Jun 12, 2013

Richard Chamberlain: King of the Miniseries


Some Boomers recall gay actor Richard Chamberlain as the young, idealisticvDoctor Kildare (1961-66), or the swashbuckling adventurer of The Three Musketeers (1973), The Count of Monte Cristo (1975), and The Man in the Iron Mask (1979), but I don't remember seeing him before The Last Wave (1977), where he played an outsider trying to understand an alien culture, with a strong homoromantic subtext.













In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Richard became "The King of the Miniseries," starring in vast made-for-tv epics set in exotic locales,  usually as an outsider trying to understand more alien cultures, with more homoromantic subtexts.

The first part of the overlong Centennial (1978-79) involves the homoromantic friendship between a French trapper, Pasquinel (Robert Conrad) and Scotsman Alexander McKeag (Richard), who triangulate their romance by falling in love with the same woman.

In Shogun (1980), Englishman John Blackthorne (Richard) is shipwrecked in 17th century Japan, and becomes involved with the struggle of the warlord Toranaga (Toshiro Mifune) to become Shogun (supreme ruler).  The previews emphasized the requisite hetero-romance, but the miniseries was really about the strained attraction between the Japanese warlord and the mysterious outsider.








In The Thornbirds (1983), Irish priest Ralph de Bricassart (Richard) is sent to a remote village in Australia, where he has an affair with central character Meggie.  Years later, Ralph returns and meets his grown-up son (Philip Anglim). Neither is aware of the other's identity, so when they experience an odd emotional connection, it is easy to mistake it for homoromantic desire.













By the way, here's a shirtless shot of Philip Anglim, who also starred in The Elephant Man (1982) and in several episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Though Richard was not publicly gay during this period, he was open about his romantic partners, first  Wesley Eure of Land of the Lost, and later Martin Rabbett, who starred with him in Allan Quartermaine and the Lost City of Gold (1986). They were together for 33 years before separating.