Paper Trail: Great American Couple

In an exclusive excerpt from his new book, Hollywood Bohemians: Transgressive Sexuality and the Selling of the Movieland Dream, Brett L. Abrams explores the relationship between Cary Grant and Randolph Scott, who led homosexual lives right under everyone's nose.

BY Advocate.com Editors

January 05 2009 1:00 AM ET

In an exclusive excerpt from his new book,
Hollywood Bohemians: Transgressive Sexuality and the Selling
of the Movieland Dream, Brett L. Abrams explores
the relationship between Cary Grant and Randolph
Scott, who led homosexual lives right under
everyone's nose.

Newspaper and
magazine articles, Hollywood novels, and Hollywood movies
featuring Hollywood between the late 1910s and early 1940s
showed audiences homosexuals, adulterers, effeminate
males, and butch females. Actress Greta Garbo defined
herself as a bachelor. Screenwriter Mercedes De Acosta
wore mannish attire. A trio of male heartthrobs attended a
party and showed no romantic interest in women. Homosexual
designers picked up men in nightclubs. The industry
and the media covering Hollywood developed and
disseminated these real and fictional characters, whom
I call Hollywood’s bohemians.

The Hollywood
bohemians appeared because they contributed significantly
to the construction of the movie capital’s image.
They helped forge the perspective of Hollywood as the
most racy, risqué and unconventional place in the
country. Hollywood was the dream factory, a place to project
our fantasies and reflect our dreams, no matter how
outlandish. The usual Hollywood publicity enabled
audience members to develop a sense of intimacy with
the celebrity so that readers could imagine themselves as
having a greater understanding of the star.

Hollywood
bohemian images increased the appeal to audiences’
prurient interests with sexual naughtiness. As
homosexuals, adulterers, effeminate males, and butch
females, the bohemians embodied the pleasures of the
forbidden and the taboo. Hollywood bohemians linked the
industry to exposure of (previously) guarded secrets.
They played an important role in developing
Hollywood’s image as a place of sexual abandon,
further enhancing the Hollywood
“mystique.” The brilliance of these images was
that they set the bohemians at familiar Hollywood locations.
The presence of the sexual “other” makes
the location more exciting, and the familiar location
makes the “other” less threatening.

The bohemians are
the forerunners of today’s highly sexualized images.
They highlighted celebrity and public figures’
personal lives, which has become the focus of
extensive coverage now. They represent an early
example of the media presenting culturally controversial
behavior images to attract audiences.

The first
publicity images containing information about Grant and
Scott began after they became friends while filming
the movie Hot Saturday in mid–1932.
Press reports during the first two years described the
actors’ shared celebrity home and domestic life
through phrases including, “Hollywood’s
twosome” and “the happy couple.” The
innuendos provided details about the two actors’
personal lives which thrilled fans, making the actors
appear to be two men sharing more than lodgings. 

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