Team Experience is celebrating Gay Pride with their favorite moments in gay cinema... although since it's the cinema sometimes it's Gay Shame! Here's Michael going wayback for some devious fey villanry in a noir classic... Happy Gay Pride Week Everyone!
Sam Spade’s secretary tells him there is a Joel Cairo to see him. She hands Spade a business card. He sniffs it and shoots Effie a look.
“Gardenia,” she says, identifying the scent. [more...]
One can’t help but wonder how audiences of the time could be so blind as to miss the various ways John Huston suggests the homosexuality of The Maltese Falcon’s villains. To modern audiences the code Huston used to skirt the censors is so blatant it seems like no code at all. On the other hand, the story’s trio of crooks are such strange creatures that their very presence disguises the glaring truth, which is that The Maltese Falcon can be accurately described as the story of a group of gay men who went on an antiquing trip that got out of hand.
The pre-code 1931 version of Hammett’s novel was much less shy about the story’s gayness. In one of its scenes the Wilmer character (Elisha Cook Jr) is actually referred to as the boyfriend of Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet in an Oscar nominated role). It is ironic then, that the morality code that prevented Huston from directly addressing these elements may have caused the film to age better as a result. The subtext is so plain to modern audiences that the film has gone full circle to where it now plays like Falcon is being matter-of-fact about the character’s homosexuality. They are not defined by their sexuality as much as by their eccentricities. Their gayness doesn’t really enter it, except to explain why Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) takes a special sadistic pleasure in beating up on poor Peter Lorre's Joel Cairo (Sam Spade is nothing if not a huge asshole).
John Huston even went so far as to include Dashiell Hammett’s use of the word “gunsel” to describe the character Wilmer Cook. Because of the word’s similarity to “gunman” moral watchdogs of the time paid no attention, assuming it to be slang word for “hoodlum”. The sneaky truth is that the word is from a Yiddish slur for a young gay man. How amusing is it then, that subsequent crime fiction influenced by Falcon also made that false assumption with such frequency that dictionaries now acknowledge gunsel’s dual definitions.