Nov 6, 2012

Military Comedy Beefcake: Ensign Pulver

I hate military dramas.  People dying in foxholes is not my idea of entertainment.  But military comedies, such as McHale's Navy and Hogan's Heroes, are ok.  No combat. Lots of semi-naked men lying around on their bunks.  And, in spite of some discussions of how horny the soldiers are, few women present amid the buddy-bonding plotlines.

Ensign Pulver (1964), a sort of sequel to Mister Roberts (1955), stars Robert Walker Jr. as an irreverent, sassy Navy ensign who is adept at breaking rules, impersonating senior officers, whatever needs to be done to get what he wants.  Usually "what he wants" means three things: getting out of work, finding black market booze, or meeting women.  But he does good deeds, too.  e gives an emergency appendectomy to the overbearing Captain (Burl Ives); and he talks the Captain into giving command to the less authoritarian LaSeur (Gerald S. O'Loughlin).

1. Semi-naked men lying around on their bunks: Larry Hagman (of Dallas), James Farentino, Jack Nicholson, Tommy Sands, and Robert Walker Jr. himself.

2. Lack of women.  There are women in bikinis on the poster, but none in the movie itself.  The only women present are a cadre of nurses whom Pulver tries unsuccessfully to impress.  No fade-out-kiss.

3. Buddy-bonding plotlines.  Pulver bonds with Bruno (former teen idol Tommy Sands), attempting to help him get a pass to he can go home to attend his young daughter's funeral, and when that falls through, counseling him as he becomes more and more despondent, restraining him when he tries to kill the captain. (Yes, this is a comedy.)

Nov 5, 2012

The Chicken Chronicles

The movies have been portraying teenage boys as "girl-crazy," unable to think of anything but curves and breasts, since Mickey Rooney's Andy Hardy series of the 1930s, but the "teen sex comedy," about tongue-lagging teenage virgins trying desperately to find willing partners for heterosexual intercourse, is characteristic of the 1980s.  The Chicken Chronicles is arguably a precursor, but far superior.

1. The teen sex comedies minimize beefcake. Occasionally a boy takes his shirt off, but it's hard to tell because you're busy hiding your eyes from the endless closeups of the breasts of girls in bikinis walking along the beach or squirting each other with water as they wash their cars.  But The Chicken Chronicles minimizes cheesecake to give us shot after shot of the shirtless, nude, and underwear-clad David (19 year old Steve Guttenberg, in his first credited role), not to mention a shirtless shot of the surprisingly muscular Gino Baffa as his younger brother, Charlie.

And teen idol Clark Brandon.

2. The teen sex comedies minimize buddy bonding.  Best friends exist, but only to act as sounding boards, confidants, and instigators.  In The Chicken Chronicles, David actually seems to care for his best friend, Mark (Branscombe Richmond).

3. The teen sex comedies are about trying to get laid.  Although David has the usual choice between the hot girl he pines for and the plain girl who cared for him all along, the main plot threads involve his job at the chicken joint and the threat of being shipped to Vietnam (the movie takes place in 1969).

4. In the teen sex comedies, the teenagers spend a lot of time competing to see who is the most homophobic. Every third word they say is "fag."  In The Chicken Chronicles, anti-gay slurs are absent.  Gay people don't exist, but erasure is a lot better than hatred.

Unfortunately, the movie has been almost forgotten; it is not available on DVD.  And Gino Baffa made two more movies and dropped out of sight.  But Steve Guttenberg has had a long and extraordinarily gay-positive career.

Nov 4, 2012

Richard Gere

Along with Ryan O’Neal, Richard Gere was a poster boy for affluent, well-groomed heterosexuality, but with an added dash of provocative eroticism.  Ryan was clean-cut, Richard dangerous.  Ryan fell in love, Richard had sex.

His break-out role came in the homophobic Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977), a cautionary tale about the 1970s culture of one-night stands:. Tony (Richard Gere) dates Theresa (Diane Keaton), and stalks her after their breakup.  But she’s actually murdered by Gary (Tom Berenger),  a closeted gay man she picks up in a bar.

The full-frontal nudity in American Gigolo (1980) made him famous in gay circles.  Julian Kane (Richard Gere) is a high-priced prostitute. His clients are women, he hates “fags,” but he’ll do them if necessary.  He also has a distinctly erotic, albeit manipulative relationship with his pimp, Leon (Bill Duke), whom he ends up pushing out a window.

About that time, some right-wing nutjob (no one knows who) made the ridiculous claim that gay men often have sex with gerbils. Before you know it, several celebrities were accused of the practice, Richard Gere among them.  He has wisely said nothing.  One can imagine a Tom Cruise going to the trouble of denying such a ridiculous rumor, but not Richard Gere.

Richard has dlso done extensive buddy bonding roles, as well as playing in the gay-positive Bent on Broadway (1980); in the AIDS drama And the Band Played On (1993); and in the gay favorite Chicago (2002).

A practicing Buddhist and an advocate of liberal political causes, he is a strong gay ally.

Ryan O'Neal

Ryan O'Neal was a Hollywood presence through the 1960s, with five years as rich kid Rodney Harrington on the evening soap Peyton Place (1964-69), plus guest roles on Bachelor Father, Leave It to Beaver, My Three Sons, and Perry Mason. But it was Love Story (1970), a rich boy-poor girl romance that ends tragically, that made him the poster boy of hip heterosexism.

I never saw it, but during the early 1970s, I saw copies of the original Erich Segal novel in endless book bags, I heard Andy Williams singing the theme song every five minutes ("Where do I begin, to tell the story of how great a love can be?"), and I overheard random teenagers telling each other, "Love means never having to say you're sorry." It was awful.

Ryan went on to proclaim the supremacy of the fade-out kiss in movies pairing him with some of the most famous actresses of the era: Barbra Streisand in What's Up, Doc (1972)  and The Main Event (1979), Jacqueline Bisset in The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973), Madeleine Kahn in Paper Moon (1973), Candace Bergen in Oliver's Story (1978).

Like Richard Gere, the New Sensitive Man was not shy about shirtless, underwear, and nude shots, giving us ample views of his smooth, lean chest and smooth, lean backside. But he was more about romance than eroticism.

And  he was hard to watch. He set the Gay Rights Movement back twenty years with Partners (1982): to solve a series of murders of gay men, the heterosexual Sergeant Benson (Ryan O'Neal) and the closeted Officer Kerwin (John Hurt) go undercover as a couple.  Benson tries to camp it up as much as possible to fit in with the flitty queens, but he keeps being overcome by disgust.

The homophobia doesn't end there. In Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987), Ryan plays a tough guy detective who trounces a gay villain.

With all the heterosexism and homophobia, it's hard to imagine that Ryan would have the time or inclination for buddy-bonding, but he has some.

Wild Rovers (1971), a buddy Western, pairs Ryan with William Holden for hugs, last minute rescues, and a tragic ending.

Barry Lyndon (1975) gives Barry (Ryan) a buddy-bonding friendship with professional gambler, the Chevalier de Baribari (Patrick Magee), with lots of hugs and French-style kissing (plus he stumbles upon two men having sex in a pond).

Ryan's career began to fade during the 1980s, as models of heterosexual masculinity moved in the direction of the man-mountain.  But he's never been out of the public eye, in a life awash with scandals and tragedies.  And, in spite of his heterosexism,  he's always been a quiet supporter of gay rights.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...