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LGBT Hollywood: From Self-Destructive Lorenz Hart to Ambitious Montgomery Clift

Turner Classic Movies continues with its Gay Hollywood presentations tonight and tomorrow morning, June 8–9. Seven movies will be shown about, featuring, directed, or produced by the following: Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart, Farley Granger, John Dall, Edmund Goulding, W. Somerset Maughan, Clifton Webb, Montgomery Clift, Raymond Burr, Charles Walters, DeWitt Bodeen, and Harriet Parsons. (One assumes that it's a mere coincidence that gay rumor subjects Cary Grant and Tyrone Power are also featured.)

Night and Day (1946), which could also be considered part of TCM's homage to birthday girl Alexis Smith, who would have turned 96 today, is a Cole Porter biopic starring Cary Grant as a posh, heterosexualized version of Porter. As the warning goes, any similaries to real-life people and/or events found in Night and Day are a mere coincidence.

The same goes for Words and Music (1948), a highly fictionalized version of the Richard Rodgers-Lorenz Hart musical partnership. Tom Drake plays Rodgers while Mickey Rooney plays Hart, who died in 1943 and whose life was hindered by … his height, as opposed to something like his sexual orientation. See, Ann Sothern was just much too tall (well, and older) for him. Tragedy and all-star musical numbers ensue.

The storyline of the 1948 Words and Music has no connection to the 1929 early talkie toplining Lois Moran and Helen Twelvetrees.

Murderous gay psychopaths (Farley Granger & John Dall) are at the center of Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Rope (1948), shot with few cuts. The film is based on the real-life story of Leopold and Loeb (Nathan Freudenthal Leopold Jr. and Richard Albert Loeb), later portrayed (also in fictionalized form) by Bradford Dillman and Dean Stockwell in Richard Fleischer's 1958 Compulsion.

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor are a great romantic pair in George Stevens' A Place in the Sun (1951), a lush film version of Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, previously filmed by Josef von Sternberg in 1931, with Phillips Holmes, Frances Dee, and Sylvia Sidney (Best Actress Oscar nominee Shelley Winters in the remake) as the leads.

Produced by Harriet Parsons and co-adapted by DeWitt Bodeen (Cat People, I Remember Mama), the equally lush – and quite magical, if one ignores the many absurdities in the plot (the resolution, not the “blind love” bits) – is John Cromwell's romantic drama The Enchanted Cottage (1945), based on Arthur Wing Pinero's play.

Dorothy McGuire is outstanding as the homely girl who falls for scarred war veteran Robert Young; hers is a truly masterful performance that almost makes the goings-on – whether the magical or the absurd ones – believable. Also: fantastic production values.

Richard Barthelmess and May McAvoy also did great work in the less visually arresting but perhaps overall more effective – the lack of dialogue sometimes is a plus – 1924 version. John S. Robertson directed.

Michael Curtiz's Casablanca was both more timely and more prestigous – Best Picture and Best Director Oscar winner – than Edmund Goulding's The Razor's Edge (1946), but the latter is definitely one of the quintessential movies of the 1940s.

Great production values are everywhere in Darryl F. Zanuck's Oscar-nominated release (Goulding was bypassed), featuring an all-star cast who, unfortunately, for the most part tries really hard to make things work: handsome Tyrone Power, much too earnestly looking for the meaning of life; beautiful Gene Tierney, as the selfish object of his love; John Payne, as Tierney's eventual (headache-suffering) husband; Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Clifton Webb, just about flawless as the effete embodiment of the 1 percent; Herbert Marshall (also seen in The Enchanted Cottage) as none other than The Razor's Edge author W. Somerset Maughan; and Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Anne Baxter, who, despite a few actressy bits, has a couple of excellent moments as a tragic young woman.

The book, which reads like a movie, is far superior to the film adaptation. Even so, the Zanuck-Goulding production is a feast for the eye that should be seen. Either way, the 1946 effort is surely infinitely superior to John Byrum's 1984 critical and box office disaster starring Bill Murray, Theresa Russell, Catherine Hicks, and Denholm Elliott.

Directed by Charles Walters, Summer Stock (1950) is one of Judy Garland's – and Gene Kelly's – most enjoyable musicals. Unlike The Pirate, An American in Paris, Singin' in the Rain, or Invitation to the Dance, Summer Stock has no long, elaborate (or “pretentious”) musical numbers. It's all very low-key and that's probably the reason – plus the talent involved – that it works so surprisingly well.

Note: This post on TCM Gay Hollywood movies is currently being revised and expanded. Please check back later.

June 8–9, 2017, on TCM

8:00 PM NIGHT AND DAY (1946). Fanciful biography of songwriter Cole Porter. who rose from high society to find success on Tin Pan Alley. Dir.: Michael Curtiz Cast: Cary Grant. Alexis Smith. Monty Woolley. Jane Wyman. Eve Arden. Victor Francen. Mary Martin. Ginny Simms. Alan Hale. Dorothy Malone. Tom D'Andrea. Selena Royle. Donald Woods. Henry Stephenson. Paul Cavanagh. Sig Ruman. Color. 128 mins.

10:30 PM WORDS AND MUSIC (1948). Songwriters Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart search for love while rising to the top. Dir.: Norman Taurog Cast: Tom Drake. Mickey Rooney. Ann Sothern. Janet Leigh. June Allyson. Perry Como. Judy Garland. Lena Horne. Gene Kelly. Cyd Charisse. Betty Garrett. Marshall Thompson. Mel Tormé. Vera-Ellen. Dick Haymes. Jeanette Nolan. Richard Quine. Clinton Sundberg. Edward Earle. Color. 121 mins.

1:00 AM ROPE (1948). Two wealthy young men try to commit the perfect crime by murdering a friend. Dir.: Alfred Hitchcock Cast: James Stewart. John Dall. Farley Granger. Edith Evanson. Douglas Dick. Joan Chandler. Cedric Hardwicke. Constance Collier. Dick Hogan. Color. 81 mins.

2:45 AM THE RAZOR'S EDGE (1946). A young man's quest for spiritual peace threatens his position in society. Dir.: Edmund Goulding Cast: Tyrone Power. Gene Tierney. John Payne. Clifton Webb. Herbert Marshall. Anne Baxter. Lucile Watson. Frank Latimore. Elsa Lanchester. Fritz Kortner. Cecil Humphreys. Corbina Wright Sr. B&W. 145 mins.

5:30 AM A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951). An ambitious young man wins an heiress' heart but has to cope with his former girlfriend's pregnancy. Dir.: George Stevens Cast: Montgomery Clift. Elizabeth Taylor. Shelley Winters. Anne Revere. Keefe Brasselle. Fred Clark. Raymond Burr. B&W. 122 mins.

7:45 AM SUMMER STOCK (1950). A farmer gets sucked into show business when a theatrical troupe invades her farm. Dir.: Charles Walters Cast: Judy Garland. Gene Kelly. Eddie Bracken. Gloria DeHaven. Marjorie Main. Phil Silvers. Color. 109 mins.

9:45 AM THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE (1945). A scarred veteran and a homely woman are transformed by love. Dir.: John Cromwell Cast: Dorothy McGuire. Robert Young. Herbert Marshall. Mildred Natwick. Spring Byington. Hillary Brooke. Richard Gaines. Robert Clarke. B&W. 92 mins.


         
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