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Gay Cinema in Perspective

by Paul Hofman in Films & Books , 09 maart 2017

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

In Hollywood, homosexuals were always hiding. That this is beyond doubt is backed up by research. Author Adrian Stahlecker takes us to Hollywood in a disarming way. From the very beginnings of Hollywood, to the industry as it is now.

In the 1920s, Hollywood was in great upheaval because of a number of sex scandals. Afterwards, movie magnates decided to include morals clauses in movie contracts: If the star would be discredited, the studio would be able to cancel his or her contract. However, if a box office hit was involved, movie studios would often prefer to pay off the police to sweep the matter under the carpet. Gays and lesbians played an important part in this.

In the 1950s, Hollywood was topsy-turvy when the tabloid “Confidential” was launched to expose the private lives of stars. Many sturdy, handsome movie idols women were dreaming about turned out to be gay or bisexual. Coming out with their sexual orientation would mean the end of their careers, so some movie stars entered fake marriages, while others were destroyed because they did not dare to come out. Think of actor Rock Hudson who was seen a lot with Doris Day and who flirted with her on the big screen, while cute guys, gay or not, lay by his pool waiting, as can be seen in the gay film “Beefcake.” That film truly is indispensable in your DVD collection. A real must.

Stahlecker’s book is only available in Dutch, but for English language readers there are several studies about gays in Hollywood or the movie industry more in general, such as Vito Russo’s groundbreaking “The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies” (1981), “Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood” (2001), Richard Barrios’ excellent “Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood from Edison to Stonewall” (2002), and the recently published “Gay Men at the Movies: Cinema, Memory and the History of a Gay Male Community” by Scott McKinnon (Bristol / Chicago: Intellect, 2016). This last book not only explores the position of gay men in Hollywood and their portrayal on screen, but also investigates how gay men (in Sydney) appropriated cinema’s as queer spaces from the 1950s on, and how gay men reacted to their representation in the movies, both from Hollywood as from European cineasts.



In the New Issue of Gay News, 328, December 2018

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