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The Celluloid Closet 1996
Description: This documentary highlights the historical contexts that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals have occupied in cinema history, and shows the evolution of the entertainment industry's role in shaping perceptions of LGBT figures. The problems addressed contain secrecy – which initially defined homosexuality – as well as the demonization of the homosexual community with the advent of AIDS, and finally the shift toward acceptance and positivity in the modern era.
Released: 15 Mar 1996 Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman Writers: Vito Russo (book), Rob Epstein (story), Jeffrey Friedman (story), Sharon Wood (story), Armistead Maupin (narration) Actors: Lily Tomlin, Tony Curtis, Susie Bright, Arthur Laurents Genres: Documentary, History
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The Celluloid Closet Reviews:

"The Celluloid Closet" is a documentary that dares to go where others haven't gone before. Hollywood, that dream factory, has everytime been a magnet for the artistic gays and lesbians that have had a lot to endure and have never been recognized to the valuable contributions they have made to the medium.Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have compiled a comprehensible acc of how homosexuals have been discriminated by the industry where they have been show since the early days of silent films. In fact, films have everytime attracted homosexuals who, for the sake of being in the pictures, have gone to extremes in order to work in this form of entertainment.We are given perfect background by a lot of folks that explain the many intricacies these closeted individuals have endured while trying to have a career in the movies. Interviews with Arthur Laurents, Tony Curtis, Armistead Maupin, Susie Bright, Whoopie Goldberg, Jan Oxenburg, Jay Presson Allen, Gore Vidal and others, expand on the material we are watching. Lily Tomlin's narration is an asset.Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman deserve credit for their frank attempt to illustrate Hollywood's hypocritical treatment to the folks who, in a way, have added to the prestige and to the artistic quality of the movies.


Based on the ebook by Vito Russo, written by Armistead Maupin, and narrated by Lily Tomlin, THE CELLULOID CLOSET uses interviews and hundreds of movie clips to examine the method in which Hollywood has presented gay and lesbian characters on movie from the age of silent cinema to such newest movies as PHILADELPHIA and DESERT HEARTS. Throughout the documentary, the focus is on both stereotypes and the different methods that more constructive directors and writers worked around the censorship of different decades to make implicitly homosexual characters, with considerable attention given to the method in which stereotypes shaped public ideas of the gay community in general. Overtly homosexual characters were not particularly unusual in silent and pre-code Hollywood films, and CLOSET offers an interesting sampling of both swishy stereotypes and unexpectedly sophisticated characters--both of which were doomed by the Hayes Code, a series of censorship guidelines adopted by Hollywood in the early 1930s.The result of the Code was to soften some of the more grotesque stereotypes--but more interesting was the impetus the Code gave to movie makers to make homosexual characters and plot lines that would go over the heads of industry censors but which should still be interpreted by astute audiences, with movies such as THE MALTESE FALCON, REBECCA, BEN-HUR, and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE situations in point. Once the Code collapsed, however, Hollywood again returned to stereotypes in an effort to money in on controversy--with the effect that throughout most of the sixties and seventies homosexual characters were usually presented as unhappy, maladjusted monsters at best, suicidal and psychopathic entities at worst.The movie clips are fascinating items and are often highlighted by interviews of individuals who made the films: Tony Curtis re SOME LIKE IT HOT and SPARTACUS, Shirley MacLaine re THE CHILDREN'S HOUR, Stephen Boyd re BEN-HUR, Farley Granger re ROPE, and Whoopie Goldberg re THE COLOR PURPLE, to name but a few. All are interesting and intriguing, but two deserve unique mention: Harvey Fierstein, who talks about the hunger he had as a youth to see accurate reflections of himself on the screen, and Susan Sarandon, who makes an eloquent statement on the power of movie as "the keeper of the dreams."Although the material will have unique appeal to gays and lesbians, it could be of interest to any serious movie buff with its mix of trivia and significant fact. The DVD also contains notable packs of out-takes from interviews that are often as interesting as the material that made the final cut. If the documentary has a fault, however, it is that it offers no "summing up," preferring instead to present only how far the portrayal of homosexuals has come and indicating how far it has yet to go. Suggested to any one interested in movie history and interpretation.Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer


Entertaining, thought-provoking and (at times) very funny documentary chronicling gay topics matter in motion pictures from the silents up to 1995. The narration (by Lily Tomlin) is insightful and the cameos and comments by different stars who have played gay (Tom Hanks, Whoopi Goldberg, Harry Hamlin) or are gay (Harvey Feinstein, the late Quentin Crisp, Paul Rudnick) are very entertaining and in two situations (with Susan Sarandon and Gore Vidal) utterly uproarious. Unique attention could be paid to the "Ben-Hur" segment when you realize Stephen Boyd was testing it gay and Charlton Heston was fully oblivious! This is a very necessary movie and could be seen by everybody gay OR straight. A gotta for movie buffs. Don't miss this one! My only complaint--it's too short! The DVD ver has additional interviews that are just great.



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