‘Beefcake’: Bob Mizer & the photographic appreciation of male beauty & eroticism
As 2009 comes to a close, the Outfest Legacy Project will be presenting screenwriter/director Thom Fitzgerald’s 1999 docudrama Beefcake – set in the realm of male homoerotic films and “physique” magazines of the 1950s – on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 7:30 p.m. at UCLA’s Billy Wilder Theater in the Los Angeles suburb of Westwood.
According to the Outfest press release, Beefcake “chronicles the rise of male body-worship as a business enterprise and a fact of life.” The man largely responsible for that rise – no pun intended – was photographer, filmmaker, and Physique Pictorial publisher Bob Mizer (1922–1992), whose subjects seem to have been almost invariably handsome, well-built, scantily clad (or fully naked), young white men.
The Outfest release adds that interspersing Bob Mizer’s “sexy, sometimes kooky tale” – Daniel MacIvor (Wilby Wonderful, Whole New Thing) plays Mizer – are testimonials by his contemporaries, among them bodybuilder Jack LaLanne and model/actor/Andy Warhol muse Joe Dallesandro (Flesh for Frankenstein, Je t’aime moi non plus).
Rectifying lack of male nudity at the movies
In the words of the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Mick LaSalle, “Beefcake is the movie for women who complain that films rarely show naked men. It’s also the movie for men who make the same complaint. There are more naked men in Beefcake than you can shake a stick at.”
Besides Daniel MacIvor, Beefcake features Josh Peace, Jonathan Torrens, Carroll Godsman, Thomas Cawood, and Jaime Robertson. Fitzgerald himself plays an attorney in the film.
The Beefcake screening will be preceded by an unspecified Pat Rocco short film from some time in the 1960s. Possibilities include Early to Bed and Ron and Chuck in Disneyland Discovery.
For more information on Thom Fitzgerald’s Beefcake, visit cinema.ucla.edu.
For more information on the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation, visit outfest.org/legacy.
bfi Southbank screenings: ‘The Haunting’ & ‘Can’t Stop the Music’
In other LGBT-related news, this coming week London’s bfi Southbank (website) “Out at the Pictures” series will be screening two classics – one of which of the campy variety:
- Robert Wise’s horror house classic The Haunting (1963), starring Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, and Russ Tamblyn.
- Nancy Walker’s disco-dancing & rollerblading classic Can’t Stop the Music (1980), starring Best Actress Oscar nominee Valerie Perrine (Lenny, 1974), Steve Guttenberg, Bruce Jenner (update: since the mid-2010s known as Caitlyn Jenner), and The Village People (David Hodo, Felipe Rose, Randy Jones, Glenn Hughes, Alex Briley).
See schedule further below.
‘The Haunting’: Sexual repression & lesbian chic
Along with Jack Clayton’s The Innocents (1961), The Haunting is one the best, most complex horror movies ever made. It’s surely no coincidence that both – British-made, black-and-white, early 1960s releases – deal with the uncontrollable, potentially deadly forces stemming from sexual repression.
In the former, governess Deborah Kerr sees ghosts, incest, and child sexuality everywhere she looks; in the latter, Julie Harris is outstanding as a spinster who may or may not be the reason for the frightening occurrences taking place inside an old, dark mansion.
Looking fantastic, Claire Bloom is almost as effective in a less showy role as a chic lesbian (or bisexual, according to the bfi Southbank’s brief synopsis).
‘Can’t Stop the Music’: Beefcakes & rollerblades
A costly box office bomb, Can’t Stop the Music would have been more enjoyable had its humor been less juvenile and its sounds more hip, but actress-turned-director Nancy Walker’s, and screenwriters Allan Carr and Bronté Woodard’s Razzie-winning musical romantic comedy isn’t nearly as unpalatably camp as it’s made out to be.
In fact, the gaudy, in-your-face campiness found in Can’t Stop the Music – including a very funny, beefcake-filled, Busby Berkeley/Gentlemen Prefer Blondes-inspired musical number (choreographed by Arlene Phillips) – is its most appealing element.
And then, there’s decathlon Olympic medal winner Bruce Jenner and a pre-Cocoon, pre-Three Men a Baby, rollerblade-aficionado Steve Guttenberg parading around in shorts so tight and so up their asses that – then and now – would have led to their arrest in most countries and U.S. states. After all, obscenity trials have been conducted for lesser offenses. (See Beefcake and Bob Mizer’s tribulations, courtesy of the United States’ Christian-based morality police.)
Sexually liberated farce
Something else worth noting about Can’t Stop the Music is that in a number of ways this 1980 silly farce is much more sexually liberated – including quite a bit of male nudity – than most Hollywood movies, whether or not they feature gay characters, being churned out in our obscenely p.c. times.
Another plus: the presence of veteran Barbara Rush (When Worlds Collide, Bigger Than Life) as Bruce Jenner’s socialite mother, and, for curiosity’s sake, veteran stage and film actress June Havoc (Gentleman’s Agreement, When My Baby Smiles at Me).
Update: Another curiosity is that a pre-Caitlyn Jenner, Razzie-nominated Bruce Jenner plays fellow Razzie nominee Valerie Perrine’s romantic interest.
Also in the Can’t Stop the Music cast:
Leigh Taylor-Young. Paul Sand. Tammy Grimes. Marilyn Sokol. Dick Patterson. Portia Nelson. Jack Weston.
Nancy Walker & Allan Carr
Can’t Stop the Music director Nancy Walker was Rock Hudson and Susan St. James’ no-nonsense, hard-drinking maid in McMillan & Wife; Valerie Harper’s mother in Rhoda; and both Truman Capote and Alec Guinness’ less chatty self in Murder by Death.
Bronté Woodard co-wrote (with Allan Carr) Grease. Can’t Stop the Music was his second and last film credit. He died at age 39 of liver failure in August 1980 in Los Angeles.
bfi Southbank: ‘Out at the Pictures’ movies
Schedule and film info from the bfi press release.
Sun 13 Dec. 20:30 NFT3
Robert Wise’s classic haunted house tale sends chills down the spine as a group of psychically gifted people are invited by Professor Markway to unravel the mysteries of Hill House. Claire Bloom stands out as stylish bisexual Theo who takes a shine to the timid Eleanor (a brilliant Julie Harris) whose fragile hold on the world is threatened by the malevolent forces at work.
Can’t Stop the Music
Thu 17 Dec. 20:40 NFT3
Sat 19 Dec 20:30 NFT3
The Village People star in a “let’s do a show” musical, reminiscent of classic MGM. All the great gay anthems are here (“YMCA,” “In the Navy,” and – um – “Do the Milk Shake”) with some jaw-dropping numbers choreographed by Arlene Phillips that would put Busby Berkeley to shame. Steve Guttenberg and Valerie Perrine help move the action along and it’s full of unintentional humour, never quite sure how gay it can be.
Beefcake image: Strand Releasing.
Valerie Perrine and Bruce Jenner Can’t Stop the Music image: EMI Films / Associated Film Distribution.
“Beefcake & Homoeroticism + Cult Camp Classic Can’t Stop the Music & Haunted House Lesbianism” last updated in April 2018.