Oct 2, 2015

10 Gay Facts about "Psycho"

If you haven't seen Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), get it now.  It's a suspense classic, a precursor of the psycho-slasher genre, and over-loaded with gay texts and subtexts. (Spoilers below.)

1.It isn't really about Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who is murdered in the shower at the creepy Bates Motel.  It's about boyfriend Sam (John Gavin) and Marion's sister Lila (Vera Miles) investigating her disappearance. John Gavin played "straight" men who confront "queer" villains several times during his career.

2. With Marion out of the picture, one expects the requisite "fade out kiss" to be between Sam and Lila, but in fact they don't get involved.  Lila expresses no romantic interest in any man, and can be interpreted as a lesbian.

3. When Vera Miles was getting her start as a contract player for RKO, a chauffeur named Bob Miles drove her to acting class every morning.  Eventually she married him, which enraged Howard Hughes so much that he insisted that all future chauffeurs be gay.

4. Psycho Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins)  in the original novel was fat, middle-aged, and lecherous, obviously heterosexual, but the Hitchcock script made him young, slim, and gay, with the smothering mother supposed to be the origin of gay identity in those days. He has no interest in Marion, sexual or otherwise; his "mother" gets the wrong idea, and does the murdering.

5. Anthony Perkins was gay in real life, and had affairs with many of the top stars in Hollywood, including Paul Newman, Rock Hudson, Troy Donohue, and Tab Hunter.

6. He avoided gay roles, but he did play a gay-vague character in How Awful About Allen (1970).

7. The Hayes Code forbade open depictions of gay characters, even as villains, but the notoriously homophobic Hitchcock usually found some way to signal that his villains were gay.

8. The unique explanation of transvestism, as a type of multiple personality with male and female "sides" struggling for control, was seized upon, and appears often in movies and tv series during the next twenty years, notably in The Streets of San Francisco (with John Davidson as the conflicted drag queen).

9. Robert Bloch wrote a sequel to the original novel, Psycho II, about a movie crew working on a film version of the events. Paul Morgan, the actor playing Norman Bates, researches his character by going to a gay brothel, where the prostitutes dress like Robert Redford, John Travolta, and Clint Eastwood.

10. The various movie sequels, Psycho II, III, and IV, and the prequel Bates Motel, generally heterosexualize Norman Bates by giving him a girlfriend.