Friday, July 31, 2009

Know your lgbt history - Cleopatra Jones and her lesbian drug lords

I am a serious fan of the Cleopatra Jones movies from the early 1970s.

Cleopatra Jones, portrayed by the late Tamara Dobson, was an African-American secret service agent who fought drugs in her community and overseas.

It's a shame that only two movies, Cleopatra Jones and Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold, were made. They were landmarks in motion picture cinema because it was one of the few times that a black woman took centerstage in a movie and probably the first time a black actress played an action hero.

However, there were some problems, particularly with the choice of villain Cleopatra Jones had to combat.

They were both lesbian drug lords. A lesbian villain in one movie wouldn't be bad, but the makers of the Cleopatra Jones made it a point to include a lesbian as the villain in both.

And to me that sends a bad message. Why not a man? Why not a heterosexual woman?

However again, there is a silver lining to this cloud. The actresses who played the drug lords did a rather good job, proving that talent can always transcend stereotyping and bad parts.

Two-time Oscar and Emmy award winner Shelley Winters plays Mommy in Cleopatra Jones.

I'm almost ashamed to admit that I loved her performance. Winters (whose career was not damaged at all by this movie) is having fun with the role. She comes on the screen with all of the subtlety of a speeding train.

The following scene (beginning at 6:21) displays best what I mean as she berates a henchman for missing a chance to kill Jones. A fun game to play while watching this movie is to count how many costume changes and wigs Dobson and Winters go through.

Now in Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold, actress Stella Stevens takes a more serious tone with her role of the Dragon Lady and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Whereas Winters went for superbutch extreme, Stevens is played her character as a sensuous woman equally adept at binding up her hair and leading her army in pursuit of doublecrossers or putting on a cocktail dress and charming patrons of her casino.

Subsequently, she and Dobson engage in a long drawn out fight scene, unlike Winters who has a short fight with Dobson before her demise.

Unfortunately I can only provide the trailer of the movie in the following clip. But it gives you a good impression of the Dragon Queen.

Now the only problem I had with Stevens's character is the relationship between her and her Asian adopted daughter. It is obvious the Stevens's character has taken a, shall we say, less than maternal interest in the girl. Particularly when she has her brutally murdered for helping Cleopatra Jones.

Editor's note - The fight scene from Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold is here for anyone who wants to view it.

Past Know Your LGBT History postings:

Know your lgbt history - Norman, Is That You?

Know your lgbt history - The 'Exotic' Adrian Street

Know your lgbt history - The Choirboys

Know your lgbt history - Eddie Murphy

Know your lgbt history - The Killing of Sister George

Know your lgbt history - Hanna-Barbera cartoons pushes the 'gay agenda'

Know your lgbt history - Cruising

Know your lgbt history - Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones

Know your lgbt history - I Got Da Hook Up

Know your lgbt history - Fright Night

Know your lgbt history - Flowers of Evil

The Jeffersons and the transgender community

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1 comment:

NG said...