Dec 12, 2012

Bobby and the Beanstalk

I liked Greek mythology, and to a lesser extent Norse, but I hated fairy tales.  Even when I was little.  There were three main sources, none with many fairies.

The Grimm Brothers (one of whom was gay): mostly about children being threatened by evil parents or stepparents (Hansel and Gretel, Snow White)
Charles Perrault: mostly about girls being threatened by evil suitors (Red Riding Hood, Bluebird).
Hans Christian Andersen (who was gay): mostly about people dying.

So I wasn't happy on the night of February 26th, 1967, when Mom and Dad insisted that we watch a live-action version of Jack and the Beanstalk instead of  It's About Time.

It was even worse than I anticipated: they turned it into a "fade out kiss" heterosexist fable. Jeremy, the peddler who sells Jack the magic beans, becomes his companion in the quest to climb the beanstalk and steal from the giant.  They rescue Princess Serena, who has been transformed into a talking harp and can only be restored with a kiss.  Upon returning to Earth, Jeremy discovers that Jack's mother looks exactly like Princess Serena -- maybe they're the same person -- so they fall in love.  There's even a love theme -- "One Starry Moment."

Cover your eyes, groan, and rush downstairs to your room to read comic books.

But there were three things for gay kids to like in Jack and the Beanstalk.

1. The 1960s was overloaded with "precocious" kids who claimed to be experts on adult heterosexual practice or even doted on girls themselves.  But Jack (9-year old Bobby Riha) is utterly oblivious to feminine beauty and  disapproves of "love junk."

Bobby Riha was a popular child actor through the 1960s, with a starring role on The Debbie Reynolds Show (1969-70) and guest shots on Mannix, Bonanza, Bewitched, and The Brady Bunch (not this episode; I just like this picture of Greg).  

He retired from acting in the mid-1970s, and is now a professional photographer.

2. Jeremy was played by Gene Kelly, the star of a dozen gay-subtext musicals: Anchors Aweigh, Singin  in the Rain, On the Town, The Pirate, and finally Xanadu. I had never heard of him in 1967, but you couldn't miss the bulging muscles.  He could outmatch Burt Ward's Boy Wonder anytime.

He was never shirtless or nude on camera, but off camera -- that's another matter.

3. The Woggle Bird Song was kind of cool, with a "be true to yourself" message.


  1. Gene Kelley was shirtless, briefly, in one movie, The Three Musketeers (1948). The same year he was in The Pirate, which contains a long fantasy sequence in which Judy Garland imagines him dressed all in black- tiny cutoff shorts, boots that hit him at mid-calf, a shirt, open to the navel, with the shortest sleeves imaginable, a gold bracelet emphasizing his bulging bicep. He wasn't nude, he was better than nude- it was one most homoerotic displays in all of mainstream American film.

  2. Gene Kelly did not have to take off his shirt to be sexy- but I'm surprise that Vincente Minelli- Garland's gay husband and the director of "The Pirate" did not put him in a boxing musical - well at least a boxing dream ballet


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