Friday, September 03, 2010

Know Your LGBT History - Suddenly Last Summer

An infamous Tennessee Williams play (1958) made into an infamous movie (1959) starring Elizabeth Taylor and Katherine Hepburn.

And I never in a million years understand a part of it. The plot centers around a psychiatrist investigating why a wealthy New Orleans woman wants her niece lobotomized.

Apparently it has to due with the death of the woman's son, a man named Sebastian. He died mysteriously on a trip with the niece. So what does it have to do with the lgbt community? Read on if you want me to spoil it for you.

Apparently Sebastian (who is never seen, even in the flashbacks) had his cousin accompany him his usual trip to Spain because he was using her to attract the impoverished young men there. Before her, he was using his mother but she had gotten too old.

On the trip in question, the young men whom he was exploiting gathered together and took a nasty vengeance on him. They (wait for it) ate him.

And to this day, I will never understand that plot twist.

The movie itself was a hit, garnering Oscar nominations for both Taylor and Hepburn. According to the Internet Movie Database:

Screenwriter Gore Vidal credits film critic Bosley Crowther with the success of this film. Crowther wrote a scathing review denouncing the film as the work of degenerates obsessed with rape, incest, homosexuality, and cannibalism among other qualities. Vidal believes advertising such salacious detail made audiences flock in droves to the film.

And here is another bit of trivia for you. While the gay man in the center of movie was never seen or heard, one of the cast members was the legendary actor Montgomery Clift, whose inability to deal with his own homosexuality helped lead to his death.

Two years before, an awful car accident had damaged his face and psyche. He was heavily into drugs at the time and it caused problems on the set for a number of reasons, as did his sexual orientation. However, he had an ally in Katherine Hepburn. Also from the Internet Movie Database:

According to author Garson Kanin in his memoir "Tracy and Hepburn", Katharine Hepburn was reportedly so furious at the way Montgomery Clift was treated by Sam Spiegel and Joseph L. Mankiewicz during the filming that, after making sure that she would not be needed for retakes, she told both men off and actually spat at them (although it remains unclear just which one of the two she spat at, or if she spat at both.)

Past Know Your LGBT History Posts:

Know Your LGBT History - Gay TV Now

Know Your LGBT History - Stewardess School

Know Your LGBT History - Up the Academy

Know Your LGBT History - Don't be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood

Know Your LGBT History - A Different Story

Know Your LGBT History - Victim

Know Your LGBT History - The Color Purple

Know Your LGBT History - Making Love

Know Your LGBT History - A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge

Know Your LGBT History - Noah's Arc

Know Your LGBT History - Ode to Billy Joe

Know Your LGBT History - Adorable Adrian Adonis

Know Your LGBT History - The Night Strangler

Know Your LGBT History - All in the Family

Know Your LGBT History - Tongues Untied

Know Your LGBT History - The Celluloid Closet

Know Your LGBT History - Querelle

Know Your LGBT History - Theatre of Blood

Know Your LGBT History - Strange Fruit

Know Your LGBT History - Designing Women

Know Your LGBT History - The Children's Hour

Know Your LGBT History - Sylvester

Know Your LGBT History - Once Bitten

Know Your LGBT History - The Boys in the Band

Know Your LGBT History - Christopher Morley, the crossdressing assassin

Know Your LGBT History - Midnight Cowboy

Know Your LGBT History - Dracula's Daughter

Know Your LGBT History - Blacula

Know Your LGBT History - 3 Strikes

Know Your LGBT History - Paris Is Burning

Know Your LGBT History - The Women

Know your LGBT History - Soul Plane

Know Your LGBT History - The Player's Club

Special Know Your LGBT History - Fame

Know Your LGBT History - Welcome Home, Bobby

Know Your LGBT History - Barney Miller

Know your lgbt history - The Jerry Springer Show

Know your lgbt history - Martin Lawrence and that 'gay guy' on his show

Know your lgbt history - The Ricki Lake Show

Know your lgbt history - Which Way Is Up

Know your lgbt history - Gays in Primetime Soaps

Know your lgbt history - Boys Beware

Know your lgbt history - The Boondocks

Know your lgbt history - Mannequin

Know your lgbt history - The Warriors

Know Your LGBT History - New York Undercover

Know Your LGBT History - Low Down Dirty Shame

Know Your LGBT History - Fortune and Men's Eyes

Know your lgbt history - California Suite

Know your lgbt history - Taxi (Elaine's Strange Triangle)

Know your lgbt history - Come Back Charleston Blue

Know your lgbt history - James Bond goes gay

Know your lgbt history - Windows

Know your lgbt history - To Wong Foo and Priscilla

Know your lgbt history - Blazing Saddles

Know your lgbt history - Sanford and Son

Know your lgbt history - In Living Color

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

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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Anonymous said...

Katharine Hepburn's performance in this movie is exquisite -- her entrance no less than regal -- and Elizabeth Taylor is at the peak of her beauty. I never took the boys devouring Sebastian as vengeance: I thought it was part of the group frenzy he had caused. But now you have me wondering.

In any case, I see photos every day of men online that I fear I might eat alive if there weren't cyberspace between me and them.

Inspector13 said...

at the time this film was made the production code excluded any mention of homosexuality in any film. that is why this movie does not have sebastian veneble in it. all scenes of him were cut out by the censors.

i always thought that clift's problem with his homosexuality was because he was as they say, and i quote from a book i read on him, a "princess tiny meat".

i have never cared for this movie, but i have never cared for any movie based on the work of tennesse williams. they are never any good after the censors get ahold of the material.

how about a post on Inside Daisy Clover (an absolute horror of a film) with it's what the hell is up with robert redford and why won't he sleep with natalie wood problem (the character was gay and they cut all reference to it).

Anonymous said...

What's wonderful about this film is its language, particularly in Catherine's climactic monologue. Yes, the censors played havoc, but Gore Vidal did a superb job of adaptation within those imposed limits, and the beauty of Williams' poetic language remains intact. Taylor is gorgeous and wonderfully moving. Hepburn is stunningly effective and Clift, superb. Really, it's a fine film. There is a more faithful version with Natasha Richardson and Maggie Smith, and it's worth a look. (Rob Lowe is no Montgomery Clift, however). This version is available in the DVD collection, "Maggie Smith at the BBC." But somehow, it's not as much sheer fun as this older version.

Inspector13 said...

i have two films for you. the boston strangler with tony curtis. the first thng they do is start questioning gay people.

then there is the detective with frank sinatra and lee remick in which the victim is a gay man and the killer is a closeted straight man played by william windom.