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…)