- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Harper & Row; Revised edition (September 20, 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060961325
- ISBN-13: 978-0060961329
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #351,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies Revised Edition
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When Vito Russo published the first edition of The Celluloid Closet in 1981, there was little question that it was a groundbreaking book. Today it is still one of the most informative and provocative books written about gay people and popular culture. By examining the images of homosexuality and gender variance in Hollywood films from the 1920s to the present, Russo traced a history not only of how gay men and lesbians had been erased or demonized in movies but in all of American culture as well. Chronicling the depictions of gay people such as the "sissy" roles of Edward Everett Horton and Franklin Pangborn in 1930s comedies or predatory lesbians in 1950s dramas (see Lauren Bacall in Young Man with a Horn and Barbara Stanwyck in Walk on the Wild Side), Russo details how homophobic stereotypes have both reflected and perpetrated the oppression of gay people. In the revised edition, published a year before his death in 1990, Russo added information on the new wave of independent and gay-produced films--The Times of Harvey Milk, Desert Hearts, Buddies--that emerged during the 1980s. --Michael Bronski
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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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This was a ground breaking book in 1985, and it still is a...Read more