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Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969
     

Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969

by William Mann
 

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Whether in or out of the closet, gays and lesbians played an essential role in shaping studio-era Hollywood. Gay actors (J. Warren Kerrigan, Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson), gay directors (George Cukor, James Whale, Dorothy Arzner), and gay set and costume designers (Adrian, Travis Banton, George James Hopkins) have been among the most influential individuals in

Overview

Whether in or out of the closet, gays and lesbians played an essential role in shaping studio-era Hollywood. Gay actors (J. Warren Kerrigan, Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson), gay directors (George Cukor, James Whale, Dorothy Arzner), and gay set and costume designers (Adrian, Travis Banton, George James Hopkins) have been among the most influential individuals in Hollywood history and literally created the Hollywood mystique. This landmark study-based on seven years of exacting research and including unpublished memoirs, personal correspondence, oral histories, and scrapbooks-explores the experience of Hollywood's gays in the context of their times. Ranging from Hollywood's working conditions to the rowdy character of Los Angeles's gay underground, William J. Mann brings long overdue attention to every aspect of this powerful creative force.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Come next week if possible. Kathleen giving supper Sunday the 27th. Will ask her to include you and Gary. Want both to occupy one guest room? Answer soon as possible." An insignificant query? Not when you know that it was sent in 1929 to openly gay actor Anderson Lawler, and that "Gary" was none other than beautiful Hollywood newcomer Gary Cooper, Lawler's constant companion. While he doesn't skimp on the details of who was sleeping with whom (Mary Martin and Janet Gaynor; Claudette Colbert and Marlene Dietrich; Cary Grant and costume designer Orry-Kelly), historian and cultural critic Mann (Wisecracker) also delivers an astute and groundbreaking study of the impact of gay and lesbian actors, set designers, writers, costume designers, editors and producers on studio-era Hollywood. Without directly correlating sexual identity and artistic production, Mann applies sharp, original research and interviews to re-create the intricate lives and work of "gay Hollywood," offering a new lens for examining the complicated, sometimes contradictory relationship between sexual activity, identity and work. Treating his subjects with great integrity, he argues that it is inaccurate to label stars like Colbert, Cooper and Grant "gay," because they had a far more fluid sexuality. Yet he makes a cohesive and persuasive argument for how their varied sexualities transformed Hollywood and the movies. Mann also covers a wide range of ancillary topics e.g., the history and aesthetics of set design; the rise of Los Angeles's "pansy clubs"; and the special role of Jews (who were more likely than gentiles to be open about their sexuality). This intelligent and accessible study marks a major step for gay, genderand film studies. Agent, Malaga Baldi. (On-sale Oct. 15) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
Author of Wisecracker (LJ 1/98), the critically acclaimed biography of early gay Hollywood star William Haines, Mann gives us the book we've all been awaiting: a readable, slightly gossipy, yet scholarly history of gays and lesbians in Hollywood. Decade by decade, Mann examines how the movie capital of the world was transformed by a host of writers, directors, designers, actors, and producers often at odds with the official codes and mores of the times. Based partly on the historical record but more on interviews with and the correspondence of those who lived through these years, Mann's book is important reading for anyone interested in the history of American film. Essential for all film and gay studies collections to supplement David Ehrenstein's Open Secret: Gay Hollywood, 1928-2000 (LJ 10/15/98), for coverage of the current state of affairs, and Neal Gabler's An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood (LJ 11/1/88), for the history of another group of outsiders. Anthony J. Adam, Prairie View A&M Univ., TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780142001141
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/28/2002
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
5.54(w) x 8.36(h) x 0.95(d)

Meet the Author

William J. Mann is the author of Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Hanes, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star. An award-winning journalist, he was the publisher of Metroline, the acclaimed New England news-magazine, and is a contributor to Architectural Digest and The Advocate.

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