Pre-Code Gay Actor Johnny Arthur Finally Gets His Due, In Death

This Sunday, golden-age gay actor Johnny Arthur will finally get a tombstone, more than 60 years after he died.

Before the advent of the Hayes Code, which banned even implicit depictions of homosexuality, Arthur was well known for over-the-top fey roles in movies like The Desert Song, Going Wild, and The Monster. After the code was instituted, Arthur was limited to wimpy hetero roles, like Spanky’s father in the Our Gang serials.

When he passed away, the Motion Picture & Television Fund Home covered the cost of Arthur’s funeral. But his grave went without a marker for more than six decades, until Scott Michaels of Dearly Departed Tours started a successful fundraising campaign for a proper headstone, as he had done for other bygone cult-film stars. Michaels will host the unveiling of Arthur’s grave marker on Sunday.

“I think of Johnny Arthur as the gay ‘StepinFetchit’, says the out tour guide.  “Some consider his un-PC roles offensive, but he was providing the public one of the first glimpses of a gay man. He deserves our respect. He took the bullet for us.”

Johnny Arthur’s grave marker will be unveiled at 3pm on Sunday, November 25, at Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood

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  • DickGreenleaf

    With a gay father, no wonder Spanky joined the He-Man Woman Haters Club. LOL

  • cody j

    Poor guy…he deserves, Novarro fared not much better,murdered by hustlers in his late years…didnt realize John was in ‘the monster’ a 1925(?) silent,starring Lon Chaney..I will dust it off and watch ,much more interesting than the games

  • NeoAurelianus

    Great piece with one teensy correction. The Hays Code (named after [former Postmaster General] Will H. Hays) ruled the Hollywood roost from the mid 1930s until the 1960s-ish.

    The MPAA’s standards are about as ludicrous as Hays but that’s another tale. I think even Psycho had to be approved by a (tamer, gentler) Hays Commission… but memory fades.

  • streeteditions

    Edward Everett Horton is remembered for his famously “fey” roles during the same time period. And, just as unremembered in many ways.

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