Friday, October 26, 2007

OK, if we're going to out Dumbeldore...

While teaching film history courses at University of Houston and Houston Community College over the past several years, I've occasionally had students ask me -- earnestly, not snickeringly -- if certain movie characters are intended to be interpreted as gay. They fully understand the censorious restraints placed on directors and screenwriters during the bad old days of the Production Code, so they realize that, from the 1930s to at least the mid-'60s, movies had to utilize implications and allusions -- had to be "coded," if you will -- to even hint that the hero's best friend might... might... well, might want to be a tad friendlier. But, you know, maybe a little knowledge really is a dangerous thing?

In any event: The two names that pop up most often during these "Is he or isn't he?" queries: Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten) of Citizen Kane and Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor) of Singin' in the Rain. For some odd reason, middle-aged female students seem to be the ones most curious about divining Leland's orientation. But the issue of whether Cosmo is a closet case is a four-quadrant obsession. As students of all ages and genders have repeatedly pointed out to me, Cosmo is the lifelong companion of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), spends an inordinate time at Don's home (at all hours), and expresses nothing but withering sarcasm when speaking of Don's romantic escapades. More tellingly, Cosmo has this to say when judging the attractiveness of a female star: "Yeah, Lina, you looked pretty good for a girl."

My take on this? Well, why the hell not? Anything's possible. And interpreting those characters in that way does indeed add a provocative new dimension to both films (Kane, especially). And, hey, if they were gay, they would have been among the very few non-hetero characters (or at least apparently non-hetero characters) who weren't objects of ridicule in films of the '40s and '50s. (Just compare them to, say, Peter Lorre's effete Joel Cairo.) So, I dunno, wouldn't gay folks be proud to claim them as two of their own?

What do you think? And do you have any names you would add to the list?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

dont Romeo and Tybalt express some subliminal desire for each other in the 1968 ROMEO AND JULIET >... berg

scooterzz said...

i've always thought that of leland...and, more recently, charlie prince practically drools over ben wade in '3:10 to yuma'....