's sexually unsettled character in *Dog Day Afternoon* , although not a "classic" by other's standards. Jose Ferrer's creepy guy in *Lawrence of Arabia* . Paul Newman's "Brick" in *Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.* Roy Schieder and William Devane in *Marathon Man.*

 

 

Is THAT the kind of thing to which you refer?

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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Yes, good post. The Newman character in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF is a very interesting one for discussion. Multiple shades of sexuality ambiguity and dis-ease.

 

I like Pacino in DOG DAY AFTERNOON very much, though I think it tends toward the outrageous and melodramatic. Of course, the character was based on a real-life individual.

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Hmmm...unless I'm still havin' a bit of trouble understanding the general intent of your thread here, TB, I gotta say I don't think that Newman/Jaeckel scene in Sometimes a Great Notion where the former is attempting to keep the latter, his brother, alive by any means possible could be considered in any manner relating to "Sexual Identity".

 

(...btw, I've always found this particular scene, though otherwise very well filmed and acted, one of the most excruciating to watch in any movie I've ever seen)

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In the play CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF the character is gay. It's more "ambiguous" in the movie though I didn't find it so. I thought Mrs. Danvers, Martin Landau's character in NBN and the others mentioned were really obvious - I guess that's what you're saying - it wasn't out and out stated but it was there -- as well as the kid who kills himself in Saturday Night Fever. There's also Reflections in a Golden Eye, but I guess that's stated in the film.

 

In Sworn Enemy, an oldie, the mob boss, Emerald, is crippled and, from his treatment of Florence Rice's character, has no use for women. When he brings Hank into his deco steam room, it's filled with Greco-Roman friezes of nude men. He more or less tells Hank that he lives vicariously through fighters, which is why he wants to own Hank's client (a fighter). An interesting twist on what could have been just a formulaic mob story.

 

Here's what I wrote about a '50s film, Split Second: Seen with modern eyes, the friendship between McNally and his injured pal is something to behold. McNally is a cruel tough guy who becomes gentle when speaking to his friend, and he's determined not to leave him behind. Hmm..

 

I find it most fascinating how some actors can turn that on and off like a faucet, depending on the role.

 

A gay man complained to me about "two straight guys" playing the leads in a stage version of La Cage aux Folles - which is something I don't get. It's called acting for a reason. Then again maybe some people are just more sensitive to this kind of thing than I am. I couldn't have told you the orientation of those guys if you'd held a gun to my head.

 

I approach a lot of this as an actress and feel that qualities right for a role need to be encouraged by the director. I don't think just because someone comes off one way in a film (Steven McNally, above) means that's the way he always comes off.

 

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I'm with Dargo2. I think using Sometimes a Great Notion is pushing it big time.

 

One thing I've often wondered about is the popularity of buddy movies. There aren't a lot of female buddy movies. Not sure if that's because Hollywood is basically run by men or what. Why is it so prized that two men are like brothers and not as prized that two women can be like sisters? And why are peoplle constantly dragging the idea of sex into male buddy movies when they don't seem to drag it in with women. I think it's a fantasy thing, just like I believe stating that a lot of celebrities are gay is someone's fantasy as well. Having worked with a lot of celebrities, you start to realize early on that most of what you have read about them is garbage. I'm not talking about gay inferences only but how difficult they are, horrible things they've done, things like that. My favorite thing is hearing a rumor about someone, something very specific, and then reading about it, but this time it's attributed to another celebrity. The Internet is full of that.

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