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  • Based on the book by Vito Russo, written by Armistead Maupin, and narrated by Lily Tomlin, THE CELLULOID CLOSET uses interviews and hundreds of film clips to examine the way in which Hollywood has presented gay and lesbian characters on film from the age of silent cinema to such recent films as PHILADELPHIA and DESERT HEARTS.

    Throughout the documentary, the focus is on both stereotypes and the various ways that more creative directors and writers worked around the censorship of various decades to create implicitly homosexual characters, with considerable attention given to the way in which stereotypes shaped public concepts of the gay community in general. Overtly homosexual characters were not particularly unusual in silent and pre-code Hollywood films, and CLOSET offers an interesting sampling of both swishy stereotypes and unexpectedly sophisticated characters--both of which were doomed by the Hayes Code, a series of censorship rules adopted by Hollywood in the early 1930s.

    The effect of the Code was to soften some of the more grotesque stereotypes--but more interesting was the impetus the Code gave to film makers to create homosexual characters and plot lines that would go over the heads of industry censors but which could still be interpreted by astute audiences, with films such as THE MALTESE FALCON, REBECCA, BEN-HUR, and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE cases in point. Once the Code collapsed, however, Hollywood again returned to stereotypes in an effort to cash in on controversy--with the result that throughout most of the sixties and seventies homosexual characters were usually presented as unhappy, maladjusted creatures at best, suicidal and psychopathic entities at worst.

    The film clips are fascinating stuff and are often highlighted by interviews of individuals who made the films: Tony Curtis re SOME LIKE IT HOT and SPARTACUS, Shirley MacLaine re THE CHILDREN'S HOUR, Stephen Boyd re BEN-HUR, Farley Granger re ROPE, and Whoopie Goldberg re THE COLOR PURPLE, to name but a few. All are interesting and intriguing, but two deserve special mention: Harvey Fierstein, who talks about the hunger he had as a youth to see accurate reflections of himself on the screen, and Susan Sarandon, who makes an eloquent statement on the power of film as "the keeper of the dreams."

    Although the material will have special appeal to gays and lesbians, it should be of interest to any serious film buff with its mix of trivia and significant fact. The DVD also includes notable packages of out-takes from interviews that are often as interesting as the material that made the final cut. If the documentary has a fault, however, it is that it offers no "summing up," preferring instead to show only how far the portrayal of homosexuals has come and indicating how far it has yet to go. Recommended to any one interested in film history and interpretation.

    Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
  • "The Celluloid Closet" is a documentary that dares to go where others haven't gone before. Hollywood, that dream factory, has always been a magnet for the artistic gays and lesbians that have had a lot to endure and have never been recognized to the valuable contributions they have made to the medium.

    Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have compiled a comprehensible account of how homosexuals have been discriminated by the industry where they have been present since the early days of silent films. In fact, movies have always attracted homosexuals who, for the sake of being in the pictures, have gone to extremes in order to work in this form of entertainment.

    We are given excellent background by a lot of people that explain the many intricacies these closeted individuals have endured while trying to have a career in the movies. Interviews with Arthur Laurents, Tony Curtis, Armistead Maupin, Susie Bright, Whoopie Goldberg, Jan Oxenburg, Jay Presson Allen, Gore Vidal and others, expand on the material we are watching. Lily Tomlin's narration is an asset.

    Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman deserve credit for their frank attempt to illustrate Hollywood's hypocritical treatment to the people who, in a way, have added to the prestige and to the artistic quality of the movies.
  • preppy-314 February 2000
    Entertaining, thought-provoking and (at times) very funny documentary chronicling gay subject matter in motion pictures from the silents up to 1995. The narration (by Lily Tomlin) is insightful and the cameos and comments by various stars who have played gay (Tom Hanks, Whoopi Goldberg, Harry Hamlin) or are gay (Harvey Feinstein, the late Quentin Crisp, Paul Rudnick) are very entertaining and in two cases (with Susan Sarandon and Gore Vidal) utterly uproarious. Special attention should be paid to the "Ben-Hur" segment when you realize Stephen Boyd was playing it gay and Charlton Heston was totally oblivious! This is a very important film and should be seen by everybody gay OR straight. A must for film buffs. Don't miss this one! My only complaint--it's too short! The DVD version has extra interviews that are just great.
  • This is not a "film" in the traditional sense...perhaps

    This is not a "documentary" in the traditional sense...probably

    What is it??

    The Celluloid Closet is a comprehensive history of film - gay film, straight film, "is she/isn't she?..." film. Everything. It is the result of 10 years hard work - no-one (especially big film/tv studios) is keen to fund a 2 hour film on gay movie visibility, they're all too busy closetted away (often literally) making sure viewers won't be offended by their output...

    However the time, effort and sheer love that has gone into this is utterly evident and it may be a blessing in disguise that it took so very long. The film is based heavily on the late Vitto Russo's book of the same name. Russo was a film buff who catalogued in detail the visibility of gay and lesbian characters in cinema. He included film from across the globe and updated the book for the last time in the mid eighties (Parting Glances and My Beautiful Launderette having just been completed) before the explosion of new gay film of the last decade. The film takes the historical content of the book and uses the best editing *I* have ever seen to produce enlightening sequences on the treatment of gay people and issues. Although it only concentrates on Hollywood films, it has the advantage over the book in that it was right up to date at its time of completion.

    Not only does The Celluloid Closet use self-appointed gay films, it also takes enormous pleasure in covering those films we love and know as gay classics even though the tension is a subtle sub-plot often totally lost on a straight audience! Absolute treats are the celebrity comments (they will set a thousand conspiracy theories going in your head too!), better still is the input of relatively unknown behind-the-camera people, writers etc, who are at liberty to be far more honest about their views.

    There are also clips from classics like Rebecca, Calamity Jane (the dykiest show on earth if you ask me!), Ben Hur, My Beautiful Launderette, Parting Glances.......etc etc.. Any film you can think of is probably there - if not then maybe you should write a sequel!

    Did you ever think that Laurel and Hardy were very cosy with each other? Did you think Mrs Danvers was a little forward going through Rebecca's undies? Did you explode at *that* kiss in Morroco? Have you always secretly thought The Hunger was a good movie? .............Well so did someone else. Quite a lot of someone elses - and some of them were the writers!

    This is such a good film for too many reasons. I'd go as far as saying it's perfect film.

    It has no characters/plot, etc but it shows the progress of gay visibility as one of the best stories there is. The people who made those movies are the cast. It is a film

    It is informtive, funny, clever and revealing. It tells EVERYONE about their history and heritage. The general observations about film-watching apply to anyone. It's impressively detached and lets you draw your own interpretation. It's a documentary.

    You will sit there thinking "wow" when it finishs. You will wonder how you view films - and how everyone else views them. It may even make you nostalgic for the days when closetted was the only option (and endless sex-scenes were impossible and forbidden so plot and dialogoue had to make do). You will think of omissions and ponder those included but it will get you thinking. That's the important part.

    If this film doesn't make you want to go out and watch all your favourite movies plus all those featured in it then I'll be amazed!

    It may sound like it, but it's no chore to watch. It's a pleasure.

    It's inspiring. wonderful. Ultimately uplifting. And you'll need to see it again.....and again....and again! ....oh yes! And kd lang sings "Secret Love" at the end! Wow!...
  • I think this documentary is a total eye-opener. It gave me an insight into the American film history with respect to the particular topic of homosexuality. There are many original film clips as examples, and also have actors who performed the respective roles to comment on their views of this topic. This makes the documentary so convincing and credible.
  • The Celluloid Closet is a documentary that examines Hollywood and homosexuality, and how gays and lesbians have been portrayed in films.. It actually all began in 1895, with Thomas Edison's film of two men dancing together!

    Beginning in the 1930's, filmmakers, because of the strict production code in place at the time, constantly inserted gay and lesbian themes and storylines, and the earliest gay male character was always the `sissy', and lesbians could only be used if they were presented as dangerous predators. In viewing the film clips, some scenes from certain films are more overt than others, especially in non-gay or lesbian themed films. For example, Jane Russell, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, sings in a room of half-naked man, none of whom pay any attention to her. A less overt example features a scene from Red River in which Montgomery Clift and another actor discuss their pistols after removing them from their holsters. Numerous writers, directors, and actors, including Gore Vidal, Susie Bright, John Schlesinger, Tom Hanks, and Susan Sarandon, all comment on their roles in this aspect of film history. This is an important and always interesting documentary that should be seen by everyone, no matter their sexual orientation.

    Vote: 10
  • desperateliving16 February 2004
    8/10
    8/10
    A documentary that follows the appearance of gays in the history of the movies, the film takes a talking heads approach with interviews, splicing in some terrific film pieces. We get to see Marlene Dietrich, in "Morocco," kiss another woman while dressed in tails -- and looking better than any man ever could. There's a brilliant in-joke clip from "Red River" where Montgomery Clift is told about the beauty of a Swiss watch and a woman -- and then asked if he's ever had a Swiss watch. The film looks at gay stereotypes such as the pansy or the sissy, the characters that Franklin Pangborn used to play. Some of the interviewees are exceptional, namely Harvey Fierstein, Gore Vidal, and the incredible Quentin Crisp. Vidal gives a hilarious recount of including a gay backstory in "Ben Hur" which Charlton Heston of course denies.

    The film is also touching and kind of heartbreaking. You realize that in the century we've had movies how enormously they've shaped our culture and our perception of people, and how if the filmmakers and studio heads hadn't been pressured by the horrible Hayes code, society's collective view of gays might not be so troublesome. There's a great moment where Quentin Crisp talks about census takers in England, asking about homosexuality. They were asked whether they knew any homosexuals. If the answer was yes, they were asked what they were like, to which they replied, "just like everybody else." If they answered no, they were asked what they would expect to meet, to which they replied, someone with grand gestures and flamboyance and bright colors. So that there are two images we have in our minds -- one of what homosexuals are like, and one of what homosexuals should be like. And movies played a huge role in that. 8/10
  • I agree that this film is perfect and here's why. It details its subject in a thorough and sweeping manner. It explores films and details the homosexual portrayals in an intelligent and non-catty manner. It's clever, well presented, no it's not a typical documentary but it's a very moving piece nonetheless, and it tells a story throughout. I was really thrilled by this film and all the research and effort that went into it. In interviews the filmmakers said that the only section they wish they could have kept was one about gay historical figures whose biographical lives were depicted on film as heterosexual. Certainly this would have been wonderful, but as is, the Celluloid Closet is an incredible film.
  • The Celluloid Closet is a fascinating, well-informed, vastly entertaining, heavily emotional, and infuriating documentary. It reminds us how aware we already were before watching it and makes us even more aware upon watching it that America has always been full of blind hate for things it hardly knows of, when those things may be innate parts of someone, both hoping and scared to be noticed and nonetheless only wanting acceptance. The Celluloid Closet, one of the most important documentaries I have ever seen, makes it clear that in over 100 years of movies, homosexuality has only been depicted on the screen every here and there and almost always as something to laugh at, or pity, or fear, thus hate. These images have always been momentary or subtle and passing, but they have left a deep imprint on America, and so the world. Lily Tomlin narrates, "Hollywood taught straight people what to think about gay people, and gay people what to think about themselves. No one escaped its influence."

    Also, when you watch this film, you may hopefully slowly slip out of that defensive shell we as a culture have, a denial that movies affect us, or that any of that depends on age. This film proves beyond the shadow of a doubt how the subtlest alterations to a film and the slightest shades of attitudes can leave lasting conscious or subconscious imprints on us.

    The film takes us through the thrillingly interesting period of the 1950s, when screenwriters and directors acted almost as undercover operatives when slipping in the slightest ambiguous homosexual or bisexual undertones, the most shocking of which was Ben-Hur, and the staggeringly angering 1960s, but maybe the focal point of the movie's conclusion is that at the very beginning, starting with Thomas Edison's experimental film of two men dancing together and continuing sparingly through the silent era and shortly after, was a time when men were free to express tenderness with each other on the screen, but as the world grew more aware of homosexuality, affection between males would be seen as a completely unacceptable, shun-worthy act. Two guy friends can rarely even hold each other in a movie! However, there has always been a difference in how audiences look at two men being affectionate or sexual and two women being sexual. There's a comfort with female nudity and affectionate bonding that can be not only acceptable but considered sexy by the general public. Women somehow don't find it threatening the way it is with men, and men find it either completely nonthreatening or arousing, or both. Movies like The Color Purple, Personal Best and Thelma & Louise showcase things between two women that are still highly taboo between two men. Even hit movies like Philadelphia and Brokeback Mountain, which actually is not mentioned in this film only because this was released about a decade before it, are no true steps forward for homosexuality in cinema, because they are about the sadness and alienation of being gay, and, on a very obscure note in case someone hasn't seen one or either, they end with death.

    It remains to be seen whether or not Hollywood and American audiences will embrace a movie with a gay hero who lives, and can be integrated with other people. They are the only minority who has yet to be given solid recognition and voice in the most universal and popular form of entertainment and communication in our culture.
  • Philby-326 February 2006
    "The Celluloid Closet" is a history of the treatment of homosexuals and gay themes in the cinema from the silent days to 1995, but it is a very partial account, focusing almost exclusively on Hollywood. The strength of the film is a huge number of clips from a vast range of films which show that, after a fairly liberal early period, homophobia reigned supreme until the late 1960s, and still can be seen in mainstream movies today. One of the great gay clichés is the homosexual movie buff in love with the likes of Judy Garland, so it is ironic that so many gay people should turn to the Hollywood product for distraction, given how anti-gay that product was. Some of the industry people interviewed for the film boast of how the censors were outsmarted on occasion, for example Gore Vidal's account of how Charlton Heston was fooled into acting gay in "Ben Hur", but it was not until "Boys in the Band", the film of a successful stage play in 1970, that homosexuality broke through as a topic for candid treatment.

    With "Brokeback Mountain" in line for an Academy Award or two this year gay themes can clearly now be mainstream. This film reminds us that cinema reflects the society from which it springs, and the United States has not historically been tolerant to what we might call sexual minorities. Somehow things loosened up in the 1960s and film-makers followed the trend (though not the lawmakers in most states). The genie is now out of the box, gay rights are reasonably well established and there is no going back. It will be interesting to see how American gay cinema retains its edge, now that homosexuality has become domesticated.
  • It is a "gay" film in its humour and about gay-films in its story. It is a fact that we see a lot of things on the big screen without having the least idea what the meaning is. However, people follow usually the crowd and laugh at what they are supposed to laugh at and get angry about what they are supposed to get angry at! In addition of dealing with gay, sex and taboo issues it shows the pattern of cinematic mentality development across years of the past century. This film unravels subtly the preoccupations of the audience and it makes it acceptable to see scenes many people don't like to see. The music is beautiful and the story is told in a tantalising way. You get out of the art-house with a feeling that we live in a hypocrite world, yet a world full of irony and humour.
  • Celluloid Closet is in fact a political documentary. That's the saddest part about this movie, because what it uncovers is a systematic history of scapegoating in early Hollywood film-making. Americans, overall a generous and tolerant people, have been taught for over a century to despise and fear queers and queer relationships. This movie is about the part of that campaign that was conducted in American film.

    But CC isn't just a sad movie. As we see toward the end of the film, the attitude of Hollywood has shifted in recent years. People are slowly seeing past the hatred they've been carefully taught, seeing that queers are ... just people, people who love each other. People who love each other so much that they courageously hold onto that love despite generations of oppression from nearly all quarters of American society, official and unofficial.

    Ultimately, despite the contemporary knee-jerk backlash, the wishes of GLBTQ people to enjoy rights taken for granted by all other American citizens will be granted. Americans will come to regret, as with Indians and Blacks, their record of hatred directed against people they have refused to understand. Understanding comes with knowledge, and Celluloid Closet is a key picture, treating its subject with great heart and courage.
  • A history of homosexuality as presented in the cinema. It makes some good points, even if some are a little obvious. As an example, Lilly Tomlin, the narrator, points out that female homosexuality seems to be a little less objectionable to the public than male homosexuality -- and it's true in my experience. I've always been curious about alternative life styles and spent a good deal of time in and around gay bars in Greenwich Village and San Francisco (including the one and only original Black Cat Cafe on Montgomery), used the words "campy" and "gay" before they entered the mainstream lexicon. And as a cultural anthropologist I went through the workshop on Human Sexuality Training at UC Berkeley. I don't really care one way or another about a friend's gender orientation. Yet I still wince a bit when I see men kissing on screen, while I find lesbian love scenes can be a turn on. The movie offers no explanation for this common experience -- nor can it, since no one has figured it out as far as I know. (I'll skip some technical guesses here.) Oh, a note. I haven't read the book this film is based on, but anybody who wants to explore the dynamics of a gay community should check out Frances Fitzgerald's "Cities on a Hill."

    The movie pulls a lot of information together and makes a convincing case for its chief argument, which is that gay people have been unfairly treated on the screen. In early movies they were mainly lisping and limp-wristed stereotypes, good mainly for laughs. Think of prissy Franklin Pangborn or Edward Everet Horton. I guess it must seem demeaning to gay people, but it really IS funny to see a person assume a different identity and use a bit of overkill. It's always amusing to see Robin Williams act gay (or do his Yiddish schtick) on TV. The humor in mixed identities goes back at least to Greek comedy. To explain why it's funny, you'd have to have a philosophy of jokes and humor, and a better one than Freud's.

    In a second filmic developmental stage, both male and female gays became villains. Again the movie offers no explanation for the change, although again maybe none is possible. And modern movies STILL turn many heavies into homosexuals -- even a liberal fave like "Z", for instance. Or Gene Hackman's aide in "No Way Out" or Hitchcock's "North by Northwest." I can't see any particular reason for this overlay of "evil." It may be amusing to act out an identity different from the one with which you were biologically endowed, but it isn't naturally enraging to hand the same problem over to a villain. Not that there aren't evil gay people, just that there's no reason to think that there are more evil gay people than evil straight people, so why are they disproportionately represented on screen? I think I can take a simple guess at this answer. A lot of middle Americans hate queers. I would guess that if you were going to come out, it would be a lot safer to do it in a blue state than in a red state.

    The narration keeps us up with the clips we're seeing on screen but carries an accusatory tone -- YOU did it, you Fascist. I don't especially like it because, frankly, I didn't do a thing and neither did anyone else I know. Actually I think homosexuality may be Mother Nature's way of damping population explosions. (It increases among crowded mice.) The most penetrating remarks, and the only funny ones, come from the talking heads who have been in one way or another affiliated with movies about gays. Some of these interviewees are really witty and direct. Susan Sarandon points out that lesbians embrace affectionately and sometimes kiss at the end of the film while male buddies run off bravely to die together, as in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," in which "they get their guns out because they can't get their d***s out."

    There's a lot more to be said on the subject, and on this film, but let us observe the limitations on space. The movie ends on a somewhat upbeat note. Hollywood is now beginning to deal with homosexuality in a mature way. "The Boys in the Band" is given as an instance. But the movie was released in 1996 and doesn't bring up a newer trend that may be emerging. If gays were stereotypical jokes in early movies, and villains in later ones, they may now be turning into sidekicks on the screen or into supporting people who turn the movie into something "hip." Vide: "Copycat," "Victor/Victoria," "Internal Affairs," "Single White Female," and a slew of others. It's probably their most encouraging cinematic function yet, showing us that homosexuality needn't be an earth-shattering mental disease at all.
  • Narrated by Lily Tomlin (herself a lesbian), "The Celluloid Closet" looks at how gays and lesbians have been portrayed in movies over the years. Featuring a careful balance of interviews with actors and actresses, and footage from various movies, the documentary does a very good job giving the viewer an impression of how cinema wanted people to view homosexuality. Obvious representations include the "sissy gay man" and the "bitchy lesbian", but other portrayals have made them look unstable.

    Particularly interesting is how, during the years of the Hays Code (part of which forbade portrayals of "sexual perversions" in movies), directors often sneaked in references to homosexuality in movies, such as "Ben-Hur". I guess that if "The Celluloid Closet" has any problem, it's that it's now eleven years old, so there have been so many other portrayals than what the documentary shows. Examples include "The Birdcage", "In & Out" and "Brokeback Mountain".

    But other than that, it's a great documentary. Definitely something that everyone should see. Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Harvey Fierstein and Tony Curtis work just as well in documentaries as they do in regular movies.

    Speaking of Tony Curtis, when he first appeared, I thought that he was Rodney Dangerfield!
  • caliadragon13 August 2005
    This was a remarkable film, I thought it brought to light Hollywood's ability to subvert a society and to make it into victimizer or victim.

    The people who were a part of the industry in the times portrayed showed us, where one entity would censor us, another will find a way around it.

    I loved the film and recommend it to anyone interested in the evolution of gays in the media.

    The movies shown were interesting and in many cases were films I have seen and realized that there was a subtext to the film.

    The writers and the directors were brilliant in the way that they overcame the censors of their period.

    It also shows the evolution of the film goer and the hopes for those of us who want to see the gay hero live through the movie and find love and happiness.

    Calia
  • This is an interesting film with lots of entertainment and lessons contained within.

    But there is one small criticism to be made. Jonathan Demme is presumably to be commended for directing "Philadelphia" with its sympathetic and sensitive treatment of a victim of homophobia. Yet elsewhere in this documentary a fleeting image of the cross-dressing serial killer Buffalo Bill in another Demme film, "Silence of the Lambs", is presented as an example of a smear against homosexual people (even though the film spells out that the character is NOT gay).

    Similarly, "Cruising" is attacked for its homophobia, yet director William Friedkin was also the director of "The Boys in the Band", effusively praised elsewhere as a landmark gay film. But the audience is not told this.

    So two important "pro-gay" films were directed by men who have been attacked for two "anti-gay" films. Surely this was worthy of note. Why did the filmmakers not follow this up? Why were Friedkin and Demme in particular not interviewed? The lack of balance reminds one just a little bit of the selective use of facts (bordering on hysteria) in other documentaries such as "Not Love a Story: A Film About Pornography".

    The Celluloid Closet remains worthwhile and revelatory viewing, but it tends to be superficial and happy to avoid the complexity of films and the men (mostly) who make them in favour of sloganeering. Which makes it vintage Hollywood.
  • The Celluloid Closet is an extremely important documentary that tells the history of Gay/Lesbian film representations. As a scholar of media studies, I use this film quite a lot with my students to discuss the history of cinema and LG audience. This film is excellently researched and includes important clips from films throughout history and extremely important interviews with Gay/Lesbian actors and directors. While the film is excellent in its representation of Gay/Lesbian culture, it does not touch on the broader LGBTQ+ culture and representations of transgender actors. Moreover, the film doesn't really handle concerns over intersectionality (specifically, race). Ultimately, the film is a must watch, but it also desperately needs to be updated.
  • "The Celluloid Closet" is a necessity to understand film history in the USA. From the earliest days of cinema (a rare clip of an 1895 Thomas Edison experimental film shows two men dancing in an embrace!) up to the modern era, this film details how gays were depicted in the cinema (from the sissy fashion designer to the bull-dyke prison guard) and the problems film-makers had to deal with due to the restrictions of the Hayes Office and the self-proclaimed Legion of Decency.

    An incredible piece of cinematic history shown in the film is the (now restored) "oysters and snails" scene in "Sparticus", where Marcus Licinius (Sir Laurence Olivier) tries to seduce his slave Antonius (Tony Curtis) in the bath.

    This documentary changed the way I look at cinema, and now I often find myself seeking for the "hidden messages" in the characterization ("Calamity Jane", "The Maltese Falcon", "Johnny Guitar", "Rebel Without A Cause", "Ben Hur"...I can never see the scene where Judah and Mesalla drink that wine and glance into each other's eyes the same way again!). My only complaint is that the film does not mention the 1919 German silent film "Anders als die Anderen" ("Different From the Others"), one of the first to seriously deal with homosexuality.

    Marvelous film! (To the film-makers: k.d. lang singing "(Once I Had A) Secret Love" at the end is a crowning touch!)
  • Ok I'm sure that you think that documentaries are sucks... ( I thought that!) But after this documentary...my god..You will interested by documentary! Ok... this documentary is about gay and lesbian in movies... but it's for everyone!(ok i'm gay but....) And you will learn, learn, learn about cinema industry, the rating, the evolution and more. and all the whole documentary have good scenes, good rythme and some humor. Really the best documentary and one of my coup de coeur! Brief, to see! and do you know that some producers have censured in the 1950 years a scene of ben-hur? because this scene let supposed a gay friendship's???
  • This was a very good documentary about the treatment of homosexuals in films. It presents a somewhat thorough journey from showing homosexuality in a very negative light (such as psychos) to the more modern sympathetic and normalization of gay life in films.

    However, from a historical viewpoint, it wasn't particularly complete or thorough, as in the years before the newly enforced Production Code (1934), there were quite a few films about gays. While some were the mincing stereotypical images, many were not and silent and international films had quite a few gay or heavily implied characters--all of which was ignored in this documentary. If you are looking for this, like I am, then this film ain't it.

    My final complaint is something you can't blame on this documentary. Because the film was made in 1995, many of the complaints about not having enough gay images in film seems rather out of date, as gay characters abound not only in film but seem to abound on television. The complaint I have is that although the many gays about on television because they are incredibly clichéd--usually being noble (to the point of nausea in some instances) or campy and clever (like the "Queer Eye" folks). While not politically correct, showing gays who are jerks, country folk (NOT like you'd see in DELIVERANCE), average folks, Mexicans, baseball players, pizza delivery guys or even idiots would be a nice change of pace--at least this would make them more three- dimensional.
  • ktatlow2 September 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    Plenty of ideas for future rentals!

    Films cited:

    Edison Experimental, 1895 A Florida Enchantment, 1914 + Algie, the Miner, 1912 The Soilers, 1923 Wanderer of the West, 1927 Behind the Screen, 1916 Our Betters, 1933 + The Gay Divorcée, 1934 The Broadway Melody, 1929 Myrt and Marge, 1934 Call Her Savage, 1932 Morocco, 1930 + Queen Christina, 1933 + Tarzan and His Mate, 1934 Manslaughter, 1922 + The Lost Weekend, 1945 Crossfire, 1947 + Dracula's Daughter, 1936 + Rebecca, 1940 + The Maltese Falcon, 1941 Rope, 1948 - Caged, 1950 + Young Man With a Horn, 1950 + Tea and Sympathy, 1956 + Rebel Without a Cause, 1955 Ben-Hur, 1959 Calamity Jane, 1953 + Johnny Guitar, 1954 + Red River, 1948 + In a Lonely Place, 1950 + Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953 Lover Come Back, 1961 Pillow Talk, 1959 Some Like It Hot, 1959 Spartacus, 1960 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1958 + Suddenly, Last Summer, 1959 + Bride of Frankenstein, 1935 + Victim, 1961 + The Children's Hour, 1962 + Advise and Consent, 1962 Walk on the Wild Side, 1962 + The Detective, 1968 The Fox, 1968 The Boys in the Band, 1970 Cabaret, 1972 + Next Stop, Greenwich Village, 1976 Car Wash, 1976 Vanishing Point, 1971 Freebie and the Bean, 1974 Night Shift, 1982 Teen Wolf, 1985 Cruising, 1980 Windows, 1980 The Fan, 1981 Making Love, 1982 Wings, 1927 + The Sergeant, 1968 + A View from the Bridge, 1962 + Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, 1974 Sunday, Bloody Sunday, 1971 Personal Best, 1982 The Color Purple, 1985 Thelma and Louise, 1991 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969 The Hunger, 1983 Midnight Express, 1978 Fried Green Tomatoes, 1991 Philadelphia, 1993 Torch Song Trilogy, 1988 The Wedding Banquet, 1993 Poison, 1991 + Go Fish, 1994 + The Hours and Times, 1992 Edward II, 1991 The Living End, 1992 The Crying Game, 1992 My Own Private Idaho, 1991 Silkwood, 1983 The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, 1994 + The Silence of the Lambs, 1991 Basic Instinct, 1992 Longtime Companion, 1990 My Beautiful Laundrette, 1985 Lianna, 1983 Boys on the Side, 1995 Parting Glances, 1986 + Desert Hearts, 1985
  • "The Celluloid Closet" is a documentary that focuses on the evolution of sexuality in a multitude of Hollywood films and movies from the early 1900's to the early 1990's. The directors, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman portrays the views of homosexuality through a series of clips from numerous films and interviews of early actors, directors, and screenwriters. Throughout this documentary, the interviewees reveal how society reacted from the beginning of the queer films and up until modern times.

    This documentary is heavily based on book, "The Celluloid Closet" written by Vitto Russo. There are no main characters throughout this film, but rather focuses on the comments of each of the interviewees on the incredible growth of LGBTQ films and its effect on society. Many simply think of watching movies for entertainment purposes. However, movies have a greater influence on everyone's life than one may think, whether he or she is straight, gay or lesbian. Actors and screenwriters described the impact of movies during their early childhood and how people mainly went to see movies to see if the movies could relate to themselves. In early American society, homosexuality was viewed as humorous. The documentary then continues to describe the slander on queer films by the Catholic Church and its role in the portraying of LGBTQ content, thus leading to complications and censorship. Homosexuality was then viewed in the roles of numerous cold- blooded villains such as Dracula's Daughter and was shown in desperate gay characters that were unhappy and suicidal. Moreover, homophobia was seen as a disease in the 1950's and many people resented homosexuals. Finally, Hollywood presented homosexuality in a positive manner, shedding a new light in American culture.

    Overall, "The Celluloid Closet" is an interesting documentary portraying the incredible evolution of queer films in Hollywood. Even though the content is portrayed in movies and films, its effect on society was greater than one may have thought. It is informative, interesting, and funny. It is incredible on how society during the early 1900's portrays queer films being risky, impossible, and forbidden yet exciting and daring. Therefore, this documentary is highly recommended to movies fans who are interested in the making of queer films.
  • The Celluloid Closet was a film that documented the use of homosexual characters in the world of Hollywood. Clips from films with LGBTQ characters, actors and writers of those movies, and current actors and actresses were all used to help display the history of the progression of homosexual characters in movies. The documentary was shown in chronological order, from the 1930s to the early 1990s, emphasizing the stereotypical and sometimes unfair to normal ways in which homosexuals were portrayed. The commentary from the actors, actresses, and actors provided an entertainment and informative factor that kept the audience attentive to the subject of the documentary. It was interesting to see how in the films, LGBTQ had transitioned from light hearted humorous characters, to stereotypical sissies, to villainous individuals suffering from some sort of mental illness. Hollywood has such an effect to the everyday life that many individuals in Presbyterian Church called for a reform on the homosexual exposure in films. The Hays Codes being enforced and the amount of censorship that had to be enforced in movies made directing a film with a homosexual character in it much more difficult. The coded language and subtle movements by the actors portraying the LGBTQ characters made it clear to audiences that there was homosexual exposure in the film, just not so obvious. This film is highly recommended for it brings new knowledge of the film world to light, in regards to the issue of homosexuality. It also depicts a clear representation of how the values of different eras change drastically throughout time. Because the documentary was made in the early 1990s, it would be interesting to see how the commentators view LGBTQ characters in film today.
  • "The Celluloid Closet" is a very informative, interesting documentary that evaluates the way Hollywood has presented homosexual relationships beginning in the 1930s. From the very beginning when homosexual relationships began to appear in films, Hollywood has always had an influence on the audience of what to think about gays, as well as how gays should feel about themselves. In early appearances, the homosexual hints in films was not discussed publicly after being viewed, it was sort of ignored and thought of as comedy.

    After homosexual scenes became more and more prevalent and common, the Catholic and Protestant churches grew very angry, starting boycotts of any film that hinted even the smallest bit of homosexuality. Film writers and directors began finding other ways to project homosexuals, by making it harder to catch the gay hints or even making the homosexual character a "villain" in a sense. This homosexual "villain" character was very common in films until the British film "Victim." This particular film was the first to actually use the word "homosexual," therefore beginning another era of homosexuality in films.

    Although the "homosexual" word was not used openly in films, gays seemed to perceived as having a "mental illness" now. In addition, audiences were applauding villains, killers, or the killed if they were homosexual. They seemed to enjoy the homosexual characters' pain while watching these films.

    Overall, "The Celluloid Closet" takes its audience on the journey through the evolution of homosexuality in Hollywood films. Clearly this film is wonderful in itself as it explores other very famous films throughout history, discussing how homosexual scenes were presented in many of them.
  • This is an excellent documentary, narrated by Lily Tomlin, on queer subtext and gays in American cinema from the 1930s to the 1990s, loosely based on Vito Russo's groundbreaking book (1981, revised edition 1987) of the same name. In it, a wide range of thoughtfully-chosen film clips is paired with director, producer and actor interviews (such as Gore Vidal, Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Armistead Maupin, Tony Curtis, and Whoopi Goldberg). Beyond containing lots of wonderful behind-the-scenes factoids, major issues to queer filmmaking such as coded language, censorship/ratings, the Hayes Codes, and straight/gay actors playing gay are addressed. The only thing one could wish for is a revised/extended film that would include the important gay films made after 1993 or so.
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