HAHAT/The Celluloid Closet

It’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/

Here’s where the fabulous people who are part of the HAHAT Blog Hop can be found:

http://hopagainsthomophobia.blogspot.com/

I’m giving away a copy of Dreamspinner Press’s anthology “Juicy Bits” to a random commenter πŸ™‚

From the book “The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies” by Vito Russo, and first published in 1987, again in 1995, and once more in 2010.

The 100 minutes of this documentary on LGBTQ characters in the movies from the early days of Hollywood to the late 1980s is a harrowing roller coaster ride of emotions. I laughed, cried, snickered, and got so angry I had to stop watching at times. It’s also groundbreaking, revelatory, and definitely worth re-watching, as I still need to process what the documentary means to me.

One of the more thought-provoking items has to do with the early Hollywood censors and how information was passed to the viewer. I have to admit, as a writer I have a lot of admiration for what worked. Martha’s complete emotional breakdown in “The Children’s Hour” and Katherine Hepburn’s stoic denial in “Suddenly Last Summer” as far as performances and writing go, are dramatically stunning. I.e., I cried. Without discussion, the audience knows they’re talking about that “unspeakable” crime. As far as the message–wow, that’s so–so… A sin so terrible, neither of the gay characters survives it and one that also damages the people around them.

Never mind any in the audience struggling with the reflection Hollywood’s mirror revealed to them again and again. A distorted, in hindsight, nightmare funhouse mirror reflection of “nature’s mistake.” Obviously, an inhumane, one-sided societal view, a kaleidoscope of stereotypes to be mocked or pitied, serving in the capacity of “other,” the scapegoat. Both Bernardino of Siena (15th century) and Jerry Falwall and Pat Robertson (9/11) blamed homosexuality for society’s ills.

In the 1960’s, LGBTQ people and their allies fought back, with protests, with awareness, with becoming visible. Society’s war from within included sexually free people as in “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” (1977). Most audiences laughed at the underlying message in that one. Unlike that movie, “Cruising”(1980) provoked violence towards gay men, and the message was still: “Because you deserve it.”

Okay, I’m stopping here. It’s getting dark, but I hope to add a few more posts about the movie The Celluloid Closet during the hop. I really wanted to raise your awareness about the movie–it has so much to say. Like that old Virginia Slims commercial: We’ve come a long way, baby.

On the lighter side, getting around the censors, according to Gore Vidal, was a treat. One of my favorite behind-the-scenes stories is about Ben Hur:

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23 thoughts on “HAHAT/The Celluloid Closet

    1. I did mention the Children’s Hour–what’s also amazing was what Shirley Maclaine said about it in an interview–that she and Audrey Hepburn never talked about “it.” Also that no one would make a movie like that today. πŸ™‚

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      1. You did? Oops, sorry! Yes, I would hate that movie if it were made today, but for 1961 it was amazing. I did read that Audrey insisted that all the “lesbian”-like parts be put onto Shirley’s character.

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  1. Not surprised. Lillian Hellman wrote powerful plays, unfortunately within the context of the day. She also got blacklisted during the McCarthy era. I’ll bet she’d do it differently if she could πŸ™‚

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  2. Thank you for the interesting post. I’ve learned a lot. Thank you for sharing the videos and for taking part in the hop!

    humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com

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  3. LOL! I thought that I was imagining those looks that Messala was throwing out in BEN HUR. I am going to add the book β€œThe Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies” to my TBR.

    Thanks for taking part in the hop! Have a great weekend!

    skeeterlee63 @ gmail.com

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