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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Homosexuality (not) in the Movies
The Celluloid Closet provides usefeul information about the presence of gay/lesbian imagery in film as a reference guide. What I find most useful is the discussion of what did not make it to the screen. Russo discusses scenes, such as that between Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier in Spartacus, which were removed before release. These scenes may not have impacted...
Published on December 13, 1999 by Benjamin

versus
9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Necessary Text, But With Errors
Make no mistake, this book gives us a vital picture of homosexuality in the movies, both in front of and behind the camera. Excellent in many ways.
But. There are some troubling errors in this book, some just plain silly mistakes that no first-year film student would make. For example, Mr. Russo gets one crucial element of the plot of the Rocky Horror Picture...
Published on April 26, 1999 by Tom From NY


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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Homosexuality (not) in the Movies, December 13, 1999
This review is from: The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (Paperback)
The Celluloid Closet provides usefeul information about the presence of gay/lesbian imagery in film as a reference guide. What I find most useful is the discussion of what did not make it to the screen. Russo discusses scenes, such as that between Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier in Spartacus, which were removed before release. These scenes may not have impacted society as much as final scenes, but they are important when conidering the internal politics that shaped Hollywood. Russo is careful to acknowledge both the negative and positive aspects of visability, and to distinguish between visability and comic stereotyping. Probably more useful as a reference book than an enjoyable read, this book is packed with useful information from which people can start their own research/opinion making
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic in its field, July 13, 2001
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This review is from: The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (Paperback)
Russo, now deceased, published the first edition of this book in 1981, in the dark ages before queer independent cinema, and before mainstream cinema began the tradition of giving every female lead a gay man for a best buddy -- back when gay men appeared only as swishy queens or psychotic killers, and lesbians appeared only as psychotic killers, period. He exhumed hundreds of long-forgotten films, from moody German expressionism through the fluffy bedroom farces of the 1950's, and created an invaluable survey of the way movies look at gay people, comparable in scope to Donald Bogle's survey of African-Americans in film, "Toms, Coons, Mulattos, Mammies, and Bucks." We desperately need an update, but for everything from Laurel and Hardy shorts to "Personal Best," this is the place to go.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Text by a Gifted Amateur in Love with Movies, February 9, 2004
This review is from: The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (Paperback)
Although Vito Russo (1946-1985) was well known as a gay activist and was extremely influential in the creation of such AIDS-activist organizations as ACT UP, today his reputation rests almost exclusively on THE CELLULOID CLOSET, a powerful commentary on the way Hollywood portrayed homosexuality on film from the silent era to the early 1980s. The book received considerable attention when first published in 1981, and it continues to receive considerable attention to this day--and justly so, for Russo's examination of the various gay characters created by Hollywood explores not only how such images were created by Hollywood, but how they shaped "straight" America's ideas about homosexuals and often altered the gay community's own self image as well.
The position Russo takes and the interpretations he offers are nothing short of fascinating, and THE CELLULOID CLOSET holds up extremely well to re-reading. Even so, it is essentially an excellent work by an amateur writer. For all the power of its interpretations and arguments, the text is badly structured, and too often the tone of the prose seems less about the films under consideration than about the personality that considers them. And there are frequent factual errors in the text, with Russo's comments on the cult favorite The Rocky Horror Show perhaps the most glaring case in point.
Although Russo's omnipresent personality tends to undercut his prose at times, it is an engaging personality, and in a certain sense it drives the narrative--and indeed does a great deal to make the book's shifting structure seem more acceptable than it would have otherwise been. And after a careful re-reading of the text, I have come to the conclusion that the errors involved are best described as "surface" errors; they do not seem to me to undercut the power of Russo's interpretations, arguments, or positions, all of which are extremely well presented and very astute. Even so, given the book's somewhat problematic nature, I would take issue with those who describe it as "definitive," which is a rather sweeping word. I would prefer to describe it as a fascinating analysis of a difficult subject written by a gifted amateur author--who manages to overcome his limitations to present an endlessly fascinating series of interpretations, arguments, and positions. The book deserves a place on the bookshelf of every one who loves film as much as the writer did, and I recommend it strongly. But it would be a mistake to take it as an absolute.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great writing, great information, January 17, 2006
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This review is from: The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (Paperback)
This is one of the very few books that has useful information on gays in cinema from the beginning of the film industry to (somewhat) present day. I used it as research for a writing project on homosexuals in film and it was probably the most useful source as a stepping stone of information. By current standards, some academics may say that this book is outdated and "overdone" however I consider it to be the best single source of information on gays in film to date. I question why there are so few other "popular" publications that branch out from the wonderful points and concepts that Vito Russo makes.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best works of film criticism ever written., November 7, 2005
By 
Kindle Customer (Burien, Washington United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (Paperback)
The movie "The Celluloid Closet" is great, but you

occasionally get the feeling that the directors

are straining to make a point about homosexuality

in old movies. But you never feel this way reading

Russo's book. Russo is not a gifted prose stylist,

the writing of the book is wel, it's prosaic, but

he's a good writer with a keen eye and an excellent

memory. If you've seen the movie and enjoyed it get this

book to complete the experience.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ground Breaking Work, September 29, 2008
This review is from: The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (Paperback)
Valley Gay Press Book Reviewer: Liz Bradbury (Author of Angel Food and Devil Dogs - A Maggie Gale Mystery)
This was a ground breaking book in 1985, and it still is a fascinating, information filled read that is essential to any student of GLBT history. Film historian Vito Russo offers dozens of stories and photos that show how our community has been portrayed on film since the silent era. A significant amount of Russo's research focuses on gay and lesbian portrayals as both sex objects and seductive villains, before the advent of the Hayes office in 1934. The Hayes office effectively "outlawed" the presence of any gay character on film unless they were shown as despicable villains who were ultimately punished, usually dying by the end of the movie.

By the time Russo's book was published in the mid 80s, Hayes office restrictions against sex, crime, and violence had generally faded away, however, Russo shows how film depictions of GLBT people were still showing the intolerant views of pre-war conservative attitudes.

In 1995, Lily Tomlin helped to finance a documentary film version of Russo's research. It not only features dozens of classic movie clips, but contains a series of interviews by Hollywood stars, writers and historians, including openly GLBT people like Farley Granger and Gore Vidal, and supportive allies like Tom Hanks and Susan Sarandon. (It's worth seeing just for Sarandon's take on sex scenes with Catherine Deneve).

The documentary presents a great deal of information that is not in the book. But readers should note that the book contains a vast amount of material not in the movie. Don't miss either. They are both funny, sexy and thought provoking.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Vito is the man, April 10, 2014
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This review is from: The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (Paperback)
Vito is the reason we have gay film studies.
filled with information and challenging stereo types and stock film characters.. Vito's work is still needed and relevant in today's media and movies.
An updated version with movies of the last 20 years.. needs to be written .. who's up for the challenge?

Celluloid Closet will hopefully make you take a closer look at films and how you view people, no matter their gender, ethnicity, sexuality, etc..
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5.0 out of 5 stars A pioneering work, still impressive after three decades., March 7, 2014
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This review is from: The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (Paperback)
Nearly three decades after the final revised edition appeared, Vito Russo's "The Celluloid Closet" is still an impressive achievement and a compulsive read. Russo's enterprise and scholarship are still impressive, as is his sense of mission and his anger--sometimes barely contained--at the blatant, often bloody homophobia that persisted in cinema from its earliest beginnings through the 1980s.

Russo presents a panoramic view of homosexuality in the movies over nearly a century, beginning with an Edison experimental film of two men dancing a waltz and ending with gay-themed films that appeared toward the end of his tragically brief life. Some of these later films, such as "Parting Glances" with Steve Buscemi, represented a tremendous advance in the portrayal of gays on screen. Others, such as "Cruising" with Al Pacino, were so disgustingly violent and negative that they triggered street protests. In between, Russo presents some fascinating stories about early gay-themed movies, such as "Anders als die Anderen" (Different from the Others), a 1919 German silent starring Conrad Veidt as a gay concert violinist who responds to blackmail by committing suicide. The Nazis destroyed every copy of "Anders als die Anderen" they could find (in one case, Russo reports, opening fire on theater patrons in Vienna); only one partial copy, found in Ukraine, survives today.

Though some crirics have complained that Russo ignored social theory in his analysis, or that he failed to consider important gay directors such as Eisenstein and Fassbinder, "The Celluloid Closet" is still a fascinating and informative book. It's too bad no one has taken up Russo's torch. There have been articles and books about LGBT cinema since Russo's death in 1990, but nothing as magisterial as "The Celluloid Closet." I think Russo would be encouraged by the progress gays and lesbians have made in the cinema since his passing, and it would be nice if another Russo arose to record and assess that progress.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, December 11, 2013
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This review is from: The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (Paperback)
A classic book by activist Vito Russo. To viewers and readers these days, this book may seem outdated. However, we've got to remember that films have come a long way for the gay population - in the way they're portrayed. This book is a great time piece for ANY film buff. Russo would have continued to do so much more
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bless Vito !!! A true pioneer, November 19, 2013
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This review is from: The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (Paperback)
The author did very good research and great photos we love Vito . Love seeing Hope Emerson from Caged she was great
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The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies
The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies by Vito Russo (Paperback - September 20, 1987)
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