Dir. Michael Curtiz, 1950
A musical Noir on compromise versus tough choices
Lauren Bacall was famous for her smokey voice, intense gaze, glamurous appearance, and for her portraits of sexually assertive and sharply intelligent women. In Young Man with a Horn, she plays a sexually ambiguous woman who tries to live the lie of a proper heterosexual marriage, but has to struggle with her ‘wicked’ side.
Her story appears to be a subplot in a film about the life of a trumpet player. A dazzling Kirk Douglas plays the title role, based on the life of Bix Beiderbecke, the white boy who fell in love with the emerging black-American jazz scene in the 1920s, and who eventually became a virtuoso of ‘the horn’. But the film is not just a biopic, or an opportunity to listen to some absolutely gorgeous music.
Young Man with a Horn is actually a meditation on the pull to conform and fit in in society, in terms of creativity, and in terms of sexuality. Rick (Douglas) has to struggle between, on the one hand, his passion for an underground music style and a downtrodden culture, and on the other hand, the mainstream music circuit with its formulaic commercial showbands. This last is represented with suitable ‘straightness’ by the perfectly cast wholesome-looking Doris Day (herself an underrated but wonderful singer).
The original novel did not have openly queer characters, and its author, the great Dorothy Baker, was not impressed by the liberties taken by the film. However, she had published a groundbreaking lesbian novel in 1943, and she was reportedly lesbian, so the film seems a rare case of retrospective lesbianization of a book! Baker shouldn’t have complained; they did a wonderful job, expanding and deepening the theme of the original book. Young Man with a Horn is definitely a gay film, not because of a thrilling lesbian subplot, but because the subplot ultimately becomes the main story: look inside yourself — most of us live a life of compromise, but isn’t the prize just too high?
About EVIL SEASON “MAD, BAD, AND DANGEROUS TO KNOW”
screenings @ 3:00 pm
doors open @ 2:30 pm
come early and join us in the foyer for free tea & coffee
Our schedule is subject to change due to availability of films from Film Distributors.
Our next season will offer you another exclusive selection of fantastic LGBTQ films which are either little known, or completely forgotten, or which have failed to get the attention they deserve. We are calling this season the “Evil Season: ‘Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know'”. After our roller-coaster Season Two, “Around the World in the 80s”, we are traveling back in time to the 1940s, 50s and 60s (we will be stopping in 1968, the year Stonewall changed gay history). In Season Three, we are going to take a look at some gloriously gay films from Hollywood, made under heavy censorship but managing to tell amazing queer stories in exciting new ways. By contrast, we will also look at the freedom of European films of the period, talking about homosexuality with a mater-of-factness which is often shocking.
Our next ten screenings are “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”. That’s how Lord Byron was described by an ex-lover, and we are borrowing the tag for Season Three! The poet Byron, leading light of the Romantic movement in England and a hero of the Greek war of independence, was also famous for his sexual conquests, which did not discriminate between women and men. The writer Caroline Lamb —who after some resistance, succumbed to his charms — said of Byron that he was “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”. Of course, the aura of danger and lawlessness, and the rumours of depravity, made Lord Byron all the more alluring. His ‘wicked’ side was officially disapproved of, but it turned him into a sex symbol…
All our films for Season Three have one thing in common: they deal with evil — evil gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer people, yes, but also with the curse of internalised homophobia, and with the horrors of a society that cant cope with black sheep. Some of our films have great gay baddies, other films pretend to condemn us so they can publicize gay culture, and others are about people who are dying for an opportunity to be “bad”. In short, in Season Three we will see some of the lesser known but most intelligent portraits of gay people ever created, we will laugh at society’s boring obsession with normalcy, and we will also celebrate evil. That’s right, we will embrace the “intrinsic evilness” that Mr Ratzinger finds so scary, and we will celebrate it. Because, lets face it, it has been a blessing for many of us — enriching our lives with excitement, fun, tenderness, friendship… not to mention some truly fantastic films!
Evil Season. It’ll be a thrill.
Cast and Creatives