Classic Movies Through an LGBT Lens
BY Trudy Ring
November 16 2012 4:49 AM ET
Above: Van Johnson and Elizabeth Taylor in The Last Time I Saw Paris
That kind of inside info is what Maietta shares as host of the series, which so far has also featured the Elizabeth Taylor melodrama The Last Time I Saw Paris (“It’s a fun, trashy, guilty-pleasure kind of a movie,” he says) and Swing High, Swing Low, with the “luminous” Carole Lombard as a singer wooed by musician Fred MacMurray in a film by the gifted gay director Mitchell Leisen.
One of the things Maietta aims to do with the series is to make viewers aware of the contributions of LGBT artists to classic Hollywood films. “Hollywood would not exist if it weren’t for us,” he says. “We were not only the costume designers but the directors.”
In the 1920s and ’30s, he notes, gay people in the movie business had a measure of freedom, as long as they didn’t get involved in public scandals, showed up to work on time, and made films that were popular. Leisen, for instance, had a lifelong relationship with dancer-choreographer Billy Daniels. There was somewhat less acceptance for LGBT actors. Cary Grant, often said to be gay or bisexual, had at least “a ‘bromance’ of some sort” with housemate Randolph Scott, Maietta says, but Grant had to go on studio-arranged dates with women, although he frequently insisted that Scott go along as well. In 1943, after Grant married heiress Barbara Hutton, he and Scott finally parted ways.
The conservatism of post–World War II era meant not only a blacklist for suspected Communists but a deep closet for gays and lesbians in Hollywood, but their work was still important to the industry. “This is such an unappreciated part of classic Hollywood,” Maietta says. “Gays and lesbians and their contributions to this great industry are greatly unacknowledged.”