This month, MGM HD is marking the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots with our LGBTQ+ Pride Movie Marathon on Monday, June 28th. Stories about the gay community on screen have evolved greatly over the last half century from a topic considered too sensitive to mention to something to celebrate and show in all its glorious variations. Join us for an examination of representations of LGBTQ+ life on film with movies curated from the MGM library.
Made in Britain when homosexuality was still a crime, “The Trials of Oscar Wide” (1960) tells the story of the famous writer’s 1895 libel suit against the Marquis of Queensbury. For an actor at the time to take on the role of the flamboyantly gay Wilde was controversial enough that star Peter Finch said he was “scared stiff” when he accepted the part. In director William Wyler’s adaptation of Lilian Hellman’s play, “The Children’s Hour” (1962) the subject is the rumor of an affair between two female teachers, played by Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine. Both movies, made at a time when filmmakers were only beginning to take on the theme of homosexuality take their characters seriously and treat them with respect. However, both revolve around scandals the nature of which are barely hinted at in subtle ways that require the viewer to read through the lines to understand.
There is very little that is subtle about the European comedy “La Cage Aux Folles”
(1979). The film tells the story of a gay couple, Renato (Ugo Tognazzi) and Albin (Michel Serrault), the respective manager and star of a drag club in Saint-Tropez and the farcical hijinks that ensue when their son brings home his bride-to-be and her conservative parents. Unlike the earlier films, the characters in “La Cage Aux Folles” are out of the closet and the picture of a loving – if madcap – relationship between two men. Tognazzi and Serrault were so appealing that they reprised their characters in “La Cage Aux Folles II” (1981)
The eighties brought more grounded depictions of gay life, represented in our marathon with a pair of British films from acclaimed director Stephen Frears. “My Beautiful Launderette” (1986) stars a young Daniel Day-Lewis and Gordon Warnecke as a pair of young lovers in a London suburb. While the two central characters keep their relationship largely hidden from their respective working-class white and Pakistani immigrant communities, their love is not the subject of scandal as it might have been in movies from a generation earlier. Instead, the love between Day-Lewis’ street-punk Johnny and Warnecke’s more reserved Omar, is redemptive and liberating for both young men. “Prick Up Your Ears” (1987) is set in the closeted Britain of the sixties and tells the true story of acclaimed playwright Joe Orton (Gary Oldman) and his lover Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina) as their lives hurtled through fame towards tragedy. Both movies share a portrayal of homosexual life that is matter of fact and realistic.
By the nineties, LGBTQ+ stories could be explored more truthfully across a broader breadth of experiences. “The Wedding Banquet” (1993) is Ang Lee’s affecting comedy about a bisexual Taiwanese immigrant and the lengths he must go to please his parents while staying true to himself. “The Adventures Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (1994) is a groundbreaking fish-out-of-water comedy about drag queens on the road through the Australian Outback. “It’s My Party” (1996) brought together an all-star cast for a serious look at the human cost of AIDS epidemic. “Flawless” (1999) tells the story of friendship between two unlikely characters starring Robert De Niro as a wounded cop and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as his neighbor who is saving up for gender reassignment.
Join us in celebrating tales of the human experience told from across the LGTBQ+ spectrum with our LGTBQ+ Pride Movie Marathon, Monday, June 28th, on MGM HD.