Jan 25, 2013

Brokeback Mountain for the 1970s: Zachariah



Thirty years before Brokeback Mountain, Zachariah (1971) gave us a movie about two cowboys in love (see Laramie for 1950s cowboys in love)

  Zachariah (25-year old John Rubinstein, son of the famous concert violinist) buys a mail-order gun and heads out into a surreal, crazy-quilt Old West in search of adventure, along with his boyfriend Matthew (22-year old Don Johnson, who was busy with gay-friendly counterculture projects).

Advertised as "the first electric Western," it was a psychedelic Western comedy trip with references to the hippie classic Siddhartha and performances by contemporary acid rock bands like Country Joe and the Fish.

Zachariah and Matthew become robber-buddies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and Alias Smith and Jones on tv (1971-73).

There are some girls around, and a cathouse scene, but only to give Zachariah a chance to show us some partial nudity, revealing a slim, smooth hippie physique.  He reserves his soulful gazes and whispered "I love you" for Matthew.



But when Zachariah is seduced by robber baron Belle Starre (Patricia Quinn, who would go on to fame in the gay-friendly Rocky Horror Picture Show), Matt has had enough cathousing, and the two break up.  Their rivalry increases as they embark upon separate gunslinger careers, until in a climactic scene Matt challenges Zachariah to a duel.

They don't shoot each other, though.  At the last moment they melt into each other's arms.  Reconciled, they ride off into the sunset on a single horse.





Cute, quirky John Rubinstein, who got his start playing Pippin on Broadway, had many gay-vague roles before he moved on to play in New Sensitive Man romances and politically relevant dramas.  During the 1970s, he played a concert pianist who's losing his hearing on Matt Lincoln (1971), a hippie on Mod Squad (1971); the grown-up son of man Mary's dating on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1972); the ex-husband of the eldest daughter on Family (1976-80).


Even his starring role in Crazy like a Fox (1985-87) minimized girl-craziness.  John played Harrison Fox, a conservative, button-down attorney, with a wife and a kid, and an unconventional private eye Dad, Harry Fox (Jack Warden), who kept getting him involved in murder cases. Since Harrison was already married, there wasn't a lot of gazing at girls in the series.  In fact, their clients were usually male friends, framed for murder.

John is also active in theater.  He originated the role of Pippin on Broadway, and has starred in  Getting Away with Murder, Fools, Children of a Lesser God, M Butterfly, and Ragtime.  He played the gay role of Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman. In 2011 he performed in Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

In real life, he is married with children, and a strong gay ally.