High Museum of Art: Films

For Pride by Linda Dubler
October 27, 2009, 2:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In preparation for Pride weekend, the High will host a Pre-Pride Party featuring Q100’s Melissa Carter, a big 80s soundtrack, half-price admission and food and drink for purchase. Tickets include admission to both Leonardo da Vinci: Hand of the Genius and John Portman: Art and Architecture. Thursday, October 29, 5 to 8 p.m. Learn more >>

Now, Eleanor Ringel Cater spotlights Anthony Perkins, Tab Hunter and Ian McKellen:

The notion of gay and lesbian actors is certainly more widely accepted these days. We’re still at a place where whisper campaigns and “outing” are considered attacks, so to speak, not support. And too recently, even playing gay on screen was seen as a career-ender.

 So here’s to actors who’ve been more confident and open. Sadly, not everyone lived long enough to get there.

 Like Anthony Perkins. branded forever (for better or worse) by his tour-de-force in “Psycho,” the tall, thin, handsome actor made over 50 movies before his death in 1992.

Anthony Perkins in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean

Anthony Perkins in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean

 But check him out as the Rev. Mr. La Salle in “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean,” starring Paul Newman in the title role.

Much like another Newman popular western, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” the movie is very much of and for its time (early ‘70s). Still, Newman has a blast as the hangin’-est judge in the West who’s also obsessed with famous singer, Lily Langtry (a cameo by Ava Gardner). John Huston directed (raucously) and John Milius supplied the script (weakly).

The Walter Brennan version, “The Westerner” is a better overall movie (Brennan won an Oscar), but this movie’s happy-hippie tone has an almost nostalgic quality. Perkins plays a variation of his usual shaky self, but does so wonderfully. His once-upon-a-time lover, Tab Hunter, has a walk on.

 Speaking of whom, Hunter  (born Arthur Andrew Kelm) is still very much alive and kicky as his recent autobiography attests.  Hunter had to abide  decades-worth of homophobia in a deeply closeted and prejudiced Hollywood, but he outed himself in his gleeful and irresistable 2005 memoir, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star.

Crush-worthy Tab Hunter

Crush-worthy Tab Hunter

 In the adaptation of the famed musical Damn Yankees, he plays an elderly New York Yankees-hater who sells his soul to the Devil (Ray Walston) for the chance to become a young expert ball player and thereby keep his hated Yankees from winning the series. A handsome face and a sense of humor about oneself helps a lot and he has it here — plus an endearing aw-shuck-ness.

 The actor who has most famously declared his orientation — in 1989 he was a founding member of Stonewall, an LGBT rights organization in the UK, and in 1991 was knighted for his services in theatre — is Ian McKellen.

Unlike Hunter, he has too many good movies to choose from after losing his signature stage role in the movie version of  Amadeus to F. Murray Abraham (who went on to win an Oscar, but whose career has stalled). Forced, I’d go with his Richard III, which is splendid enough to rival Olivier’s famous turn.

As the infamously ambitious would-be king, McKellen is masterful — spiderlike in the webs he spins, but seemingly a sunny, supportive glad-handing kind of guy when needed. Set in 1930s England with Nazi-like iconography, the film features some of Britain’s best (Nigel Hawthorne, John Wood, Jim Broadbent, Kristin Scott Thomas) along with a couple of dandy Americans: Annette Benning and Robert Downey Jr.

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