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Gay Sex & Blackmail: 'Victim' & 'The Best Man' + 'Advise and Consent'

Sylvia Syms, Dirk Bogarde, Victim
Sylvia Syms, Dirk Bogarde in Basil Dearden's Victim

30 Rock's Tracy Morgan is in the news today because of viciously anti-gay remarks he made while performing a comedy routine in Tennessee, a state where gays and lesbians have seen their civil rights attacked by right-wing Christians/Republicans on various fronts.

Coincidentally, Turner Classic Movies is showing three movies about a time decades ago when gays were perceived to be as sick and dangerous as, say, murderous pedophiles: The Best Man, Advise & Consent, and Victim.

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, and adapted by Gore Vidal from his own play, The Best Man (1964) is on right now. Cliff Robertson is excellent as the ambitious politician whose chance to win his party's nomination for the presidency is jeopardized when a secret homosexual affair in his past is used to blackmail him. A real filthy, gross, evil, disgusting, family-destroying gay liaison; not just mere sexting and pictures of the candidate's bulging underwear.

Otto Preminger's Advise & Consent (1962) is one of the most effective political movies made in Hollywood. The melodrama is mostly kept in check, the revelation about Don Murray's past is surprising (for those unfamiliar with the story), and the acting is generally quite good – with the exception of Charles Laughton's unconvincing Southern senator.

Basil Dearden's Victim (1961) is a landmark motion picture, as it was the first non-underground English-language feature film to tackle head-on the issue of homosexuality. Dirk Bogarde – ironically, himself a total closet case – stars as the married man who is blackmailed after it's discovered he has been having an affair with a younger man. Bogarde is outstanding as the hounded gay guy, and so is Sylvia Syms as his unsuspecting wife. Dated or no, Victim remains an effective depiction of the evils of bigotry.

Of course, luckily we're long past all that, huh … Except, perhaps, for one carefully worded Tennessee ad demanding an end to the protection of gays and lesbians at work, and which shows a (presumably gay) male about to attack an innocent little girl (!) in a public restroom.

And later this evening, don't miss Hot Rods to Hell (1967), a shameless piece of trash about a family harassed by a psycho teen gang. Jeanne Crain and Dana Andrews star as The Establishment; Mimsy Farmer is their wayward daughter.


         
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