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Arthur Hiller (1923-2016) and "Making Love"

Arthur Hiller with his Jean Hersholt Huminatarian AwardOscar nominated Canadian born Hollywood director Arthur Hiller died yesterday at 92 years of age. Though he's best remembered for the 1970 mega-hit Love Story  -- so popular in its day it would have been equivalent to a Jurassic World at the box office today (no really) -- his career was actually quite varied. He did dramas, romances, buddy comedies, period pieces, you name it.

Among his best known films which is your favorite?

  • The Americanization of Emily (1964)
  • The Out of Towners (1970)
  • Love Story (1970)
  • Plaza Suite (1971)
  • Man of La Mancha (1972)
  • Silver Streak (1976)
  • The In-Laws (1979)
  • Making Love (1982)
  • Author! Author! (1982)
  • Outrageous Fortune (1987)
  • See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) 

Outrageous Fortune was probably my favorite of his films - Bette Midler & Shelley Long were so funny together --  but the film that's the most interesting, historically, is Making Love as it was the very first mainstream LGBT film...

I'm currently reading a book called "Gay Men at the Movies: Cinema, memory, and the history of the gay male community" and the film comes up often. The book is hard to describe but it's a study of movie theaters and other communal spaces in which the gay community viewed films and how context of where and when films played affects memories and perception. It's academic and a bit repetitive but quite interesting thus far. Here's a little bit on that film from the book:

The search for positive image was becoming increasingly complex. Was presenting gay men on-screen who were successful, upper middle-class and attractive a welcome countering of old stereoytpes or was it a a worrying attempt to enforce conformity? The Star's reviewer applauded the film for presenting more positive images of gay men but then suggestd, "Some might argue that they are a little too glowingly positive - not all gay men are upwardly mobile doctors and lawyers!" This highlights the burden of representation carred by gay male characters, particularly in terms of the perpetual search to define such characters as either positive or negative. The suggestion is that any gay character must be representative of all gay men, a burden not carried by white heterosexual - and particularly male - characers. 

The positive/negative dichotomy could be given some nuance, howerver, by those happier to delineate between differing forms of identity and the differing subject positions from which gay men watched movies. Barry Lowe stated that as an "out" and politically aware gay man, he found the film "earnest" and boring. This was not, to Lowe, "a film of, or for, radicals"

Michael Ontkean and Harry Hamlin in "Making Love"

... If some gay men feared that Making Love reprented too conformist a form of male sexuality, it was viewed by some in the mainstream media as anything but. The film was swept up in a backlash against the appearance of gay characters on screen. Reviewers, particularly in the tabloid press, were at times framing their reviews of these films as complaints about the increasing visibility of gay characters. The Sun Herald complained, "The love that once dared not whisper its name, as someone remarked recently, has become the love that can't seem to keep its trap shut." The reviewer was prepared to give the filmmakers credit for taking on a "dodgy" issue , but announced, "Endless variation on the gay theme are heaing our way [...] For some of us, this is no singing matter."

We've come a long way... but also we haven't. We so rarely get mainstream LGBT movies even today.


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Reader Comments (19)

That's a tough choice. The three that I return to the most often are Outrageous Fortune, Plaza Suite and Silver Streak but The Americanization of Emily is a hell of a good movie. Love Story despite its success is dross.

Although they aren't listed I really enjoyed two of his other films as well, The Wheeler Dealers and The Hospital.

I respect Making Love more than I really liked it. The film is clunkily constructed but as a step forward its value can't be diminished. Good though both Ontkean and Hamlin were it's Kate Jackson who gives the best performance in the film.

August 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

The problem with being apart of a marginalized group is the burden of respectability politics. White straight people have the luxury of not being stereotyped regardless of the awful behavior one commits in their group. Everyone else has to deal with lies and stereotypes. And bigots using the one bad apple philosophy for everyone not them.

August 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I'd have to cite, in order:
The Americanization of Emily (1964)
The Man In The Glass Booth (1975)
Outrageous Fortune (1987)
Followed by Making Love and Love Story. Sorry, Love Story's story is so bad that his direction must have had something good to make it the success it became. Did it not come close to knocking The Sound Of Music from the #1 money-maker of all time (to that point in time)?

August 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRJL

There's only 2 movies of Arthur Hiller that I like. The In-Laws and Silver Streak. Love Story.... BLECH.... Love means never having to say you're sorry. What a stupid-ass line. Who wrote that shit?

August 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

As a Julie Andrews fanboy I'm ashamed to say I haven't seen TAOE. Of the rest The Hospital is his best work. The In-Laws is one of the funniest films ever, and had the curious fate of being out the same time as Hiller's notorious turkey Nightwing, a horror flick that is so awful and inept it has half the laughs of the other. I feel bad bringing that up. Rest in peace.

August 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

brookesboy. You will like TAOE. It was a collaboration ( like The Hospital ) with Paddy Chayefsky

August 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie19

I could be very very wrong on this b/c I have not checked ... but I believe he directed Natalie Wood in Penelope...

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrick

The In-Laws! Peter Falk and Alan Arkin together, what could be more fun?

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenteradri

The Hospital, The Man in the Glass Booth and Silver Streak (a childhood favourite that still holds up) are three I admire. R.I.P. Arthur Hiller.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Some good ones there - you know, he was a better director than I realized - but my favorite is definitely The Americanization of Emily.

"The first dead man on Omaha Beach must be a sailor!"

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor Strange

I finally saw Love Story and can totally understand why it was a mega success. Personally I didn't care for it. However Outrageous Fortune and The Out of Towners were hilarious. But Making Love was brilliant. This was during the anti-gay Reagan years - but at the very least the song by Roberta Flack should have been nominated. What a brilliant song.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

Making Love is an excellent film,maybe it should be reviewd in the light of today,in it's time it was a HOT TOPIC FILM.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark

the dismaying idea that a gay character must represent all gays is so annoying (this was a big discussion among dumb people who didn't understand LOOKING).

one thing that is an undeniable positive about MAKING LOVE: Michael Ontkean and Harry Hamlin are crazy hot. Two beauties!

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEric

You know, Hollywood doesn't really make movie posters with 4 paragraphs of text anymore.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrevity

Married to It had a great cast.

Love Story is very well directed. John Marley is brilliant and the couple MacGraw-O'Neal are to die for.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Love Story is very well-made and still works--and I'm pretty cynical. MacGraw has great charimsa. Ryan is so lovely looking. The score glistens. There are worse ways to spend two hours.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Ray Milland is also gr8 in it.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark

Outrageous Fortune and Silver Streak are so underrated with 3 charismatic actress performances.

August 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLola

guzel paylasım

August 14, 2017 | Unregistered Commentergabile sohbet

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