Oct 1, 2013

David Manners: Dracula's Boyfriend

Dracula (1931) begins with a scene in which the Count (Bela Lugosi) shows  real estate broker Renfield (Dwight Frye) to a bedroom in his castle, leers at him, fondles his chest, and then looks suggestively at the bed.  It's a surprisingly homoerotic scene in a movie otherwise given over to heterosexual exploits (Dracula doesn't even follow through on his sexual assault; he sends a clutch of female vampires to finish the job).

There was at least one gay actor in the movie, David Manners, but he played a role without gay subtexts, Harker, the love interest to Dracula's main victim Mina.

Born in 1901, the wealthy, aristocratic David Manners began his career as a swimsuit model.  He starred in 39 movies from 1929 to 1936, including tearjerkers, romantic comedies, and horror, but only two, that I know of, had strong gay subtexts:

1. The war movie Journey's End (1930), directed by famous gay director James Whale. Two soldiers in World War I, Raleigh (David Manners) and Osborne (Ian Maclaren) (above) are sent on a dangerous mission behind German lines.   They fall in love during the arduous journey. Raleigh is killed, and Osborne is overcome with grief.

2. The Truth About Youth (1931): Richard Carewe (Conway Teale) and his young ward, The Imp (David Manners) are both in love with the same woman.

Manners left Hollywood in 1936 for the stage.  During his long career, he was also a cowboy, a movie producer, and a painter.  After his partner of thirty years, Bill Mercer, died in 1978, he embarked upon a second (or third or fourth?) career as a novelist.

 He died in 1998.

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