There is only one possible end. We are monsters. I don’t like monsters.
Diabolique directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, based his film on Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac’s novel “Celle qui n’était plus” (She Who Was No More, which Hitchock attemped the buy the rights. The original novel is overt, in referring to the two women carrying on a lesbian relationship. Clouzot made this more implied in the film. Boileau and Narcejac then wrote D’Entre les Morts” (From Among the Dead) specifically for Alfred Hitchcock, who then subsequently adapted to the screen as Vertigo in 1958.
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1955 French psycho-sexual thriller Diabolique set off a tone of thrillers to come, with its atmospheric looking-glass quality and suggestion of both lesbianism and the supernatural. Véra Clouzot stars as Christina Delassalle the wife of a cruel headmaster Michel Delassalle ( Paul Meurisse) at a private boarding school.
His wife Christina and mistress, Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret) conspire to kill him and give themselves a perfect alibi. Christina is a fragile sort, with a weak heart, and beaten down by her husband’s physical and mental abuse (he calls her his little ruin). Nicole is self-reliant and aggressive. The two women form a bond, with an unspoken tinge of their lesbian alliance. Along the way, Nicole must push Christina to go through with their plans to murder Michel and be rid of Michellthe swine, forever. After his death, there are sightings of him on the grounds of the school. This injects an element of the uncanny into the plot unless there is something more insidious at the core. Throughout the picture, there is a strong sense of Sapphic tension and allusions to the two women’s sexual relationship. In the novel She Who Was No More, the two women were clearly, lesbian lovers.
M. Drain Professeur “I may be reactionary, but this is absolutely astounding – the legal wife consoling the mistress! No, no, and no!”
Christina Delassalle “There is only one possible end. We are monsters. I don’t like monsters.”
Nicole Horner “If it’s only him, I feel better. I’ll save the grain of sand falling from the hands of providence for my morality lessons.”
Alfred Hitchcock was so impressed with Henri-Georges Clouzot’s French thriller Diabolique (1955) it inspired him to create a dark and psycho-sexual black & white film that would also shock his audience and be a success at the box office.
With his horror film — quasi-noir-tinged Psycho (1960), he engendered a whole new brand of Schadenfreude with his outre creepy film adapted from the story by Robert Bloch about Norman Bates who personifies the Oedipal relationship between himself and his castrating mother.
The mysterious Mrs. Bates is never seen on screen, except for her voice that croaks out stern remarks from behind her bedroom door. In order to manifest his vengeful mother’s overarching power, he brings her to life by dressing in her clothes and killing anyone Norman has sexual desires for. Norman Bates became the poster boy for the cross-dressing psychopathic killer with latent homosexual tendencies brought about by his over-possessive mother. Though these disparaging visions of gay characters existed on screen, Norman Bates WAS a cinematic prototype and composite of serial killer Ed Gein, who did in fact go on a killing spree in Wisconsin in the 1950s and 60s, Gein wore women’s clothing and he also wore their skin, sharing Norman’s fascination with taxidermy. He also carried on conversations with his dead mother, which he dug up and kept on the old creepy family farm. In later years, the graphically perverse Deranged (1974) starring Robert Blossom was released as a direct biographical film about Gein’s life. Later on, it became the interlace of the story which would be the gory incidentals in 1991, in Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs, where Buffalo Bill would also become iconic and a composite of Ed Gein.
William Castle’s Homicidal 1961 was directed by the king of ballyhoo, who answered Alfred Hitchcock’s horror noir with his own cringe-worthy psycho-sexual film featuring the cross-dressing Jean Arliss as Emily/Warren — another psychopathic gender-bending murderer. The brutal stabbing murder of a justice-of-the-peace sparks an investigation of dark family secrets in a sleepy small town in Southern California. Also stars Glenn Corbett and Patricia Breslin.
A peculiar young man, Warren (Jean Arliss), plots to murder his half-sister, Miriam Webster (Patricia Breslin) in order to collect the family fortune. Miriam is supposed to share her inheritance with her half-brother Warren who lives with his nanny and now guardian Helga (Eugenie Leontovich), an old woman confined to a wheelchair. Helga has recently been struck down by a stroke, barely able to move or speak, she can only tap out something like Morse code with her trusty doorknob. Warren is a strange and menacing figure who projects an undercurrent of hostility toward his childhood guardian. Warren and Helga live in the old family mansion, where he and Miriam grew up. Helga is taken care of by a pretty blonde nurse Emily, who seems to have formed a close relationship with Warren.
Miriam Webster: “I remember when we were kids, you took this doll away from me and I never saw it again.”
Warren “You want it? Take it.”
Making its departure from gruesome queer killers, Hollywood contributed to the screen another type of threatening’ gay subtext. With James Dean, who exuded tragic emotional disturbances, and the tough sensitivity of Marlon Brando, who dressed in worn-out leather to cover up the pathos oozing from his deep eyes and rugged voice. Dyer refers to these actors as the sensitive ‘spectacularized young man’.
In director Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause (1955) a most talked about film with homosexual undertones, particularly from Sal Mineo’s (openly queer) portrayal of Plato. James Dean is on fire with teenage angst as Jim Stark, whose father is an emasculated, weak male figure. There is a lot more light that passes through Plato’s homosexuality, as he exudes more than the hero worship of Jim. There’s a tell-tale scene when Plato is combing his hair in the mirror of his locker, decorated with a photo of Gary Cooper. Jim is walking down the hallway, and as Plato catches sight of him, his gaze is eroticized.
The character of Plato is played as an unstable youth, and Jim comes from a family with a domineering mother who emasculates his apron-wearing gutless father… In 1955, the question of homosexuality still had to be handled on screen as a question of deviance, Plato therefore must pay for his transgressions with his life.
There is also a moral warning for parents. Represent good role models of a heterosexual ideal or your kids might turn out either troubled or queer. It is a cautionary tale about paying attention to heteronormative expectations — in the end, the story is sewn up with Jim grabbing his father as he tells him it’ll be alright.
Ray’s film with its heavily rendered homosexual subtext avails itself of dialogue that is easily interpreted as sexually ambiguous. “Are you ready to come out yet?”
In Howard Hawk’s Gentleman Prefer Blondes, 1953 Jane Russell does one of her lively musical numbers which suggests a very tongue-in-cheek hint at ‘gay panic’ when her character Dorothy Shaw is surrounded by a chorus of muscle-bound weightlifters in homoerotic swim trunks that pay Dorothy no mind.“Doesn’t anyone want to play?”
In a more deeply disturbing narrative, director Jack Garfein’s The Strange One (1957) is told within the milieu of a military boarding school, where Jocko De Paris (Ben Gazzara) a manipulative upperclassman holds a sadistic rule over the other cadets. The root cause is suggested that Jocko’s ambiguous violent schemes are linked to his latent homosexuality.
the film wallows in a steamy mixture of homoerotic imagery and verbal innuendo. The mise-en-scene is filled with phallic signifiers, such as towers, trumpets, cigars, flashlights, nightsticks, bottles brooms swords and scores of erect young men marching sweatingly through the night… The specter of homosexuality also envelops the characters of Cadet Perrin, and effete poet who idolworhips Jocko and Cadet Simmons, a Peter Lorre look-alike who refuses to date girls or shower with the other cadets. Ultimately all this queerness is dislplace onto Jocko’s violent sadism, a linkage not uncommon in the ear’s medical discourse about homosexuality… Jocko calls Cadet Perrin a ‘three-dollar bill” and repeatedly towel whips his ass its hard not to read the scene as a metaphoric sodomy wherein (Code-sanctioned) homosocial violence displaces (Code -forbidden ) homosexual contact. The story itself is an extended gloss on secrecy in the barracks centering on a bizzare narrative event that also speaks of homosexuality in barely coded ways.(Jeffrey Sconce)
While Tennessee William’s Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) conflated homosexuality with the devouring mother archetype, promiscuity, cruising, pedophilia, and cannibalism. It’s a melodrama that could very easily share the shock scenes and denouement with some of the most gruesome horror films.
Not to forget Vincente Minnelli’s Tea and Sympathy (1956) where John Kerr, sewing with the ladies and removed from all sports is barely veiled as a homosexual, though the picture throws Deborah Kerr at him in one night’s sexual encounter to awaken his maleness. The film is so uncomfortable with itself because it dares not admit Tom’s homosexuality.
Even as the Production Code authorities attempted to expurgate “homosexuality” per se from the film version of Tea and Sympathy 1956—focusing instead on the euphemism of its young protagonist’s effeminacy this move fooled few spectators and simultaneously reinforced a stereotypical and reassuring blurring of effeminacy and male homosexuality. (Foster Hirsch-The Dark Side of the Screen)
Where homosexuals are either portrayed as deviants or boys who have had their masculinity neutered for them, lesbians have a symbology all their own. In director Gerd Oswald’s psychotronic cult film Screaming Mimi (1958) starring Anita Ekberg, Gypsy Rose Lee plays exotic night club owner Joann ‘Gypsy’ Masters, a veiled lesbian who runs the burlesque show and looks after her girls.
Exotic dancer Anita Ekberg surrounds herself with her Great Dane…
In contrast to coded characters, in Basil Dearden’s Victim (1961) the outed queer character Melville Farr is played by Dirk Bogard. one of the gay men being targeted by a blackmail plot during the 1960s London, coinciding with the death of a young man, whom Bogard had a fling with. The subject of homosexuality was out in the open in Dearden’s bold 1961 film which deals with homosexuality as the central plot. Yet it drops the characters into a seedy pit of unsavory intrigue surrounding gay men and their criminal affiliations. Victim is one of the first films dealing with homosexuality directly, as the central storyline, confronting some of the issues in a serious manner without demonizing its leading character Melville Farr, yet trying to examine how being in the closet causes so much psychological turmoil and heartache.
Lesbians are often portrayed as harsh and tyrannical, or on the femme side they’re trashy and beaten down. For example, in director Gordon Douglas’ Tony Rome (1967) After 1961 times were changing and the Code was forced to ease up on policing the content of pictures coming out of Hollywood. One of the first signs of the lesbian innuendo with more of a kick to it, was in director Gordon Douglas’ Tony Rome 1967. The equation of lesbian love with tyranny is also the strongest impression we get from that scene between Irene and Georgia (uncredited Deanna Lund) in the caravan.
Georgia the stripper might be seen as a lady who gets what she wants with no interference but she also lives in a caravan with Irene (character actor Elizabeth Fraser). In the film, she plays a dowdy heavy-set unspoken lesbian lover (who is credited on IMDb as Irma.) The film doesn’t call their relationship out by name, but the dialogue contains sharp innuendo dished out by the smooth-talking Sinatra who says to Georgia about an old boyfriend of hers. Tony’s been trying to track him down. Redheaded Georgia (Deanna Lund), a stripper who’s shacked up with her ‘roommate’, as abusive and whiny as the men who used to beat her.
Tony to Georgia about her ex-boyfriend –“Maybe he was trying to get into the wrong ballpark.”
After Irene who seems overly possessive, jealous, unstable, and isn’t the most fashionable 60s lesbian, begins smacking Georgia around until they both fall on the small caravan bed as Irene whimpers, that she’s sorry for hitting her.
Tony smirks- “You want the lights on or off?… They’re better off.”
Tony Rome is scattered with a few distasteful scenes, characteristic of late 6os cinema, queers were not portrayed in a very good light. While the film has a groovy 60s vibe, some smart-alecky dialogue, and the presence of Sinatra who plays it cool, the decades’ propensity for painting gays with a dirty brush is ever present in Gordon Douglas’ crime drama.
Lloyd Bochner plays an effete drug dealer named Vic. A brief teaser role that seems to have flown under the gay radar. Bochner portrays Vic with a pretentiously fake obstinance, wears an ascot, and listens to classic music in his kitschy pad. Tony shows up looking for a user who will be trying to score from Vic. After he roughs Vic up a bit, Rome prepares himself a hamburger on the stove and asks Vic with a mocking tone “How do you like your meat?”
The tyrannical relationships between lesbians in the world of the classic film noir where there was more of a power differential, between employer/employee, etc (Rebecca, In a Lonely Place, Walk on the Wild Side for instance) carries over into films where the lesbian characters are not only visible but they are supposed to be each others’ social equal.
The emphasis on lesbians as working women can exhibit keen elements of cruelty and violence of either the servants to mistresses as with Mrs. Danvers and the second Mrs. de Winter (Rebecca) and Martha to Laurel (In a Lonely Place). But also the dominance that madams show to the ‘girls’ in their stable. This manifestation of iron-handed emotions leaves us suspicious of what the attraction is to women, or the object of their affection.
As the Hays Code began to crumble and it was gasping its last bitter breath, the lesbian character was made visible on screen. This is the case of Dirk Bogard in Dearden’s Victim or with George (Beryl Reid) and Childie (Susannah York) in Robert Aldrich’s painfully revealing exploration of an aging dyke in THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE (1968), where lesbianism is out in the open for the audience but not for the character of Sister George who is a beloved soap opera star for BBC. She tries to make her private life separate from her career as a well-loved nurse on the popular television show. But June Buckridge who plays the character of George, is compelled to cause sabotage both her private and public life with her shameless reputation for drinking too much and goosing nuns in taxi cabs. She is a belligerent, self-hating lesbian who is trapped within her private closet trying to hold onto her girlfriend, who is a wandering woman/child.
The sixties ushered in several interesting films that still cast a veil of secrecy over queer cinema before films became franker with gay subjects as the lead story. One of the most flirtatious and entertaining with more than a queer inkling or attentive innuendo is THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN (1960) a homosocial/partly-homosexual buddy film about men coming together to rob a bank. As the Criterion Collection calls it, “precisely calibrated caper… influences countless Hollywood heist films.”
One of the unprecedented aspects of Dearden’s film for 1960, is not only is the narrative steeped in queer innuendo, homosexuality is not tangential to the plot, a few of the main characters are ‘queer’, and they are not stereotypical.
Director Basil Dearden’s impressively quirky British heist movie stars the accomplished Jack Hawkins as Hyde and equally brilliant Nigel Patrick as Major Race. Hyde is a resentful Colonel who was forced into retirement as he was ‘redundant’. He recruits an eccentric group of disgraced petty criminals, ex-British army officers, to help him pull off a meticulous bank heist that includes infiltrating a military compound. Hyde has the goods on all of their shady pasts and influences them to accept his offer. Race becomes his most trusted ally and implied lover, who used to run the black market in Hamburg. The film also stars some of British greats, Richard Attenborough, Kieron Moore, and Bryan Forbes who went on to direct, and Roger Livesey. Hyde assigns each one a task that matches their expertise.
Women are rarely seen except for the opening of the picture and are not part of the narrative, merely to illustrate that they are not quite essential or actually a drag on the men’s lives. There are no romantic relationships on the periphery, just Attenborough lusting after a pretty young skirt. For the most part, women are not shown in a good light. They are either whores, shrews catering to their doddering old father-in-law, cling insecure older women being used by Forbes, the rest are bitches. Women are the counterbalance of the film’s antiheroes, who form a homosocial circle. Though I wonder if there isn’t a form of homosocial order within a female assembly, like prisons and convents, that have their own shape of erotic engagement. I might call this experience, ‘sapphic-social.’
Gentlemen have a definite undercurrent of sexual attraction between Hyde (Hawkins) and Race (Patrick). Often the two exchange glances and trade coquetry, while there is a seductive ambiance to many of their interactions, especially when Hyde tells Race to spend the night. He also requests that Race drop the old ‘darling’ bit and then Race calls him Old Dear instead. Their entire relationship is flirtatious — and when Race dons an apron and does the dishes with Hawkins, it’s divine.
Race looking at a portrait, “Is that your wife is she dead?”
Hyde “Oh no, the bitch is still going very strong.”
“One gets into terrible habits at the YMCA” and “You’d be surprised where I’ve parked my Caravan.” Race tells Hawkins. Race tells him “You’re spoiling me.” Hyde tells him “All my men loved me.”
Kieran Moore is being blackmailed but it is only implied that he is homosexual. “Well there are thrills and ‘thrills’ “ he tells his patron whom he is massaging. There is a reference to him by one of the others that he’s an “odd man out.” And Lexy (Richard Attenborough) acts green around the gills because he has to room with him.
For a gripping, black comedic crime thriller, the more than implied queerness makes The League of Gentlemen, a variation on Boys in the Band, a sort of, Boys in the Bank Robbery will do nicely!
Then in 1962, Peter Ustinov directed BILLY BUDD based on the novel by Herman Melville. Billy Budd stars Robert Ryan as John Claggart Master of Arms, Peter Ustinov as Capt. Vere, and co-stars Melvyn Douglas, Paul Rogers, David McCallum, Ronald Lewis, Niall MacGinnis, and Terence Stamp As Billy Budd. Billy Budd (Terence Stamp) is an innocent, naive seaman in the British Navy in 1797. When the ship’s sadistic master-at-arms is murdered, Billy is accused and tried. Claggart ( Robert Ryan) has a ‘queer’ fixation on Billy. Laura Mulvey terms this fixation as a case of ‘scopophilia’ which describes the psychological tendency towards deriving aesthetic pleasure from looking at something or someone. In terms of masculinity/femininity and subjectivity and objectivity.
In her book Epistemology of the Closet (1990/2008), Eve Sedgwick, expanding on earlier interpretations of the same themes, posits that the interrelationships between Billy, Claggart and Captain Vere are representations of male homosexual desire and the mechanisms of prohibition against this desire. She points out that Claggart’s “natural depravity,” which is defined tautologically as “depravity according to nature,” and the accumulation of equivocal terms (“phenomenal”, “mystery”, etc.) used in the explanation of the fault in his character, are an indication of his status as the central homosexual figure in the text. She also interprets the mutiny scare aboard the Bellipotent, the political circumstances that are at the center of the events of the story, as a portrayal of homophobia.
The centrality of Billy Budd’s extraordinary good looks in the novella, where he is described by Captain Vere as “the young fellow who seems so popular with the men—Billy, the Handsome Sailor”, have led to interpretations of a homoerotic sensibility in the novel.
King Rat (1965) written by James Clavell (To, Sir With Love 1967, The Great Escape 1963) directed by Bryan Forbes (Seance on a Wet Afternoon 1964, The Whisperers 1967), and astounding Miltonian cinematography by Burnett Guffey (All the King’s Men 1947, From Here to Eternity 1953, Birdman of Alcatraz 1962, Bonnie and Clyde 1967), framing the prisoners steeped in hell. The scene at the end with the collective wide shot of the hollowed-out men not quite connected to the world anymore, or their coming release, reminds me of the potent image from Paths of Glory (1957). King Rat, is a meditation on humanity, when British and American prisoners of war are captured and thrown into a Japanese camp in Changi.
In some of the more subtle homosexual subtexts, King Rat shows Dr. Kennedy (James Donald) using an acid tongue with his male nurse Stevens (Michael Lees) Kennedy’s hostility is the one trace of homophobia in the picture. ‘Stop trying to pretend you’re Florence Nightingale” and “You shave your legs and you’re a liar. Forbes himself never showed any homophobia in his work, even considering Cicely Courtneidge as a sympathetic lesbian in The L Shaped Room (1962), and Stevens in The League of Gentlemen (1960).
Director Bryan Forbe’s films came to grips with taboo subjects in his realist style of 1960s cinema, in much the same way Robert Aldrich populated his films with misfits and outsiders — The L Shaped Room examines converging stories and social minefields, including unwed motherhood, lesbianism, and race. Forbe’s work delved into humanity in a microcosmic tableau.
But if one were to look at the film objectively there is nothing on its face that couldn’t be read one way or the other. George Segal is Corporal King (‘Rat’) who runs a lucrative black market always scheming and plotting within his close circle of men, the Guards, and the Malay locals to obtain contraband. His position as a black marketeer helps him transcend his rank within that prison camp.
But freedom meant that he would be stripped of his privilege. King lives a better life than anyone else in the POW camp, but he does bring a bit of release and small obtainables which to the desperate, become luxuries for the other men. There is a sharp contrast between his freshly laundered shirts, combed hair, clean face and while other men starve and wear soiled, tattered rags. Pete Marlowe begins to respect King who he comes to see, not only as a clever mercenary but someone who brings a bit of dignity to the other men.
James Fox gives an astounding performance as Pete, a gentle, fair-minded upper-class Brit who also is trying to make the best of his captivity. The men in the camp have very little rations, and the extreme heat is enough to dry a man to dust. There’s also diphtheria, malaria, insanity, and undignified death. They are reduced to animals struggling to survive, so beaten down they’ve lost their soul in their eyes. But in the midst of this hell, the nameless King never shows more than sweaty armpits in his freshly cleaned uniform, while the others are half-naked and emaciated. King has fresh eggs, cigarettes, and deals going on with Japanese soldiers to make a lot of money, which makes him feel like a big man. Back in civilization he was a nobody but here he flourishes because he is in charge. In this isolated camp, his cunning has made him the most influential, and at times, predatory of men.
Men can sink to the depths of hell when they are treated like animals. The film is an example of a homo-social dynamic of camaraderie against a common obstacle. Homosocial behavior is often seen in films where men are thrown together and must bond, in particular prison movies and war films, where men are dependent on each other and forced to survive.
It is given in both male and women’s prison movies, that there might be a sexual relationship, out of necessity. With men, it would be because there aren’t any women and they need someone to depend on and form a close bond with. But once they are free, they go back to their heterosexuality.
What makes King Rat such a strong film coded with homosexual subtext is the bond that Pete and King form at the very beginning. Forbe’s film never comes out and tells us that the two men have fallen in love. On the surface, it is about a strong friendship that grows between the two. But it is obvious if you look at it through a queer lens, that there is a romantic dynamic between them. Pete is more overtly queer, while King never lets his guard down to anyone, Pete is the only one he takes into his intimate space.
From the beginning, there’s a subtle flirtation. King doesn’t treat anyone else like he treats Pete. At the first meeting he makes him a fried egg. Pete comments, when does one have to kiss his ass? The men in the hut turn and look at the two of them curiously. King tells Pete never before meals.
As Pete grows closer to King, it is more apparent that he is effeminate and is immediately drawn to King. Pete moves very fluidly, while everyone wears shorts or long pants, he wears a traditional skirt and walks like a sylph. Very quickly he falls under King’s spell. The two men gradually fall in love, and as the film progresses, we can see a strong friendship, but those of us who are either in the know or know what they’re looking at, will see the homosexual love story.
Hollywood proposes films that appear heterosexual but have suggestive coding. There are many scenes of tenderness, caring, and affection that speaks of homo-erotic desire that hasn’t been consummated but lingers around the two men. Pete has a strong longing for King, but once the prisoners are freed, King pushes Pete away not only because he will be losing any identification with great importance, he will be going back to obscurity. Now he must bury his homosexual feelings and go back to his straight life.
In one scene when Pete is suffering from gangrene and might lose his arm, King takes his head and strokes his face passionately, caressing his neck and cheeks. King who always looks out for himself, pays a lot of money to get the medicine to heal Pete. He sits by his bedside and holds his hand, without his usual dress army shirt, King is bare-chested for the first time. It’s a very homoerotic moment when King sits by Pete’s bed, his sweat glistening by the bedside light.
At one point King talks about how he never got the dolls (women) back home, all the fat men with money got the girls. The mentioning of his heterosexuality is a way to appease the censors and draw away the implication that he might be gay. This qualifies his heterosexuality to prepare for the following moment where he is stroking Pete’s face, taking it in his hands, and bringing his own face close to his in a moment that might erupt in a kiss. Now that King has just talked about looking at dolls, this can be read as a hetero friendship and not a homoerotic one.
Ultimately when the war is declared over, King must deny and dismiss Pete completely in order to shed his homosexuality. But Pete is devastated —King becomes cold and cruel. Pete implores him “You called me Sir last nightThe war is over, but you and me, we’re just the same.”
But King has already decided to walk away from their ‘homoerotic friendship’ – Peter pleads with him, “People don’t change. I’m not ashamed that you and I are friends. We survived it. Don’t you remember what we had, don’t you remember that? Don’t ask me to forget all that. Otherwise, what’s it all been made of? I’m not different.”
At the very end, Pete actually says King’s (which has merely been his nickname ), last name, which we hear for the first time during the film, it symbolizes the intrusion of the real world on their insulated existence. When King is leaving with the Americans, Pete runs frantically toward him, trying to say goodbye. King looks at him from the truck, for the last time, he reveals to Pete one lingering stare- a despairing, longing look at Pete to let him know, it was real.
BBFC THE BRITISH BOARD OF FILM CLASSIFICATION
Source: Stephen Bourne: Brief Encounters Lesbians and Gays in British Cinema 1930-1971
As I’ve discussed earlier, it’s pretty well acknowledged that queers show up in many of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies. Though he has been criticized for his portrayal of gays and lesbians as perversely wretched characters. In his Pre-Code British film Murder! (1930) director François Truffaut asserted that Murder! had been a “thinly disguised story about homosexuality.” In Murder! “the homosexual kills when unmasked” (Jonathan Freedman)
Esmé Percy in Murder! (1930) plays Handel Fane, an effeminate cross-dressing trapeze artist who commits murder.
In a memorable but disturbing performance, Percy embodies the unnatural and perverse characteristics often associated with cinematic depictions of gay men. He portrayal of Fane adds to the evil atmosphere of the film. However, gay writer Andrew Britton has challenged the view that Fane is a ‘negative’ stereotype’ (Bourne)
“Because the killer in Murder! is a transvestite, the film has sometimes been cited as an example of Hitchcock’s allegedly conservative sexual attitudes. Such criticisms ignore his consistently astringent, critical and pessimistic treatment of heterosexual relations, and no more than in Rope, is ‘perverse’ sexuality identified with viciousness. Rather, Hitchcock’s interests focuses, typically, on the male protagonist’s defensive fear of femininity.”( Britton)
The police find Norah Baring playing actress, Diana Baring, by the body of her murdered friend. Diana is found guilty and is condemned to hang. But a jury member Herbert Marshall as Sir John Menier, suspects that it is Diana’s boyfriend an acrobat who wears a dress.
Journey’s End (1930) directed by James Whale. The film takes place in France in 1917. The film is not explicitly gay, you can still read a gay subtext. Also, consider that often with Whale’s gay sensibility in his films, he enhanced the plot and played with convention so the typical story of a heterosexual war drama, about male bonding in the trenches, is vaguely flipped on its head. Journey’s End shows an intimacy between some of its male characters. Gay actor Colin Clive plays Stanhope an alcoholic who has spent several traumatic years at the Front. He worships his older service member Osborne (Ian Maclaren) whose nickname is ‘Uncle’. Stanhope has grown to depend on Osborn for support and companionship. This of course is a common thread in films that deal with intimate friendships between groups of men in war, or in prison. Their relationship develops throughout the film, and the coded homosexual implications exist on screen that their friendship is more than just camaraderie. Stanhope and Osborn share a deeply personal bond within the closed universe of the wartime trenches, where emotions become known.
A captain, in conversation with Osborn, criticizes Stanhope. “how is the dear young boy? Drinking like a fish as usual? And Osborn vehemently defends his friend: “He’s by far the best Company Commander we’ve got. You don’t know him as I do. I love that fellow. I’d go to hell with him.” stunned by his reply, the captain mocks him, ‘Oh, you sweet sentimental old darling.’
There are many intimate moments between the two men, who feel free to show their male/male ‘love’ for each other. When Stanhope gets completely potted in one scene, he complains that the trenches need to be cleaned. “Dear Uncle, clean the trenches up with a little dustpan and broom, eh, I’ll make you a little white apron with lace on it.” He then asks him to tuck him into bed. “Kiss me, Uncle, where Osborn (Uncle) replies “Kiss you, be hanged.”
Soldiers of the King (1933) Vivacious, ebullient, uninhibited comedienne Cicely Courtneidge revelled in eccentric roles, some of which involved cross-dressing or ‘butch’ behaviour. Later in her career helped by Bryan Forbes’s sensitive driection , she gave a memorable underrated performance in a character role as cat loving Mavis, the ex-music hall player, in The L-Shaped Room (1962) which was one of the first explicity lesbian film roles. However thirty years earlier she appeared in Soldiers of the King in which she gave an intriguing performance as Maisy, a boyish male impersonator, expressing tenderness to the ingenue and showing very little interest in men, especially Edward Everett Horton, her prissy leading man. In the film she plays the dual role of retired music hall artist Jenny Marvello and her daughter Maisy. They’re members of the Royal family of music hall players descended from Nell Gwynn’ but the film is nothing more than an excuse for Cicely to show off her gifts as a male impersonator.
Dressed in a soldier’s uniform, with a twitching mustache, plenty of thigh slapping, and an excess of grimacing, she opens the film with the patriotic, show-stopping title song. However, nothing can prepare us for the shock of seeing Maisy without her soldier’s uniform. At a family gathering, when Jenny passes on her crown of Queen of the Marvellos’ to her daughter, Maisy has her back to the camera. But when she turns around, revealing a strikingly masculine look and bobbed hair, and launches into a chorus of ‘I’m a jolly good fellow’, it’s lesbianism more or less unashamed.
When pretty young Judy (Dorothy Hyson) is offered a lift in a car by an admirer, Maisy hijacks her “You get into my car” she commands, “You and I are going to work very hard together. You can have admirers but there must never be any really serious affair. I had one years ago and gave it up.” When an admirer notices flowers have been sent to Judy, he says, ” I hear Maisy is very fond of you” When Maisy performs a song called “The Moment I Saw You.” at the music hall in a top hat and tails, she is completely at ease with herself, and sings revealingly “You were the girl I was meant to adore/I knew it the moment I saw you.” (Bourne)
Peter Lorre as Abbott in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) co-starring Leslie Banks and Nova Pilbeam. A man and his wife’s daughter have been kidnapped as part of an assassination plot. Peter Lorre plays Abbott, another of Hitchcock and Lorre’s homosexual characters. Hitchcock’s common queer figures, including Peter Lorre who usually plays charming, transgressive, and decadent characters.
Abbott: “You know, to a man with a heart as soft as mine, there’s nothing sweeter than a touching scene.”
Bob Lawrence: “Such as?”
Abbott: “Such as a father saying goodbye to his child. Yeah, goodbye for the last time. What could be more touching than that?”
Tiger Bay (1934) The incredibly evocative Anna May Wong plays Lui Cheng, who owns a dockside restaurant, originally set in London, it wound up being situated in South America. Lui Cheng has a fierce protective affection for her young charge, Letty (Rene Ray). Lui keeps Letty safe from unwanted advances from her brutish customers. What can be read from the subtext is that there is more than just a maternal feeling for Letty, as she bestows upon her something more than motherly love. There is a tinge of lesbian attraction there. In the end, Lui Cheng sacrifices herself for a woman, wanting Letty to have a different sort of life.
Anna May Wong and Rene Ray in Tiger Bay (1934)
in 1936 Margaret Lockwood and Jane Millican as Agatha starred in Jury’s Evidence. A jury is led by the foreman to use their imagination to re-construct how the murder was committed.
In 1936 Hitchcock directed Secret Agent based on Somerset Maugham’s stories. The film stars Robert Young as Robert Marvin a criminal who is on the surface a heterosexual, yet he projects a physical attraction to the straight hero, Richard Ashenden (John Gielgud). Peter Lorre is also considered another of Hitchcock’s coded gay characters in the film he plays, The General.
In Over the Moon (1937) Merle Oberon stars as an heiress Jane Benson who goes on a spending spree. Along the way she meets Julia (Zena Dare) who shows Jane the way of the world. Along her screwball journey, there are plenty of ‘queer’ characters to fill out the zany scenarios. At a fashion show in Grosvenor Square, she meets François a gay model, who flits around and befuddles her boyfriend Rex Harrison. Then Jane throws a lavish party, with the help of Lord Petcliffe (Peter Haddon). “an interior decorator by profession, a social organizer by choice and, well never mind, dear, you’ll see.” Haddon is a gay opportunist and a high society queen. He wears fluffy pink slippers and spouts witty grievances like, “We had a pageant last night. I wore myself to a positive shadow over some dreadful charity.”
Also in 1937 Non-Stop New York, the crime thriller two heavyweight character actors Francis L. Sullivan and Peter Bull play sinister queer villains. “Bull was particularly creepy as a blackmailing hotel waiter.”
The 49th Parallel (1941) directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger stars Eric Portman as Lieutenant Hirth, a role intended for Michael Redgrave. The story involves a Nazi U-Boat Commander and his men who are trying to get to the border after they become stranded in Canada. During a time of war, various characters cannot do anything to change the course of events even with the best of intentions. Laurence Olivier plays a trapper, and Anton Walbrook plays Peter, a kind spiritual idealist. Walbrook always seems to manifest a quality of alienation, and he has an intimate moment with Niall MacGinnis (another often coded gay figure, consider Night of the Demon) who plays a Nazi with a delicate touch. The film also stars Leslie Howard as novelist and aesthete Philip Armstrong Scott. He is surrounded by paintings of Picasso and Matisse and makes what could be interpreted as a sexual advance toward John Chandos, who plays Lohrmann, one of Lieutenant Ernst Hirth’s (Eric Portman) men who might actually be in love with Hirth. Scott (Howard) is a loner who shows no use for women, and asks one of the Nazis while gazing at him intensely, “Interested?” Interested in what, fishing? Powell and Pressburger seemed to have had a preoccupation with the pathology of sexual frustration.
In director Brian Desmond Hurst’s remake of the French classic L’Alibi, this thriller released in 1942, the film stars Margaret Lockwood as a night club hostess who helps Inspector Calas (Hugh Sinclair) catch a killer. Alibi features a few villainous coded gay characters. One is a sinister mindreader named Winkler (Raymond Lovell), and his subservient assistant Fritz (Rodney Ackland). Winkler tells Fritz, “I’m sure you’ll do anything for me.”
1943 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
At first sight, the two men eye each other with a look of mutual attraction. It is hard to miss. The film wavers over the men’s relationship with Deborah Kerr’s characters and is more steeped more in the homosociality of their lives centered around war, country, and brotherhood.
Powell and Pressburger – banned by Churchill as bad propaganda in a time of war, it reached America two years later but in a heavily edited version. dramatic conflicts life long love hate relationship with the unlikeliest people, a Prussian officer, Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff played by Anton Walbrook (openly gay in real life) and Clive Candy VC played by Roger Livesey a professional soldier. Their relationship begins in Berlin with a duel. There are other characters in the film. Candy’s effeminate schoolfriend Babyface Fitzroy played by openly gay actor/director Frith Banbury. Walbrook is mesmerizing as usual. There are other queer references scattered through the film. Babyface, the character played by Frith Banbury is a Wildean dandy and another gay actor Robert Harris, surfaces as the embassy secretary in suits which are always adorned by carnations. There are mentions of Holmes and Watson, of a play called The Last of the Dandys and of an aria from Mignon (Mignon was a French slang term for homosexual ) Walbrook’s proposal to Deborah Kerr finds him and Livesay wearing women’s hats. Throughout the film the maleness of Candy’s world is stressed: the camaraderie on the battelfied , the Turkish baths, a men-only dinner party, sleeping at the club, ex-public school allegiances. “The acceptability of this culture makes the films’ central relationship both more acceptable to censors and audiences and more invisible.” (Bourne)
I Know Where I’m Going! 1945 is yet another film by the duo Powell and Pressburger, the location of the plot is set in Scotland. The incomparable British actress of stage and film Wendy Hiller plays the worldly Joan Webster, daughter of a bank manager who plans to marry a wealthy Scot. While stranded by a storm she meets naval officer Torquil McNeil played by Roger Livesey. While stranded Joan is in the company of Colonel Barnstable (Captain C.W.R. Knight) and Catriona (Pamela Brown) One of the analysis of the picture is that Joan has suppressed desires for women, though she believes she’s on the right path in her life, she in fact has not been seeking ‘heterosexual domesticity’ (Bourne). Joan’s plans are altered when she meets Torquil and Catriona, who is wild in spirit. Torguil refers to her as a ‘queer girl’. There is a scene where Joan almost dies getting through the storm and Catriona takes her to her bedroom. “There’s a fire in my room and that’s where you’ll sleep.” We are left with the impression that the two women might have slept together. When morning comes, Joan transformed into an energy of being butch and less tense as if she has been freed from oppression. It could be read as the uninhibited Catriona has liberated Joan. Joan has fallen in love with Torquil as the film must center on heterosexuality in the end, but before she goes off with Torquil, she leaves Catriona with this sentiment, “Goodbye Catriona. Thank you for everything.”
I Know Where I’m Going! 1945 with Wendy Hiller and Pamela Brown)
Brief Encounter (1945) A brief word about the film and why it’s relevent within the context of coded gay characterizations in cinema. As was with Edward Albee, gay playwright and his controversial play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with it’s brash language and the gay community looking for a sub context that Albee denies is there, Noel Coward wrote Brief Encounter as a romance that resonates with the gay community. In particular the Brits who have dealt with living in the closet. Coward says, “If Brief Encounter feels gay to me and many other gay people that I know, it is because it was made with gay feeling.” It is a simple story, of romance between Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) and Dr. Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) a pair of decent middle class people both comfortably married to other partners. But in Cowards writing, the film offers meanings and resonances to a gay audience. Says another gay writer Andy Medhurst. (Bourne)
“Brief Encounter is not simply the tearful tale of hetersexual romance that it appears to be: beneath, or alongside, or overlapping this narrative is another, quite specifically related to the homosexuality of its author. Employing the naively biographical paradigm of gay authorship, Brief Encounter shows Noel Coward displacing his own fears, anxieties and pessimism about the possibility of a fulfilled sexual relationship within an oppressively homophobic culture by transposing them into a hetersexual context. The furtiveness and fear of discovery that end Laura’s and Alex’s relationship comprise a set of emotions that Coward would have felt with particular force and poingnancy and which gay men ever since have responded to with recognition and admiration.” from That special thrill: Brief Encounter, homosexuality and authorship’, Screen, vol. 32, no.2 1991
Brief Encounter 1945- stars Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson.
Below: 1946 A Matter of Life and Death.
Marius Goring plays Conductor 71 who is David Niven’s fairy godmother. Niven plays Peter, an RAF pilot who begs to be sent back to Earth. Goring sets out on his mission to convince Peter to accept his fate and go back to Heaven. Conductor 17 (Goring) is flirtations and flamboyant. “Do you play chess?” When Peter tells him yes, “We could play every day” as if Goring is talking about sex. In the film, Dr. Reeves played by Roger Livesey says “The rights of the uncommon man must always be respected.”
In John Harlow’s Appointment with Crime (1946), Herbert Lom plays an art dealer named Gregory and he has a companion, the flaming Noel Penn portrayed by actor Alan Wheatley. Gregory runs an underworld criminal ring.
1947 They Made Me a Fugitive directed by Cavalcanti, stars Trevor Howard who plays Clem, an ex-RAF officer who who can’t get used to civilian life. Clem takes to drinking and hangs out in bars.
“What he needs is another war” He winds up getting involved with a queer marketeer, Narcy Narcissus (Griffith Jones.) Narcissus ( a flamboyant moniker indeed) wants Clem to join his gang, but the two clashes, and he winds up framing Clem for murder. Narcissus has a menacing element to his nature, with sadistic hints of deviant sexuality.
1948 The Mark of Cain, is director Brian Desmond Hurst’s compelling costume drama centered around the animosity between two brothers. Eric Portman plays the older brother Richard Howard who is a wine connoisseur who is cultured, playing piano and the theater. He is brutal and sissy as well, and he has confrontations with his younger brother John ( Patrick Holt), who is the more masculine of the two brothers and winds up marrying Sarah (Sally Gray).
Kind Hearts and Coronets 1949 is a British dark comedy that turns murder into a witty excursion, thanks to the brilliant acting by Alec Guinness and Dennis Price. The substance of the film is the condemnation of the bourgeoisie and aristocracy. Price plays Louis Mazzini, the corrupt son of a noblewoman who has been cut off from his rightful place as Duke by his family, the d’Ascoynes because he marries an Italian street singer. He swears revenge on the family members, by killing all eight of them, in a method that suits each relative all portrayed by Guinness. Dennis Price as Mazzini’s father is a flamboyant character, and Guinness plays several characters including playing one of the characters Lady Agatha. Mazzini is cold and enraged by his family’s racism. He bares several coded gestures and cues, for instance, he is a fop with a mane of long permed hair and his clothes are campy. And gravitates toward women’s accouterments. He wears a quilted smoking jacket and works as a drapers assistant.
Anton Walbrook also has an air of ‘queer’ ambiance in all his roles, another opening gay actor. In 1949 he stars in one of my favorite films, the obscure dark fantasy The Queen of Spades. The film was once again revisited as in The Pushkin’s and Richard Burton starred in Now Barabbas Was a Robber, where he plays a gay thug. In 1971 he would once again play a vicious gay criminal in Villain.
1954 The Weak and the Wicked aka Young and Willing (1954) directed by J. Lee Thompson is a film set in a woman’s prison, based on the novel Those Who Lie in Gaol by Joan Henry. Glynis Johns stars as Jean Raymont a woman who is framed, then thrown in jail. Like all women in prison movies, there are one or two characters who are predatory lesbians, though their sexuality is never stated. Joyce Heron plays the stern prison officer who is a repressed lesbian whose gaze on one of the inmates, Miriam Lane (Josephine Griffin lingers a bit intensely, which intimidates the pretty Miriam. There are telling moments, for instance, while talking to inmate Tina played by Simone Silva, Arnold touches Miriam’s arm and jealously warns her, “Don’t get so close together. “Tina then tells Miriam, Keep out of her way, She got me three days in the punishment cell, and I won’t ever forget it.”
Arnold continues to try and keep the two girls away from each other. Arnold dresses in masculine clothing white shirt and black tie. The character of Arnold leaves us with the feeling that she is a wretched mean-spirited dyke who can’t deal with her frustrated sexual desire. She is stereotyped as a sapphic vulture.
in 1956 The Spanish Gardner Jon Whiteley plays Nicholas, who is a sensitive young man, whose mother deserted him and his father. Nicholas is the son of the overprotective Harrington Brande (Michael Hordern), the British consul in Madrid, who acts like an ill-tempered, demanding old queen. It is suggested that even though the marriage bore a child, Brande’s relationship with his wife was a sterile one and that he is a repressed homosexual. Dirk Bogarde comes along as the new gardener, Jose. He is everything that Brande is not. A vision of sensuality and openness, telling Nicholas to take his shirt off and bask in the sunlight. Jose begins an affectionate relationship with Nicholas and ultimately frees him from his oppressive connection with his lamentable father. Brande becomes jealous of their close friendship and is strangely drawn to Jose, which implies a repressed sexual attraction and an undercurrent of homoerotic desire.
List of films chronologically:
*Sailor Made Man (1921) sensitive bookish Harold Lloyd and the sailors waltz together.
*The Sea Hawk (1924) Milton Sills and Albert Prisco show a strong male affectionate physically homo-erotic male bonding.
*THE MONSTER (1925) Johnny Arthur as the nervous, weakling – The Under Clerk -who stumbles onto the nefarious Dr. Ziska’s (Lon Chaney) lair.
*WINGS (1927) richard arlen as david armstrong and charles ‘buddy’ rogers as jack powell.
* Lady of the Pavements (1929)Franklin Pangborn as M’sieu Dubrey, Dance Master
*Holiday (1930) Edward Everett Horton as Nick Potter
*Murder! (1930) Esme Percy as Handel Fane
Police Inspector: “Say, which of the two women is this? Mrs. Trewitt?”
Ted Markham [laughs] I’m afraid you’re unlucky this time, Inspector. This is Handel Fane – a hundred per cent he-woman. Mr. Fane’s our leading man.
Handel Fane [walking off stage in drag] “I assure you, Inspector, I’m not the other woman in this case.”
*Morocco (1930) Marlene Dietrich as Mademoiselle Amy Jolly
*Frankenstein (1931) Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein
Universal produced a trilogy of Frankenstein films during WWII. Each picture grew increasingly more homoerotic, as the mad doctor fell under the spell of the monstrous.
*The Front Page (1931)
Vitto Russo –“Edward Everett Horton’s as Roy B. Bensinger the mild-mannered sissy Bensinger the poet reporter in Lewis Milestone’s version of The Front Page 1931 is more explicitly a pansy “All those New York reporters wear lipstick”than the Bensinger of Ernest Truex Howard Hawks’ 1940 version His Gal Friday.”
*LITTLE CAESAR (1931) Edward G. Robinson as Caesar ‘Rico’ Bandello
*CALL HER SAVAGE (1932) Clara bow as Nasa Springer “Why are you whipping that man?” Clara Bow answers, “I’m practicing in case I ever get married.”
*The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) Boris Karloff as Fu Manchu
One critic described the role as follows “Karloff with his Ann-Margret smile, false eyelashes, Adrian designed gowns, dragon lady fingernails and lisping, come hither delivery has created a wild kinky archfiend of a Fu; part Yellow peril, part Frederick’s of Hollywood.”
*DOCTOR X (1932) the doctors as a homosocial group of scientists
*The Old Dark House (1932) Ernest Thesiger as Horace Femm
*WHITE ZOMBIE (1932) Bela Lugosi as Murder Legendre
*THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933) Claude Rains as Dr. Jack Griffin The Invisible Man
*Island of Lost Souls (1933) Charles Laughton as the salacious Dr. Moreau who gazes upon Richard Arlen’s heterosexual attraction to Lotte with curiosity
*Queen Christina (1933) Greta Garbo as the Queen of Sweden
*BLOOD MONEY (1933) monocle women
*Heat Lightning (1934) Aline MacMahon as Olga
*The Gay Divorcee 1934 Eric Blore as The Waiter
*The Gay Divorcee 1934 Edward Everett Horton as Egbert ‘Pinky’ Fitzgerald
Erik Rhodes as the gigolo Tonetti, gets a lyric ” your wife is safe with Tonetti, he prefers spaghetti”
Sylvia Scarlett (1935) Katharine Hepburn as Sylvia
*MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935) Carroll Borland as Luna
*Mad Love (1935) – Peter Lorre as Dr Gogol
*Bride of Frankenstein (1935) Ernest Thesiger as Dr. Pretorious
*Top Hat (1935) Edward Everett Horton as Horace Hardwick
*Dracula’s Daughter (1936) -Gloria Holden as Countess Zaleska
*Secret Agent (1936) Peter Lorre as The General who embodied that swishy stereotyped neurotic ‘foreigner’
*Angel (1937) Edward Everett Horton as Graham
*It’s Love I’m After (1937)-Eric Blore as Digges the manservant who loves his master Leslie Howard.
*Holiday (1938) Edward Everett Horton
Horton reprises his role as the wonderfully exhuberant – Nick Potter
*ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (1939) the group of flyers for Grant’s mail company, a homosocial group of guys
*THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) BERT LAHR ‘ZEKE’THE COWARDLY LION
*Rebecca (1940)– Dame Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers
*Crimes in the Dark House (1940) David Horne … as Frederick Fairlie — “bring me the smelling salts the lavender, He’s about to have a spell”
*I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941) Laird Cregar as Red Cornell
*The Lady Eve (1941) Eric Blore as Sir Alfred McGlennan Keith
*The Maltese Falcon (1941) – peter lorre as Joel Cairo and ELisha Cook Jr as Wilmer –Sidney Greenstreet’s bodyguard is implicitly homosexual
*Cat People (1942) Simone Simon as Irena
*Johnny Eager 1942 Van Heflin as Jeff Hartnett
*Casablanca (1942) peter lorre as ugarte
Ugarte (sadly): You despise me, don’t you?
Rick (indifferently): If I gave you any thought, I probably would.
Ugarte: But why? Oh, you object to the kind of business I do, huh? But think of all those poor refugees who must rot in this place if I didn’t help them. That’s not so bad. Through ways of my own I provide them with an exit visa.
Rick: For a price, Ugarte, for a price.
Ugarte: But think of all the poor devils who cannot meet Renault’s price. I get it for them for half. Is that so parasitic?
Rick: I don’t mind a parasite. I object to a cut-rate one.
*The Seventh Victim (1942) Jean Brooks as Jacqueline Gibson
*No Time for Love (1943) Paul McGrath as Henry Fulton
Fred MacMurray plays Jim Ryan, the epitomzied heterosexual male, counterbalanced by Henry Fulton’s (Paul McGrath) sissy. Directed by Mitchell Leisen’s No Time for Love (1943) presents MacMurray, as a rugged coal miner who refers to Fulton, (an effeminate composer engaged to Claudette Colbert), as “dollface” then proceeds to show Colbert what it means to be a real man. Richard Haydn as Roger is more plainly effeminate with his body language signally his queerness, at one point towards the end, he tells June Havoc who he obviously has contmept for as a cheaper imitation of hyper femininity, he snidely tells her, “I’m very, happy.”
*The Ghost Ship (1943)Richard Dix as Capt. Will Stone
*THE UNIVINTED (1944) Cornelia Otis Skinner as Miss Holoway
*Laura (1944) Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker
*Phantom Lady (1944) Franchot Tone as Jack Marlowe
* The Canterville Ghost (1944) Sir Simon (Charles Laughton)
CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY 1944- Gene Kelly as Robert Manette
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1945) Hurd Hatfield as Dorian
*Leave her to Heaven (1945)
*The Lost Weekend (1945)
Based on Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett’s screenplay adapted from Charles Jackson’s novel, Ray Milland plays Don Birnam an alcoholic. In the original story, his addiction was not due to his writers block, instead, the book reveals that it is a case of repressed homosexual desire.
*Beast with Five Fingers (1946) Peter Lorre as Hilary Cummins
In the turn of the century Peter Lorre plays the queerly effeminate occultist Hilary Cummins, who is is a book collector and historian, living in at a Renaissance Italian mansion, belonging to a cruel and controlling one armed concert pianist. When the tyrant is murdered, Cummins becomes obsessed with his disembodied hand.
*GILDA (1946) GEORGE MACREADY AS BALLIN MUNDSON AND GLENN FORD AS JOHNNY FARRELL
*THE RAZOR’S EDGE (1946) AS TEMPLETON Clifton Webb
*The Dark Corner (1946) Clifton Webb’s as Hardy Cathcart
*Deception (1947) Claude Rains as Alexander Hollenius
Rains plays Hulenius, great composer/conductor who is belligerent, cruel, and possessive of his beautiful protégé Bette Davis. Hulenius is affluent, effete, and temperamental egoist. He has a flamboyant fixation on Christine (Bette Davis) and her beauty, which he uses to impress and descend upon her through luxury. Though he is all consuming in his control, he shows no hetero passion, she is merely one of his great possessions. Henreid disrupts their relationship, by introducing a forceful heterosexuality that challenges Hulenius’ masculinity. With all his creative genius this is something he and Christine will never have.
*The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) George Sanders as Miles Fairley
*Crossfire (1947)- Robert Ryan as Montgomery in Crossfire 1947
Montgomery “Of course, I’ve seen a lot of guys like him.”
Finlay “Like what?”
Montgomery “Oh, you know, guys that played it safe during the war, scrounged around, keepin’ themselves in civvies, got swell apartments, swell dames… you know the kind.”
Finlay “I’m not sure that I do. Just what kind?”
Montgomery “Oh, you know… some of them are named Samuels. Some of them got funnier names.”
*Brute Force (1947) Hume Cronyn as the sadist Captain Munsey
Neo Realist cinema director Jules Dassin, gives us a chilling condemnation of prison life, with a notorious sequence as the sadistic authoritarian Captain Munsey (Hume Cronyn) stripped to his undershirt, beats the stuffing out of Louis (Sam Levene) for information. Using a blatanly phallic rubber truncheon, the brutality hits it’s high point as Munsey bashes Louis’ guts to a pulp while a soundtrack of the apropos Wagner underscores the beating.
*The Unsuspected (1947)-Grandy Claude Rains
*Nightmare Alley (1947) the psychiatrist-Helen Walker as Dr. Lilith Ritter
*Desert Fury (1947) Wendell Corey is Johnny Ryan in love with John Hodiak as Eddie Bendix.
Eddie Bendix slaps Johnny (Wendell Corey) after he tries to send Lisbeth Scott home, then slaps him again with Paula’s glove. Men slapping another man is very demeaning to their maleness, and it brings into question their physical relationship. Is Johnny’s attraction just one sided?
“Why would there be a part of me apart from Eddie”
*Dead Reckoning (1947) Bogart as Capt Rip Murdock and William Prince as Sgt Johnny Drake
Dusty “Don’t you love me?”
Rip-“That’s the tough part of it but it will pass, those things usually do in time. And then there’s one other thing. I love him more.”
*Red River (1948) One of the great scenes of Hawk’s film,John Ireland and Montgomery Clift delight at playing out their sexuality through their phallic ‘guns’
*Rope (1948)– Alfred Hitchcock with John Dall and Farley Granger
*CRY OF THE CITY (1948)– Berry Kroeger as W. A Niles lawyer who was in on the jewel heist
Ruthless (1948) Zachary Scott as Horace Woodruff Vendig
The Big Clock (1948) Charles Laughton as Earl Janoth & Macready as Hagen
*Caught (1949) Curt Bois as Franzi Kartos
*Adam’s Rib (1949) David Wayne as Kip
David Wayne’s Kip, plays a sissy who essentially serves as Katharine Hepburn’s girlfriend. While Spencer Tracy leaves the room after a feminist tête-à-tête, Wayne says to Hepburn “Amanda you’ve convinced me I might even go out and become a woman!” After Wayne leaves, Spencer Tracy gripes to Hepburn “Yeah, and he wouldn’t have far to go either.”
*In a Lonely Place (1950) Gloria Grahame’s Masseuse Martha (Ruth Gillette) uncredited
*Young Man with a Horn (1950)-Lauren Bacall as Amy North
*All About Eve (1950) The Bitchiest Film Ever Made! George Sanders as Addison DeWitt and Eve the opportunist bisexual
*Caged (1950) as Kitty Stark (Betty Garde) & Elvira Powell (Lee Patrick) and Hope Emerson as the big mean Matron who shaved Eleanor Parker’s hair.
*Born to Be Bad (1950) Mel Ferrar’s painter Gobby in Nicholas Ray’s
*Olivia (1951) Edwige Feuillère and Simone Simon
*Strangers on a Train (1951)– Robert Walker as Bruno Antony
*From Here to Eternity (1953) -Montgomery Clift’s as Robert E. Lee Prewitt
*The Big Heat (1953)
Alexander Scourby as Mike Lagana and his man servant George they had a very intimate relationship at one point Lagana is in bed in silk pajamas, George in his plush terry cloth robe they appear like a married coupled. Notable is the prominant painting of the matriartch Italian Catholic mother hanging on the wall.
*Calamity Jane (1953)-Doris Day as Jane
*I Vitelloni (1953) Alberto Sordi as Alberto
it also features the first homosexual hook-up attempt. little synopsis here about Alberto
*Johnny Guitar (1954)-Mercedes McCambridge as Emma Small
1954 This film was dismissed on its initial release as of little consequence until the likes of Francois Truffaut and Jean Luc Goddard acclaimed it as a classic. Profound beautiful IT has also been called a pro-feminist statement and a gay camp exercise and several other things. Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet scriptwriter Suzie Bright says “it’s incredible, if you’re gay audience how you will watch an entire movie, just to see someone wear an outfit to make you think they’re homosexual. —you’re just sitting there, waiting for Joan Crawford to put on her black cowboy shirt again. “ as she advances downstairs to confront her arch enemy Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge) Vienna the saloon bar owner in her skin tight chaps with gun holstered at the ready defiance blazing from her black eyes, scarlet lips in a steel jaw is a fitting adversary for the snarling butch lesbian wonderfully played by McCambridge. A truly horse frightening moment in the film Emma covet’s Vienna’s land, besides envying her power over her two handsome lovers, Sterling Hayden in the title role and Scott Brady as gang leader Dancin’ Kid. Frightening the Horses: Eric Braun
*Rebel Without a Cause (1955)- Sal Mineo as Plato
*Les Diaboliques (1955) Simone Signoret as Nicole Horner and Véra Clouzot as Christina Delassalle
*THE BIG COMBO (1955) LEE VAN CLEEF AND EARL HOLLIMAN
*House of Bamboo (1955) Robert Ryan as Sandy Dawson
*TEA AND SYMPATHY (1956) John Kerr as Tom Robinson Lee
Deborah Kerr felt that the Production Code was “very difficult about the homosexual angle, whichi is, I understnad, their objection. Adultery is OK, impotence is OK, but perversion is their bête noire.” After Breen rejected Tea and Sympahty, MGM was forced to take out any references to homosexuality. Once again MGM faced the same obstacle with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, where Paul Newman’s alcoholism and his indifference to his ultra sensual wife, was a screen for his queerness.
*Flight to Hong Kong (1956) Aram Katcher as Lobero
Aram Katcher as Lobero shows no visible interest in women, though with his financial success and his taste for fine things, he should be surrounded with a flock of lady friends. He aesthetically adores their beauty, but that’s where it seems to end. He calls Tony ( Rory Calhoun) Tonito and stares at him with great affection. He has a similar kind of persona as Peter Lorre, impish and effeminate.
*The Wild Party (1956) Jay Robinson as GAGE FREEPOSTER
*THE STRANGE ONE (1957) Ben Gazzara as Jocko De Paris
*Screaming Mimi (1958)- Gypsy Rose Lee as Joann ‘Gypsy’ Masters
On the set of Gerd Oswald’s Screaming Mimi-Gypsy Rose Lee and Anita Ekberg
*CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958) Paul Newman as Brick
*The Goddess (1958)-Elizabeth Wilson as Harding
*Touch of Evil (1958)- Joseph Calleia as Police Sergeant (Pete Menzies) and Police Captain Hank Quinlan (orson welles)
*The Left Handed Gun a life of Billy the Kid 1958
Gore Vidal scripted, directed by Arthur Penn, released in 1958 starring Paul Newman, with a gay subtext as Billy being a repressed homosexual.
*Ben Hur (1959) Stephen Boyd as Messala and Charlton Heston as Ben Hur
*The Bloody Brood (1959) Ron Hartmann as Francis
Peter Falk’s (Nico) is a pyschopath whose intellectual sidekick, Francis, a sychopant is in love with him. Francis works hard to stay in Nico’s good graces and please him at any cost, including feeding a poor unsuspecting delivery boy, hamburger laced with ground glass. Even after Francis is given the grotesque task of murdering a stranger, there’s a hesitant yet functing folly au deax about their relationship. Francis is an elitest swish who wears sophisticated clothes and not the arty ravages of the beat generation they exploit, he also gets to espouse some of the bitchier one liners.
*Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)-the unseen homosexual son
*compulsion (1959)– about leopold & loeb
*Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) Richard Bright as Coco
with a flirtatious voice to Harry Belafonte “Bacco wants to buy you a drink, and I want to buy you a shiny new car.”
*North by Northwest (1959) Martin Landau is in love with James Mason
*Spartacus 1960 Olivier as Crassus
*THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN 1960 Jack Hawkins as Hyde and Nigel Patrick as Race
Norman Bates is perhaps one of the most well known anti-hero of classic horror who acted on his ‘deviant’ urges to kill women when the disorder in his desire corrupted his gender identity. Bates became an iconic cinematic prototype ‘serial killer’ based on Wisconsin’s Ed Gein who murdered women, and wore their skin in order to stimulate the spirit of his inner woman.
He too had mother issues, and though there was no indication in Psycho that Norman had been a necrophile, Gein was known to dig up bodies. Bloch’s story paid homage to these deranged compulsions by making Norman a cross dresser with a love for taxidermy and carrying on conversations with his dead mother, who ruled his life. It was not hard for Perkins to inhabit the role of Norman Bates, as his persona did lean toward the effeminate.
What is problematic with Psycho is a misleading synthesis of violence and mental illness with cross-dressing. The association the film makes by linking these ideas together is flawed and erroneous, yet a popular mindset of 1960’s cinema. And I find this simplification is also brought out in reviews about Norman’s cross-dressing and his murderous impulses. The reason I’m including Norman Bates, because he’s been historically associated as a coded queer character, like many other cinematic ciphers, whose queerness has been conflated with violence.
I am merely looking at the retrospective theories, pointing out the motivations the film makers, writers, audience and historians of that decade and what they had speculated. I, by no means support or agree with this type of analysis at all…
*The Hustler (1961) Murray Hamilton as Findlay Murray flaming character wealthy who loves to gamble his money
*Lover Come Back (1961) Chet Stratton as Leonard, Doris Days assistant who has a Lilac kitchen floor
*Billy Budd (1962) robert Ryan as Claggart
*What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) mama’s boy Victor Buono’s as Edwin Flagg
*Walk on the Wild Side (1962) Barbara Stanwyck as Jo.
*Satan in High Heels (1962)Grayson Hall as Pepe
Meg Myles may be the Satan in HIgh Heels but she’s also is in the clutches of several hungry men and and an ravenous Pepe, played by the marvelous gravelly and sharply pretty Grayson Hall. Pepe owns the nightclub where Stacy Kane (Myles) comes to sing. Directed by Del Tenney (Horror of Party Beach-a guilty pleasure of mine) who also presents himself as a gay piano player. Pepe gazes at Stacy with Sapphic lust, while smugly sucks on her cigarettes in their Breakfast at Tiffanys holder.
*The Haunting (1963) Claire Bloom as Theodora
*The Strangler (1964) Victor Buono as Leo Kroll
Directed by Burt Topper, a transgressive low budget exploration horror film of the early 1960s about a quietly flamboyant psychopath. Victor Buono plays a lab technician who becomes a serial killer, leaving cupie dolls by the bodies of his victims — nurses. Buono is flawlessly creepy as Leo Kroll, a misogynist who hangs out at arcades and is dominated by his overbearing mother (Ellen Corby). Leo finds sexual release from the dolls he chooses to place by the women he strangles.
*Night of the Iguana (1964) Grayson Hall as Judith Fellowes the repressed shrew who runs the tour
*Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte 1964,– Agnes Moorehead as Thelma
*King Rat (1965) george segal as Corporal King and James Fox as Pete Marlowe
Though both men haven’t consumated their relationship, the film has flashes of homoerotic energy.
*Seven Women (1966)
Directed by John Huston, the film takes place in China during the 1930s and stars Ann Bancroft as Dr. D R Cartwright- an androgynous non-conformist who comes to the mission wearing mens clothes, a untamed hairdo and makes allusions to having left New York for some romantic indiscretion. But it is Margaret Leighton as Agatha Andrews who founded the small mission and is now besieged by Mongolian bandits, led by warlord Tunga Khan (the massive Mike Mazurki) where the deeper story lies.
Leighton hints that she has thrown herself into missionary work because something is missing, something unattainable in her life. The film implies her attraction to Emma (Sue Lloyd) underscored by fragile fluttering flutes. Elmer Bernstein’s score reminds me of Lalo Schifrin’s haunting theme for Mark Rydell’s The Fox (1967), starring Sandy Dennis and Anne Heywood. Both scores are suggestive of lesbian desire.
*In Cold Blood (1967) Scott Wilson and Robert Blake
OPENING THE CLOSET DOOR….
Repressed homosexuality was coming to the surface
The children’s hour 1961
in 1961 A Taste of Honey
The L Shaped Room 1962
1962 Advise and Consent
Lawrence of Arabia 1963
The Leather Boys (1964)
Bus Riley’s Back in town 1965
Inside Daisy Clover 1965
The Knack and How to Get it 1965
The Group (1966)
The Fearless Vampire Killers 1967
Reflections in a golden eye (1967)–
1967 The Fox
Rachel Rachel 1968
Theresa and Isabelle 1968
1968 The Detective
1968 The Killing of Sister George
1968 The Sargeant
1968 Les Biches
No Way to Treat a Lady (1968)
The Damned 1969
Fräulein Doktor 1969
Venus in Furs 1969
Women in Love 1969
BOYS IN THE BAND 1970
The Conformist 1970
Tell Me You Love Me Junie Moon 1970
Entertaining Mr. Sloan 1970
Dorian Gray 1970
Little Big Man 1970
Daughters of Darkness 1971
Some of my best friends are 1971
Sunday Bloody Sunday 1971
Fortune and Men’s Eyes 1972
Vanishing Point 1972
MIDNIGHT COWBOY 1969