Feb 15, 2013

Boy on a Dolphin: Gay Subtexts in 1960s Greece

Ancient Greece  had always been a "good place," with endless tales of gods in love and heroes battling monsters while naked.  But what about modern Greece?

There was My Village in Greece, about a boy who roamed a white-roofed village on the isolated island of Mykonos (not yet a gay mecca), and Peter Buckley's similar Greek Island Boy.  

There were pictures of men and boys on white-sand beaches, sometimes hugging.

Many movies that appeared in the first days of the 1960s made modern Greece a sleepy backwoods full of big-breasted temptresses who are discovered and civilized by the West. (sort of like the Peace Corps with sex instead of well-digging).  But also full of gay subtexts.

Boy on a Dolphin (1957) starred Sophia Loren's breasts, but two Westerners were triangulating their love-hate relationship over them (and the statue of the boy on the dolphin): art collector Victor (Clifton Webb) and hunky museum curator James (Alan Ladd, right).  Both actors were gay.

Besides, the real Boy on a Dolphin was a nude teenager named Arion.

Never on Sunday (1960) had an American named Homer (Jules Dassin, left) trying to reform a prostitute, and with her all of Greek culture. No gay subtexts, but lots of hot Greek sailors falling all over each other in their eagerness to become clients.

It Happened in Athens (1962), about two men, one rich and one poor, competing in a marathon.

Island of Love (1963) is basically Some Like It Hot without the drag.  Two film producers fleeing the mob take refuge on a Greek island, where one of them falls for a gangster's daughter.   The other doesn't like girls.  (Tony Randall and Robert Preston have both played gay characters.)

The Moon-Spinners (1964), a Disney caper movie set on the island of Crete, stars Peter McEnery, the first gay teenager on film.

Zorba the Greek (1964) sends another Westerner, a British writer named Basil (Alan Bates) to Greece to civilize the savages, but in this case he's the one transformed, by the free-spirited Zorba (Anthony Quinn).  They end up falling in love, and though in the end Basil must go back home, they have time for one last dance on the beach. (Alan Bates, by the way, was gay).

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