“Mac, you ever been in love?”– Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda)
“No, I’ve been a bartender all my life.”– Mac the Barman (J. Farrell MacDonald)
I’ve come late to the party, but I finally got my formal introduction to legendary director John Ford by good friend and notable blogger Aurora at Once Upon a Screen. While I’ve always felt that The Grapes of Wrath (1940) to be a cinematic triumph with memorable performances– one such is the ubiquitous John Carradine as Jim Casy who also appeared in Ford’s Stagecoach is one of my favorites– I didn’t really focus my attentions to the director himself. My first real exposure to John Ford was through his immensely beautiful film of pure visual poetry How Green Was My Valley (1941), the poignant story by way of voice-over reflected upon through the eyes of young Huw played by Roddy McDowall. The narration is told by a now grown-up Huw, recounted using the voice of actor/director Irving Pichel, who tells of the lives of a resilient and decent family in a Welsh mining town, who struggle to get by in the midst of often brutal hardships. It is truly one of the most aesthetically moving films I’ve ever seen.
Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowall, and Sara Allgood in How Green Was My Valley (1941).
Ford on the set of My Darling Clementine (1946).
Recently we celebrated Ford’s work by watching an exciting western-themed double feature, Stagecoach (1939) and My Darling Clementine (1946). Both are striking in their composition as I’m learning how Ford frames everything we see with explicit detail and thoughtful determination. What strikes me as another essential style of Ford is how the peripheral characters –particularly notable in Stagecoach (1939)– fill out the visual narrative with their presence and their valuable expressions as akin to the material faces found in a classical painting. Character actor Jane Darwell who plays Ma Joad in Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath (1940) makes an appearance in My Darling Clementine.
Jane Darwell plays dance hall owner Kate Nelson, which was her second appearance in a John Ford film. Before Clementine, she previously worked with the director who used her as a voice-over actor alongside Henry Fonda in the war documentary The Battle of Midway (1942). Darwell worked with Ford in 3 Godfathers (1948) as Miss Florie and was cast in several other of his films. Her last appearance as a Ford regular was in The Last Hurrah (1958).
My Darling Clementine deserves a more thoughtful eye and I can see why it is considered one of the greatest movies of all time. I read that this was his last collaboration with Darryl F. Zanuck at Fox, who unfortunately chopped off a half hour of the film. It is included in the AFI’s list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
Ford paints each scene of his poetic, folkloric romanticism with vast open spaces and fantastical clouds for miles, that are in contrast and simultaneous to intervals of intimacy in shots that appear like still life. If we are not bathed in the bright sky, we witness carefully orchestrated motion or transfixed images through frames within frames lit by glowing sources of light, like fireflies it enhances figures silhouetted in the darker spaces.
each frame, a photograph…
Ford and MacDonald bring about a fairytale-like realism that is meticulously designed to draw your eyes to each frame, capturing a sense of thoughtful contemplation.
While both Stagecoach and My Darling Clementine are considered his masterpieces, the unhurried pacing of Henry Fonda’s Wyatt Earp leads My Darling Clementine through an astonishingly blithe journey, for such a dark story. Fonda’s quietly measured self-assurance and nonchalant humor work as a buoy to ensure that the film is never bogged down by a gloomy spirit.
Ford took liberties with the re-telling of the legend of Wyatt Earp -Doc Holliday partnership and the infamous feud between Marshal Wyatt Earp and the ornery Clanton clan (a young John Ireland as Billy Clanton, Grant Withers as Ike) led by monstrous and malicious patriarch Old Man Clanton (Walter Brennan) whose expressions and mean as spit sparse commentary are as potent as a snake bite.
The boundless, dusty panorama of My Darling Clementine is striking with its haunting skies, incomparable rocky buttes and the vast open isolation of the Old West filmed in Monument Valley, Utah. Cinematographer Joseph MacDonald (Panic in the Streets 1950, Pickup on South Street 1952, The Young Lions 1958, Walk on the Wild Side 1962, The Carpetbaggers 1964, The Sand Pebbles 1966) paints a melancholy landscape depicting the American wilderness of the late 1800s.
Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) and his brothers Morgan (Ward Bond) and Virgil (Tim Holt) head into the unruly fatalism of Tombstone, leaving their younger brother James to watch over their herd of cattle. When they get back to the site, the cattle have been stolen and they find James murdered, shot in the back. Wyatt winds up accepting the job of Marshal, with his brothers as deputies. He is determined to hunt down the men who killed his brother. Shortly after taking over as Marshal he meets the bad-tempered Doc Holliday (Victor Mature) who drowns himself in booze, has an unrelenting cough, and spreads his brooding disposition around Tombstone. Regardless of Doc Holliday’s heavy-hearted yet sympathetic personality, the two become allies.
each frame, a picture…
From the beginning Wyatt strongly suspects the ruthless Clanton gang of killing his brother, especially after he finds James’ medallion on Doc’s current lover, the sensuous saloon gal Chihuahua (Linda Darnell).
Clementine Carter (Cathy Downs) Doc’s former fiancé comes all the way to see her beau but sadly discovers he has moved on. Wyatt falls in love with the sweet-mannered girl while he sets out to quietly avenge his youngest brother’s murder, culminating in the iconic shoot-out with the Clantons at the O.K. Corral.
John Ford, who in his youth had known the real Wyatt Earp, claimed the way the OK Corral gunfight was staged in this film was the way it was explained to him by Earp himself, with a few exceptions. Ford met Earp through Harry Carey.
Walter Brennan disliked John Ford so much that he never worked with him again. One time when Brennan was having a little trouble getting into the saddle, Ford yelled, “Can’t you even mount a horse?” Brennan shot back, “No, but I got three Oscars for acting!”
John Ford wanted to shoot in Monument Valley, UT, which had proven to be the perfect site for Stagecoach (1939) and would quickly become his favorite location and the landscape most closely associated with his vision of the Old West. The real town of Tombstone, AZ, however, lies at the southern end of the state, closer to the Arizona-Mexico border. So he had a set for the complete town built at a cost of $250,000. Ford also chose Monument Valley because he wanted to bring some business to the economically depressed Navajo community there
Jeanne Crain was scheduled to play Clementine. Studio head Darryl F. Zanuck ruled against her, writing in a memo that the part was so small that Crain fans might be disappointed by not seeing her in more scenes. That’s how contract player Cathy Downs got the part instead.
Walter Brennan, John Ireland, and Grant Withers were required to do their own riding and shooting in the scene where the clan rides into town during a dust storm. John Ford used a powerful wind machine and told the actors to fire their guns close to the horses’ ears to make them ride wild.
Vincent Price was considered for the role of Doc Holliday.
The movie was featured in the TV series M*A*S*H episode M*A*S*H: Movie Tonight (1977). It was said to have been the favorite movie of Col. Sherman Potter.
Henry Fonda was John Ford’s first and only choice to play Wyatt Earp.
Tyrone Power was an early possibility for Doc Holliday, but for some unknown reason his name was dropped from consideration early in the pre-casting stage. John Ford was enthusiastic about Douglas Fairbanks Jr., telling Darryl F. Zanuck in a memo, “He might be terribly good in it. He would look about the same age as Henry and as it’s a flamboyant role it is quite possible he could kick hell out of it. Think it over well.” He was not happy with Zanuck’s choice, Victor Mature, and he began pressing for Vincent Price instead. However, after meeting with Mature, Ford told Zanuck he was not at all worried about the actor’s performance. He was never very happy, however, with Linda Darnell as Doc’s Mexican spitfire lover.
Sam Peckinpah considered this his favorite Western and paid homage to it in several of his Westerns, including Major Dundee (1965) and The Wild Bunch (1969).
Two actresses considered for the part of Clementine were Fox contract players Anne Baxter and Jeanne Crain. Instead, John Ford was given Cathy Downs, who was an unknown at the time.
This is your everlovin’ Joey sayin’ I’m not lost and gone forever my darlings! See ya soon back at The Last Drive In…
CODED CLASSIC HORROR THEORY “The Uncanny & The Other”
“Scenes of excessive brutality and gruesomeness must be cut to an absolute minimum…”
“As a cultural index, the pre-Code horror film gave a freer rein to psychic turmoil and social disorientation because it possessed a unique freedom from censorship… the Hays Office admits that under the Code it is powerless to take a stand on the subject of ‘gruesomeness.‘(Thomas Doherty)
Horror films in particular have made for a fascinating case study in the evolving perceptions of queer presence; queer-horror filmmakers and actors were often forced to lean into the trope of the “predatory queer” or the “monstrous queer” to claim some sense of power through visibility and blatant expressions of sexuality.- Essential Queer Horror Films by Jordan Crucciola-2018
Though Hollywood execs refused to show explicit queerness, they were willing to pay for scripts that dealt with characters that were social outcasts and sexually non-normative. The horror genre is perhaps the most iconic coded queer playground, which seems to have an affinity with homosexuality because of its apparatus of ‘otherizing’ and the inherent representation of difference. The horror genre crosses over boundaries that include transgressions between heterosexuality and queerness. The villain, fiend, or monster plays around with a variety of elements that while usually separate, might merge male and female gender traits.
The horror film, in particular, found its place asserting a queer presence on screen. The narratives often embraced tropes of the ‘predatory queer’ or the ‘monstrous queer’ in order to declare themselves visible while cinematic queers were elbowed out of the way. Filmmakers had to maneuver their vision in imaginative ways to subvert the structure laid out for them by the Code.
As Harry M. Benshoff explains in his book Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality in the Horror Film, “Immediately before and during the years of World War II, Universal Studio’s horror films began to employ a more humanistic depiction of their monsters,” and the films of Val Lewton, like Cat People, reflected “a growing awareness of homosexuality, homosexual communities, and the dynamics of homosexual oppression as it was played out in society and the military.”So even though Hollywood execs refused to show explicit queerness, during the first true horror boom in American cinema, they were willing to pay for stories about social outcasts and sexually nonnormative figures. Horror fans thus found themselves awash in some of the genre’s most iconic queer-coded characters of all time.
On a Greek Island, Boris Karloff plays Gen. Nikolas Pherides in Val Lewton/Mark Robsin’s Isle of the Dead 1945. Driven insane by the belief that Thea (Ellen Drew) who suffers from catalepsy is the embodiment of an evil vampiric force, is a demon called a vorvolaka. Lewton drew on collective fears, and all his work had an undercurrent of queer panic and a decipherable sign of homophobia.
The Vorvolaka has beset the island with plague. Thea- “Laws can be wrong, and laws can be cruel, and the people who live only by the law are both wrong and cruel.”
The Pre-Code era was exploding with American horror films, that reflected the angst, social unrest, and emotional distress that audiences were feeling. Personified in films that used graphic metaphors to act as catharsis, the images were often filled with rage, as Thomas Doherty calls it ‘the quality of gruesomeness, cruelty and vengefulness’. Think of the angry mobs with their flaming torches who hunt down Frankenstein’s monster, eventually crucifying him like a sacrificial embodiment of their fury. James Whale’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein 1931 was a smash hit for Universal. Other studios were trying to ride the wave of the awakening genre of the horror picture. Paramount released director Rouben Mamoulian’s adaption of the novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, published in 1886. The film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1931 stars Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins. During the period of Pre-Code, many horror films proposed grisly subject matter that would shock and mesmerize the audience. For example, actor/director Irving Pichel’s The Most Dangerous Game (1932) starring Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks, and Fay Wray.
In 1932 Michael Curtiz directed Doctor Xstarring Lionel Atwill who would become one of the leading mad scientists of the genre.
Michael Curtiz’s macabre horror/fantasy experiment of homosocial ‘men doing science’, crossing over into profane territories and embracing dreadful taboos!
All scenes below from Dr. X (1932)
Fay Wray is Atwill’s daughter who is the only woman surrounded by a group of scientific nonconformists.
The adaptation of Bram Stoker’s story of the Eastern European incubus was interpreted by Tod Browning in Dracula 1931, immortalized by Hungarian stage actor Bela Lugosi with his iconic cape and mesmerizing stare. While his nightly visitations were blood driven and cinematically sexual in nature, there is a very homoerotic element to his influence over Renfield (Dwight Frye) and his gaze of gorgeous David Manners as John Harker.
Robert Florey directed the macabre Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe. And a film that has no connection to Poe’s story but in the name is one of the most transgressive, disturbing horror films rampant with vile taboos, such as necrophilia, incest, sadism, satanism, and flaying a man alive, is the unorthodox The Black Cat (1934). The film stars Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, one of four pictures they would do together. A pair of enemies who have a score to settle, ghosts of a past war, and stolen love all take place with the backdrop of a stylish Bauhaus set design and high-contrast lighting.
Paramount released Murders in the Zoo (1933)with Lionel Atwill a sadistic owner of a zoo, who uses wild animals to ravage and kill off any of his wife’s (Kathleen Burke) suitors. Kathleen Burke is well known as the panther girl in Erle C. Kenton’s horrifically disturbing Island of Lost Souls 1932, an adaptation of master fantasy writer H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. Incidentally, Welles, Laughton, and wife Elsa Lanchester had been good friends earlier on, before the filming of Lost Souls. The film stars Charles Laughton as the unorthodox, depraved scientist who meddles with genetics and nature. He creates gruesome human/animals, torturing them with vivisection in his ‘house of pain.’ The film also stars Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, and Bela Lugosi as The Sayer of the Law.
And in 1933 King Kong shows a giant ape grasping the half-naked object of his affection with unmentionable connotations of bestiality between the ape and Fay Wray. With scenes of Wray writhing in his gigantic paws, he lusts after her, until his desire kills him. It’s almost like fantasy noir, the object of your desire, will ultimately kill you!
The 1930s and 1940s — Fear the Queer Monsters
Re-assessing the Hitchcock Touch; by Wieland Schwanebeck -As Rhona Berenstein asserts, the horror genre “provides a primary arena for sexualities and practices that fall outside the purview of patriarchal culture, and the subgeneric tropes of the unseen, the host and the haunted house.”
By the same token, Kendra Bean concludes that Mrs. Danvers is portrayed as “a wraith; a sexual predator who is out to make Mrs. de Winter her next victim.”
Queer characters in horror films during the early period, reveal similarities between Mrs. Danvers and the staging of earlier sapphic characters, such as Gloria Holdens’s well-known portrayal of Countess Marya Zaleska in Dracula’s Daughter 1936. Yet, similar to the self-discipline of Mrs. Danvers, Dracula’s Daughter remains a figure of primacy and pity Ellis Hanson argues Dracula’s Daughter presents “the possibilities of a queer Gothic” early on in Hollywood history, “rich in all the paradox and sexual indeterminacy the word queer and the word Gothic imply.
There was a revival of the horror craze during the period of WWII. The Hollywood studios, both major and ‘Poverty Row” like Monogram and Republic realized that horror movies were a lucrative business. The studios began to revisit the genre looking for, not only fresh formulas, but they resurrected, the classic monsters, dropping them into new plots. They also envisioned uniting the gangster film with horror films, and this homogenizing led to a ‘queering’ of the two styles, that demonstrated phallocentric ( guns, scientific penetration) and homoerotic themes and images into a sub-genre.
Public awareness of homosexuality reached a new height during these years, primarily due to the new set of social conditions wrought by war. Slowly , the love that dare not speak its name was being spoken, albeit in ways almost always obscurantist, punitive and homophobic. The linkage of homosexuality with violence and disease remained strong. Monsters in the Closet -Harry Benshoff
Rhona Berenstein in her insightful book Attack of the Leading Ladies points out that films featuring the mad scientist trope operate with the homosocial principle which speaks of the homo eroticism of males working together in consort subverting science together, as a group of men who hide behind their objectification -the female object of their gaze, are in fact, figures of objectification themselves. They are simultaneously homosocial, homoerotic, and homophobic in aspect; … potentially possessing an extra-normative commitment between the two men.
Mad Doctor movies are homosocial in nature. The mad doctor movie is a subgenre that below the surface glorifies intimate male camaraderie and male homosexuality, and by the close of the picture, society, the prevailing culture must in turn annihilate, that which is repressed. But it is not exclusively a vehicle to express homosexuality through homosocial interactions. There is a component not only of male bonding, a world without women, the thrust is a synthesis of misogyny and patriarchal tyranny and oppression of women. Homosocial relationships between men in these science horrors show the man’s desire for connection to other men, even one created by his own hand.
According to (Twitchell) in his Dreadful Pleasures, and Attack of the Leading Ladies (Rona Berenstein) Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein in all three Universal pictures, was at least performing bisexuality. Whale’s 1933 Frankenstein might give way to the homosocial realm of the mad scientist trope, of ‘homoerotic indulgence’ as these men exclude women from the pursuit of their fulfillment. Twitchell views the scientist’s fluid sexuality in order to examine the concept of a man controlling women’s primacy of giving birth. This might explain Dr. Frankenstein’s venture into unnatural reproduction. A process he wants to divert to himself without women’s exclusive right to motherhood. In the scene where he is as close to giving birth to a full-grown man, he seems to display a sexual arousal, when his creation comes to life. Henry Frankenstein provokes nature and defies his heterosexuality. As Whale was an openly gay director in Hollywood, it can be pondered whether he knew exactly what he was suggesting. Thesiger’s sexually ambiguous, or okay, not so ambiguous Dr. Pretorius, the mad scientist who pressures Henry Frankenstein to revitalize his experiments and create a mate for the monster. Pretorius is the scientist who insists Henry continue his creative efforts in Bride of Frankenstein. Vitto Russo called Thesiger, a “man who played the effete sissy… with much verve and wit.”
George Zucco like Lionel Atwill often portrayed the unorthodox scientist who flirted with taboos. He plays mad scientist Dr. Alfred Morris in The Mad Ghoul (1943) As a university chemistry professor, he exploits medical student Ted Allison (David Bruce) with his experimental gas that transforms Ted into a malleable, yielding macabre ghoul, whom Morris directs to kill and remove the victim’s hearts using the serum to temporarily bring Ted back from his trance like death state. David Bruce’s character is represented as a ‘queer’ sort of young man. Not quite masculine and is unable to get his girlfriend Evelyn Ankers to fall in love with him. As the Mad Ghoul, he becomes a monstrous queer.
In 1932, director Tod Browning’s Dracula based on Bram Stoker’s story of a fiendish vampire who in a sexually implicit way, violates his victims by penetrating them with his fangs. The story pushed the boundaries of storytelling, and there was an inherent subtext of ‘queer’ ravishment when he sucks the blood of Dwight Frye to make him his loyal servant.
In Jonathan Harker’s Journal, the protagonist recounts his impressions of his interaction with the vampire, Dracula “As the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me I could not repress a shudder. It may have been that his breath was rank, but a horrible feeling of nausea came over me, which do what I would, I could not conceal.”For (Noël Carroll) the entry in his diary conveys revulsion by the Count’s closeness and offensive presence, which causes him to become sickened.
But it also could be read that Harker’s ‘shudder’ is not about his revulsion, but rather, an uncontrolled sexual response to the vampire’s looming over him which could be interpreted not just as hunger for his ‘blood’ but an expression of repressed sexual desire and the fear it causes.
Horror movies have always pushed the boundaries of normalcy, by virtue of the fact that these films are inhabited by ‘monsters’, something ‘queerly’ different. And it is natural to observe two diverging responses to the impact of the horror genre and often, its persecution of what is ‘different’ and the source of what causes our anxiety.
Dracula may appear as the image of a man, but the count is far from human. While monsters in classical horror films are based on systems of maleness, they are split from being actual men. Although there are physical interactions and suggestive contact with the heroine, there isn’t the foundation of heterosexuality, but something quite deviant, within their aggressively erotic encounters and/or assaults. The understanding of sexuality and the most narrow identifications that are assigned to varying orientations in a large sense is not translatable for the deeper layers of the monster and their relationship to their victims. In Hollywood, horror films can be seen as heterosexuality being invaded by an abhorrent outside force, inherent in the underlying message could be racism, classism, sexism, and gay panic. Though it can be interpreted as a landscape of heterosexuality that is in the full power of its universal presence, horror films are perfect platforms that can illustrate the collapse of heterosexuality and the subversion of sexuality.
The horror genre is a breeding ground for portrayals of the shattering of heterosexual power. This can be seen in Lambert Hillyer’s Dracula’s Daughter (1936) starring Gloria Holden as the sapphic vampire who lives in a New Village-type artist’s den, it signals her outsider status from domesticity and normalcy.
In White Zombie (1932) Bela Lugosi plays the eerily menacing Legendre. He turns men into lifeless workers who run the sugar mill. Legendre also begins to turn the plantation owner, Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer) into one of his zombies. His motivation for his control over people is ambiguous, though there seems to be sexual reasoning for both the beautiful Madeline (Madge Bellamy) and Beaumont. In the scene where Beaumont is nearly paralyzed, Legendre’s control over his male victim parallels the sexual entrapment of the movie’s heroine.
MAD LOVE (1935) I have conquered science! Why can’t I conquer love?
Karl Freund’s Grand Guignol Mad Love (1935) shifts from gazing at the female to gazing at the male. Here the focus is on Peter Lorre in his American screen debut as Dr. Gogol, who has an obsession with Frances Drake as Yvonne Orlac an actress who works at Grand Guignol Theatre. To Gogol, she is the typified defenseless heroine whom he tries to lure away from her husband Stephen (Colin Clive) using his knowledge of scientific alchemy.
Though Gogol tries to become Yvonne’s master, his Galatea, there are critics who read the struggle between the two men, as not just a rivalry for Yvonne’s love, but Gogol’s desire for Stephen as well. Gogol is responsible for grafting new hands onto Stephen’s mangled body after a train crash. Mad Love could fit the criteria for the subgenre of science/horror films where the male gaze is diverted from the female object toward other men, in this case, what connected the two was the preservation of Stephen’s hands. Why then is it not possible that the focus could shift from Gogol’s attraction to Yvonne to the homosocial dynamics between Gogol as a doctor and his subject Stephen?
Mad Lovepossesses some of the horror genre’s most tenacious performances of gender play. (Carol Clover) asks us to take a closer look at Freund’s film, it is less about the “suffering experienced by women, but at a deeper, more sustained level, it is dedicated to the unspeakable terrors endured by men.”
In a similar fashion to Waldo Lydecker’s (Laura) and Hardy Cathcart’s (The Dark Corner) pathology of objectifying Laura and Mari, Gogol worships Yvonne – his Galatea, with a measure of scopophilia that lies within his gaze upon the perfection of female beauty. To control and possess it. The pleasure is aroused by the mere indulgence of looking at her.
Gogol pays 75 francs to purchase the wax statue of Galatea. The seller remarks “There’s queer people on the streets of Montmartre tonight.”
Gogol’s maid Francoise talks to the statue, “Whatever made him bring you here. There’s never been any woman in this house except maybe me… “I prefer live ones to dead ones.”
A Time Magazine review of Mad Love in 1933 notes this queer appeal directly, even comparing Lorre’s acting skills to those of another homosexual coded actor: I find the comment about their faces rude and insulting to both Lorre and Laughton, both of whom I am a tremendous fan.
Mad Love’s insane doctor is feminized throughout the film… In fact, the same reporter who noted Gogol’s sadism argues for his feminine demeanor: “Lorre, perfectly cast, uses the technique popularized by Charles Laughton of suggesting the most unspeakable obsessions by the roll of a protuberant eyeball, an almost feminine mildness of tone, an occasional quiver of thick lips set flat in his cretinous ellipsoidal face. This reviewer came closer than any other to articulate the subtext of mad doctor movies. He seems on the verge of noting that Lorre, Like Laughton is an effeminate madman obsessed by unspeakable homosocial desire.– Attack of the Leading Ladies: Gender Sexuality and Spectatorship in Classic Horror Cinema by Rhona Berenstein
Frances Drake’s heroine masquerades as a wife who deludes herself into believing that her husband is more masculine than he really is. Gogol has a curious empathy with Stephen, whom he touches frequently and prolonged. Although Gogol pursues the heroine, Yvonne, at the theater, forcing a kiss on her, his focus is primarily manipulating Stephen’s body, rejoining his hands and massaging them to stimulate life back into them. When he realizes that Stephen’s hands cannot be grafted back successfully to his wrists, he turns to another man, the hands of a knife thrower who was executed as a notorious murderer. Once Stephen recovers from the surgery, he can no longer continue as a concert pianist but does develop the desire to throw sharp knives.
On the surface the plot of Mad Loveappears to be a heterosexual obsession, the most unspoken context is the connection between Gogol and Stephen. “As is true of Frankenstein’s labor of love in Whale’s first film, Gogol sews men’s body parts together and the result is a monster of sorts. (Berenstein)
In the film’s climax, Yvonne hides in Gogol’s bedroom and pretends to be the wax statue of Galatea. When Gogol touches the statue, she lets out a scream. In a euphoric daze (as in the original story) he believes that he has the power to bring the statue of Galatea to life. Yvonne begs him to let her go as he tries to strangle her.
Stephen then rushes to his wife and holds her in his arms. With his eyes fixed on the offscreen space in which Gogol’s body lies, he croons: “My darling.” The homosocial desire is destroyed when Stephen murders Gogol who intones “Each man kills the thing he loves”— echoing on the soundtrack.
In the film’s closing moments, the secret desire is finally spoken out loud…Has Stephen killed the man he loves? Given that the phrase that Gogol mutters was written originally by Oscar Wilde, whose homosexuality scandalized the British social and legal system in 1895, reading the homosocial desire intoMad Love within the very last moments we are left to decipher the suspended cues. We are left with Stephen’s gazing at Gogol’s face and his knifed body as he lay dying, he speaks the words, ‘My darling” while the camera frames the two men sharing that moment in the closing scene.
The mad doctor narrative is particularly predisposed to homosocial impulses. “intense male homosocial desire as at once the most compulsory and the most prohibited of social bonds” – Epistemology of the Closet (Sedgwick)
Sedgwick investigated early fantasy/horror novels, Shelley’s Frankenstein 1818, Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1886, and Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau 1895. At the beginning of the 1930s, these stories centered around mad doctors who delved into unorthodox, profane explorations and were all adapted to the screen. All of these nefarious or scientific, inquisitive men, cultivated secret experiments, challenging the laws of nature. What Sedgwick found was that the Gothic literary representations of men performing homosocial collaborations were ‘not socially sanctioned and shunned.’
It was considered a necessary narrative element as well as a monstrous possibility that threatened to subvert the status quo. The combination of these two attitudes is expressed in homosocial narratives- male bonding is both horrifying and guaranteed, entailing the simultaneous introjection and expulsion of femininity. (Sedgwick)
James Whale was a gay auteur who often imbued his work intentionally or with the ‘intentional fallacy’ of a ‘queer’ sense of dark humor. This comical, campy absurdity, was always on the edge of his vision of horror and subtle profanity. His picture The Invisible Man (1933)adapted from H.G. Wells’s story and starring Claude Rains, was classified as a horror film by the Code.
Dr. Jack Griffin (Rains) the antihero, is a frenzied scientist, addicted to his formula as he seeks the ability to make himself invisible. His sanity begins to ‘vanish’ as his hunger for power, delusions of grandeur, and bursts of megalomania grow out of control. He plans on assassinating government officials, and he becomes more belligerent the longer he turns invisible. The idea that he displays radical ideas and runs around in the nude didn’t seem to arouse the censors, In 1933, a letter from James Wingate to Hays states, “highly fantastic and exotic [sic] vein, and presents no particular censorship difficulties.”
What’s interesting about the presentation of the story, is that the coded gay leitmotifs were paraded out, right under the Code’s noses, and didn’t stir any indignation for its ‘queer’ humor.
Gloria Stuart and Claude Rains in James Whale’s The Invisible Man 1933
The Invisible Man perpetrates campy assaults on all the ‘normal’ people in his way. With intervals of sardonic cackles and golden wit, and at the same time, a menacing reflection of light and shadow. Claude Rains is a concealed jester who makes folly of his victims.
“An invisible man can rule the world. Nobody will see him come, nobody will see him go. He can hear every secret. He can rob, and wreck, and kill.” –Dr. Jack Griffin (The Invisible Man)
Claude Rains plays Dr. Jack Griffin an outsider (a favorite of James Whale’s characters) who discovers the secret of invisibility which changes him from a mild yet arrogant scientist into a maniacal killer. The film bares much of Whale’s campy sense of humor, with Griffin’s comic shenanigans abound until things turn dark and he becomes uncontrollably violent. “We’ll begin with a reign of terror, a few murders here and there, Murders of great men, Murders of little men, just to show we make no distinction. I might even wreck a train or two… just these fingers around a signalman’s throat, that’s all.”
According to Gary Morris (Bright Lights Film Journal), ‘The film demands crypto-faggot reading in poignant scenes such as the one where he reassures his ex-girlfriend, who begs him to hide from the authorities: “the whole worlds my hiding place. I can stand out there amongst them in the day or night and laugh at them.”
Though Griffin’s (Claude Rains) character is unseen at times, there are potent moments, when he is animated as he skips to the tune, “Here we go gathering nuts in May” flitting around like a fairy. It is suggested that The Invisible Man is a metaphor for the way homosexuals are seen/not seen by society – as “effeminate, dangerous when naked, seeking a male partner in “crime”, tending to idolize his fiance rather than love her, and becoming ‘visible’ only when shot by the police…monitored by doctors, and heard regretting his sin against God (i.e., made into a statistic by the three primary forces oppressing queers: the law, the medical establishment, and religious orthodoxy” (Sedgwick)
The Invisble Man [undressing] “They’ve asked for it, the country bumpkins. This will give them a bit of a shock, something to write home about. A nice bedtime story for the kids, too, if they want it”
It’s Saturday, day One of the Anti-Damsel Blogathon 2015! And Fritzi of Movies Silently who will be taking over on Sunday… and I are SO knocked over by the amazing turn out! We’re glad to see you so raring to go just like those women who kicked down doors, crossed boundaries and forged a wholly unique path for themselves and other women who are empowered and inspiring and unrestrained to be gloriously-themselves.
So I’ll not wasted any further time with ‘cheap sentiment’ as Bette so effectively impresses upon us… and just get on with the show!
Our host Fritzi chooses a ‘new’ kind of women Miss Lulu Bett who as she explains the wonderful Lulu and her story as “throwing off the gloomy shackles of Victorianism and making her own way in the modern world! And Lulu’s not so easy to bully!
Lindsey at The Motion Pictures pays tribute to one of the most versatile mavericks Ida Lupino. Actress, writer, director, producer. An Emmy-nominated actress and as Lindsey points out, the second woman ever to be admitted to Hollywood’s Director’s Guild. To look at her long impressive career & body of work is to behold a legend that took the reigns and made her life in the shape of Ida Lupino!
The mind of Levine comes up with a title that makes me feel all warm inside because she conjures up a bold title that I can grab onto. As of late, I’ve been devouring every film I can on the incredible Carole Lombard, who tragically died in a plane crash. What would she have accomplished in a lifetime if she had survived?
She has a pantheon place here at The Last Drive In. Irreverent, hilarious, gorgeous, sublime, and one step ahead of her male leads. A comedic timing and genius that shook up a studio system that couldn’t handle her verve. Well just read this amazing contribution to the event in Stacy LeVine’s own words… Carole Lombard is forever a legend, and an Anti Damsel if there ever was one!
Nitrate Glow offers us a beautiful gem from 1968… directed by Isao Takahata. Hilda is the little songstress who was way before her time in terms of animation heroines. Nitrate Glow offers an incredibly eloquent and insightful look at a unique film!
Kristina’s offbeat & clever insight =Cobra Woman and it’s a hell of a choice. It’s got the good twin/bad twin paradigm and Maria Montez, a warrior woman in charge! Here’s just a tidbit of Kristina at Speakeasy’s perspicacity!
It is said that “no drug-soaked brain could dream up the horrors of Cobra Island,” ‘but this movie dreamed it up and brought it to vivid life. This is fantastic entertainment and pulpy comic book spectacle bursting at the seams with fantastic things:’
Fantastic things like Maria Montez and Anti Damsel for sure…I know what I’m watching later!
When you think of a woman who is less imperiled you think Jessica Walter as Evelyn Draper or as The Joy & Agony of Movies did, Tuesday Weld is spine-chilling as Sue Ann Stepanek, a pretty sociopath who lets nothing get in her way! She is the epitome of the ‘pretty bad girl’ It’s a great addition to the Anti Damsel Blogathon!
Leave it to Dorian of Tales of the Easily Distracted to offer us a witty and apropos tribute to the Anti Damsel Audrey Hepburn as Regina Lampert in Charade (1963) Just because Hepburn exudes a delicate finery and elegance, she has always manifested a power that strikes out like a lioness! Charade is a wonderful romantic comedy that showcases why the versatile Audrey Hepburn is a legend!
Frieda Inescort plays Lady Jane Ainsely in The Return of the Vampire in 1943. Now it’s no small task to play it empowered alongside Bela Lugosi! Lady Jane Ainsley: “Your eyes look like burning coals. Don’t come any nearer. Don’t touch me.”
Serendipitous Anachronisms pays tribute to the great Kim Hunter and her memorable character as Dr. Zira in Planet of the Apes 1968. It’s a passionate piece about brave and brilliant women who command an entire civilization of men, oops I mean apes with her strong leadership style and wisdom… Couldn’t have an Anti-Damsel Blogathon without her!
The prolific Karen has to say about our lovable Joan “downtrodden Depression-era woman who transforms her existence from bleak oppression to indisputable triumph. Using her wits, her nerve, and her determination” We couldn’t have an Anti Damsel party without inviting one of the most effervescent gals Joan Blondell!
Who better than to pay tribute to an immensely empowered, and I do mean immense! 50 feet worth of empowered woman, than Aurora from Once Upon a Screen. Nancy Fowler Archer will remain indelibly in our secret voyeuristic yearnings to grow tall enough to kick the crap out of the finks who dare betray us!
Old Hollywood Films does this Anti Damsel Blogathon proud to showcase one of the greatest legends, Lillian Gish brings to life one of the strongest, pure hearted gun totin’ characters Rachel Cooper in Charles Laughton’s Masterpiece Night of the Hunter (1955) And says… this is a gif that just keeps giving!!! Thanks, Old Hollywood Films for sharing this fabulist heroine!
Moon in Gemini has also honored this grand bash with yet another legendary figure of empowered women-ness! We can’t neglect Barbara Stanwyck and this post will make all you Stanny fans happy with…
The Furies: The Anti-Damsel with a Daddy Fixation! I would have liked to take one of those Dr. Taylor classes. And as Debbie so aptly puts it- “Is there any character that Barbara Stanwyck played that COULDN’T be classified as an anti-damsel?”
I’d say no! it wasn’t possible for her to be non-empowered or in peril. She didn’t have those strong shoulders and that gritty voice for nothing. Even if Bogie was poisoning her milk, or she was bedridden or stalked by a dream lover or even a witness to a murder, she never quite seemed like a weak woman. Just a strong one in the wrong place at the right time. So dive in now to Moon in Gemini’s brilliant perspective on quite an interesting Stanwyck film!
BNoirDetour showcases the talent of Linda Darnell in this highly charged film of social criticism that explodes on the screen in No Way Out (1950)! As Edie Johnson is caught in the crossfire of racism, she’s got a lot of guts to rise above the chaos and come out kicking!
When CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch writes that her heart skips a beat because of our Anti Damsel-themed Blogathon, I want to return the compliment and say how grateful both Fritzi and I are for the overwhelming response to this tribute to empowered women! And CineMaven, you couldn’t have picked someone better to cause pangs in my heart than the underrated Ella Raines in what I think is one of THE most incredibly intricate psychological film noirs Phantom Lady, with gutsy Carol (Ella) as our heroine!
You’ll never get anything but unique and mind-expanding insight from Goregirl’s Dungeon. I was sooo thrilled to have her join in and offer her take on an Anti Damsel. Read her fascinating overview of Anna Karina in the films of Jean -Luc Godard…
Defiant Success has made this Anti Damsel Blogathon that much better for having covered Deborah Kerr as Karen Holmes a woman who speaks her mind in From Here To Eternity (1953) Kerr is the consummate anti damsel and she always wields that classy composure!
As Virginie from The Wonderful World of Cinema says- “Movie heroines are not always princesses waiting for a prince to rescue them, they are not always victims or damsels in distress. Female movie characters can be strong, they can have guts, determination, and many other wonderful qualities” Shirley Booth had a powerful stamina and warmth that couldn’t be extinguished. We’re so happy to have her as a part of our Anti-Damsel Blogathon!
Carole & Co. devotes a journal to the groundbreaking versatility, beauty, and comedic genius of Carole Lombard. We’re so glad to have her join us for the Anti-Damsel Blogathon! Taken away from us too soon, journey through this insightful post and read about Lombard as a producer!
Karavansara has done the honor of taking up my wish list and paying tribute to one of THE most iconic sexy and strong female role models of the 60s. I am with them. Diana Rigg & Emma Peel both left a huge impression on me growing up. And yes I couldn’t resist having one of my first crushes either… Read this well-written tribute to one of the finest examples of empowerment…!
“Emma Peel, as portrayed by Dame Diana Rigg, is one of the icons of the 1960s, a sex symbol, and one of the earliest strong, empowered female leads in television entertainment.”
Heather Drain of Mondo Heather explores the Uber mod & deviant world of the Cult & Exploitation 60s paying tribute to a pretty formidable Anti-Damsel Big Shim (Marni Castle) sporting a steel bra that could be registered as a lethal weapon. The film includes other divinely demented Anti Damsels’ as Heather writes- “Sweety East (Monique Duval), who is a Texan-fried, butt-crack rocking version of Honey West, things go from nutzoid to putting out fire with gasoline”
PS: You gotta love a reference to Honey West (Anne Francis) that sexy private eye with her groovy house ocelot Bruce!
Naturally, we couldn’t do this empowering bash without spotlighting the great Joan Crawford. And Wolffian Classic Movies Digest does a wonderful job of reminding us why Crawford the Legend and Mildred Pierce the Anti Damsel are so timeless… Here’s a quote from their fabulous piece –“Joan Crawford starting out as the happy housewife breaks free of that mold becoming her own woman as She carries the movie on her Broad shoulders”
Smitten Kitten Vintage did one hell of a bang up job covering not only the incomparable Bette Davis but her iconic portrayal of Margo Channing in All About Eve 1950. The film that put her back on track in Hollywood! Read this insightful piece here. Because no Anti Damsel Blogathon would be complete without the legendary Bette ‘hold onto your seatbelts it’s gonna be a bumpy night’ Davis
Superfluous Film Commentary shares the sublimely bold Gene Tierney as Lucy Muir, a steadfast widow who is fiercely independent and isn’t afraid of ghosts either! A beautiful film and a wonderful contribution to our Anti-Damsel bash! As they so eloquently put it Tierney is “positively radiant Gene Tierney, likewise fits the definition of empowered.”
I’ll think I’ll go get a banana split until we’re back with Fritzi on Sunday for more Empowered Lady Love!- Your everlovin’ MonsterGirl
THE SILENT YEARS: When we started not giving a damn on screen!
In celebration of our upcoming Anti Damsel Blogathon on August 15 & 16, I had this idea to provide a list of bold, brilliant, and beautiful women!
There was to be no indecent exposure of the ankles and no SCHWOOSHING! Not in this Blogathon baby!
From the heyday of Silent film and the advent of talking pictures to the late ‘20s to 1934 Pre-Code Hollywood, films were rife with provocative and suggestive images, where women were kicking up a storm on screen… The end of the code during the early 60s dared to offer social commentary about race, class, gender, and sexuality! That’s our party!
In particular, these bold women and the screen roles they adopted have become legendary. They sparked catchy dialogue, inspired fashion trends, or just plain inspired us… Altogether there are 111 of SOME of the most determined, empowered, and uniquely fortified femmes of classic film…!
First of course I consulted the maven of all things splendid, shimmery, and SILENT for her take on silent film actresses and the parts that made them come alive on the immortal screen…. Fritzi at Movies Silently has summoned up thesefabulous femmes…
Now to unleash the gust of gals from my tornadic mind filled with favorite actresses and the characters that have retained an undying sacred vow to heroine worship… In their private lives, their public persona and the mythological stardom that has & still captivates generations of fans, the roles they brought to life, and the lasting influence that refuses to go away…!
Because they have their own unique rhythm to the way they moved through the world… a certain kind of mesmerizing allure, and/or they just didn’t give a hoot, a damn… nor a flying fig!
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud”-Coco Chanel
Stars like Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, and Ida Lupino managed to keep re-inventing themselves. They became spirited women with an inner reserve of strength and a passion for following their desires!
The following actresses and their immortal characters are in no particular order…!