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Andrea Suarez Paz
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Gay Rights Movement, the film explores the drama, struggle and enduring legacy of the first-ever gay play and subsequent Hollywood movie to successfully reach a mainstream audience. Beloved by some for breaking new ground, and condemned by others for reinforcing gay stereotypes, The Boys in the Band sparked heated controversy that still exists four decades later. Written by
The original stage play was written and first produced before the world shaking Stonewall Riots, which began on the morning of June 28, 1969. The play reflected the pre-Stonewall attitudes among the gay community in New York City. But the film, which was based on the original play and featured the original play's full cast, was produced with essentially no changes to reflect the circumstances which changed due to the Stonewall Riots. However, there was one major exception reflecting change, that being the film was made at all, which would not have been possible if the events at the Stonewall Inn had not taken place the previous year. See more »
For a film that's been kicking around the festival circuit and minor bookings for almost two years, MAKING THE BOYS is a surprisingly uneven documentary - which is not to say the quality lags, it's generally remarkable, but that the flow is so jerkily edited as to suggest a student film project. Nevertheless, the film is so packed with insightful interviews, period images, on stage clips from the original Off-Broadway and London West End productions and side trips into the impact of the original play and the movie which followed (and how one led to the other) on the lives of all of the major participants, the evolution of modern gay rights and American culture in general that the result is as close to an essential historical document as on objective viewer could ask.
Obviously central to the project, Mart Crowley takes us back to the writer and the person he was before the idea of THE BOYS IN THE BAND was even on the horizon and leads us to how it came to be, and what it and he came to be. This and the general cultural discussion - and how BOYS... changed that discussion yet came to be viewed as something of an embarrassment to some activists and then came full circle to regain respect - are done superbly (despite the off-hand use of TV's "Will and Grace," still viewed as something of a gay "Amos & Andy" in some quarters, as a pride-ful example - a slip). The details of this evolution are so fascinating that it's easy to miss the few things the film tends to short.
One is the rehearsal and interpretation process under the great (and unfortunately late) Robert Moore's direction (four Broadway productions as an actor before BOYS..., eight as director after it - almost all of the latter major hits), but understanding this, the film makers (researcher Rosemary Rotondi and director Crayton Robey) have brought in those close to Moore to fill in the blanks. The brief section on Peter Harvey's scenic design, building on the use of projections (so brilliantly used by Robert Guerra and Tom Skelton in YOUR OWN THING just three months earlier) is fascinating.
They are less successful in fleshing out the lost members of the original Off-Broadway and film cast, but in dealing with inevitable questions - it has long been famously reported how many were lost in the early waves of the AIDS epidemic years after BOYS... and less accurately how few were launched into successful stage and film careers after BOYS... - the interview observations are well chosen even when not definitive.
Whatever the film's shortcomings in flow and the few details lost with the passing of primary sources, its success is overwhelming in how much it does give us putting THE BOYS IN THE BAND in historical perspective and showing us how far we've come building on the groundwork it laid. This is a major achievement and very satisfying viewing. A generation of gay and straight men and women too young to have lived through the events discussed should be highly encouraged to see it. They will not be bored.
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