“Judy, Judy, Judy.” This line of dialogue attributed to Cary Grant was actually never uttered by the screen idol, but it will likely be heard a lot this week in Hollywood. The 2014 TCM (that’s Turner Classic Movies) film festival will present big screen presentations of three Judy Garland classics (The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis and Easter Parade), as well as a discussion of her legendary film career. However, this tribute to the entertainer who is perhaps the greatest gay icon of them all is just the tip of the cinematic iceberg for queer cinema fans. Besides Oz, 75th anniversary-screenings of Gone With the Wind and The Women confirm the notion that 1939 was Old Hollywood’s pinnacle. Bisexual leading men Montgomery Clift and James Dean return to steam up the screen in The Heiress and East of Eden, as will their favorite leading lady/AIDS activist Elizabeth Taylor in Father of the Bride and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford will shred the scenery in their decrepit mansion once again in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Big and Little Edie Beales redefine codependency in theirs in the gay-worshipped documentary Grey Gardens. Part of the fun at festivals like this is discovering new movies. While most of these films are frequently screened on cable and at retro cinemas around the globe, be on the lookout for some of the more obscure flicks. One such film is the witty rarely-seen comedy On Approval with a dazzling performance by comic actress Beatrice Lillie. So if you’ve already caught the latest Marvel Comics adventure and happen to be in SoCal, brush up on your cinema history with the dozens of bona-fide classic alternatives here.
The festival takes place in Hollywood April 10-13. For more information, go here. Scroll down to see some of our picks for films you shouldn’t miss.
Bell, Book and Candle (1959)
What’s gay about it: In this spellbinding rom-com from gay writer John Van Druten, it’s easy to read Kim Novak and her family of zany witches living clandestinely in New York’s Greenwich Village as a parable for mid-century queer folk.
Blazing Saddles (1973)
What’s gay about it: Mel Brooks’ crude, ribald send-up of westerns features Harvey Korman as a gay-ish villain and the brilliant Madeline Kahn in an Oscar-nominated turn as a lusty Dietrich-esque entertainer.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
What’s gay about it: Tennessee Williams’ searing Southern drama about a closeted former athlete drinking away the misery over the death of his close male friend was watered down for its transfer to the big screen, but powerful performances by Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor help preserve its queer subtext.
East of Eden (1955)
What’s gay about it: Bisexual icon James Dean was launched to stardom with his role as a teen desperate for his father’s love in this adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel. Some scenes with actor Richard Davalos, who played the brother of Dean’s character, were rumored to be excised for being too homoerotic.
Gone With The Wind (1939)
What’s gay about it: Overlooking its dated racial politics, GWTW remains Hollywood’s greatest epic achievement and most magnificent melodrama! If that’s not enough, every LGBT person who’s ever been oppressed by society can see his or her own struggles reflected in Scarlett (Vivien Leigh)’s fight to save her beloved home and obsession with the wrong man.
What’s gay about it: Except for Truth or Dare, have you ever heard anyone quote dialogue from a documentary? This look at Big and Little Edie Beales squabbling in their run-down Hamptons mansion is imminently quotable and at once jaw-droppingly loony and heartbreaking.
The Heiress (1949)
What’s gay about it: The Oscar-winning film adaptation of Henry James’ classic novel about a plain but wealthy spinster (Olivia deHavilland) trying to find love stars Montgomery Clift at the height of his beauty. This should be sufficient.
The Innocents (1961)
What’s gay about it: Screenwriter Truman Capote’s fingerprints are all over this chilling adaptation of Henry James’ ghost story Turn of the Screw. Plus, it contains one of the great Deborah Kerr’s most haunting performances.
Johnny Guitar (1954)
What’s gay about it: Besides Joan Crawford duded up as a cowboy in this luridly colorful western from bisexual director Nicholas Ray, there’s rich lesbian subtext in her scenes with villainous Mercedes McCambridge.
The Lion in Winter (1968)
What’s gay about it: Bisexual star Katharine Hepburn had one of her finest roles and some of her most cutting dialogue ever as Eleanor of Aquitaine in this Oscar-winning period piece which is anything but stodgy. Plus, many historians believe Richard the Lionhearted (played here by Anthony Hopkins) was gay.
Stella Dallas (1937)
What’s gay about it: Tough-talking star Barbara Stanwyck remains one of the most enduring lesbian icons in all of cinema and this tale of a sacrificing unwed mother is her greatest tear-jerker.
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
What’s gay about it: This is gay rite-of-passage movie viewing, people. It’s the ultimate Hollywood Grand Guignol with juicy late-career performances from Joan Crawford as a crippled former film star and Bette Davis as her unstable sister. You should have already seen it more than once.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
What’s gay about it: Where to begin? According to most theories, the term “friend of Dorothy,” that once-ubiquitous code for gays, originated with this beloved musical due to its heroine being so accepting of those who are different. Plus, this is Judy Garland at her most youthful and appealing. It goes without saying that this classic musical demands repeat viewings.
The Women (1939)
What’s gay about it: This sparkling
comedy bitchfest about a group of female friends (Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell) faced with divorce is another rite-of-passage flick, and it contains some of the cattiest dialogue ever uttered on film.