Based on the book by Richard Barrios, this film compilation depicts the varied and sometimes unsettling ways American film portrayed gay and lesbian characters before Stonewall. There was never simply one way that these characters depicted, and there is a wide spectrum of images on display here: amusing, horrifying, stereotypical, and even compassionate. There are such gay icons as Marlene Dietrich (in a sailor suit) and Rock Hudson (playing straight playing gay), plus the likes of Gypsy Rose Lee, the Three Stooges, Bob Hope, legendary director Ed Wood, and—in a breathtaking impersonation of Liberace—Bugs Bunny. There are scenes from musicals like 42nd Street, dark dramas such as In a Lonely Place, the drag fantasy Turnabout, the horror of Dracula’s Daughter, and many more. A 1933 cartoon, Soda Squirt, features a gay Jekyll and Hyde, and the women’s prison melodrama Caged offers some extremely tough women. Plus a selection of film from the end of the pre-Stonewall area, when the love started to speak its name in films such as The Boys in the Band and The Gay Deceivers. In a time when much of America was doing its best to ignore homosexuality, the movies were fully prepared to broadcast messages, and not only condemnatory ones, to those willing or able to hear them. There was never simply one way to play gay and, as these excerpts vividly demonstrate some of those ways are subtle and thoughtful and affectionate, and even erotic.
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