The young, naive Smitty is sent to prison for six months; Cathy, his girlfriend, watches as he disappears behind the bars and barbed wire. He's assigned a cell with Queenie, a balls-out ...
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The young, naive Smitty is sent to prison for six months; Cathy, his girlfriend, watches as he disappears behind the bars and barbed wire. He's assigned a cell with Queenie, a balls-out drag queen, Rocky, a quiet but cocky con, and Mona, a young gay man who ministers to Rocky. Smitty watches in horror as gangs of inmates brutalize prisoners who lack protection. Those who complain risk beatings or murder at the hands of unsympathetic guards: all cries are bootless. Mona offers poetry - Shakespeare's sonnet XXIX; Queenie and Rocky offer Smitty advice, and Rocky offers protection for a price. Smitty's choices and their consequences are the film's main subjects. Written by
Fortune And Men's Eyes is another one of those works that could never have been filmed until after the Stonewall Rebellion and certainly not while the Code was in place in Hollywood. Now the fact of homosexuality in prison is simply a given, but when you think of all the great prison films in the classic Hollywood studio age like The Big House, Each Dawn I Die, or Brute Force, you'd think these men had simply turned off the sexual energy once incarcerated. If there is homosexuality it is very subtly implied.
This is more than implied it's the result of incarcerated people having no other outlet. Seems perfectly reasonable now, but back in the day, a most taboo subject.
The original play was done within the confines of a single cell that housed four different prisoners and it's their story being told. Zooey Hall rules the cell and he's got his eyes on new inmate Wendell Burton just arrived. Also in the cell are Danny Freedman who is a weak kid without anyone to protect him. As a result he's victimized by everyone and that includes the guards. Presiding over it all is Queenie, a most flamboyant gay man who's discovered that prison could be an interesting place to be if sex is used properly and withheld occasionally. Michael Greer is Queenie and Greer originated the role off Broadway.
Incarcerated people don't cease being sexual beings even when they're incarcerated is the simple message of Fortune In Men's Eyes. Of course it took gays and lesbians coming out of the closet to get that message out to the general public. It's the reasons why some states and prisons have adopted a policy of conjugal visits. If not to cease the practice of rape in prison, at least to lessen it.
This is not limited to men. Although there is certainly implied lesbianism in the MGM classic Caged about a woman's prison, can you imagine how explicit a modern remake would be? In fact I'm surprised that film hasn't been remade.
Fortune And Men's Eyes is still a film with quite a revealing message that will sear your soul. Watch it, but not if you're squeamish.
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