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

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9780142001141: Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969

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 This landmark study-based on seven years of exacting research and including unpublished memoirs, personal correspondence, oral histories, and scrapbooks-explores the experience of Hollywood's gays in the context of their times.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.

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Review:

If your last piece of golden-era Hollywood gossip is that Greta Garbo and Cecil Beaton kissed at a rooftop party, you need to steep yourself in William J. Mann's social history of gay Hollywood, a treasure trove of fresh anecdotes and observations of a period and place in which homosexuals enjoyed tremendous freedom and influence--within certain obvious limits. In choosing subjects for his study, Mann cast his net widely, hauling in a great number of uncelebrated but essential workers in the "queer" areas of the film industry--mainly costume design and props, but also writing, directing and acting. This is not principally a look at famous figures, in other words, but at a subculture as a whole, in which Dorothy Arzner, George Cukor, and Charles Laughton are just part of larger circles of gay life and work. Certain to become essential to gay film studies, Behind the Scenes provides a rich, accessible history of pre-Stonewall Hollywood. --Regina Marler

About 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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