It does seem a shame that Hollywood has traditionally been a bastion of homophobia, and that has stopped many high profile stars from being openly gay. It’s a bit of a throwback to Macarthyist witchhunts, but most of the high profile out and proud gay Hollywood actors I can think of (such as Ian Mackellen, Rupert Everett and Alan Cumming) are actually from the UK.
The tide is turning slowly, but this lingering notion that “you can’t be a gay star working in wholesome family films” is one major hurdle that’s yet to be overcome.
Regretably Disney have traditionally been hoisted by their own petard, as the self appointed guardians of decency gravitate to family entertainment like moths around a flame, to the ridiculous extent that they famously complained when the Special Effects department included a single frame in the Lion King where leaves on the breeze spelt out the initials S.F.X.
This was widely misinterpreted by the religious lobby as S.E.X. You would’ve had to trawl through every frame on freezeframe in order to spot it.
As far as I’m concerned, if they’re not actually getting it on on screen in a U or PG certificate movie, there’s no reason gay actors can’t be used in family films.
Well done to David Ogden Stiers. Better late than never.
A fine actor, and a genuinely nice person, from what I’ve read.
Well, surprise surprise? David didn’t exactly play butch in M A S H then, did he?
As vor the gay voiceover, did you ever hear anything so bloody silly; we all know that listening to a gay man extolling the virtues of Persil will turn a chap gay immediately……………
Well done, Mr Stiers. Star Trek fans will also remember him as Lwaxana Troi’s love interest Dr Timicin.
Well done David Ogden Stiers. He is my favorite Pompus-ass player. I saw him recently playing a not so convincing Russian in
‘Murder She Wrote.’ In ‘MASH’ he was great.
Your interest in the American film industry surprises and delights me and since I owe you a debt of gratitude for your background material…
The fact is, there have always been gay characters in American movies, since the very first experimental sound film for Thomas Edison made in 1895 and featuring two young men waltzing to the music of a violinist, and entitled ‘The Gay Brothers’.
In 1914 in a film directed by Sydney Drew and entitled ‘A Florida Enchantement’, we can see Sydney Drew in drag while Edith Storey plays the role of a male impersonator.
Skipping quickly over the years, although gay scenes were present in almost every year, in 1922 two lesbians are seen kissing in an orgy scene in Cecile B. DeMille’s ‘Manslaughter’
In 1929 in D.W. Griffith’s ‘Lady of the Pavements’, we see for the first time, and certainly not the last time, Franklin Panghorn in an early sissy role. In that same year, in Hal Roach’s ‘Liberty’, we see a very gay Laurel and Hardy.
The following year , in Josef von Stemberg’s ‘Morocco’, the most beautiful Marlene Dietrich appears on a musical stage fully dressed in a tuxedo, descending the stage and going to one of the tables in the audience and planting a kiss smack on the lips of a gorgeous brunette while a young Gary Cooper stares at her and takes an instant liking to her.
However, that was also the infamous year,1930, when the Motion Picture Production Code came into effect. A product of the religious right wing, it regulated the film industry in the following way:
1) No picture should be produced which would lower the moral standards of those who see it,
2) Correct standards of life… shall be presented,and
3) Laws – divine or natural or human – should not be ridiculed, nor should sympathy be created for their violation.
However, typical of Americans, in 1932, that is two years later, John Francis Dillon’s ‘Call Her Savage’ presents us with a drag number that is possibly the first representation of a gay bar in a Hollywood film.
In 1933, in Lowell Sherman’s ‘She Done Him Wrong’, we see Mae West for the first time on film calling two gay prisoners ‘The Cherry Sisters’.
The following year the most powerful and influencial Roman Catholic Church steps in and strengthens the ‘Code’ with the collaboration of other civil and religious groups.
Again, typical of Americans, in that same year, Lloyd Bacon’s ‘Wonder Bar’ shows us two gay men waltzing at a nightclub.
Skipping ahead, in 1945 (the year moi was born), Roberto Rossellini’s ‘Open City’ shows us Maria Michi seduced by lesbian Giovanna Galletti.
In 1950, and if you oberve carefully, you will see that Jock and Gus-Gus are not just good friends in Walt Disney’s ‘Cinderella’.
The list goes on and on…but for the sake of moderation, let’s skip ahead to October 3, 1961, when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) announced that ‘in keeping with the culture, the mores and the values of our time, homosexuality and other sexual aberations may now be treated with care, discretion and restraint’. Otto Preminger had won the battle, the ‘Code’ was broken.
That was also the year that Basil Dearden gave us ‘Victim’ starring Sir Dirk Bogarde in a blackmail thriller about homosexuals.
And the year after that, Preminger put out his famous ‘Advise and Consent’ starring Don Murray as Brig Anderson, a senator with a secret.
But censorship was still alive and well. For example, in 1964, Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Dr. Strangelove’ had to be be reshot in order to remove a gay Peter Sellers as President of the USA.
Year after year after that Hollywood began to realize that the market for gay-themed films was increasing by leaps and bounds. Need I say more!
My personal favorite, featuring a young and athletic Treat Williams wearing only a white terry cloth towel standing in the hallway of a gay bath-house saying ‘See anything you like, Mister?’, was Warner Brothers’ Richard Lester’s film entitled ‘The Ritz’. Hilarious, and it was actually shot in London. If you watch carefully, you can see the cars moving ‘on the wrong side of the street’. Treat Williams…!!!!!!
Every year without fail, at least one, sometimes a half dozen films with LGBT characters, but it was no longer done like in the old days when only the gays could recognize the gay characters. It was out in the open.
In 1986, Donna Deitch’s ‘Desert Hearts’ was a movie adaptation of Jane Rule’s novel about a divoree who falls in love a with free-spirited woman in Reno in the 1950′s.
The UK had its fair share of great gay movies. One of my favorites is Stephen Frear’s 1986 ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’ starring Daniel Day Lewis; a movie about class, race and sexuality in Britain today, and one of the few films to use incidentally homosexual characters and that has spawned a chain of laundramats named after the film.
Today, of course, private production companies specialize in LBGT films while Hollywood exploits violence of all kinds with some of the most deafening sound effects imaginable, and you can no longer go to see a Hollywood film in a theatre without spending at least $30, including popcorn, M&M’s and a beverage of slightly flavored soda water.
Bored yet? Is anybody still awake? There’s nothing like the sound of an empty movie theatre, reminds me of the way a church should be.
Finally, I would like to present this little history of American films to David Ogden who will doubtless say something like:
‘You forgot to mention Gore, and William Friedkin, and ‘Boys in the Band’, and what about William Wyler and Rosa Von Prauheim and…
Well done David Ogden, and I hope there’s an affectionate mate beside you.
I’m so happy!!! I Love that show!!! Yay!!! Yippie!!! Go Ogden, go Ogden!
Jean Paul – I just graduated from an animation course, and one of the modules was sound. I was shown that Edison film with the guys waltzing to a violin, and it was one of the campest short movies I’ve ever seen! To think that was the earliest sound synch experiment… we were there right at the start!
You’ve obviously done your research!
What you do notice in Disney is that camp or intrinsicly gay characters in features right up to Scar in the Lion King are either comic relief or villains. I’m trying to think of an effeminate guy in Disney animated features that is depicted outside of those categories, but I can’t. Kronk from “Emporor’s New Groove” with his buff physique, frilly aprons and love of fine cooking is definately comedy sidekick, ditto Timon from Lion King.
Mulan might count as a Lesbian role model, except she ends up copping off with the male general! Can anyone think of a camp character who isn’t a villain or comic relief?
Tony Curtis in ‘Some Like It Hot,’ springs to mind. Tony played His part in drag pretty close to streaght whilst Jack Lemmon was outragious and funny.
I remember seeing an interview on TV when Gore Vidal asked Tony Curtis how he developed the character he played in ‘Some Like It Hot’(1984). Tony replied that he practised for week after week to purse his lips and even to talk with pursed lips, and it was a smash.
Félicitations on your Graduation. The technology of film animation could fill volumes, and today’s computer technology has to be seen to be believed.
In fact, one of the arguments in the debate about whether or not the Americans had actually landed on the moon in 1969 or if the whole thing had been a Hollywood production was that in the footage, the American flag being planted on the moon’s surface by the astronauts is seen to be swaying in the wind.
Problem is, there is no atmosphere on the moon, therefore no wind. To his dying day, my father refused to believe astronauts has landed on the moon.
As for your question regarding a camp character in animated films who isn’t a villain or a comic relief, I must admit that’s a corker probably because those two types of characters are normally used in animation all the time.
‘The Lady and the Tramp’ comes to mind, but I don’t know the date it came out. The Lady is neither a villain or a comic relief and the Tramp, who is a bit of a rascal, becomes quite shy and romantic when he shares a plate of spaghetti with the Lady in the alley beside an Italian resteraunt. Then again, neither one of them is gay.
And probably already know about Bugs Bunny encountering a fey Oscar in ‘Slick Hare’(date unknown by moi).
There are also two characters (villains) in Pinocchio (1940) named Honest John and Gideon, a fox and a cat, who are best friends and who procure lost boys for sale to an evil coachman who takes them to Pleasure Island. They seduce Pinocchio with the hit song ‘Heigh Diddley Dee’ whose second line says ‘Heigh diddly day, an actor’s life is gay’.
My knowledge of animated films is rather scant, I’m afraid.
One that I can’t resists talking about at the moment is called ‘The Ritz’, originally put out by Warner Brothers in 1976.
Actually it was Treat William’s first role in a movie; the play had been on Broadway before that.
Anyway a young and athletic Treat Williams, playing Michael Brick and using the strangest and most hilarious tone of voice I have ever heard, is seen wearing only a white terry-cloth towel in the hallway of a gay bath-house saying to a passer-by: ‘See anything you like, Mister?’.
Rita Moreno and Kaye Ballard are also very, very funny characters. It’s a pick-me-up movie and there’s nothing in it that a 12 year old couln’t see. A most successful farce, and of course, my favorite shot of Treat Williams.
Incidentally, it was shot in London. If you look carefully at the street traffic shortly after the opening scene, you will see that the cars are moving ‘on the wrong side of the street’.
It ia avilable at Amazon dot com or at www dot caiman dot com and it was directed by Richard Lester. In my opinion, a must-have!
I just re-read your comment: ‘We were there right at the start.’
In reality, that comment can easily be applied in the most universal way!
Tony Curtis created a hair-style amongst the young generation in the late 50s Teddy-Boys and ‘Mods.’ The hair-style was called the ‘Tony Curtis’ and I’m sure It’s still around even now. I met a very Theartrical Guy once as he walked his dog, I spoke to the dog first and he, Lenny was his name, liked me so off we went together. Lenny told me he was a dancer in the theatre mainly. He trained from about the age of six and by 1964 he was an exellent dancer. In ‘Spring In Park Lane’ and ‘Maytime In Mayfair’ with Anna Neagle (Of Odette fame) and Michael Wilding (he married Liz Taylor) When they danced in these two movies, Lenny did the long-shots and Wilding the close-ups only. Ah! halsion days indeed.
P.S… I asked Lenny how he broke into Theatre in the first place? He told me that he was taken to a Thearrical Party given by the Actor and Musical writer Ivor Novello. Novello sat as on a Throne and being attended to by many admirers and hangers-on! When someone called out to Novello that Lenny was new on the scene and a dancer. Ivor Novello immediatley orderd the centre of the floor cleared and said to Lenny: “Ok lets see you dance!” Lenny danced for Ivor and those present. At once Ivor engaged Lenny to join his latest exraviganza show. From then Lenny was called ‘The Novello Boy.’ Nice story Eh? Ivor Novello’s very last show was called ‘Gays The Word.’
I know him better from Stargate Atlantis and of course The Dead Zone series. He was great in both of those.
I hope to see him in ‘The Event’, ‘V’ or other current shows which I enjoy watching.
A little late, isn’t it honey ? But still, better late than never.