The Naked Civil Servant (TV Movie 1975) Poster

(1975 TV Movie)

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gmzewski28 March 2006
I had a copy of this film back in the early 80s, it's long gone, but I'll never forget its power. I'm not a homosexual, nor had I ever heard of Quentin Crisp before, but watching the film, I was very impressed by his determination to stand up for his God-given right to be himself, whatever that "self" might be. I didn't see it so much as a proclamation of his homosexuality, but rather, an individual determined to live life on his own terms, rather than kowtow to the wants of society. To this fact I strongly relate. Crisp was a man who faced the ostracism of society head-on, and soldiered on through in spite of it. And for that I admire him strongly. After watching the film, I quietly said "Thank You" to Crisp for his forthrightness and honesty.

John Hurt's portrayal of Crisp was absolutely magnificent, and I've been a fan of his ever since. He's the most versatile actor of his generation, having played everyone from Jesus Christ in "History of the World part 1" to the guy in "Alien" who has the little monster jump out of his body to the inimitable Quentin Crisp in this film! However, some of his films are hard to find, given that he's not a household word name as an actor. Too Bad, He's among the best!
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WAY ahead of its time
preppy-313 January 2006
This was broadcast on American TV (with absolutely no fanfare) on one summer night in the late 1970s. I was just idly switching channels and started watching by accident. It's a movie about Quentin Crisp--a gay man who came out in the 1920s. He introduces the film and then it starts--done in documentary style it traces his life. The first image is of him as a young boy dressed in woman's clothes admiring himself in the mirror. I've never had a desire to wear women's clothes, but being a closeted high school kid when I saw this it had QUITE an effect on me.

The film follows his life, how he found others like him and his fame and fortune. It doesn't sugarcoat things--he comes across as vain and pompous sometimes and he is very brutally threatened in one scene. Still it shows how he survived and lived life on his terms. It was liberating--for me at least. Remember--this was the era when "Boys in the Band" was considered an accurate representation of gay life!

This was WAY ahead of its time--for TV. I'm shocked that it was even SHOWN on American TV (albeit VERY quietly--and late at night). John Hurt is superb in the title role--he sounds, looks and acts like Crisp did! An excellent TV movie--still relevant today and beautifully done. A 10 all the way.
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Any film, even the worst, is better than real life
Ali_John_Catterall3 December 2009
"Do you intend to spend your entire life admiring yourself?" "If I possibly can." Oh Quentin, you came and you gave without taking. Unless he was taking the michael, which he did, you know, from time to time, in the most wonderfully poised and self-effacing manner. It's not hard to see why this was voted number 4 in the BFI's TV 100 poll: in two words, John Hurt - giving the Bafta-winning performance of his career as the "stately homo of England", enduring the catcalls, pratfalls and furtive dalliances which were the staples of gay life during the pre-and-and-post War years - virtually another planet compared with today's (allegedly) more tolerant society. The legal alien is terribly missed.
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Fun and Inspiring
Afzal-s200717 September 2007
The Naked Civil Servant is a TV film based on famous gay wit Quentin Crisp's autobiography. John Hurt gives a characteristically committed, outstanding performance. His Crisp is both a bon vivant and a serious, determined man who, underneath his outrageously camp exterior, is anything but frivolous, flamboyantly using his wit and dress like weapons as a defence to the repressive, smug and specious attacks from the mainstream English establishment and society, which regards his sexuality as criminal and deviant.

Hurt's Quentin Crisp is an unlikely crusader, made appealing not only by his inspiring moral force in facing prejudice, abuse and rejection with honesty, courage and an uproarious sense of humour, but by the fact that he never loses his belief in humanity, living his life undaunted and surrounded by friends who he treats with warmth and compassion.

Jack Gold's direction is wonderfully theatrical and so suited to Crisp's eccentric world, and the dialogue is incandescent. Nevertheless, the film's narrative, as it ranges over Crisp's long life, is episodic and at times sketchy. Also unnecessarily, Quentin Crisp himself appears in a sort of preface at the beginning of the film.
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wonderful film to introduce someone to homosexuality
VictoriousDust14 November 2004
In 1976, at 24 I thought I knew enough about gay men, but I was not aware of flamboyant male homosexuality. It can be difficult to watch the beginning of the film if you're like I was and never saw such behavior, but if you stay with it, it pays off big in very touching ways--and not only with regard to homosexuality but to living life in general. This film teaches you about yourself as good art always does. Note: Quentin Crisp (the main character) plays the part of Queen Elizabeth I in a film called "Orlando." And another movie that might be good to introduce someone to male homosexuality is "The Sum of Us" with Russell Crowe, though that film is more lighthearted and sweet than "The Naked Civil Servant."
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Funny and touching
mermatt6 July 2000
I had the good fortune to meet the late Quentin Crisp several times. This film is a delightful and moving story of his evolution as a human being.

Like Oscar Wilde, he was the brunt of jokes and nasty stories because he dared to be himself -- and, to use his own word, a very "autre" self indeed. John Hurt does a wonderful job showing us the spirit of a man who didn't grovel to the conventions of society and dared to give the world a free spirit.

The ironic conclusion of the film is an observation by Crisp himself that the "autre" which was once his alone became the commonplace of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

This is an unusual film worth seeing for the performances as well as for its lessons in living. We are who we let ourselves be. We can be who we desire to be, or we can surrender to the drab molds of the society around us.
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A very inspiring & enjoyable film
kimdino-15 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This film was made from the autobiography of a man who spent more than fifty years battling for his individuality and right to be treated as any other human being. Though the story to be about an effeminate homosexual it provides inspiration for anyone willing to stand outside the crowd and not be beaten into conforming to the norm.

Quentin Crisp is a homosexual who stands up in a deeply homophobic society and shouts 'There is nothing wrong with me and you'll have to learn to accept the fact that we exist'. The film vividly portrays the shock & disgust felt by the vast majority to homosexuality during this period. One telling scene shows how fellow homosexuals, rather than support him, reject him in fear of being outed themselves.

The film shows how he built psychological barriers between himself and the world in order to protect himself and how these barriers enforced his isolation. Even the credits reinforce his isolated existence by listing only the central characters personal name. Even his closest friends are referred to merely as the 'Art Student' & the 'Ballet Teacher'. This film shows a man who lived out such an isolated existence that, though of a very generous caring nature, he was unable to feel love himself. How on the one occasion that his dream partner appeared and offered love, Crisp was unable to recognise & accept it.

There is sadness in the fact that, at that time of release, society had accepted and adopted his means of display while still rejecting his core message. We know, with hindsight, that society has come, largely, to accept homosexuals as normal people but the film shows that during the late 70s queer-bashing still went on while people dressed in a style previously regarded as effeminate.

Joy is to be taken from this film in that Crisps crusade was certainly not in vain, his stance paid off eventually. This film played a large part in British society accepting gays as okay people. For this reason I believe this film as, possibly, one of the 100 most significant films of the 20th century in the way it made us look at an oppressed minority in a new light.

The final scene summarises Crisps life well. This is where the well known 'Stately Homos of England' speech is given followed by his walking off up with head held high but isolated from everyone else in the park. Thus showing how strong his lifelong stance has made him while showing the terrible personal cost of this strength.

The above may make the film sound harsh & gritty but it is actually shot in a very colourful & entertaining manner. John Hurt gives an excellent performance which I am certain would have had him up for an Oscar had the film been made in Hollywood. Crisp later became recognised as a great wit & raconteur and this is reflected in his lines in this film. There are so many strong lines and witticisms that to put them on this articles 'Quotes' page would mean that a significant part of the script would end up there.

Though 'The Naked Civil Servant' has done its job in opening up our minds & attitudes it shouldn't be written off as it so entertaining while reminding us what life is like for our social outcasts. You can watch it and learn, or you can watch it and just enjoy it. It works extremely well both ways.
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Quentin Crisp (and John Hurt): A fine combination of wit, honesty, humanity and mascara
Terrell-428 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"Do you think a homosexual elephant has a terrible time of it?" Most of us undoubtedly have asked that question at one time or another, but I doubt if any except Quentin Crisp have asked it with such innocent interest. Crisp was, in his own words, an unregenerate degenerate. He was an English homosexual who saw no reason why he shouldn't be who he was. He was effeminate. He dressed flamboyantly, favoring broad-brimmed fedoras and flowing scarves. He wore make-up and hennaed his carefully coifed hair. He was witty but not malicious. He was willing to take people as they were, and saw no reason why he shouldn't expect the same for himself. Says Sting, who wrote a song about Crisp, "Quentin is a hero of mine, someone I know very well. He is gay, and he was gay at a time in history when it was dangerous to be so. He had people beating up on him on a daily basis, largely with the consent of the public. Yet, he continued to be himself."

The Naked Civil Servant, with a wonderfully nuanced performance by John Hurt as Crisp, takes us through Crisp's life until he was in his mid-seventies. Crisp died in 1999 when he was 90. Crisp apparently knew his own skin even as a child. As a young man, he tells us with innocent frankness, "I had already discovered for myself one fact of life, the only fact of life I've ever fully understood. I have a message for those who, like me, inhabit a world of make believe...sexual intercourse is a poor substitute for masturbation." That has to be one of the great autobiographical lines in English literature.

Crisp is important because he simply would not become what he wasn't. He also seemed to be a remarkably sympathetic person, amusing and perceptive without the burden of seeming to be wise. "Does he love you," a female friend asks about an awkward lover. "You are a woman," Crisp says. "You speak a language I do not understand. If love exists, which is something I wouldn't know, then love is never closing my hand even to the unlovable." He's not only realistic ("The sex was alright in a domestic sort of way, but never share a narrow bed with a wide, single man."), but also practical ("I have discovered a great labor-saving secret. After the first four years, the dust doesn't get any worse.").

For a year he was a prostitute. For years he made a small living as a paid model in art classes. "Being a model requires no education, no references and no previous experience. You have only to say 'I do' and you're stuck with it for marriage. I became a naked civil servant." He came to admire America and, at 71, moved permanently to a small bed- sitter in the lower East side. "The great difference between the Americans and the English is that Americans want you to succeed because they feel you may drag them forward with you, while the British want you to fail because they fear you may leave them behind."

Fame comes when he writes his autobiography, "The Naked Civil Servant." The book is turned into a British television movie starring John Hurt, which achieves great acclaim. Crisp finds an admiring audience for his wit and for the honesty of his life. When he is accosted by some nasty children because of how he looks, he stares at them and says, "I defy you to do your worst. It can hardly be my worst. Mine has already and often happened to me. You cannot touch me now. I am one of the stately homos of England!"

Still, when he enthusiastically agrees to have a movie made about him, he says, "Any film, even the worst, is better than real life." He says it with a smile, but it's an unsettling judgment.

I finished the movie with a great deal of admiration for Quentin Crisp. And if anyone doubts that John Hurt is a superb actor, watch Hurt's performance.
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Gordon-1111 August 2007
This film is the autobiography of Quentin Crisp, a gay man living in the conservative times of 1920's to 1970's.

The story is simple but deep. It portrays It also portrays how people lived in fear and loneliness during those days. A particularly remarkable moment is that, after Quentin's friend is released from he mental institution, his friend pronounced his love for him. Quentin says something to the effect of "This is how lonely he is, and how low I can get". This little sentence means so much. Acting by John Hurt is excellent. This film is really quite remarkable, as homosexuality was still considered as a mental illness back in 1975.
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Amazing true story of Quentin Crisp, based on his autobiography.
cricket-146 May 1999
Long before it was fashionable to come out of the closet, Englishman Quentin Crisp did so. He was rather effeminate, also wearing make up which made him stand out even more.

This is his fascinating story, marvelously portrayed by John Hurt.

(P.S. The queenly Quentin plays the kingly Queen Elizabeth I in the movie "Orlando")
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An Outsider Brought To Life By A Brilliant Actor
Theo Robertson28 January 2017
As someone who has recently entered early middle age there has been no doubt in my mind who has been the most consistent actor in my lifetime - John Hurt . He's not an actor who'd probably qualify as "Film Star" but has appeared in film , theatre and television and had always given a great performance where he steals every scene . When an actor dies I'm not the sort of person who seeks out the departed's resume by in the case of Hurt I have made an exception and watched his breakthrough role in THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT as way of tribute

This is based on Quentin Crisp's autobiography . Now no matter your opinion of Crisp or homosexuality the ethos of the narrative is how a cruel , conformist society treats the outsider . As someone who was born in to an Edinburgh housing estate I grew up on a small Scottish Island . An urban lower working class prole growing up in a class conscious crushing environment . Society scorns "You're not one of us" and you're supposed to put up with that until your autopsy . Anyone who considers themselves to be an outsider can either sit there and take it or stick two fingers up at the world and declare "I am who I am" . It says a lot about Hurt that he elicits so much empathy or even sympathy from the audience

It should be remembered that THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT was produced in 1975 . In those days THE BLACK AND WHY MINSTREL SHOW and LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR were massive television hits so homosexuality was treated as a subject of insensitive humour in much the same way as race relations were . In other words the homosexuality portrayed in 70s television is one of grotesque black comedy and one can see an Islington dinner party in 2017 being outraged by the portrayal of homosexuality seen here . There is nothing to be offended about and the only possible sin seen here is one of self parody , but it's done with such a sense of tongue in cheek fun it's impossible not to be carried along by it . This is mainly down to the lead actor , an actor whose greatest tour de force as an outsider would be in THE ELEPHANT MAN in 1980 and a role that was predated five years earlier by the one seen here . .

RIP John Hurt and thanks for all the great performances down the decades
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The Naked Civil Servant
a_baron5 June 2014
John Hurt is one of England's finest actors, and in his long career there are two performances that stand out: "The Elephant Man" which earned him an Oscar nomination, and "The Naked Civil Servant", which as a TV dramatisation could not.

Hurt plays the enigmatic Quentin Crisp to a tee. Unlike the vast majority of today's Western homosexuals, Crisp knew what he was and made no attempt either to fit in or to embrace the so-called gay culture. He realised the futility of the effeminate homosexual's search for what he called his great dark man, and in the end abandoned it. He died at the age of 90 after being celibate for half a century.

He was also a natural exhibitionist, so his accidental choice of career was fitting.

It remains to be seen how much licence has been taken either by Crisp himself – whose autobiography is called "The Naked Civil Servant" - or by the film makers, but certainly being an out homosexual in London from the 1920s to the 1950s was a different proposition from today, and there is no doubt he would have been queer-bashed from time to time.

Something else that has changed is the public perception of the police, a perception that on occasion finds its way to the bench. That being said, the court scene was the high point of this dramatisation.
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This movie is the autobiographical story of Quentin Crisp, a flamboyantly effeminate homosexual who, oddly enough, is said to have been opposed to the gay liberation movement.
sanoraponto4 August 2017
This is my first movie review ever. But I felt I had to, after seeing the 8.0 score, which I felt was surprisingly low. (Oh, I do so hope that that comment does not conflict with the guidelines.)

I'm almost 70 years old and have been a long time ally of the LGBTQ+ community. Yet I only recently discovered Quentin was via a TV talk show interview with Tilda Swinton that led me to the movie Orlando, which led to Quentin and, of course, The Naked Civil Servant.

What a moving story of this brave man. Occasionally he comes across as pompous, but more importantly he was true to who he was at time when that was very difficult and even dangerous.

I gave it a 9 (rather then a 10) only because I don't know that any film can be perfect. Having said that, if I were to score just John Hurt's performance I'd be tempted to call it "Perfection". I must look into more of Hurt's work.
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Fantastic Film!
randi201616 October 2014
Certainly you've all heard how great this movie is, how it's ahead of its time and that it's one of John Hurt's greatest performances. I wholeheartedly agree, and I don't think I can say anything that hasn't been said already. This movie came to me as a kind of surprise, and I'm glad it did. I'd just discovered who John Hurt was (Oh my God, he was the chestburster guy in Alien!) and was doing research into his work. When I stumbled upon this film, after reading the synopsis, I was fairly certain I would at least like it a little. A movie about a real homosexual man's life, trying to make his way through it, at the mercy of the world, sounded interesting to me. This movie gave me so much more than I'd anticipated, thank goodness. First of all what drew me in was that it was based on the life of a real figure, Quentin Crisp. "Oh, that's pretty cool." After that, the sight of Hurt in long red hair and walking with a feminine gait really grabbed hold of me. Sure I found it kind of funny, and of course great, but my major thought was, "How brave must an actor be to display himself in this way to thousands of people, and make them believe it's real!" And of course, the silent-film style text slides on the screen provided several laughs: "Some roughs are really queer, and some queers are really rough". Taken in fully now, I paid close attention to his performance through the rest of the film. It was a phenomenal performance! I am constantly recommending this movie to friends and I love going back and seeing it again. I am all for equality, and this movie deals with it in an amazing way, from the standpoint of a person who never knew that his was a widespread mental state. His directness and bravery reminded me of how I wish I was: willing to stand up for anything I believe in and "tell it like it is"! Highly recommend it; just don't be afraid to shed a few tears. ;)
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Brilliant and Beautiful
musicjune-957-1153375 October 2014
Warning: Spoilers
The scene in the court is truly wonderfully done. John Hurt's dialog in court is brilliant and unlike anything you might expect. John Hurt won the British Academy Award as Best Actor for his performance as Quentin Crisp. Crisp was a brave free spirit and John Hurt brings this out very clearly. This movie is drawn from Quentin Crisp's own book and that fact makes the story very exciting and pleasing. The cast is obviously sympathetic to the brave Crisp's travails and it all adds up to a great film. This film is one not to be missed and is available for purchase on line. I especially liked the friends he had who showed up in court to speak on his behalf. They simply said that he, Quentin Crisp, was a nice person and a great friend that they were proud to know him. He is a good honest man and had the courage to face the world with the truth. In spite of the ostracism and violence visited upon himself he remained the same, a witty non-violent good human being. This is a good movie about a good man.
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Disgusting and tasteless
welshNick21 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is not me gaybashing. This film is pure filth. It tells the story of Quentin Crisp, one of the most outrageous homosexuals that has ever lived. He wore make up, nail polish, dyed his hair and was totally effeminate in every way. At a time when gays are trying to gain acceptance a character like this did no service back then and certainly does no service now to gays wanting to be seen as normal. The nauseating accent which John Huer put on for this film really set the tone for what followed. It was a portrayal of a real social misfit who made no attempt whatsoever to live properly in decent society. He may be a hero to some people in the gay community but to me he was little more than a show off extrovert who dressed and acted the way he did purely to try and make a statement. Tasteless.
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