The Celluloid Closet

celluloidclosetThe two directors, who made the AIDS documentary Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (1989), reunited for another gay-themed film, one that was based on Vito Russo’s 1981 book on how homosexuals have been portrayed in Hollywood movies. Making this documentary was a long process, with Russo as an active participant right up to his death in 1990. Expanding on and updating his book in this format is obviously very rewarding, with many fascinating clips showing how gays have been robbed of dignity throughout the history of cinema, depicted as laughable, frightening or something that we should be ashamed of, or hidden. There have been many variations of this, but progress has also been made. Terrific, enlightening interviews with actors, filmmakers and writers who offer different perspectives.

1995-U.S. 102 min. Color. Produced and directed by Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman. Screenplay: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, Sharon Wood. Music: Carter Burwell. Narrated by Lily Tomlin.

Trivia: Co-executive produced by Tomlin. Among those interviewed: Tom Hanks, Tony Curtis, Gore Vidal, Susan Sarandon, John Schlesinger, Whoopi Goldberg, Harvey Fierstein, Quentin Crisp, Jay Presson Allen, Shirley MacLaine, Farley Granger and Harry Hamlin.

Last word: “We were refused some footage from ‘The Agony and the Extasy’, because Charlton Heston insisted Michelangelo was not gay. Richard Burton’s estate denied us access to ‘Alexander the Great’. We were not allowed to use ‘Hans Christian Andersen’ because they thought we were out to ‘out’ Danny Kaye when our purpose was to deal with Andersen’s homosexuality. Some lawyer was worried about Cole Porter…” (Friedman on the resistance he and Epstein faced, Film Scouts)

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