Apr 12, 2014

Giuliano Gemma: The First Gay Cowboy

Born in Rome in 1938, Giuliano Gemma started out as a circus aerialist and stuntman before breaking into the sword-and-sandal craze of the 1960s, but not the usual deadly serious "bodybuilder saves civilization" type. Satire, with a bit of humor, such as My Son, the Hero (1962), about a mild-mannered Greek god whose power comes from his mother.

And buddy-bonding, as in Hercules Against the Sons of the Sun (1964), which sends an anachronistic Hercules (Mark Forrest) to the land of the Incas, where he helps Prince Maytha (Gemma) regain his throne.

Or Angelique (1965), where he plays the buddy of the guy who gets the girl.

Later, like many peplum stars, Gemma moved into spaghetti Westerns, playing an unusually chipper antihero in A Pistol for Ringo (1965) and The Return of Ringo (1965).

Here, he fondles the arm of a friend.

In Vengeance of the Vikings (1965), Gemma plays a Viking prince who travels to America and finds, of all things, a Greek guy, who teaches him about wine while helping him fight off assassins.

Did you think you were buying a ticket to the Clint Eastwood classic For a Few Dollars More? (1965).  No, sorry, you're seeing For a Few Extra Dollars (1966), with Gemma as Old West savior Gary Diamond.

Interested in a grudging love-hate gay-subtext  bromance?  Gemma starred in lots:

Alive or Preferably Dead (1969), about two brothers (Gemma, Nino Benvenuti) who can't stand each other. Benvenuti is the one on the left, with the bulge.

L'arciere di fuoco (1971), about a bickering Robin Hood (Gemma) and Allen a Dale (bodybuilder Mark Damon)

Amigo, Stay Away (1972), about two sworn enemies in the Old West (Gemma, George Eastman) who keep having to work together.

Even Angels Eat Beans (1973), about a wrestler (Bud Spencer) and an ice cream vendor (Gemma) mistaken for hit men by a gangster who wants to hire them.

He returned to peplums to win an Italian Oscar for Desert of the Tartars (1975). 

Gemma continued working in Westerns, cop series, and costume dramas until his death in an auto accident in 2013 (one of his last roles was in the tv miniseries Pompeii).  Late in life he discovered a new passion for sculpture.  He cast this bronze image of a muscular, naked boxer.

With all of this buddy-bonding, arm-fondling, and nude boxers, one obviously wonders if Gemma was gay or bi in real life?  No idea, but in an interview, he traced the archetype of the gay cowboy back to his buddy-bonding roles of the 1960s.