Friday Glam Spam: Gowns by Adrian

Gowns by Adrian

(March 3, 1903 – September 13, 1959)

Image Sources: Doctor Macro (1-3); thefoxling (4, 5); Toutlecine.com (6)

Guest Post: Billy Haines, Wisecracker

Welcome to Garbo Laughs’ very first guest post! This smashing biography of the inimitable William Haines was graciously contributed by my friend Louis, who will soon be launching his own film blog Beautiful Bombs, intended to provide a second look at underknown and underrated films. Louis was also kind enough to provide all the gorgeous pictures included in the article, which can all be clicked to be enlarged. Enjoy!

In 1930, William Haines was the number one box office draw in America. By 1933, his contract was dropped and he was unceremoniously given the boot by MGM studios. What horrible scandal could have provoked this? At that point, Billy Haines had been openly living with his lover Jimmie Shields for almost seven years. Given a choice between a career in the closet and a pink slip, Haines chose to be loyal to his partner and honest to himself, at the cost of his career. But Haines is much more than a footnote in gay film history. First of all, he’s gorgeous. Second of all, he’s funny, with a talent for physical humor, and a restless, irreverent wit. Third, he made a career out of pushing barriers and confounding expectations. And best of all, his story has a happy ending.

Billy Haines always had a taste for the finer things in life. He found his hometown of Staunton, Virginia stifling, and by age 14, he and another teenager Billy described as “a boyfriend” ran away together to a nearby town where they found jobs at a factory, and opened up a dance hall (which may have doubled as a bordello) for the rowdy workers. The pair raked in profits until an accidental fire burned down the entire town. Billy left his boyfriend in Virginia and headed north for New York City.

It wasn’t long after moving into Greenwich Village that the beautiful, witty twenty-year-old began to move in some very exclusive gay social circles. Billy admitted in a 1969 interview, “I was kept by the best men and women in New York City.” In between frequenting “pansy” bars, Haines worked as a model. His agent submitted Billy’s picture for MGM’s 1921 “New Faces” Campaign, and within weeks William Haines was on his way to Hollywood to be groomed for stardom.

However, MGM wasn’t sure how to cast the handsome, wisecracking Haines. Casting agents would ask him “What type are you?” He’d shrug and joke, “Latin lover?” For several years he floated from bit part to bit part, finally getting his break as the lead in George W. Hill’s drama The Midnight Express. (more…)

Can’t Stop the Music (1980)

Image Source: MovieGoods

Synopsis: In this pseudo-biographical tale of the formation of 1970s disco giants the Village People, struggling DJ/songwriter Jack Morell (Steve Guttenberg) needs just one big break to get his career off the ground. With the help of his newly-retired supermodel best friend Samantha (Valerie Perrine), Jack gets a record exec to listen to his demo, but Jack’s vocals just don’t cut the mustard. So Jack and Samantha decide to recruit singers from the Greenwich Village area of New York to form a group to perform Jack’s songs. With Samantha’s new beau Ron (Bruce Jenner) offering his Wall Street offices as an audition space, they build a group of six macho men – the Policeman, the Indian, the Construction Worker, the Cowboy, the Leatherman, and the G.I. – and dub them the Village People. But do Jack and his singers have what it takes to reach the top?

Here on Garbo Laughs, I’m dedicating the entire month of June to the topic of Queer Cinema (LGBTQs, and depictions thereof, in classic film). This includes reviewing one relevant film from each decade from the 1910s to the 1990s. This is all leading up to my Queer Film Blogathon on June 27th. Won’t you join me in celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month by contributing a post or two (or three)?

How to put into words my love for this beautiful trainwreck of a film? The first and only directorial effort of television actress Nancy Walker (Rhoda’s mom!), Can’t Stop the Music was meant to be the apotheosis of the disco era, “the movie musical event of the ’80s.” Unfortunately, it was released just after disco had already peaked and was rapidly falling to the era of New Wave. At the time of its release, Newsweek called it “the first all-singing, all-dancing horror film; the Dawn of the Dead of the disco era.” It was a double feature of Can’t Stop the Music and Xanadu which inspired John J.B. Wilson to create the notorious annual Golden Raspberry Awards honoring the worst in film. Can’t Stop was nominated in all but one category at that first ceremony and walked away with the Razzies for both Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay. With a film this bad, you know it’s gotta be good. (more…)

The Christine Jorgensen Story (1970)

Image Source: MovieGoods

Synopsis: Even as a small child, George Jorgensen, Jr. (John Hansen) can tell he’s different from the other boys. His parents sense it, too, and their introverted son serves as a constant source of worry. After a stint in the Army, George finds new confidence in himself as he excels in his career as a fashion photographer. But something still feels wrong. Gradually, George comes to realize that he is in fact a she – a woman trapped in a man’s body. Without his parents’ knowledge, George travels to Denmark to undergo sex reassignment surgery. He stays with his kindly Aunt Thora (Joan Thompkins) who supports George in his efforts to become Christine. When handsome reporter Tom Crawford (Quinn K. Redeker) comes knocking wanting to write Christine’s story, Christine finds more than a confidante. But could it be love?

Here on Garbo Laughs, I’m dedicating the entire month of June to the topic of Queer Cinema (LGBTQs, and depictions thereof, in classic film). This includes reviewing one relevant film from each decade from the 1910s to the 1990s. This is all leading up to my Queer Film Blogathon on June 27th. Won’t you join me in celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month by contributing a post or two (or three)?

We should first get it out of the way that this Irving Rapper telling of the Christine Jorgensen “story” has little if anything to do with the real events of Christine Jorgensen‘s life. In actuality, Jorgensen was the first well-known person to have sex reassignment surgery, but not the first person period as the movie implies. She was indeed in the Army and later became a successful photographer as George Jorgensen, Jr. When she traveled abroad in search of doctors to perform her genital reconstruction surgery, she had already begun rehabilitative hormonal therapy on her own and was on her way to Sweden when she stopped off in Denmark to visit relatives and ended up under the care of the hilariously-named Dr. Christian Hamburger. He was the one to perform her initial surgeries – although she would not receive a full vaginoplasty until the surgery became available in the United States several years later – and it was after Dr. Hamburger that Christine named herself, not after some long-dead cousin as in the film. She was engaged twice in her life, but the reporter and love interest Tom Crawford was apparently an invention for the movie. The details – such as George’s near-assault at the hands of his homosexual boss and humiliating experience with a female sex worker while in the Army – are also cinematic fabrications, as far as we know. Just a reminder to take every “true-to-life” biopic with a grain of salt. (more…)

The Killing of Sister George (1968)

Image Source: MovieGoods

Synopsis: June Buckridge (Beryl Reid) has spent so many years portraying a kind-hearted nurse on the BBC soap opera Applehurst that even in real life everyone has taken to calling her by her character’s name – Sister George. However, off screen George is nothing like her saintly fictional counterpart, appearing drunk in public and forcing her younger lover Alice “Childie” McNaught (Susannah York) into cruel and twisted games. When the fictional George is slated to be killed off due to low ratings, the real George also begins to come apart at the seams. With Childie becoming increasingly defiant and her boss Mrs. Croft (Coral Browne) encroaching on both her professional and personal territory, George fears her days as a beloved actress and parent-like provider to Childie are numbered.

Here on Garbo Laughs, I’m dedicating the entire month of June to the topic of Queer Cinema (LGBTQs, and depictions thereof, in classic film). This includes reviewing one relevant film from each decade from the 1910s to the 1990s. This is all leading up to my Queer Film Blogathon on June 27th. Won’t you join me in celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month by contributing a post or two (or three)?

I considered making this a one-word review, but “ick” doesn’t really come close to describing how uncomfortable this film made me. The lead character is a total monster with no redeeming qualities; she drinks constantly, she has no regard for what is and isn’t appropriate behavior, she’s sadistic and abusive – and none of it in a fun way. Her girlfriend Childie is pathetic and poorly written as a character, and Mrs. Croft is just your typical predatory-older-lesbian stereotype. This movie was directed by Robert Aldrich, who of course scored a hit six years prior with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and again in 1964 with Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. While he proved with these two previous endeavors that films which are somewhat exploitative and which appeal to baser sensibilities can still be enjoyable (and how!), here he doesn’t have the star power or the outright horror context that made those two films successful, and his directing brought into the light of day seems hokey and amateurish. While this film is somehow considered “historic” for its explicit portrayal of a lesbian relationship, in absolutely no way is this a healthy or positive portrayal, so what’s so special about it? I mean, I really don’t understand what’s so groundbreaking about making queer people look bad. I do give it points for the stellar performances by Beryl Reid and the recently-late Susannah York – even if I hated or didn’t understand their characters, I still think they did a great job at portraying them – and for the few scenes shot in the authentic 1960s underground lesbian bar the Gateways Club. But otherwise this was an utterly joyless film and, at two hours and twenty minutes, utterly torturous to sit through. Maybe I’m just not cut out for 1960s “black comedies” set in working-class Britain, since they seem intent on exploring themes that make me squirm. If you’re into that sort of thing, maybe you’ll like this one, but I certainly can’t recommend it from my perspective. Like its title character, The Killing of Sister George is just unrelentingly awful the whole way through.


The Killing of Sister George (1968) – 1.5/5 stars