14 November 2010 | bkoganbing
The Age Of Search And Eliminate
Lucian K. Truscott IV, scion of a military family, who went into writing and radical politics penned the novel from which Gore Vidal wrote a brilliant screenplay. Closeted gay men will identify with the murder victim and the devastating effects on the psyche that the closet can have.
Patrick Cassidy plays a plebe at U.S. Grant Military Academy which is West Point in all, but name is a closeted gay man who is hardly a typical stereotype. He's a champion athlete in high school who is the son of Eddie Albert one of the wealthiest and most powerful individuals in the state of Louisiana. He's also a total top and when someone he's involved with bottoms him, he has to be killed strictly as a matter of self defense. The body is found in the Hudson River.
Ron Rifkin who is the Academy physician conducts an autopsy on Cassidy and lets slip to Alec Baldwin another cadet who happens to have been involved with Cassidy's sister Susan Hess that he thinks this could be murder after Baldwin tells him that Cassidy was an excellent swimmer. That's a leak that sprung unfortunately when Deputy Commander of the Academy Hal Holbrook and his hatchet man Lane Smith decide to cover up the murder and say it was an accidental drowning.
This television film made in 1986 and set in the Sixties before Stonewall has an exceptional relevancy today. Back then being gay was the most god awful taboo there was. If you risked admitting it, you had an automatic exemption from the service that clung to you like a disease if you wanted to enter any other professions where being gay was similarly frowned upon. As we are now trying to get rid of the military policy of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' it would do well to remember that the implementation of that by the Clinton administration was a reluctant compromise and a lessening of the ages old military policy of search and eliminate.
As for Holbrook just the thought of the fact that the U.S. Grant Military Academy ever even had one of those kind of people as a cadet is an anathema to him. When Baldwin insists on digging at the behest of Susan Hess and his own sense of honor about the truth willing out, Holbrook becomes his enemy and is ready to hang Baldwin with that self same honor code.
Holbrook is indeed a sinister figure, but Eddie Albert who in his career played an astonishing variety of roles is just as sinister here. He wants to know the truth, except if his son turns out to have been gay. At that point he's all for shoving Cassidy's corpse back into the closet.
Even with such veteran pros in the cast as Albert, Holbrook, Lloyd Bridges as the school's commandant and Alexis Smith as Baldwin's mother, the best performance in the lot is that of Patrick Cassidy. He gives a riveting portrayal in flashback of a closeted gay man trying to enter a most macho profession and the devastating effects of the closet.
The lives of the people shown in Dress Gray are the best argument you could make for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and allowing GLBTQ people to serve openly in the military. This film ought to be required viewing for the members of Congress.