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Thursday, June 23, 2022

Wonderland Burlesque's Let's All Go To The Movies: Say Gay Edition Part II - Couples, Quibbles and Nibbles

Wonderland Burlesque's
Let's All Go To The Movies
Say Gay Edition, Part II
 Couples, Quibbles and Nibbles

This week, we'll be taking a look at a selection of  classic gay-themed films that take a lighter view of gay male relationships. Some fall in the buddy/buddy category, some are unintentionally funny and some are dramas with comedic moments, while others border on the mildly offensive. Regarding the latter? It's a matter of taste and perspective. Do we embrace these films, or continue to call them out on the repugnant stereotypes they reinforce?

Well, at this point in my life, I am all for embracing stereotypes. They exist and existed for a reason. Under our rainbow, we have every hue and, quite frankly, they are all deserving of their own cinematic moment. If you find them reprehensible? Who am I to argue? To each their own.

For me? It's all about pride. Represent and shine!  

That said? Let's all go to the movies. 

And you be the judge.

Oh, don't worry. If you don't see a movie you think should be included... just wait. We have four more 'Say Gay' editions to go!

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"Benson is a cop who wants to clean up the streets... his partner just wants to redecorate."
"The oddest team on the squad and the funniest cops in America."

(A hunky Ryan O'Neal - just check out that red wifebeater below - goes undercover as a gay magazine model to investigate a series of murders. He's teamed with a mailroom clerk from the precinct, brought on board to help out the clueless cop. So, a comedy version of Cruising?)

(Screenwriter, Francis Verber, with little knowledge of the gay scene in Los Angeles, wrote the script in Paris, approaching it as a French farce. "It seemed to me it could be amusing and I wanted to do something quite different from Cruising which seemed to me to be a really bad eye on the gay world.")

(In the original screenplay, Hurt's character commits suicide because his life is so sad. However, test screenings revealed that the audience had grown incredibly fond of  Hurt's character and that scene was cut from the final film.)  

(It was originally offered to Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen. Eastwood said he'd do it, if Allen signed on. Allen declined.)

(This is also one of seven films Paramount Pictures rushed into production, trying to beat the 1981 writers strike. All the films were budgeted between $4-8 million and shot quite quickly.)

(The film took a critical drubbing. Rex Reed wrote, "Hollywood's latest crime against humanity in general and homosexuals in particular is a dumb creepshow called Partners – stupid, tasteless and homophobic, this sleazy, superficial film implies that gay cops can't be trusted to work with straight cops because they might fall in love with them." Gene Siskel was also offended, naming it one of the worst films of 1982.)

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The Boys In The Band
" not a musical."
"Today's Harold's birthday. This is his present."

(Directed by William Friedkin - The French Connection, The Exorcist, Cruising - and based on the stage play of the same name, not only is this film a milestone in gay cinema, it also serves as the first time 'c*nt' is ever uttered on screen.)

(A passionate kissing scene, which the actors were reluctant to film, ended up the cutting room floor - something Friedkin, later, greatly regretted.)

"A gay evening with eight of the boys."

(The apartment in the film is based on the Upper-East side dwelling of actress Tammy Grimes.)

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Ai Cessi In Tassi'
(AKA: Taxi zum Klo)

(Translated, that's 'Taxi To The Toilet or 'Cab to the Cottage!' Yes, we're talking tearoom love, darlings. Written, directed and starring Frank Ripploh, the film tells the story of a teacher at a Berlin boy's school and the contrast between his public and private life. It captures, with astounding explicitly, a brief period in Berlin history, during the time post-liberation, but pre-AIDs. The film was considered so raunchy, it failed to get the UK's stamp of approval until 2011!)

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The Pink Angels
"Catch The Pink Angels... if you can!"

(A gay motorcycle gang, the Cupcakes, are headed down the coast to attend a drag ball. On the way, they drink champagne, enjoy quaint picnics and pull pranks on rival gangs. In one scene they rouge up the cheeks and tie bows in the hair of passed out gang members. It’s all fun and games - until the final scene of the film, when a hateful, homophobic military man kills them all before hanging their lifeless bodies from trees!)

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The Ritz
"...your key to hilarity."
"It's a ball of a brawl - Judith Crist"

(This gay bathhouse classic is based on the play by Terrance McNally and stars several members of the original Broadway production, such as Rita Moreno, who won a Tony for her work. It also features a cuter-than-a-button Treat Williams running around half-clothed.)

"It's... it's... it's... The Grand Hotel of laughter!"
"A scream of a team. Laugh until you cry."

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"A sad gay story."

(This one is directed by Stanley Donen of Singin’ In The Rain fame and based on a two-person play about a pair of old queens who own and operate a barbershop in London's East End. Harrison and Burton do little more than bitch and moan, bicker, nag, nitpick and attempt suicide. At one point, Harrison, dressed as a woman, solicits a police officer, resulting in a bit of courtroom action. But overall? File this under 'WTF Were They Thinking?')

"Can this marriage last?"

(Speaking of marriages... So, to avoid paying British taxes, Burton and Harrison insisted the movie - which takes place in the London's East End - be filmed in Paris. This prompted Elizabeth Taylor to demand that her film, The Only Game In Town - which takes place in Las Vegas - also be filmed in Paris at the same time, so she could be physically closer to hubby Burton. Given that, it's not surprising that in 1970 the studio reported the film lost over $5 Million!)

(The music score? By Dudley Moore!)

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The Last Of Shelia

(Written by Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim, this is a murder mystery set on a luxury yacht with an all-star cast. It's all about a parlor game concerning scandalous personal secrets designed by their host, a bitter movie producer who is trying to determine who killed his gossip column wife a year earlier. Each evening, a secret is revealed with the guest trying to determine which one of them it applies to. The day someone is to be revealed as a 'homosexual,' the group's host turns up murdered. Danger, close calls and plenty of intrigue abound.)

(Based on games Sondheim devised for his friends - Lee Remick, George Segal, etc.  "The idea for the movie grew out of two murder games I devised some time ago. One was for Phyllis Newman; the other, for four couples just after I got out of college. A murder game? No, nobody gets murdered. With the four couples, I told each person to think of a way to kill one of the others over the weekend we would be spending together in the country. Then we passed out envelopes and inside one was an 'X'. That person was the only one who was to carry out his plan; the others were to spend the time avoiding being murdered.")

"Who done it?"

(You'll get no spoilers from me. This is one to be seen, with Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, Joan Hackett, Raquel Welch, James Mason, and James Coburn in fine form.)

(Welch plays a character, unknown to her at the time, based on herself, while Dyan Cannon, who gained significant weight to play the role, plays a character based on her agent, Sue Mengers.  The shoot was plagued with problems. Filming on the actual yacht proved so difficult that the cast had to waste four days in the South of France while sets were quickly built in Nice. The first cameraman was fired, the yacht sank, and Welch's behavior was beyond the pale. At one point she accused the director, Herbert Ross, of assaulting her in her dressing room, resulting in a lawsuit. From that point on she refused to appear on set without a bodyguard.)

(Notable: Joel Schumacher served as costume designer and Bette Midler singing Friends plays as the credits roll.)

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Some Of My Best Friends Are...
"Love... it takes two people... any two."

(Written and directed by Mervyn Nelson, the film tells the story of a group of gay men and lesbians who hang out at the Blue Jay Bar, a gay bar owned by the mafia, on Christmas Eve in 1971. It stars longtime allies Fannie Flagg, Rue McClanahan, and Sylvia Syms, plus Warhol Superstar, Candy Darling and Buck Rogers' Gil Gerard.)
"This is the place that separates the men from the boys."

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Invasion Of The Bee Girls
"They'' love the very life out of your body!"
"Ordinary housewives turn into ravishing creatures."

(I recently had the pleasure of watching this little sci-fi gem. Yes, it's a drive-in titty show, with plenty of Sappho overtones. But I include it here, not only because it's far better than it has any right to be, but because it contains one of the most dignified scenes dealing with the revelations of a gay male relationship that I have ever seen in a 1970's film. When a scientist who has developed a theory regarding a series of grisly murders ends up murdered, the federal investigative agent goes to the scientist's house to search for clues. There, he runs into an intruder, the scientist's gay lover. An impressive brawl pursues before the truth is revealed and once it is, the agent doesn't blink an eye, questioning the man about what he knows about the scientist's theory and subsequent murder.)

(The production values, directing, editing and acting are surprisingly good.)

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The Gay Deceivers
"In absolutely divine color."
"Is he? Or isn't he?
"Only the draft board and his girlfriend know for sure."

(This is another hidden gem. Yes, there are homophobic, cringe-worthy moments, but Michael Greer, who plays the apartment complex manager, is a lark and easily steals this film, which tells the story of two young men who move into a gay apartment complex and set up house as gay lovers in order to avoid being drafted. There's brief nudity and just enough eye candy to keep one interested.)  

(The film is often condemned for all the offensive stereotypes it portrays. Actor Greer, who is gay, did his best to work with the scriptwriter to tone down some of the more offensive moments.)

(I recently watched this with The Boyfriend, and found it historically significant and not without its charms.)

"When you have girls like these.. what do you do about the draft board?"
"Hilarious... Coughlin and Casey are the oddest couple since Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau and their 'marriage' is just as funny. - Kevin Thomas, L.A. Times."

"They had to keep their hands off girls in order to keep the Army's hands off them."
"What kind of movie is this??"

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And that's all for now.

Tune in next week.

Same time, same channel.

Everything's Coming Roses - Rita Moreno
from The Ritz


Jimmy said...

Now I want to see The Ritz. Boys in the Band was a REAL buzz kill. I never saw the remake. Maybe I need to see The Last of Sheila.

Bob said...

Many of these I'd seen and others I'd never heard of, like 'Staircase.'
That sad, 'The Last of Sheila.' I really adored Joan Hackett.

Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Oh, Partners could have been a good movie? I think Ryan O'Neal was soooo handsome!
The Boyd in the Band is a classic. Perfect? No. Groundbreaking? Yes. I watched this before the Pandemic, when we went to see the play.
We watched Taxi Zum Klo in a Gay Studies class. Oh, the fun. People were like WTF?
I'm offended just reading about The Pink Angels. Ugh.
I watched The Ritz, too!
Funny how so many of these movies are so blindingly offensive and were considered 'daring' at the time...


whkattk said...

"The Ritz" is a wonderful show. And hilarious!
"The Boys In the Band"...iconic. I've got it on DVD, along with its sequel, "And The Band Played On."