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Gays on film: Turner Classic Movie series begins tonight

Screened Out is the name of the series launching tonight on TCM, and it will cover how homosexuality was treated on film between 1912 and 1970. There will be 44 films featured – a film buff’s delight.

“What people don’t realize is that 77 years ago homosexual themes were considered viable enough to be part of mainstream entertainment,” said Richard Barrios, whose 2005 book Screened Out is the basis for the series. “I think it’s going to open a lot of eyes.”

But all that stopped in 1934 with the adoption of the Motion Picture Production Code, which set standards so strict that for 20 years thereafter, movie married couples had to sleep in twin beds. Any open mention of homosexuality was forbidden.

Screened Out looks at films made before and after the code. They cover lots of territory, from early sound comedies featuring “sissy boys” (Our Betters) to decadent, gender-bending costume melodramas dripping with lurid sex and violence (Cecil B. DeMille’s The Sign of the Cross).

…From the ’50s there are social dramas like Tea and Sympathy that take a veiled approach to homosexuality (effeminate young men aren’t gay, they’re “sensitive”).

Tonight the channel will feature the silent comedy Algie, the Miner (1912), starring Billy Quirk “as a ‘pansy’ who wants to become a cowboy;” and The Boys in the Band (1970).

Check out the TCM list; are there any you are looking forward to seeing?  I’ve seen quite a few (Way Out West (1930), Queen Christina, Caged, Suddenly, Last Summer, Gilda, The Maltese Falcon, The Uninvited, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Advise and Consent, Victim, The Fox, The Boys in the Band).

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding