Film History: Tommy Lee Kirk

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Photo Set Twenty-Six

Born in Louisville, Kentucky in December of 1941, Tommy Lee Kirk was an American actor best known for his performances in films produced by Walt Disney Studios. His teen idol status became closely associated with the clean, wholesome product that Disney Studios produced during the late 1950s and early 1960s. 

One of four sons, Tommy Kirk moved at the age of fifteen months with his family to California where they settled in Downey, a city in southeast Los Angeles. In 1954 at the age of thirteen, he  accompanied his older brother Joe to an audition at the Pasadena Playhouse for a role in Eugene O’Neill’s “Ah, Wilderness”. Although Joe was not cast in a role, Tommy Kirk had his stage debut with a role consisting of five lines of dialogue. His small role was seen favorably by a representative from the Gertz Agency of Hollywood who signed him to a contract. 

Kirk made his first television appearance in an episode entitled “The Last of the Old Time Shooting Sheriffs” for the anthology drama series “TV Reader’s Digest”. He appeared in two more Pasadena theater plays and was cast in small roles on other television productions, including  “Gunsmoke” and “The Loretta Young Show”. In August of 1956, Kirk was given a long-term contract by Walt Disney Productions and became a member of the 1955 “The Mickey Mouse Club” television series. He next was cast as Joe Hardy for the Mickey Mouse Club series “The Hardy Boys” and performed in two serials alongside actor Tim Considine who played his older brother Frank Hardy. Broadcasted in that October, the show and Kirk’s performance were well received and led to his long association as a ten idol with the Disney Studio.

Tommy Kirk’s career accelerated with his casting as Travis Coates in the 1957 Disney film “Old Yeller”, an adventure tale of a boy and his heroic dog. Due to the success of his lead role in “Old Yeller”, Kirk became the Disney Studio’s first choice for future American teenager roles. In July of 1958, he was cast in “The Shaggy Dog”, a Disney comedy about a boy inventor who is repeatedly transformed into an Old English Sheepdog. This film, the second highest grossing film of 1959, teamed Kirk with Fred MacMurray, Annette Funicello and Kevin Corcoran, his former co-star from “Old Yeller”. 

With his Disney contract completed, Kirk went to Universal Pictures where he did English dubbing for “The Snow Queen”, a Soviet animated feature. As revenues increased from the screening of “The Shaggy Dog”, Disney Studios resigned Kirk to a long-term studio contract and cast him as the middle son, Ernst Robinson, in its 1960 family adventure film “Swiss Family Robinson”. This family film was followed by a second huge hit, “The Absent-Minded Professor”, a fantasy comedy starring Fred MacMurray as the professor and Kirk as Biff Hawk. Kirk was next cast in several films in which he costarred with actors MacMurray and Jame Wyman in the 1962 “Bon Voyage”, Ed Wynn in the 1961 “Babes in Toyland”, and Annette Funicello in the 1962 “Escapade in Florence”.

In 1963, Tommy Kirk appeared in Disney’s “Son of Flubber”, a sequel to “The Absent-Minded Professor” which became his last film with MacMurray. He next reprised his role as Travis Coates in “Savage Sam”, a sequel to “Old Yeller” which was not as popular as the original film. In 1964, Disney Studios cast Kirk as the student inventor in “The Misadventures of Merlin Jones” where he played opposite Funicello. After it became an  unexpected box office sensation, a sequel entitled “The Monkey’s Uncle” was released in July of 1965 which was equally successful.

Kirk knew he was gay from an early age; however, due to the public intolerance at that time towards homosexuality, he felt isolated and believed that the exposure of his sexuality would damage his film career. In 1963 while filming “The Misadventures of Merlin Jones”, Kirk began a relationship with a boy, six years younger, who lived in Burbank. The boy’s mother informed the Disney Studio which fired him from his role in the 1965 John Wayne western “The Sons of Katie Elder”. Out of protection for its interests, the Disney Studios released Kirk from his contract. However due to the financial success of the “Merlin Jones” film, he was allowed to return to make the 1965 sequel “The Monkey’s Uncle”.

The news of Kirk’s termination from Disney Studios was not made public: he joined American International Pictures which needed a leading man to play opposite Annette Funicello in the 1964 “Pajama Party”. From 1964 to 1969, Kirk appeared in several popular teen-oriented films, musical stage productions of “The Music Man” and “West Side Story”, and mediocre sci-fi and beach films. Practically blacklisted by an industry which deemed outed gay actors as box-office poison, Kirk returned to the musical theater in his home state of Kentucky with appearances in such shows as “Hello, Dolly” and “Anything Goes”.

In 1970, Tommy Kirk did two movies that were not Screen Actors Guild productions, “Ride the Hot Wind” and “Blood of Ghastly Horror” which caused him to lose his SAG membership.. While loss of SAG membership does not disqualify someone from acting, most film productions hire only union members, thus limiting the opportunities for an actor to be hired. Depressed and angry, Kirk sought solace in drugs and once nearly died from an overdose. After overcoming his drug addiction, Kirk began a successful carpet-cleaning business in Los Angeles which he ran for twenty years. He continued to act occasionally, appeared in films and documentary interviews for the DVD releases of some of his best known films and TV shows, and occasionally made personal appearances at film festivals and nostalgia convention/memorabilia festivals.

Tommy Kirk came out publicly as gay in a 1973 interview with Marvin Jones that was published in the January 31st edition of Gay Today. He was studying acting at that time with the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute while working in a Los Angeles restaurant. Kirk was inducted as a Disney Legend in October of 2006 alongside his former co-stars Tim Considine and Kevin Corcoran. In 2006, the first of the “Hardy Boys” serials was issued on DVD as part of the Walt Disney Treasures series. Royalties from the sales of the “Hardy Boys” serials provided Kirk an additional income. 

Tommy Lee Kirk died peacefully in his Las Vegas, Nevada, home at the age of seventy-nine on the 28th of September in 2021. His neighbor Beverly Washburn, an “Old Yeller” co-star, notified Kirk’s longtime friend and former Disney actor Paul Peterson, known for his role as the son on “The Donna Reed Show”. Peterson posted notice of Kirk’s death on Facebook mentioning in the message that Kirk’s family had disowned the gay actor.

Top Insert Image: Tommy Kirk, “Old Yeller”, 1957, Film Shot

Second Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Tommy Kirk and Tim Considine”, 1956, “The Hardy Boys” Series

Third Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Annette Funicello and Tommy Kirk”, Studio Publicity Photo Shoot

Fourth Insert Image: hotographer Unknown, “Tommy Kirk, Pajama Party”, 1964, Film Shoot

Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Tommy Kirk and Dorothy Lamour, Pajama Party”, 1964, Studio Photo Shoot

Film History: Clifton Webb

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana in November of 1889, Webb Parmelee Hollenbeck, known professionally as Clifton Webb, was an American actor, dancer and singer. He is known for his roles in films, his Broadway appearances in successful musicals, and for his stage appearances in the plays of English playwright and actor Sir Noël Coward.

Clifton Webb was the only child of Jacob Hollenbeck, a ticket-clerk for the Indianapolis- St. Louis Railroad, and Mabel Parmelee, the daughter of a railroad conductor. In 1891, the couple separated and Mabel took young Webb with her to New York City in 1892. After the divorce was finalized, Mabel married Green B. Raum, Jr., a copper-foundry worker and the son of a former U.S. Commissioner of Internal Revenue; the new family settled in New York City on West 77th Street. 

Webb, at the age of five, began dancing lessons; two years later, he made his official debut in Carnegie Hall as a member of the Children’s Theater in a performance of Canadian author Palmer Cox’s children series “The Brownies”. This was followed with a vaudeville tour in which Webb appeared in “The Master of Charlton Hall” and performed as Oliver in “Oliver Twist” and as Tom Sawyer in “Huckleberry Finn”. As a young teenager, he studied painting with Realist artist Robert Henri, a pioneer of the Ashcan School, and music with French operatic baritone Victor Maurel. His studies with Maurel led to Webb’s debut in 1906 with Boston’s Aborn Opera Company’s production of Ambroise Thomas’s “Mignon”.

Returning to New York, Clifton Webb teamed with Mae Murray in a ballroom dance act; they toured a chain of vaudeville theaters known as the Keith Circuit and performed in Manhattan restaurants. Webb had his Broadway debut in April of 1913 with the premiere of “The Purple Road” at the Liberty Theater, in which he played the role of Bosco for one hundred-thirty six performances. Between 1913 and 1917, Webb was continually on the Broadway stage and appeared in such vehicles as Sigmund Romberg’s “Dancing Around”, Ned Waybum’s all-star revue “Town Topics” , and Cole Porter’s comic opera “See America First”. 

In 1917, Webb was the sensuous dancing star of “Love O’Mike”, a musical comedy produced by Lee Shubert and Elisabeth Marbury, a theatrical agent who lived in an open relationship with actress and famous interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe, also known as Lady Mendl. By the middle of the 1920s, Webb was one of Broadway’s highest-paid stars and reached his apex with the 1930 “Three’s a Crowd” and the very successful 1933 “As Thousands Cheered”, which featured the steamy torch song “Moanin’ Low” sung by Webb and actress Libby Holman. 

In 1935, Webb relocated to Hollywood where Metro Goldwyn Mayer, who hoped to make Webb a successful dancing star like RKO’s Fred Astaire, gave him an eighteen-month contract at three-thousand dollars a week. He was to star opposite Joan Crawford in a musical entitled “Elegance”; the picture was abandoned, however, Webb was paid all his money. For the next eighteen months, he was not offered any work but made many high-profile social appearances. He  often appeared wearing white gloves and a top hat, with his mother Mabel on his arm and his poodle Ernest, after Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”, trailing behind on a leash.  

In 1938, Clifton Webb returned to New York’s Broadway in “You Never Know”, written by his longtime friend Cole Porter. The stage version of “The Man Who Came to Dinner”, starring the stage and film actor Monty Woolley, premiered in the fall of 1939. Webb was cast as the acidic character Sheridan Whiteside for its touring version, a role in which he remained for eighteen months. In 1941, he played the character Charles Condomine, a successful novelist curious about seances,  in the initial performances of Noël Coward’s comic play “Blithe Spirit”. 

Webb is probably best known today for his many film appearances. In his mid-fifties, he was chosen by director Otto Preminger, despite objections from 20th Century Fox’s Darryl Zanuck who though Webb too effeminate, to play the evil radio columnist Waldo Lydecker in the 1944 film noir “Laura”. Webb’s performance won him wide acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The Fox Studio signed him to a long-term contract, which provided Webb with work for the rest of his career. His first role under contract was as a suave villain in Henry Hathaway’s 1946 film noir “Dark Corner”. This was followed with his role of elitist Elliott Templeton, playing opposite Gene Tieeney, in the 1946 “The Razor’s Edge” for which he received another Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. 

Clifton Webb achieved stardom with his role of Mr. Belvedere, a snide know-it-all babysitter with a mysterious past, in the 1948 comedy film “Sitting Pretty”, based on the 1947 novel “Belvedere” by Gwen Davenport. This role became so popular that it was followed with two sequels: the 1949 box office success “Mr. Belvedere Goes to College” and the 1951 “Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell”.  In 1950, Webb and actress Myrna Loy played the roles of efficiency experts Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, the parents of twelve children, in the film “Cheaper by the Dozen” which made Webb one of the biggest stars in the United States. 

In addition to these comedic films, Webb played more serious character roles for 20th Century Fox. He starred in the 1952 Technicolor film biography of bandmaster John Phillip Sousa entitled “Stars and Stripes Forever”. Webb’s most dramatic role was the brave but doomed husband of Barbara Stanwyck’s Julia Sturges in the 1953 “Titanic”, the winner of the 1954 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The following year, he appeared as the novelist John Frederick Shadwell in the romance film “Three Coins in the Fountain”. Webb appeared in the 1956 British war film “The Man Who Never Was”, based on the Allied invasion of Sicily in World War II, and as a sarcastic but self-sacrificing Catholic priest in the 1962 “Satan Never Sleeps”, his final film role. 

Clifton Webb was one of the few gay actors to appear in decidedly heterosexual character roles, most notably the devoted husband who fathered twelve children in “Cheaper by the Dozen”. Obsessively proper, correct and well-mannered, he lived his bachelor life as close to being openly gay as any leading actor in Hollywood could be. Although he lived with his mother until her death in 1960, Webb threw lavish parties and enjoyed the company of young men who gathered poolside at his pink stucco house in Beverly Hills. His friends included many member of the gay circles in the film industry: Noël Coward, Cole Porter, actor Monty Woolley, director George Cukor, stage and costume designer Oliver Messel, film director Irving Rapper, actors William Hanes and Jimmie Shields, among others.

Due to health issues, Webb spent the last five years of his life as a recluse at his home in Beverly Hills. He suffered a fatal heart attack, at the age of seventy-six, at his home on the 13th of October in 1966. He is interred in a crypt in the Abbey of the Psalms at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, alongside his mother. For his contributions to the motion picture industry, Webb was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6850 Hollywood Boulevard. An archive of his papers, including typed manuscripts, notes, correspondences, financial records and Webb’s last will and testament, is housed at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences.

Note: Clifton Webb’s portrayal of the character Mr. Lynn Belvedere was the model for the “Mr. Peabody” character in the animated cartoon series “Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends”, which ran from November of 1959 to June of 1964.

McDermott & McGough

McDermott & McGough, “If You Had Been the Moon”, April 2009, 10:16, Directed by Peter Mc  Gough, Starring Michael  Kavalus, Bryan Deckhart, Claybourne Elder, Christopher Le Rude, Alex Michael Stoll, and Andrew Lord

The art collective McDermott & McGough consists of the contemporary artists David McDermott and Peter McGough who are known for their work in sculpture, painting, film and photography. Their work examines such issues as religion, popular culture and art, medicine, advertising, fashion, and sexual behavior. McDermott and McGough are best known for their gay-themed paintings and the use of historical processing techniques in their photographic work, which includes film development with palladium, gum bichromate, salt, platinum, and carbon black.

Born in Hollywood, California in 1952, David McDermott studied at Syracuse University in New York from 1970 to 1974. He moved to New York City where he became famous in the downtown area for his odd manners and outdated formalwear, such as detachable collars, cummerbunds, and top hats. Born in Syracuse in 1958, Peter McGough studied at Syracuse University in 1976. He relocated to New York City where he briefly studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology. After dropping out from the Institute, McGough was employed to sell tickets at Danceteria, a famous, albeit illegal, nightclub with several locations in the city.

Peter McGough met David McDermott in a Manhattan theater at the end of the 1970s. As David kept Peter company during the early club hours before sunrise, a strong relationship developed between them  that also included an artistic alliance which would last forty years. In the 1980s, the gay couple became known in New York’s East Village art scene for their immersion in the Victorian era. McDermott and McGough questioned the ideas of nostalgia; they pursued an art form and lifestyle narrative of reorienting the past for the future. Dressed and living as early 1900s dandies with an air of erudition and impertinence, their lives and art became an exploration of time and history, as well as, a challenge to the boundaries of art history and cultural identity.

McDermott and McGough’s collaborative output was expressed through a proliferation of drawings, paintings, film and photographs, and architectural interiors. Their photographs and films, which appropriated images and objects from the late 19th century to the style of the 1930s, explored contemporary cultural issues but produced them through vintage materials and techniques. McDermott and McGough’s obsession with the past is reflected in the styles and subjects they resurrect; many of their works are titled with fictional dates that reference the latter years of the 1800s. 

The later work of McDermott and McGough was inspired by advertising motifs, Hollywood cinema, and the comic books of the 1950s and 1960s. They reinvented major works of twentieth-century photography, Pop Art icon images, and produced photo-realistic paintings of vintage film stars. During the 1980s when their work was selling well, McDermott and McGough were a major part of the downtown New York scene, where the attended clubs and mingled with Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Andy Warhol. They bought three properties including a 1860s French Second Empire style bank, owned horses and vintage automobiles, hosted lavish baroque parties, and bestowed expensive gifts to friends.

 In 1992, the art market began to feel the effects of the stock market crash of October 1987. Out of all the paintings McDermott and McGough had on  exhibit at the Armory Show, only one small painting sold. Their debts, which included framing costs for their exhibitions, came due; many of these debts were paid through the transfer of their existing artwork to galleries and other debtors, among whom was the Internal Revenue Service. Eventually everything the couple had was auctioned off except for a few pieces they managed to save and later shipped to the docks of Dublin, Ireland. David McDermott relocated to a small  rental house near Ballsbridge, Ireland, and in 1995 McGough reunited with him. 

McDermott and McGough started painting and soon were able to rent a small art studio in Temple Bar in downtown Dublin. Through Swiss art dealer and gallery owner Bruno Bischofberger, they received many silhouette commissions. With the assistance of the gallery’s director Andrea Caratsch, McDermott and McGough had an exhibition in 1998 entitled “The Lust That Comes from Nothing” at Paris’s Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont.

McDermott and McGough’s previous exhibitions include the Whitney Biennial, New York, in 1987, 1991 and 1995, and a mid-career retrospective at the Provincial Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Oostende, Belgium. In 2017, their work was the subject of the exhibition “I’ve Seen the Future and I’m Not Going’ held at the Dallas Contemporary Museum in Texas. Other solo and group exhibitions include such institutions as the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, Centre Pompidou in Paris, New York City’s Galleria Gian Enzo Sperone, and the Frankfurter Kunstverein in Germany. 

McDermott and McGough’s work is represented in numerous collections including the International Center of Photography in New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art; Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas in Lawrence; Tampa Museum of Art in Florida; Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center; and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, among others.

Notes: In 2017, David McDermott and Peter McGough opened the Oscar Wilde Temple, a non-secular sacred space for LGBTQ people in a chapel at the Church of the Village located in New York City’s Greenwich Village. It is both an art exhibition space and a place for marriages; donations go to homeless LBGTQ youth. A second location at the gallery Studio Voltaire in London was opened in October of 2018.

In 2019, Peter McGough published his memoir “I’ve Seen the Future and I’m Not Going There” through Penquin Random House. Set in New York’s Lower East Side, the memoir chronicles his life withDavid McDermott during the 1980s and mid-1990s.

Top Insert Image: David McDermott and Peter McGough, “Portrait of the Artists, 1928, 1990”, Palladium Print on Paper, 35 x 26.5 cm, Private Collection

Second Insert Image: David McDermott and Peter McGough, “Love is Gone- So What Can Matter? 1966, 2008”, Oil on Linen, 152.4 x 122.2 cm, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: McDermott and McGough, “Joel at Lower Baldonell House, Dublin, 1910, 2003”, Palladium Print on Paper, 50.8 x 40.6 cm, Private Collection

Fourth Insert Image: McDermott and McGough, “The Annointed”, 1991, Photographers and Friends Against AIDS Exhibition, Palladium Print on Paper, 16.5 x 11.8 cm, Private Collection

Fifth Insert Image: McDermott and McGough, Title Unknown (Reading Comics), Image from the “Detroit, 1958” Series,  2007, Carbro Print, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: McDermott and McGough, “Portrait of the Artist (With Top Hats) 1865”, 1991, Palladium Print on Paper, Collection of the Artists

James Broughton: ‘Luncheon Had Made Us Hungry”

Photographers Unknown, Luncheon Had Made Us Hungry

Luncheon had made us hungry
for one another
After the curry and fried bananas
we added our own heat to
the hot afternoon
simmering in sweat and coconut oil
as our two humidities rose
high   higher                     Bang!
outside the window        Bang!Bang!
and the houseboy’s laughing shout

He had been tossing firecrackers
at the roof
to dislodge itinerant pigeons
But at his feet had fallen
a passing oriole
shocked into gape      beak ajar

Hurrying from the bedroom
half-saronged
we saw him kneel to the yellow bird
fondle      cajole      kiss it      offer it
back to the day
Still it sat rigid in his hand

Chuckling then      you said
Is this a golden trophy of
our shooting match?
At which the oriole blinked
stretched and puffed
spurted into the air
vanished beyond the pawpaw tree

James Broughton, Afternoons in Ceylon I, Word of Mouth: An Anthology of Gay American Poetry, 2000

Born to affluent parents in Modesto, California in November of 1913, James Broughton was a poet and filmmaker. He was a member of the San Francisco Renaissance movement, a 1950s collective of American avant-garde poets which included such poets as Kenneth Rexroth, Madeline Gleason, Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer, among others. Known best for his cinematography, Broughton made poetic experimental films, both in color and black and white, throughout his career.

After the death of his father in the deadly 1918 influenza epidemic, James Broughton spent his early years in San Francisco. He started his formal education at a military school; however, at the age of sixteen after having an affair with a classmate, he was expelled. Broughton pursued a career in writing at Stanford University until 1935, at which time he relocated to New York City and became a theater critic. Through his written work, Broughton met artist Sidney Peterson, who would later establish San Francisco Art Institute’s Workshop 20, the first college program to teach filmmaking as art.

After he moved back to San Francisco, Broughton wrote and produced the play “Summer Fury”, for which the Stanford Dramatists’ Alliance gave him the 1945 Alden Award for Original Screenplay. In 1946, a collaboration between Broughton and Sidney Peterson produced the 16mm film “The Potted Palm”, a depiction of Freudian desires that combined the erotic with the decaying. Broughton later credited his working with Peterson on this film as the influence that led him to experimental filmmaking.

James Broughton’s early 16mm short films, which ran from nine to thirty-eight minutes, covered a wide range of genres, including personal journals, comedy, music, theater, and queer stories. Broughton’s first solo film was the 1948 avant-garde classic “Mother’s Day” which dealt with human pain and lack of emotion. He followed this film’s success with five more films between 1950 and 1953, among which was the 1953 “The Pleasure Garden”, a collaboration with partner Kermit Sheets. Made in England, the film was successful only in Europe where it received several awards including one at the Cannes Film Festival presented byJean Cocteau.

In 1953, Broughton stopped his filmmaking to concentrate more fully on his writing which, through his career, totaled more than twenty published works. His poetry collection “True & False Unicorn”, poems of Broughton’s complex search for his true self, was published in 1955 and later choreographed on stage by Jergen Verbruggen. Broughton’s autobiographical prose poem collection “The Androgyne Journal”. published in 1977, was a strongly personal book about breaking creative boundaries.

James Broughton published two retrospective collections of his poetry: “A Long Undressing: Collected Poems 1949-1969”, published in 1971 by Jargon Society Press, and “Packing Up for Paradise: Selected Poems 1946-1996” published in November of 1997 by Black Sparrow Press. In 1993, Broughton published his memoir, an autobiography entitled “Coming Unbuttoned”, which documented his eighty-year artistic journey in life through the famous and infamous circles of 1930s New York to the avant-garde culture of San Francisco in the 1960s and 70s.

Starting in the late 1960s, James Broughton returned to filmmaking and produced both short and full length films. His first film was the 1968 “The Bed”, which won prizes at many film festivals. Containing a highly energetic musical score by Warner Jepson, it featured ground-breaking full-frontal, yet innocent, nudity of male and female figures gathered around the same bed. Broughton’s later poetic films include such works as the 1972 “Dreamwood”, a story of one man’s journey to a mysterious island: “The Water Circle”, a 1975 poetic homage to sage Lao-tsu on the world’s bodies of water; the 1979 “Hermes Bird”, a celebration of the transformative power of the phallus; and the 1988 “Scattered Remains”, one of six films created with his partner Joel Singer, in which Broughton acts out his verses in unlikely situations.

Broughton’s honors include a Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and an American Film Institute Award for Independent Film and Video Artists. He was an early poet member of the Radical Faeries, a counterculture movement that redefined queer consciousness through secular spirituality, and a member of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a protest and street performance group that used drag and religious imagery to call attention to sexual intolerance. Broughton also taught at both San Francisco State University and San Francisco’s Art Institute.

James Broughton had relationships with both men and women. He lived briefly with film critic Pauline Kael, with whom he had a daughter in 1948. At the age of forty-nine, Broughton married Suzanne Hart, with whom he had two children. In 1973, he met Joel Singer, a twenty-five year old student at one of his San Fransisco Art Institute classes, and began both a strong personal relationship and a lengthy film collaboration. In 1989, Broughton and Singer moved to Port Townsend, Washington, where they lived until Broughton’s death, at the age of eighty-five, in May of 1999.

“The quietest poetry can be an explosion of joy. True delicacy is not a fragile thing. The most delicate and yielding of our necessities, water, can be the most powerful destroyer, swallowing everything.

True delicacy is indestructible. Take Shelley, Dickinson, Firbank, Basho. I like things which appear fragile but are tough inside. In the long run the deadly can outmaneuver the brute, the bird is more resourceful than the rhino.” – James Broughton

Note: A remembrance on the life of James Broughton by Martin Goodman as well as an except from Goodman’s interview with Broughton can be found at: http://www.archipelago.org/vol4-1/broughton.htm

Top Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “james Broughton and Joel Singer”, Photo Shoot from “Devotions”, 1983, Gelatin Silver Print

Third Insert Image: Imogen Cunningham, “The Poet and His Alter Ego (James Broughton)”, 1962, Gelatin Silver Print, New Orleans Museum of Art

Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “james Broughton and Joel Singer in “Devotions”, 1983, Gelatin Silver Print

Film History: Nils Asther

Photographer Unknown, “Nils Asther”, July of 1932, Publicity Shot for Cine-Mundial, A New York-based Spanish Magazine

Born in Copenhagen in January of 1897, Nils Anton Althild Asther was a Swedish gay actor who was active in Hollywood from 1926 until the mid-1950s. He was the son of Anton Andersson Asther and Hildegard Augusta Åkerlund, who had accepted his father’s proposal but was unwed at the time of Nils’s birth. Asther spent his first year as a foster child and rejoined his parents after their marriage on May 29th of 1898 in the city of Malmö. He grew up in a deeply religious Lutheran home, where homosexuality was considered a sin by the church and viewed as a disease by Swedish society.

Nils Asther, still a young man, moved to Stockholm where he studied acting under the tutelage of Swedish silent-film and stage actress Augusta Lindberg. Through the endorsement of his teacher, he received his first theatrical engagement at Lorensbergsteatern, the art performance theater in the city of Gothenburg. Asther performed in several productions in Stockholm which included two plays in 1923, “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “ The Admirable Crichton”, and the 1924 production of “Othello” at the Royal Dramatic Theater. 

In 1916 at the age of nineteen, Asther was cast by the pioneer Swedish film director Mauritz Stiller for his silent film “Vingarne (The Wings)”. This production was based the novel “Mikaël” by the internationally recognized Danish author Herman Bang. It starred silent-film actors Egil Eide, Lars Hanson, and Lill Bech, with Nils Asther in a supporting role. Besides being an early gay-themed film, it is recognized for it innovative use of a framing story, a main narrative which is divided into a set of shorter stories, and for its use of flashbacks as the primary plot source. Although only thirty minutes of its seventy-minute length survived, a 1987 restoration used still photos and title cards to bridge the missing sections. 

Now residing in Copenhagen, Nils Asther received support from actor Aage Hertel, a member of the Royal Danish Theater and a leading actor at Nordisk Film. Between 1918 and 1926, Asther appeared in a number of film roles in Denmark, Sweden and Germany. After being approached by a representative from United Artists, he traveled to Hollywood  where he was given the role of  George Shelby in director Delmer Lord’s “Topsy and Eva”, a 1927 silent drama produced by Feature Productions. By 1928 Asther’s suave appearance placed him in leading roles; he soon played opposite such stars as Marion Davies and Joan Crawford.  

Asther appeared in director Harry Beaumont’s 1928 “Our Dancing Daughters”, a silent drama depicting the dangers of loose morals among the young. The film cast included John Mack Brown and Joan Crawford; it was this film role of Charleston-dancing, Prohibition-era drinking Diana Medford that launched Joan Crawford’s career. Asther was next given the leading role of handsome Prince de Gace, who played opposite Greta Garbo’s role of Lillie Sterling, in director Sidney Franklin’s 1929 drama “Wild Orchids”. Though often listed as a silent film, it was released as a non-talking film with orchestral score, sound effects, and title cards for dialogue. Asther had previously known Garbo in Sweden and would continue to be close friends; they appeared together in a second film of the same year, the MGM romantic drama “The Single Standard”. 

With the arrival of sound in film, Nils Asther began voice and diction lessons to minimize his Nordic accent. Due to his accent, many of his early roles in sound films were characters of foreign origins. Asther appeared with Robert Montgomery and, once again, with Joan Crawford in Clarence Brown’s 1932 drama “Letty Lynton”, which recounts the historical murder allegedly committed by nineteenth-century Glasgow socialite madeleine Smith, played by Crawford. In 1933, he was given the role of General Yen in Frank Capra’s drama war film “The Bitter Tea of General Yen”, where he  played opposite Barbara Stanwyck and, after its premiere, received good reviews for his portrayal.

After an alleged breach of contract led to a studio-based blacklist, Asther was forced to work in England between the years 1935 and 1940. He made six films in England before his return to Hollywood. Upon his return, Asther made nineteen more films before 1949; however, he was mostly given small supporting roles from which his career never returned to its former height. During the early 1950s, Asther attempted to revive his career with appearances on television which was becoming a rapidly growing phenomenon in the United States. Managing only to secure roles in a small number of minor television series, he decided in 1958 to return to Sweden. Asther had four film roles and an engagement with a local theater before 1963, at which time he retired from acting and devoted himself to painting. 

Nils Asther passed away on the 13th of October in 1981, at the age of eighty-four, at the Farsta Hospital in Stockholm. He is buried in the village of Hotagen, located in Jämtland, Sweden. Asther was inducted in 1960 into the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the film industry; his star is located at 6705 Hollywood Boulevard. 

Asther was a gay man in a time when it was both a personal and professional social stigma. Although the film industry in the 1920s accepted gay actors with little reservation, the actors had to remain discreet about their sexual orientation. In August of 1930, Asther entered into a lavender marriage with Vivian Duncan, one of the his costars from the 1927 “Topsy and Eva”. This turbulent marriage produced one daughter and resulted, after much media discussion, in a divorce in 1932. 

Nils Asther’s memoir, “The Road of the Jester: Not a God’s Tale: A Memoir”, was published posthumously in 1988 in Stockholm. In this volume, he mentions relationships he had in the 1930s with director Mauritz Stiller and Swedish author Hjalmar Bergman. Asther also had a long-term relationship with actor and  stuntman Ken DuMain, whom he met on Hollywood Boulevard in the early 1940s. 

Top Insert Image: George Hurrell, “Nils Asther”, circa 1930s, MGM Publicity Still, 25.4 x 33 cm, Private Collection

Second Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Nils Asther and Greta Garbo”, 1929, MGM Publicity Shot

Third Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Nils Asther”, French Postcard by Europe, No. 909, MGM Studio Publicity Shot, Date Unknown

Fourth Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Nils Asther”, Date Unknown, Publicity Shot, John Kobal Foundation, Getty Images

Bottom Insert Image: George Hurrell, “Nils Asther and Joan Crawford”, 1932, MGM Publicity Shot

Film History: Alejandro Amenábar

 

Photographers Unknown, A Collection of Thirteen Men

Born in Santiago in March of 1972, Alejandro Fernando Amenábar Cantos is a Spanish-Chilean film director, composer, and screenwriter. In August of 1973, his family relocated to Spain where they settled in Madrid, initially living in a camper-van and later moving to a complex in Madrid’s outer neighborhoods. From the age of fifteen, Amenábar was passionate about cinematic art; he also wrote stories and musical compositions for the guitar and keyboard.

Amenábar began his education at The Immaculate Piarist Fathers, a parochial multi-discipline school in Madrid, and later transferred to the secular Alameda de Osuna Institute, one of Madrid’s prominent private schools. After graduating, Amenábar enrolled at the sciences faculty of Madrid’s historic, public research Complutense University where he studied cinema and directing. There he met people who would lend support to his career in cinema including Argentine journalist Carlos Montero, actor Eduardo Noriega and Mateo Gil Rodriguez,  a filmmaker who would co-write most of Amenábar’s films.

In 1991, Alejandro Amenábar released the first of his short films, “La Cabeza (Head)”. The script, based on an urban legend, was written by Mateo Rodriquez and Amenábar, who also composed the musical score in collaboration with Alfredo Alonso. This film earned Amenábar a prize from the Amateur Independent Film Association. His second short film, the 1992  “Himenóptero”, was shot on location at Alameda de Osuna Institute, his former high school. Amenábar wrote the script and music for the horror suspense film, was director and editor, and performed the only male role. (Note: Hymenoptera is a large order of insects which includes wasps, bees, sawflies and ants.)

At the age of twenty-two, Amenábar released his first full-length film, the 1996 “Tésis (Thesis)”, which secured his reputation as one of Spain’s most promising  cinematographers. This film, which commented on the Spanish film industry, Hollywood’s influence on the industry and the voyeurism of the horror genre, was nominated for eight Goya awards, of which it won seven including Best Film. In 1997, Amenábar released the science-fiction based, psychological thriller, “Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes)”, which starred Penelope Cruz and Eduardo Noriega. The rights to this movie were later acquired by actor Tom Cruise who directed and starred in the American remake entitled “Vanilla Sky”, with Penelope Cruz playing the same role of the original film.

Alejandro Amenábar followed his success with an English language movie in 2001, entitled “The Others”, a psychological, gothic horror film. Written and directed by Amenábar, the supernatural film relied on tension built during disturbing scenes for its horror rather than the use of special effects. “The Others”, with its film score by Amenábar, was a box-office success and won seven Goya Awards, including Best Film and Best Director. It also won three Saturn Awards for Best Horror Film, Best Actress for Nicole Kidman, and Best Supporting Actress for Fionnula Flanagan, who played the housekeeper Bertha Mills.

In 2004, Amenábar had another success with his “Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside)”, based on the true life story of Ramón Sampedro. Paralyzed from the neck down, Sampedro fought a thirty-year campaign to win the right to end his life with dignity.The film won fourteen Goya Awards, including Best Film and Best Director, and won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

In 2008, Amenábar released the historical drama “Agora”. Written by Mateo Gil and Amenábar, the biopic told the life story of Hypatia, the fourth-century female mathematician and astronomer who investigated the flaws of the geocentric Ptolemaic system of the solar system and the heliocentric model that challenged it. Winning seven Goya Awards, the film had limited release in the United States but was Spain’s highest grossing film of 2009.

After a seven year hiatus, Alejandro Amenábar released his psychological horror mystery film “Regression” in 2015. The film premiered at the 2015 San Sebastián International Film Festival. In 2019, he released the Spanish-Argentine historical drama “While at War”, the plot of which tracks the plight of writer and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno in 1936 Salamanca, a city controlled during the Spanish Civil War by the Rebel faction. 

In addition to composing the scores of his own films, he laid the sound tracks for Josè Luis Cuerda’s 1999 coming-of-age film“Butterfly’s Tongue” and Mateo Gil’s 1999 mystery film “Nobody Known Anybody”, among others. 

Top Insert Image: Mateo Gil, “Alejandro Amenábar, Himenóptero”, 1992

Third Insert Image: Javier Aguirresarobe, “Alakina Mann, The Others”, 1992, Written and Directed by Alejandro Amenábar, Warner Brothers

Film History: Luchino Visconti

Photographers Unknown, Parts and Pieces Making a Whole: Set Fourteen

Born in Milan in November of 1906, Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo, was an Italian screenwriter, stage director and filmmaker. A major figure in Italian art and culture, he was one of the pioneers of cinematic neorealism, a film movement that explored the conditions of the poor and lower working class, which was shot almost exclusively on location and generally filmed with nonprofessional actors and local people.

One of seven children born into a prominent noble family in Milan, Luchino Visconti grew up in the family seat, the Palazzo di Modrone in Via Cerva, as well as in Grazzano Viconsti Castle, the family estate. Exposed in his early years to music, art and theater,Visconti studied cello with the Italian cellist and composer Lorenzo de Paolis and met the poet and playwright Gabriele D’Annunzio, composer Giacomo Puccini, and the conductor Arturo Toscanini. 

During the second World War, Visconti joined the Italian Communist Party, which he saw as the only viable opponent to Mussolini’s Italian Fascism. After Mussolini’s overthrow and Italy’s armistice in September of 1943 with the Allies, he began working with the Italian resistance and provided his villa in Roma as a meeting place for oppositional artists. After the Germans invaded Italy, Visconti went into hiding in the mountains where he hid English and American prisoners of war after their escapes. He also provided shelter to the resistance fighters in Rome. 

Through the intercession of their common friend Coco Chanel, Luchino Visconti began his filmmaking career as a set dresser on directorJean Renoir’s 1936 short feature “Partie de Campagane”. He also worked with Renoir on the 1941 historical drama “Tosca”, until it was interrupted by the war. Along with film director Roberto Rossellini, Visconti joined the salon of Vittorio Mussolini, who was then Italy’s national arbitrator for cinema and the arts. While with this group of artists, he wrote the screenplay for his first film as director, the 1943 “Ossessione (Obsession)”, one of the first neorealist movies to be made. Visconti, in collaboration with a group of writers, adapted the film from a French version of “The Postman Always Rings Twice” given to him byJean Renoir during the time they worked together in France.

In 1948, Visconti wrote and directed “The Earth Trembles”, an exploration of working-class fishermen in a small village, which was based on Giovanni Verga’s novel “The House by the Medlar Tree”. This film received a Special International Award at the 9th Venice International Film Festival. After filming his 1951 drama film “Bellissima”, a satire of the postwar Italian film industry, Visconti diverted from the neorealist movement with his 1954 melodrama “Senso”, a color film which combined romanticism with realism. He returned to neorealism with his 1960 “Rocco and His Brothers”, a story about Southern Italians who migrate to Milan hoping to find financial stability. This film won Silver Ribbons from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists for Best Director and Screenplay. 

Through the 1960s, Luchino Visconti’s films became more personalized. He felt the conflict between the post-war world of difficult economic and moral conditions, including its poverty and injustice, and his origins from an important and wealthy noble family. He considered himself as belonging to a past world, particularly that of the nineteenth-century. Visconti’s 1963 “The Leopard”, based on author Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel of the same name, depicts the decline of the old social order and its aristocracy and the rise of the new modern world. In his research for the film, he searched through world literature for relevant works to show discrepancies between familial generations and their world views. “The Leopard”, the sixth most popular film of the year in France, won the Palme d’Or at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival.

Visconti’s 1969 “The Damned”, tells the story of a German industrialist’s family which begins to disintegrate during the Nazi’s consolidation of power in the 1930s. It is regarded as the first of Visconti’s films described as “The German Trilogy”; this 1969 film is followed by the 1971 “Death in Venice” and the 1973 “Ludwig”, a biographical film about the life and death of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The October opening of “The Damned” in Rome met with critical acclaim; however, it faced controversy from the rating board due to its sexual content, including depictions of homosexuality, pedophilia, rape and incest. Upon its entry to the United States, it was given an X rating, which was only lowered to an R rating after twelve minutes of offending footage were cut. The film won the Italian Film Journalists’ 1970  Silver Ribbon Award and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Luchino Visconti’s next film was the1971 “Death in Venice”, written by Visconti and screenwriter Nicola Badalucco. Based on Thomas Mann’s 1912 novel of the same name, it tells the story of composer Gustav von Aschenbach, a man dying from heart disease, who travels with his wife to Venice for rest, unaware that the city is in the midst of a cholera epidemic. The composer soon develops an obsession with the beauty of an adolescent Polish boy named Tadzio, who is staying with his family in the same hotel. “Death in Venice” was nominated for several awards: BAFTA Awards for Best Direction and Best Film, and the 1971 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Visconti’s film won both the David di Donatello and the Nastro d’Argento for Best Director. 

Baptized and raised in the Roman Catholic church, Luchino Visconti remained a devout Catholic throughout his life. His first three-year relationship, which started in 1936, with photographer Horst P. Horst remained discreet due legal and social conventions of the time. In his later years, Visconti appeared openly with his lovers, among whom were actor Udo Kier and film director Franco Zeffirelli. His last lover was the Austrian actor Helmut Berger, who played  Martin in “The Damned” and later appeared in Visconti’s 1973 “Ludwig” and the 1974 “Conversation Piece”.

Luchino Visconti, who was also a celebrated theater and opera director,  suffered a stroke in 1972. He died in Rome of a second stroke at the age of sixty-nine in March of 1976.  On the island of Ischia where Visconti had his summer residence, there is a museum dedicated to his work.

Note: An interesting article on the film “The Damned”, including information on its technical production, is Wheeler Winston Dixon’s “Grandeur and Decadence: Luchino Visconti’s The Damned (1969)” located at: https://www.sensesofcinema.com/2021/cteq/grandeur-and-decadence-luchino-viscontis-the-damned-1969/

Top Insert Image: Horst P. Horst, “Luchino Visconti, Paris”, 1937, Gelatin Silver Print

Second Insert Image: Luchino Visconti, “Rocco and His Brothers”, (Alan Delon and Renato Salvatori), 1960, Astor Pictures

Third Insert Image: Luchino Visconti, “The Damned” (Helmut Berger, Dirk Bogarde and Ingrid Thulin), Ital-Noleggio Cinematografico and Warner Brothers-Seven Arts 1969,

Fourth Insert Image: Mario Tursi, “Luchino Visconti with Björn Andrésen on the Set of “Death in Venice”, 1970, Gelatin Silver Print

Bottom Insert Image: Luchino Visconti, “The Leopard” (Burt Lancaster), 1963, Titanus/ Parthé/ 20th Century Fox

Film History: James Whale

Photographers Unknown, I Am Rather the Fallen Angel

“Be calm! I entreat you to hear me before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.” 

― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, 1818 

Born in Dudley, a town in the county of Worcestershire, in July of 1889, James Whale was an English actor and film and theater director, best remembered by many for his classic horror films. Known for his use of camera movement, he is credited with being the first director to use a 360-degree panning shot in a feature film.

James Whale was the sixth of seven children born to William Whale, a blast-furnace worker, and his wife Sarah, a nurse. He attended public education until his teenage years. Because the cost of his further education was prohibitive and his labor was needed to support his family, Whale took work as a cobbler. He used his early artistic ability to earn extra money by lettering signs for his neighbors; this additional income paid for classes at the Dudley School of Arts and Crafts located in the West Midlands.

In August of 1914, Whale enlisted into the Inns of Court Regiment of the British Army at the outbreak of the first world war; in July of 1916, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Worcestershire Regiment. Taken prisoner of war in August of 1917 at the battle in  Flanders, Whale was held at the Holzminden Officers’ Camp in Germany and later repatriated at the war’s end to England in December of 1918. After an unsuccessful attempt to find work as a cartoonist in Birmingham, he embarked on a professional stage career in 1919. 

James Whale worked as an actor, set designer, stage manager, and director under the tutelage of director and actor Nigel Playfair at the Lyric Theater in Hammersmith. In 1922, he met stage and costume designer Doris Zinkeisen; they were considered a couple for a period of two years despite Whale’s living as an openly gay man. In 1928, Whale was given the opportunity to direct two private performances of writer Robert Cedric Sherriff’s “Journey’s End”, a play that gave a glimpse of British infantry officers’ experiences in the trenches of France during 1918. The two lead roles were given to actors Laurence Olivier and Maurice Evans. 

The initial two performances of “Journey’s End” were well received; and the play opened in January of 1929, with actor Colin Clive now in the lead, at the Savoy Theater in London’s West End. Critically acclaimed, the play after its three-week run was then transferred to the Prince of Wales Theater in Coventry Street, where it ran for the next two years. The rights to a New York production of “Journey’s End” were acquired by Broadway producer Gilbert Miller who chose James Whale, already experienced with the play, for its director. This production of the play premiered at Henry Miller’s Theater at Broadway and West 43rd Street and ran for over a year. 

Brought to the attention of movie producers by the Broadway success of “Journey’s End”, James Whale traveled to Hollywood in 1929 and signed a contract with Paramount Pictures to be the dialogue director for the 1929 film “The Love Doctor”. After the completion of the film, Whale met David Lewis, who became his longtime romantic partner; they lived together until 1952. David Lewis would later become a prominent film producer in the 1940s and 1950s, known for producing such films as the 1939 “Dark Victory” with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart and the 1957  “Raintree County” with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor.  

In 1931, James Whale began what is probably the best known part of his career as a producer. He signed a five-year contract with Universal Studios and received his first project, the 1931 drama-war romance film “Waterloo Bridge”, which starred actress Mae Clarke, who is remembered by many for playing Jame Cagney’s girl in “The Public Enemy”. Later in 1931, Carl Laemmie, Jr, the twenty-five year old head of Universal Studios, gave Whale his choice of which studio-owned property he wanted for his next shoot; Whale chose the script for “Frankenstein”. He casted Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein and Mae Clarke as Elizabeth Frankenstein, Henry’s wife, and chose the little known Boris Karloff for the role of the Monster. Shooting ran from August 24th of 1931 to October 3rd. After premieres on October 29th of 1931, “Frankenstein” had a wide release beginning on November 21st and instantly became a hit with critics and the public.

In 1932, Whale directed two films: the drama “The Impatient Maiden” and a thriller film with Karloff and Charles Laughton entitled “The Old Dark House”, which has been credited with reinventing the “old house” genre of horror films. Whale’s 1933 film, “The Kiss Before the Mirror”, a pre-Code mystery film, received little notice and was a box-office failure. With a script approved by author H. G. Wells, Whale returned to the horror genre and produced the 1933 “The Invisible Man” which the New York Times placed in their list of best films for that year. This adaption of Well’s book, whose special effects were done in utmost secrecy, broke box-office records in cities across America.

James Whale’s next major project was the 1935 “Bride of Frankenstein”, a sequel to the original movie which he was initially reluctant to do for fear of being typecast as a horror director. The film, however, was a critical and commercial success; today it is regarded as the finest of all gothic horror movies and considered Whale’s masterpiece. Whale worked next on a comedy-mystery film entitled “Remember Last Night?” which resulted in divided reviews. After its completion, Whale started immediately on the project that had been in his mind for a long time, a film version of the stage production “Show Boat”. 

For the film version of this long-running romantic musical, Whale gathered as many members of the original show as he could; these included Paul Robeson, Helen Morgan, Sammy White, Irene Dunne, and conductor Victor Baravalle and orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett. Great care was taken by Whale to ensure a feeling of complete authenticity in the set and costume design for this film. Faithfully adapted from the original stage production, the 1936 “Show Boat” is considered the definitive film version of the musical by many critics. This film was the last of Whale’s films produced with the Laemmie family.

Jame Whale eventually retired from the film industry in 1941. Encouraged by his partner David Lewis to resume his artwork, he rediscovered his love of painting and built a studio for himself. In 1942, Whale made training films for the United States Army and created, in collaboration with actress Claire DuBrey, the theater group Brentwood Service Players. He returned to Broadway to direct the 1940 thriller “Hand in Glove” and directed his final film, a short subject entitled “Hello Out There”. Whale’s last professional engagement was the comedy play “Pagan in the Parlour”, which was forced to close early due to contract difficulties that happened during its opening tour in Europe.

While in Europe, Whale met and became infatuated with the twenty-five year old bartender Pierre Foegel. He made the decision to bring Foegel back to the United States as his chauffeur. In November of 1952 when David Lewis heard this, he ended their twenty-three year relationship, separated but still maintained a friendship. Foegel moved in with Whale in early 1953, returned for several months to France, and then in 1954  moved back permanently with Whale. In the spring of 1956, Whale suffered a small stroke, and was hospitalized several months later after suffering a second and more severe stroke. As his mental faculties were diminishing, he began to suffer from mood swings and depression. 

James Whale committed suicide, at the age of sixty-seven, by drowning himself in his Pacific Palisades swimming pool on the 29th of May in 1957. He left a suicide note to David Lewis, who withheld it from the public until his own death. Whale was cremated per his request and his ashes were interred in the Columbarium of Memory at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. When David Lewis died in 1987, James Curtis, as his executor, had Lewis’s  ashes interred in a niche across from Whale’s internment site. James Curtis would later write the definitive biography of Whale, “James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters”, published in 2003.

Note: James Whale lived as an openly gay man throughout his career in the British theater and in Hollywood, which was virtually unheard of in that era. While he did not go out of his way to publicize his homosexuality, he made no effort to conceal it either.

Insert Images:
A— Photographer Unknown, “James Whale” (Profile), circa 1930, Cream-Toned Vintage Print, 23.7 x 18 cm, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC
B—”Frankenstein”, Colin Clive and Boris Karloff, 1931, Universal Pictures
C—”The Invisible Man”, Claude Rains and Gloria Stuart, 1933, Universal Pictures
D—Photographer Unknown, “James Whale”, Date Unknown
E—”Show Boat”, Paul Robeson, Irene Dunne, Hattie McDaniel, and Helen Morgan, 1936, Universal Pictures
F—Photographer Unknown, “James Whale”, circa 1930, Cream-Toned Vintage Print, 23.7 x 18 cm, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

James Baldwin: “The Child is Filled with Darkness”

Photographer Unknown, The Child is Filled with Darkness

“In a moment someone will get up and turn on the light. Then the old folks will remember the children and they won’t talk anymore that day. And when light fills the room, the child is filled with darkness. He knows that every time this happens he’s moved just a little closer to that darkness outside. The darkness outside is what the old folks have been talking about. It’s what they’ve come from. It’s what they endure. The child knows that they won’t talk any more because if he knows too much about what’s happened to them, he’ll know too much too soon, about what’s going to happen to him.” 

—-James Baldwin, Sonny’s Blues

“Sonny’s Blues” is a short story written by James Baldwin, originally published in 1957 in the Partisan Review, a small circulation quarterly New York City magazine dealing with politics, literature, and culture. Written in the first-person singular narrative style, the story presents the memories of a 1950s black teacher in Harlem as he reacts to his brother Sonny’s drug addiction, arrest, and recovery. 

Baldwin’s story is set in New York City of the post–World War Two era, when an important political and cultural change was occurring. A diverse array of artists from all over the world, learning and borrowing ideas and techniques from each other,  converged in the city and made New York a new cultural capital. Despite differences in style and subject matter, these artists were responding, through their work, to what they believed was America’s unique cultural and political crisis.

While the art scene in New York was rapidly expanding, thousands of African American soldiers were returning home from the war and heading north toward communities like Harlem.  Instead of finding new job opportunities and equal rights, the returning men found newly constructed housing projects and vast urban slums. Hundreds of homes in Harlem had been leveled to build these housing projects, which would eventually become symbols of urban blight and poverty,. This experience would be faced by thousands of other African-Americans in the years after the war’s conclusion.

Although America in the 1950s was generally more conservative, the groundwork for the 1960s radical political movements was being laid. The civil rights movement, which had begun in the South earluer in the decade, had started to rapidly spread across the country as millions of African Americans began to seek equal rights. Written at this critical juncture in history, James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” is a testament to the frustration of life in the cities of America and this frustration’s eventual transformation into a political and artistic movement.

Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” was adapted for a short film of the same name by Gregory Scott Williams Jr for his second year project at New York University’s Graduate Film Program. Written and directed by Williams, the short, seventeen-minute film was produced by Seith Mann and starred actor Charles Parnell as the narrator-brother David, and New York-based poet and verbal stylist Saul Williams in the role of Sonny. The cinematography was by Cybel Martin, featuring the music of Gil Scott-Heron and Ray Charles with an original score by composer and pianist John Bickerton. The film can be found in its entirely at YouTube:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Y9CDEfnKvQ

The Tesla World Light

Matthew Rankin, “The Tesla World Light”, 2017

“The Tesla World Light” is a eight-minute 2017 black and white avant-garde film by Montreal director Matthew Rankin which imagines the latter days of inventor Nikola Tesla in New York City in 1905. It is a fanciful mixture of elements from Tesla’s life including his pleas to J. P. Morgan for funding and his love for a “electric” pigeon. The film sources interviews with Tesla and letters by Tesla found in the Library of Congress. 

In the film, Matthew Rankin combined pixilation with a technique called light-animation, which involves moving a light source in the frame to produce light rays. He estimated he used as many as fifteen thousand sparklers to produce the effects, along with flashlights, LEDs, and fluorescent lamps.

Matthew Rankin adopted a visual-music approach to the film. He worked with sound artist Sasha Ratcliffe, who recreated Tesla’s device, the Tesla Spirit Radio, which received and transmitted the sound of light waves with the intensity varying according to its vibrations. Much of the background sound in the film was produced by this machine.

Produced by Julie Roy, an executive producer at the Canadian National Film Board, “The Tesla World Light” stars Robert Vilar as Tesla, with cinematography by Julian Fontaine and music by Christophe Lamarche. The film had its world premiere in official competition in May at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and was selected for the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.

“The Tesla World Light” received an honorable mention in the Best Canadian Short Film category at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and received a listing on Canada’s Top Ten list of short films. It also won the 2018 Canadian Screen Award for Best Animated Short Films.

Deux Couples au Déjeuner

Artist Unknown, Deux Couples au Déjeuner (Two Couples at Lunch), Computer Graphics, Film Gifs, “El Juego de las Ilaves”, 2019

“The boys were amazed that I could make such a poem as that out of my own head, and so was I, of course, it being as much a surprise to me as it could be to anybody, for I did not know that it was in me. If any had asked me a single day before if it was in me, I should have told them frankly no, it was not.

That is the way with us; we may go on half of our life not knowing such a thing is in us, when in reality it was there all the time, and all we needed was something to turn up that would call for it.” 

—Mark Twain, Joan of Arc

Note: The film gifs are from the Mexican comedic television series “El Juego de las Ilaves ( The Game of Keys)”. The series revolves around the lives of four couples who decide to be swingers among themselves, and addresses the issues of monogamy in long relationships, self-realization and desire. Sebastián Zurita, in the role of Seergio Morales, and Horacio Pancheri, as Valentin Lombardo, are the male actors in the gifs.

Magnus Hirschfeld

Magnus Hirschfeld, “Different from the Others”, 1919,  Directed by Richard Oswald, Cinematography by Max Fassbender, Richard Oswald Film, Berlin

Video Soundtrack: “Meditation de Thais” by Joshua Bell

Born in May of 1868 in Kolberg, Prussia, Magnus Hirschfeld was a German physician and sexologist educated primarily in Germany, earning his doctoral degree in 1892. Observing the suicide rate of his gay patients, he became an outspoken advocate for sexual minorities. In May of 1897 Hirschfeld founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, a campaign for social recognition of gay, bisexual, and transgender men and women, and against their legal persecution. Under Herschfeld’s leadership, the Committee gathered over five thousand signatures on a petition to overturn Paragraph 175, the section of the German penal code that criminalized homosexuality. It received little support in the Reichstag in 1898, made some progress later, until its demise with the Nazi Party took power. 

With the rise of the national socialist party in Germany, Magnus Hirschfeld was badly beaten by a group of võlkisch activists who attacked him on the streeet. In 1933, his Institute for the Research of Sexuality was sacked, the staff beaten, and its contents of books and documents burned on the street. At the time of the book burning, Hirschfeld was on a world speaking tour. He never returned to Germany, eventually near the end of his life, settling in Nice, France. Magnus Hirschfeld died in Nice on May 14, 1935 and is buried in the Caucade Cemetery.  

Enacted in 1871, the German penal code’s Paragraph 175 sentenced thousands of accused German homosexual men to jail terms for “unnatural vice between men.” In 1919, director Richard Oswald and psychologist Dr.Magnus Hirschfeld created a film intended to expose the unjust Paragraph 175 and help liberate the “third sex” from legal persecution and public scorn. It was the first movie to portray homosexual characters beyond the usual innuendo and ridicule.

“Different from the Others” casts Conrad Veidt as Paul Korner, a gay concert pianist blackmailed by a closeted crook named Bollek. When Korner’s budding romance with Kurt Sivers, a handsome young music student, played by Fritz Schulz,  runs afoul of Bollek’s extortion, Korner goes to the German courts for protection. But the draconian Paragraph 175 makes criminals out of both accuser and accused, ultimately costing Korner his career, his freedom, and his life.

One of the first gay-themed films in the history of cinema, “Different from the Others” was banned at the time of its release, later burned by the Nazis and was believed lost for more than forty years. Using recently discovered film segments, still photos and censorship documents from different archives, Filmmuseum Muenchen has resurrected this truly groundbreaking silent film for DVD.

Second Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Magnus Hirschfeld with his partner, Li Shiu Tong in Nice, France”. 1934-1935, Gelatin Silver Print

Third Image Insert: Magnus Hirschfeld, on the right, with his partner Tao Li, at the fourth conference of the World League for Sexual Reform in 1932. Tao Li’s father, Li Kam-tong, a wealthy Hong Kong business man, approved of his son’s relationship with Hirschfeld.

Film video reblogged with thanks to:  https://www.kinolorber.com/film/view/id/732

Sergei Parajanov

Sergei Parajanov, “The Color of Pomegranates”, 1969, Computer Graphics, Film Gifs

The 1969 Soviet art film “The Color of Pomegranates”, written and directed by Sergei Parajanov, is a visual, poetic treatment of the life of the eighteenth-century Armenian musician and poet Sayat-Nova. The film is presented in a series of chapters depicting the poet’s life in active tableaux, presented with little dialogue. Each chapter, framed through Sayat-Nova’s poems, is indicated by a title card: Childhood, Youth, Prince’s Court, The Monastery, The Dream, Old Age, The Angel of Death, and Death. Narration on the film was done by Armenian-born renowned actor Armen Dzhigarkhanyan, known for his role in the 1979 “The Meeting Place Can Not Be Changed”. 

Four actors took the role of Sayat-Nova at different stages in his life, with Soviet Georgian actress Sofiko Chiaureli, notably playing six roles in the film, both female and male. The film was shot at numerous historical sites in northern Armenia, many being medieval churches in the Lori Provence, including the Sarahin Monastery and the St. John church at Ardvi. Filming was also done at the Old City of Baku, Azerbaijani, and in the countryside near the David Gareja Monastary in Eastern Georgia. 

Objections were made by the Communist Party and the Soviet censors  to Parajanov’s poetic, stylized treatment of the poet’s life, citing that it failed to educate the public. As a result, the original title “Sayat-Nova” was changed to “The Color of Pomegranates” and any references to Sayat-Nova’s name was removed from the credits. The Soviet officials also objected to the amount of religious imagery in the film and removed a substantial portion of it. Although the State Committee for Cinematography initially refused to allow the film to be shown outside Armenia, it did allow the film, now with a seventy-seven minute running time, to premiere inside Armenia in October of 1969.

Filmmaker Sergei Yutkevich,  the 1962 People’s Artist of the USSR and a script-reader on the State Committee, recut the film by a few minutes to appease the authorities and created Russian-language chapter titles for easier understanding by the public at large. He also changed the order of some of the sequences in the film. This seventy-three minute version ultimately received only limited distribution in the rest of the Soviet Union. 

The digital restoration of “The Color of Pomegranates” was completed in 2014 by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation with the help of Cineteca di Bologna. It was re-edited as close as possible to the Sergei Parajanov’s original version, with its premier held at the 67th Cannes Film Festival. Parajanov’s film premiered in the US at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in September of 2014 and the 52nd New York Film Festival in October of 2014.

New Power

Artist Unknown, (New Power), Computer Graphics, Anime Film Gifs

“Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Any information on the artist or film source would be much appreciated. Thanks.

Shannon L. Alder: “The Dark Angel”

Artist Unknown, (The Dark Angel), Computer Graphics, Film Gifs (Film Unknown)

“When you meet a dark angel don’t you ever for one minute believe they are bad because they have faced the worst demons and lived to guide you through yours. It really isn’t an easy job they have been asked to do, but then neither was standing on the front line during the war in heaven.”
Shannon L. Alder

Reblogged with many thanks to https://domus-aurea2.tumblr.com

Greeks Come True

 

Konstantinos Rigas by Vangelis Kyris, “Greeks Come True”, 2019

“Greeks Come True” is a movie filmed by Vangelis Kyris in conjunction with a photo shooting for the Greeks Come True annual print calendar which is available every December. Filmed entirely on a Greek mountain farm, the eighty minute film follows the fifteen men and athletes involved in the calendar shoot. The film’s multi-genre sooundtrack features some of Greece’s promising musical artists.

Samurai Champloo

“Samurai Champloo” is a Japanese anime series developed by the Japanese animation and production company Manglobe. The production team was lead by director Shinichiro Watanabe, character designer Kazuto Nakazawa and mechanical designer Mahiro Maeda. This series was Watanabe’s first directorial effort for an anime television series after his critically acclaimed “Cowboy Bebop”.  “Samurai Champloo” ran for twenty-six episodes from May of 2004 until March of 2005.

The series blended historical Edo-period backdrops with modern styles and references. The show dealt with the Shimabara Rebellion in Edo-era Japan, the restriction of Japanese foreign relations exclusive of the Netherlands, the art of ukiyo-e painting, and fictionalized appearances of real-life Edo-era personalities. Artistic license trumped accuracy and the music score used contemporary music.

Kôichi Imaizumi, “Berlin Drifters”

Kôichi Imaizumi, “Berlin Drifters”, Trailer, 2017, Habakari Cinema Research, Jurgen Bruning Filmproduction

Pinku eiga star and intense adult director Kôichi Imaizumi teamed with Japan’s prominent adult manga author for the film “Berlin Drifters”. A low-budget, all-hands-on-deck affair, “Berlin Drifters “ unites a who’s who of Asian and European eroticists, from Dutch porn star Michael Selvaggio and German self-described erotic photographer Claude Kolz to Chinese LGBT activist and dramatist Xiaogang Wei. Most notable, however, could be the participation of Japanese gay erotica artist Gengoroh Tagame, most easily described as Japan’s Tom of Finland.

Imaizumi is perhaps best known as a pinku eiga actor — the soft-core Japanese mini-features, celebrated in last year’s Nikkastu Roman Porno Series and which have given some of the country’s most prominent filmmakers their starts. As a director, Imaizumi dabbled with graphic sex in both “The Secret to My Silky Skin”, starring Majima, and the troubling sci-fi rape comedy “The Family Complete”.

Imaizumi’s hallmarks of sexuality and masculinity are present in “Berlin Drifters”,  but also the insights regarding acceptance and the stigmas surrounding homosexuality in Japan. “Berlin Drifters” was shown at the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Sales of the film are through Habakari Cinema Research.

“Sebastiane”

“Sebastiane”, 1976, Directed by Derek Jarman and Paul Humfress

Sebastiane” is a 1976 Latin-language British historical thriller directed by Derek Jarman and Paul Humfress. The screenplay, written by Jarman, Humfress, and James Whaley, portrays events in the life of Saint Sebastian, including his martyrdom by arrows. The film, which was targeted to a gay audience, was controversial for the homoerotism portrayed and for being dialogued entirely in vulgar Latin. It was the only English-made film to have required English subtitles.

Intensely erotic, “Sebastiane” was filmed in Sardinia, near the town of Buggerru, and in locations in Italy. The film is an early film by the noted experimental and outspokenly gay director Jarman and features the debut of actor Leonardo Treviglio in his role of Sebastian. A bold film having the distinction of being the first non-porn film to show a male erection, “Sebastiane” now is probably only for the film aficionado who loves film- making and its history. A milestone in the history of non-porn gay films.

Hitchcock’s “The Lodger”

Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lodger”, 1927

The Lodger, the silent film that Hitchcock directed in 1927, is generally acknowledged to be the one where he properly found his “voice”: that distinctive combination of death and fetishism, trick shots and music-hall humour, intense menace and elegant camerawork that assured his place among cinema’s giants.

The material, drawn from a novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes, is rather obviously inspired by the Jack the Ripper murders; they were still within living memory. Hitchcock himself claimed later that producing studio Gainsborough, including Michael Balcon, ordered him to remove any ambiguity that the central character, the mysterious room-renter of the title, might be guilty of the crimes himself, instead of simply the innocent victim of false suspicion.