Last years #50years events showed us the power of people being able to express themselves, from spoken word to film showings to the launch of our new creative space at the centre on Thursday afternoons. In particular the influence of the film Victim on the implementation of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which legalised gay relationships for the first time – even if there were a huge number of caveats to be satisfied.
In honour of that film and the positive influence it had for LGBT+ people, we are proud to present a monthly blog series throughout this year, looking at LGBT+ film through the ages, decade by decade. So without further fanfare, here’s the first entry on the very earliest examples of queer film:
A Florida Enchantment was released in 1914, and follows the story of a young woman who finds seeds that allow her to become more mannish. She gives one to her fiancé, allowing him to become more feminine. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFys4CbM2XE)
The 1920’s were very much into stereotypes and generally all carried a common theme of using LGBT alongside a criminal act. Fortunately many of these films have survived to this day and are available on Youtube, links have been provided where possible.
The first notable release of the era was a film called ‘The Adventuress’ which starred Julian Eltinge who was a noted female impersonator in theatre. He first appeared on screen in 1917 in The Countess Charming. The Adventuress was intended as an anti-German propaganda film but never got released due to the end of the war. It got re-cut in 1922 and released as ‘The Isle of Love’. (https://youtu.be/GDYr3YUzPd4)
One of the most well-known of the decade was a film based on Oscar Wild’s play called ‘Salomé’. The film was reputed to have a virtually gay cast and several female courtiers in the film were men in drag. As this was reported by one of the extra’s it is not really possible to say if this is indeed true or not. The producer was a known lesbian and the films sets and costumes were designed by her lesbian lover. (https://youtu.be/BkMq_Cs3OUs)
Several of the releases moving forward all followed the theme of women dressing as men in order to escape punishment by somebody. The film Sex in Chains (https://youtu.be/P6c7mG9EEC4 ) is probably the most serious of the films in the decade as it focused on Paragraph 175 of the German law against homosexual acts to blackmail a person. As such the film had a homo-erotic subplot.
Towards the end of the decade Laurel and Hardy started in their cross dressing antics with ‘Why girls love Sailors’ (https://youtu.be/XqRltVXVxZM) and ‘That’s my Wife’ (https://youtu.be/eHXmW3IvPYE ). In the first of these Stan Laurel dresses as a woman to be able to get onboard a ship to rescue his betrothed and throw the crew overboard while they were distracted, and in the latter he pretends to be Oliver Hardy’s betrothed to fool an uncle into not disinheriting him.