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After watching the Daily Dose of Darkness clip from Gilda, I did a quick search online to learn more about the film (sooo much to unpack with respect to gender, spectacle, the gaze, etc.). In my search, I ran across this essay about representations of homosexuality in film noir. (If you have ever watched The Celluloid Closet, you will already be familiar with many of the article’s ideas.)

 

“Homosexuality and Film Noir” by Richard Dyer

http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC16folder/HomosexFilmNoir.html

 

 

Perhaps we can use this thread to post comments and have *polite* conversation about gender, presentation, sexuality, or any other related topics that come up.

 

BTW, earlier on this board, someone posted another excellent essay: “No Place For A Woman: The Family In Film Noir.” The essay examines changing gender roles in American society, and is also a useful and interesting read. 

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After watching the Daily Dose of Darkness clip from Gilda, I did a quick search online to learn more about the film (sooo much to unpack with respect to gender, spectacle, the gaze, etc.). In my search, I ran across this essay about representations of homosexuality in film noir. (If you have ever watched The Celluloid Closet, you will already be familiar with many of the article’s ideas.)

 

“Homosexuality and Film Noir” by Richard Dyer

 

 

 

Perhaps we can use this thread to post comments and have *polite* conversation about gender, presentation, sexuality, or any other related topics that come up.

 

BTW, earlier on this board, someone posted another excellent essay: “No Place For A Woman: The Family In Film Noir.” The essay examines changing gender roles in American society, and is also a useful and interesting read. 

 

There is another thread at this forum called 'Gilda' where the topic of the relationship between Ballin and Johnny is explored.  

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Hi Jamaica,

 

Welcome to the message boards. You may also be interested to know there are some great discussions occurring in the LGBT sub-forum. Check it out when you get the chance!

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I think that representations of sexuality (especially "forbidden" sexualities) in film are always interesting, and especially in movies where the actors and filmmakers are having to work in code and implication.

 

Unsurprisingly, most of my associations with gay characters in film noir are negative ones: Peter Lorre's slippery character sucking on the end of his cane, or Mercedes McCaimbridge's butch Mexican gang leader terrorizing Vivian Leigh in a run down motel room.

 

There's something that I've always found interesting about Raymond Chandler's novels, and that's the degree to which he often fosters intimacy between his male characters. I'm not sure that I'd read these relationships as necessarily being based in sexual desire. But there's a scene in (I think) Farewell, My Lovely (it's the scene where he's trying to sneak aboard the boat--is that Farewell, My Lovely?) where Marlowe strikes up an affectionate relationship with a man he meets on the docks.

 

Setting aside the context (because the docks have their own code in terms of homosexuality), Marlowe's descriptions of the man struck me immediately as being almost romantic. And on one level, I think it's the degree to which Marlowe always slightly romanticizes decent people--he likes straight-shooters and honest folks. But there's something deeper there that isn't present in his interaction with "good" female characters and I always like that (sexual or not) Chandler was willing to write such blatant affection between two male characters. I go back and forth on whether or not I think the intimacy is meant to be at all sexual--I feel like arguments I've read about Marlowe's sexuality usually devolve into shallow post-mortem psycho-analysis of Raymond Chandler, which seems a little pointless to me. People point out clues that he was gay--others insist that he must have been straight, and none of it really helps to determine why he wrote those scenes in that way. (These arguers also seem to assume that a straight man would never write a gay character--or a character with any gay leanings--which just seems silly to me.)

 

I did love discovering the movie Victim--a movie that I wouldn't classify as film noir but that does have a lot of its elements (death, blackmail, criminal conspiracy, investigation,--as well as many noir stylistic elements). It's about a man who is a well-renowned lawyer who is gay (though married and closeted). An acquaintance of his commits suicide because he was being blackmailed about his sexuality. Instead of bowing down to the blackmailers, the lawyer becomes determined to track them down and expose them. The whole movie is amazing to me--especially in its nuanced portrayals of gay men. The mystery/thriller element of the movie is also very well done with many twists and turns.

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Victim is a British movie, 1961, ahead of its time. Protagonist was gay and by the end of the film accepted himself. Very positive film, I would say. Anotehr British film from the same year - A Taste of Honey - has a gay male character (not protagonist, but still) who is treated positively. I can't think of a US film of that era that treated gay characters fairly, including Advise and Consent.

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Victim is a British movie, 1961, ahead of its time. Protagonist was gay and by the end of the film accepted himself. Very positive film, I would say. Anotehr British film from the same year - A Taste of Honey - has a gay male character (not protagonist, but still) who is treated positively. I can't think of a US film of that era that treated gay characters fairly, including Advise and Consent.

 

Yes--I was very pleasantly surprised by the treatment of the gay characters--including the fact that there is never any doubt that they are the protagonists. I'll have to check out A Taste of Honey.

 

I think that American movies had to go through this weird phase of transitioning gay characters from menacing/mincing to "harmless". And only in the last 15 or so years are gay characters being written with depth and with the revolutionary notion that their gayness might not be the thing about them that makes them interesting.

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I don't know about Chandler himself, but Marlowe makes a

number of derogatory remarks about gays in the novels.

Today he would likely be called a homophobe, though his

attitude mirrored those of the time period.

 

Yes,  Marlowe mocks gay men often.   e.g. in The Big Sleep the young 'buddy' of the Mr. Geiger,  Carole.   In the book Malowe tells him to punch him because you 'Fs' can't throw a punch.     In the movie Marlowe does allow Carole to punch him and laughs about it but he doesn't use that slur.        

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Yes,  Marlowe mocks gay men often.   e.g. in The Big Sleep the young 'buddy' of the Mr. Geiger,  Carole.   In the book Malowe tells him to punch him because you 'Fs' can't throw a punch.     In the movie Marlowe does allow Carole to punch him and laughs about it but he doesn't use that slur.        

 

Finally watched The Big Sleep. (What a charming, but convoluted mess!) Was interesting to read how heavily Chandler's original story was censored because Production Code. From Wikipedia:

 

In the novel, Geiger is selling pornography, then illegal and associated with organized crime, and is also a homosexual having a relationship with Lundgren. Likewise, Carmen is described as being nude in Geiger's house, and later nude and in Marlowe's bed. To ensure the film would be approved by the Hays Office, changes had to be made. Carmen had to be fully dressed, and the pornographic elements could only be alluded to with cryptic references to photographs of Carmen wearing a "Chinese dress" and sitting in a "Chinese chair". The sexual orientation of Geiger and Lundgren goes unmentioned in the film because references to homosexuality were prohibited. The scene of Carmen in Marlowe's bed was replaced with a scene in which she appears, fully dressed, sitting in Marlowe's apartment, when he promptly kicks her out. The scene, shot in 1944, was entirely omitted in the 1945 cut but restored for the 1946 version.

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Finally watched The Big Sleep. (What a charming, but convoluted mess!) Was interesting to read how heavily Chandler's original story was censored because Production Code. From Wikipedia:

 

In the novel, Geiger is selling pornography, then illegal and associated with organized crime, and is also a homosexual having a relationship with Lundgren. Likewise, Carmen is described as being nude in Geiger's house, and later nude and in Marlowe's bed. To ensure the film would be approved by the Hays Office, changes had to be made. Carmen had to be fully dressed, and the pornographic elements could only be alluded to with cryptic references to photographs of Carmen wearing a "Chinese dress" and sitting in a "Chinese chair". The sexual orientation of Geiger and Lundgren goes unmentioned in the film because references to homosexuality were prohibited. The scene of Carmen in Marlowe's bed was replaced with a scene in which she appears, fully dressed, sitting in Marlowe's apartment, when he promptly kicks her out. The scene, shot in 1944, was entirely omitted in the 1945 cut but restored for the 1946 version.

A few years ago TCM had a special series called 'Screened Out' that focused on LGBT representations in classic films. But they did not include much noir, if any.  

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Funny, tangentially related story: I went to the library last week to find a copy of the Film Noir Reader, and while walking down the aisle a book title(and cover) stood out to me: Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality and the horror film. I actually haven't started it yet, because of this course, but I really enjoy finding alternate reads on films.

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Funny, tangentially related story: I went to the library last week to find a copy of the Film Noir Reader, and while walking down the aisle a book title(and cover) stood out to me: Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality and the horror film. I actually haven't started it yet, because of this course, but I really enjoy finding alternate reads on films.

Sounds like an interesting title. Who's the author?

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Funny, tangentially related story: I went to the library last week to find a copy of the Film Noir Reader, and while walking down the aisle a book title(and cover) stood out to me: Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality and the horror film. I actually haven't started it yet, because of this course, but I really enjoy finding alternate reads on films.

 

I'm a huge horror movie fan, and I think that they can sometimes walk a very fine line in their explorations of "otherness".

 

Horror is a great way to explore fear--especially fear of the unknown. I think that the danger in a horror movie is whether it is exploring a fear, or in some way saying that it is justified.

 

For example, there is a common trope in horror movies of monsters/aliens/whatevers impregnating women (sometimes through deception, sometimes explicitly through rape, and sometimes without even the woman's knowledge). These plots often play off of the "they want our women!!!" fear, which in real life is mirrored most strongly in xenophobia and racism (I mean, just in the last month both the Charleston shooter and Donald Trump attempted to evoke the image of white women being raped by minorities as a call to action). But are movies with these plots merely playing off of those fears? Or are they tacitly condoning them?

 

There's something strange that happens when people talk about otherness and representation in movies, which is that sometimes there isn't a deep enough discussion about what those representations actually mean. It's one thing to put someone on a movie screen who is clearly gay or who clearly is standing in for gay people. It's quite another thing to pull apart that portrayal and ask what (if any) message it is trying to give about that person. I think that there's this weird "reverse engineering" that sometimes happens where we look at old portrayals of minority groups and try to make arguments about their power or intentions that don't necessarily hold true.

 

There's a difference, to me, between a filmmaker being subversive by merely representing something on screen (like when a character is indirectly coded as being gay) and actually being subversive by putting a neutral or positive representation of that thing on screen. I think that the former is sometimes mistaken for the latter. And one of the reasons it kind of irks me is that it turns otherness into a kind of sideshow display. It's dehumanizing.

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