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Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood from Edison to Stonewall [Hardcover]

Richard Barrios

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Book Description

21 Nov 2002
Rapacious dykes, self-loathing closet cases, hustlers, ambiguous sophisticates, and sadomasochistic rich kids: most of what America thought it knew about gay people it learned at the movies. A fresh and revelatory look at sexuality in the Great Age of movie making, Screened Out shows how much gay and lesbian lives have shaped the Big Screen. Spanning popular American cinema from the 1900s until today, distinguished film historian Richard Barrios presents a rich, compulsively readable analysis of how Hollywood has used and depicted gays and the mixed signals it has given us: Marlene in a top hat, Cary Grant in a negligee, a pansy cowboy in The Dude Wrangler. Such iconoclastic images, Barrios argues, send powerful messages about tragedy and obsession, but also about freedom and compassion, even empowerment.

Mining studio records, scripts, drafts (including cut scenes), censor notes, reviews, and recollections of viewers, Barrios paints our fullest picture yet of how gays and lesbians were portrayed by the dream factory, warning that we shouldn't congratulate ourselves quite so much on the progress movies - and the real world -- have made since Stonewall.

Captivating, myth-breaking, and funny, Screened Out is for all film aficionados and for anyone who has sat in a dark movie theater and drawn strength and a sense of identity from what they saw on screen, no matter how fleeting or coded.

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"In tracing the lavender thread that runs through film, Barrios unearths some wonderful curiosities." -- Simon Callow, The Guardian

"The story he tells is of hidden history and witty subversion" -- Simon Callow, The Guardian

"[R]eveals how ultimately irrepressible minorities are, regardless of the weight of opposition ranged against them." -- Simon Callow, The Guardian

About the Author

Richard Barrios, a native of Louisiana, lives in New York City. He is the author of A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film. He holds degrees in cinema studies, music history, and literature, and has worked in the film industry and music publishing.

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The movies and gayness have had oddly parallel lives these past hundred years. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Screen out the world, and read! 13 Aug 2003
By Carolyn Paetow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For those interested in cinematic homosexuality, this book is simply a must-have! Composed with a liberal touch of arch lingua franca, the volume is toned and textured with as many gossipy asides, innuendos, and double entendres as the films discussed. The subject is dealt a much lighter hand than Vito Russo allotted its predecessor, The Celluloid Closet. Richard Barrios is utterly tickled pink at his discoveries, where Russo often seems to chafe. Even those familiar with the torturous course of outre theater will detect tidbits previously unperceived, and those not in-the-know will probably be astonished at pre-Production Code permissiveness regarding the depiction of fey/butch images. More remarkable is the under-the-radar, Code-busting bomblettes that went unsensed by the censors--and were subsequently reviled (or reveled in) by trade reviewers. A tad too much quill is sharpened criticizing fluffy, Day-class sixties comedies, when such goose down is found in every film era. (At least the author can be commended for not reading too much into Calamity Jane--or any other feature, for that matter. After all, a lesbian cult movie does not a lesbian movie make!) Barrios could also have refrained from the occasional canard regarding sexual orientation origins and Biblical history. Overall, though, this substantial book sticks solidly to the subject, examining numerous films (including shorts and cartoons) and their interrelationship with the political establishment and popular culture. Included are over 50 crisp photos and several vignette-bios. The prose has a fabulous flow that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read and should hold the attention of anyone interested in the screen/society circle.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Screened Out - revealing and a great read. 14 Jan 2007
By Douglas Weatherford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This literate, well written and fascinating history of the subtle and not so subtle portrayals of the gay and lesbian sensibility in Hollywood films, is comprehensive and endlessly informative and perceptive. Anyone with the slightest interest in film subtext and the wryly subversive nature which filmmakers can exhibit in their work (often under the radar of the studio brass) will find Richard Barrios a terrfic guide thorough the minefield of how Hollywood made pictures. From Clifton Webb to Marlene Dietrich, from antiques like "The Broadway Melody" to instant relics like "The Boys in the Band," the examples offered will stimulate the interest to reinvestigate many old film titles, and subsequently enrich the experience of watching them with a new perspective.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything in the Garden 1 Aug 2008
By Kevin Killian - Published on Amazon.com
This book deserves five stars just for its research alone, but it has to be said that Barrios grows steadily sourer as the present era starts riding in, like the tide. He doesn't like any show made after 1958 or so, and if you ask me, one of Doris Day's furry best friends must have escaped her palatial pet shelter in Carmel, and bitten Richard Barrios on theass, for there's no other explanation for his vitriol against the Doris Day Rock Hudson movies of the early 60s. Okay, okay, they were inane, but they did not cause cancer! And sometimes he seems unable to explain the results of his research, but unwilling to admit it, so he just blathers on covering his tracks. Maybe spends too much time following market trends (and yet this proved such a fruitful field in his previous book, A SONG IN THE DARK, about the early movie musicals of the late 20s and early 30s)? No one can really explain why so many of the big studio films of the CHILDRENS HOUR/ADVISE AND CONSENT period tanked at the box office, but Barrios just keeps doggedly analyzing and re-analyzing what went wrong.

In every other respect, the book is unforgettably brilliant and, even when I disagree with his conclusions about this or that film, I respect his opinion and I admire the way he writes it up. (Okay, except for Hitchcock's ROPE, much more sympathetic a film than he gives it credit for.) Barrios' style, or banter, is generally persuasive and amusing, and he can summarize the plot of a bad film faster than an old fashioned telegram by Gertrude Stein. And when it comes time for an aria, he really knows how to let go--such as his extended tribute to the "Naked Moon" scene in Cecil B. De Mille's THE SIGN OF THE CROSS.

Book is punctuated by individual star portraits in prose, of Franklin Pangborn, Cecil Cunningham, Clifton Webb, and most hilariously, Bugs Bunny, whose manic androgyny and brattiness finally get their due here. He has gone through the files of the Breen office, the Hays office, every memo Geoffrey Shurlock ever wrote, and he has pored through multiple drafts of studio screenplays to find out how same-sex encodement was pre-censored by officious agencies. They still do this, only nowadays they call it "market research," and Barrios points out how it's the same old story watching Russell Crowe in A BEAUTIFUL MIND, the strands of gay sexuality in the original material as calculatedly snipped out as they were in NIGHT AND DAY or WORDS AND MUSIC. Can't wait to see what Mr. Barrios writes next.
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read, but needed stronger focus, fewer footnotes 16 April 2014
By TeeBee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
SInce I loved Richard Barrios' book "A Song In The Dark," I was surprised to learn that this book, which I purchased in late 2013, had been published in 2005 and completely escaped my attention. I read several magazines which would normally have reviewed a book about gay and lesbian screen portrayals, so I was happily surprised when I did learn about the existence of this book.

Barrios' work here is done in the shadows of two well-known books, Vito Russo's "Celluloid Closet" and Gregory Black's "Hollywood Censored." Barrios had an advantage that Russo did not have: TCM (and its custom-DVD offshoot Warner Archives) has made available dozens of early-'30s, pre-code movies for analysis, and it was delightful to have Barrios lead me to obscure (but available) films like "The Sports Parade" and "Tom Brown of Culver" - movies with significant gay undertones. Barrios is at his best writing about the pre-code period with his usual accuracy and wit, and his inclusion of many titles not covered by Russo more or less justifies the writing of a similar study.

However, he spends too much time on the ins and outs (no pun intended) of the Production Code. This is ground covered thoroughly and well in Black's book and for those who have read "Hollywood Censored" most of this material will be familiar. Midway through the book it takes on a somewhat schizophrenic tone, and one wishes that Barrios focused more on the films and less on the history of the Code.

One also wishes that Barrios weren't so addicted to footnotes. A professor of mine once stated that "if it's important enough to rate a footnote, it's important enough to be in the body of the book." That is a bit of an overstatement, but it is tiring to the reader to have the distractions of turning to footnotes on about half of the pages of the book, and something that Barrios' editor should have attempted to modify.

Barrios rather arbitrarily stops his analysis at the end of the '60s when in fact many gay-themed films of the subsequent decades could and should have been included.

So we are left with a flawed book that is a good read but could have been more focused and inclusive of the post-Stonewall period. If you have a strong interest in pre-code Hollywood movies, you will enjoy this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything You Wanted to Know 30 Jan 2011
By M. L. Moser - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Lots of insight into early Hollywood, censorship in America, and the edges of change in the movies. An essential look into the history of depiction of homosexuality in the movies, how things progressed for better and worse, and the roots of censorship in American arts and ideas. It brings up the question, why were they censored and why was censorship accepted and used to deny human rights to portions of American citizens?
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