The Celluloid Closet (1995)

R  |   |  Documentary, History  |  15 March 1996 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 4,880 users  
Reviews: 45 user | 32 critic

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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Nominated for 4 Primetime Emmys. Another 7 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Susie Bright ...
Jan Oxenberg ...
Quentin Crisp ...
Richard Dyer ...
Jay Presson Allen ...
Mrs. Gustav Ketterer ...
Will H. Hays ...
Himself (archive footage)


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 <>

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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Release Date:

15 March 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Celluloid Closet  »

Box Office


$1,507,800 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Jack Lemmon declined to be interviewed for this film. See more »


Susie Bright: [on Johnny Guitar] It's amazing how if you're a gay audience and you're accustomed to crumbs, how you will watch an entire movie just to see somebody wear an outfit that you think means that they are homosexual. The whole movie can be a dud, but you're just sitting there waiting for Joan Crawford to put on her black cowboy shirt again.
See more »


Features In a Lonely Place (1950) See more »


Get Happy
Written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler
Performed by Kenneth Nelson
See more »

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User Reviews

16 February 2004 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

A documentary that follows the appearance of gays in the history of the movies, the film takes a talking heads approach with interviews, splicing in some terrific film pieces. We get to see Marlene Dietrich, in "Morocco," kiss another woman while dressed in tails -- and looking better than any man ever could. There's a brilliant in-joke clip from "Red River" where Montgomery Clift is told about the beauty of a Swiss watch and a woman -- and then asked if he's ever had a Swiss watch. The film looks at gay stereotypes such as the pansy or the sissy, the characters that Franklin Pangborn used to play. Some of the interviewees are exceptional, namely Harvey Fierstein, Gore Vidal, and the incredible Quentin Crisp. Vidal gives a hilarious recount of including a gay backstory in "Ben Hur" which Charlton Heston of course denies.

The film is also touching and kind of heartbreaking. You realize that in the century we've had movies how enormously they've shaped our culture and our perception of people, and how if the filmmakers and studio heads hadn't been pressured by the horrible Hayes code, society's collective view of gays might not be so troublesome. There's a great moment where Quentin Crisp talks about census takers in England, asking about homosexuality. They were asked whether they knew any homosexuals. If the answer was yes, they were asked what they were like, to which they replied, "just like everybody else." If they answered no, they were asked what they would expect to meet, to which they replied, someone with grand gestures and flamboyance and bright colors. So that there are two images we have in our minds -- one of what homosexuals are like, and one of what homosexuals should be like. And movies played a huge role in that. 8/10

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