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The Celluloid Closet (1995)

A documentary surveying the various Hollywood screen depictions of homosexuals and the attitudes behind them throughout the history of North American film.

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(book), (story) | 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 4 Primetime Emmys. Another 7 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Narrator
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Himself
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Herself
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Himself
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Himself
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Herself
Jan Oxenberg ...
Herself
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Quentin Crisp ...
Himself
Richard Dyer ...
Himself
Jay Presson Allen ...
Herself
Mrs. Gustav Ketterer ...
Herself
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Himself
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Himself (archive footage)
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Himself
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Storyline

A comprehensive documentary of the history of gays and lesbians in cinema, from negative to positive reflections of gay characters and the troubles of actors and actresses. Written by R. John Berggren <jberg@nina.pagesz.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some graphic footage of sexuality and violence, and for language | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

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Release Date:

15 March 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Celluloid Closet  »

Box Office

Gross:

$1,507,800 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The filmmakers originally planned a sequence discussing how gay historical figures were portrayed as heterosexual in films. They aborted the sequence when Richard Burton's estate denied the rights to Alexander the Great (1956), MGM denied use of Hans Christian Andersen (1952) (fearing that the filmmakers were trying to "out" Danny Kaye) and Charlton Heston declined use of The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) (claiming that Michelangelo was heterosexual). See more »

Quotes

Harvey Fierstein: The hunger I felt as a kid looking for gay images was not to be alone.
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Connections

Features Tea and Sympathy (1956) See more »

Soundtracks

Secret Love
Written by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster
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User Reviews

 
A closet full of dreams
26 February 2006 | by (Sydney, Australia) – See all my reviews

"The Celluloid Closet" is a history of the treatment of homosexuals and gay themes in the cinema from the silent days to 1995, but it is a very partial account, focusing almost exclusively on Hollywood. The strength of the film is a huge number of clips from a vast range of films which show that, after a fairly liberal early period, homophobia reigned supreme until the late 1960s, and still can be seen in mainstream movies today. One of the great gay clichés is the homosexual movie buff in love with the likes of Judy Garland, so it is ironic that so many gay people should turn to the Hollywood product for distraction, given how anti-gay that product was. Some of the industry people interviewed for the film boast of how the censors were outsmarted on occasion, for example Gore Vidal's account of how Charlton Heston was fooled into acting gay in "Ben Hur", but it was not until "Boys in the Band", the film of a successful stage play in 1970, that homosexuality broke through as a topic for candid treatment.

With "Brokeback Mountain" in line for an Academy Award or two this year gay themes can clearly now be mainstream. This film reminds us that cinema reflects the society from which it springs, and the United States has not historically been tolerant to what we might call sexual minorities. Somehow things loosened up in the 1960s and film-makers followed the trend (though not the lawmakers in most states). The genie is now out of the box, gay rights are reasonably well established and there is no going back. It will be interesting to see how American gay cinema retains its edge, now that homosexuality has become domesticated.


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