Thursday, November 19, 2009

Queer Birthday Suits

Cinematic birthdays for Nov. 19th, this time with lighter loafers.

1889 Clifton Webb, reportedly as out as an actor could be back in the day but Oscar never gave him their top prize. They never give out actors the statue. Sad, but true. Classic films include Oscar favorites like Laura and Three Coins in the Fountain (review) but he's most famous for playing Mr. Belvedere, the uptight gentlemen bachelor of a certain obvious if unspoken persuasion. I saw the first of the three Belvedere films Sitting Pretty (1948) a few years ago and it was quite an... unh... time capsule.
1933 Larry King, asker of inane questions
1942 Calvin Klein makes pretty things
1938 Ted Turner took Jane Fonda away from me (the movies... same thing) ages ago and I've never forgiven him.

1954 Kathleen Quinlan an actress I don't really get
1958 Charlie Kaufman mindbender
1961 Meg Ryan have you ever noticed how people turn on actresses once they hit 40? Especially romantic comedy actresses. I'm not talking about ignoring them but viciously turning on them. It's like 'how dare they age!' This is my theory as to why nobody can ever be nice to Meg Ryan who was always a better actress than people ever gave her credit for being. I realize she hasn't been doing anything close to must-see work for a long while but I'm just sayin'. I'm thinking of Meg Ryan this morning because I've been eager to revisit In the Cut in the wake of Jane Campion's return with Bright Star.
1962 Jodie Foster doesn't make enough movies. I'm done complaining about her fetish for being trapped in small spaces in thrillers. Whatever. Just make movies, Jodie. Even if you must be contained inside of them.
1966 Jason Scott Lee didn't get the career he deserved if you ask me. Or that others would have gotten after Dragon The Bruce Lee Story and Jungle Book.


And 105 years ago, Nathan Leopold (of Leopold and Loeb infamy) was born. Their ghastly "thrill kill" of a teenage boy and the ensuing provocative trial fascinated the press of the day and influenced depictions of crime for years to come. You know how much the movies love to demonize the gays. Of course, in the case of Leopold and Loeb demonization wasn't difficult or uncalled for. The story has been adapted many times but Compulsion (1959) starring Orson Welles, the black and white and very queer Swoon (1992) by Tom Kalin (Savage Grace) and Rope (1948) by Alfred Hitchcock (full write-up here) are the most famous. Any of those are well worth a rental if you haven't seen them.

14 comments:

Kimberly said...

It's also a fabulous 50th birthday for Allison Janney, whom I adore :)

Jim T said...

Murder is murder but why do I regard Loeb and Leopold's relationship immensely sexy? A real "Bad Romance".

whitney said...

In the Cut was fantastic, but I think my beef with Meg Ryan is that she seemed to deny turning forty. Good actress or not, I can't stop staring at her new alien face. In a bad way.

Catherine said...

I recently had a Meg Ryan epiphany; having never seen her in a film (I was too young when she was in her heydey) and just knowing her from being all plasticized, I watched When Harry Met Sally for the first time. Yes, the first time. She is adorable! So funny, fresh-faced, charming. Such a revelation.

Anonymous said...

Didn't everyone turn on Meg Ryan after her affair with Russell Crowe? Or was she already over 40 at the time? Of course, a double standard, Crowe was at the peak of his popularity at the time, wasn't he?

Catherine said...

Also, I know I'm supposed to disapprove of Jodie Foster, but I just can't. I always like her as an interviewee and a media presence, even when her recent films have been mostly dross. Maybe The Beaver will be better (?), especially with Cherry Jones joining the cast.

Arlo said...

Gene Tierney is ridiculously attractive, and had quite the interesting life. I wouldn't mind seeing a biopic of her

MrW said...

Just one more: Gillo Pontecorvo, director of 'The Battle of Algiers' was born 90 years ago today.

But are you certain Webb is best known as Mr. Belvedere? No one who has seen 'Laura' will ever forget Waldo Lydecker (one of the classic supporting characters), and if the number of votes on the IMDb can be trusted as some kind of indicator how many people have watched a film (even though admittedly IMDb voters aren't exactly representative of the general population), 'Laura' has been seen by more than ten times as many people than all Belvedere films combined.

NATHANIEL R said...

Ah but MrW... IMDb voting is tremendously skewed in terms of age range of voters. To anyone under 40 who is really into movies (i.e. the IMDb populace) he's undoubtedly mostly known, if he's known at all, from LAURA. To people who actually lived through the 1940s or 1950s I'd be hugely surprised if they didn't think of 'Mr. Belvedere' first. I mean, the character was popular enough to get three films... and he even got an oscar nomination for that, a lead role in a comedy. Must have been very very popular back in the day.

NATHANIEL R said...

Whitney -- she did deny it yes, which is part of the problem. But even when the actresses accept the aging, people turn on them. as far as I can tell Julia Roberts hasn't had any work done and people seem really vicious about her all of a sudden too.

Anon -- yeah the affair was part of the problem, too. I can't remember how old she was then.

amir_uk said...

1) I hope Julia Roberts never gets any work done. I loved how you could see muffin top and some belly fat in Duplicity. Love that about her.

2) I miss Meg Ryan so much. You've Got Mail - ah, perfection! She is just so lovely in it - and she's, what, pretty much 40 there, right? I wish she didn't have to get all embittered and hardened after all the criticism she received over Crowe affair, trout pout and, gasp, turning 40. Forget all that Meg and come back!xx

amir_uk said...

*has

- I'd make a rubbish American.

Will said...

Gene Tierney was born November 20.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Nathaniel, I hope you accept that beyond being a time capsule, Sitting Pretty is also just wonderful fun, right?...

Clifton Webb was a treasure, although I kinda agree with Mr W - years before I'd heard of Sitting Pretty, I knew him mainly because of Laura. It's still the film and performance I most associate with him.

Also happy birthday to the fabulous Allison Janney and Gillo Pontecorvo.