Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The gayest hero

The Naked Civil Servant debuted in 1975. It's the autobiographical story of Quentin Crisp, a gay man who came out in London in the mid 1900's when homosexuality was a crime.

I'm no film critic and while I don't think this is a great film, John Hurt's performance was positively riveting. I could not take my eyes from the screen. His depiction of Crisp is at once maddening and compelling. Crisp is painfully vulnerable, while being the bravest man you've ever seen--a spectacular hero in quasi-drag.

Even making such a film in 1975 had it's challenges, but when you consider Crisp coming out as a flamboyant effeminate homosexual in WWII London, it casts today's marriage equality argument in a whole new light. All the loudmouths with their guns and their bibles are pipsqueaks next to this delicate gay man.

Despite the poor quality, I loved the scene featuring the gays in the coffee shop above, but the entire film captivated me: Crisp's attempt to join the army, the way he ages just like your Aunt Edna, his awkward boyfriends. It's only about an hour and 20 minutes. You can watch the whole movie, including an introduction by Quentin Crisp, here.

I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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Anonymous said...

We have brave Australians to thank for a good deal of the change in mind set for the majority. Once it became clear there was a vast difference between the predatory scum who preyed from positions of trust and were nothing more than rapists and ordinary decent people who loved people of their own gender.
Here in Ireland the loudest shouters against same sex love were those who moved dirt from parish to parish knowing they were truly dangerous

jo said...

holy crap the dame with the cigarette holder looks like lindsay lohan dontcha think?
thanks will check this out

Anonymous said...

There were some pretty terrific public television shows in the
'70s: Elizabeth R, Six Wives of Henry VIII, Upstairs Downstairs, An American Family, NOVA, Cosmos, Austin City Limits, Sesame Street, Bill Moyers Journal, MacNeil-Lehrer report, and Washington Week In Review.

Fun Facts To Learn And Know: Crisp played Polonius to Helen Mirren's Ophelia in a low-rent film version of Hamlet in 1976.

For a decidedly less 'gay' and much more tragic, wasteful, and destructive example of mid-twentieth century bigotry and homophobia in Britain, Google 'Alan Mathison Turing.'


Anonymous said...

I'm afraid Turing was far from the only victim of that law in the UK. And in might reasonable be argued that most cold war problems can be traced to Cambridge of that era and the twain lives required of those who lived through it.

Anonymous said...

Dear roaring 40,

Would you mind elaborating on this part of your post for the historically and culturally challenged commenters(me) of this here blog..."And in might reasonable be argued that most cold war problems can be traced to Cambridge of that era and the twain lives required of those who lived through it."
Thank You,


Anonymous said...

@RJ-google 'Cambridge Five' and/or Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt, and John Carincross. All of these men except Philby were gay. Carincross wasn't publically revealed until 1990.


Vince said...

Yes, those. Then you have the wider, lets call them experimenters, who rapidly rose through the grades in the civil service and were open to blackmail.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the comments. What an intriguing twist(no pun intended) to international relations. Was there a belief in mid-twentieth century Britan among idealistic communists that the Soviet Union would be more tolerant of alternative lifestyles?


Anonymous said...

No, the Communist ideals are not viewed in Europe in the same way as in the US. Nor was/is flirting with it in ones youth a bar to joining the civil service.
Remember when these people were in school/university you had the excesses of the 20s. Where people starved in industrial cities while those that profited from WW1 developed the Art Deco design.
Then the Crash and depression. After that you had the Spanish Civil War. Then the conflagration of the WW2.
What you had with these youth was a casting about for a better way. You see, these people knew the ways of Power. Who had it and where and for why it was deployed.

Anonymous said...

Good point R40. Flirt with ideas as a youth in America they put you in a Charter School.


Cleveland Bob said...

You're right Erin, it's a fairly dreadful film but Hurt's performance is amazing.

I had the very good fortune to say hello to Mr. Crisp on the lower East Side of NY circa 1982. We sort of bumped into one another on the sidewalk, as one is prone to do in crowded Manhattan, and he was deft and charming. I recognized him immediately and made sure that he knew I knew who he was.

Next to saying, "good day Mr. President", to Richard Nixon one afternoon at a Korean fruit stand on the Upper East Side, Quentin Crisp was my favorite brush with greatness.

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