Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Celluloid Closet

1995 American Feature

Cast: Susie Bright, Quentin Crisp, Mart Crowley, Tony Curtis, Richard Dyer, Antonio Fargas, Harvey Fierstein, Farley Granger, Whoopi Goldberg, Harry Hamlin, Tom Hanks, Arthur Laurents, Shirley MacLaine, Armistead Maupin, Ron Nyswaner, Paul Rudnick, Barry Sandler, Susan Sarandon, John Schlesinger, Lily Tomlin and Gore Vidal
Directors: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Writers: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman and Sharon Wood (story) and Armistead Maupin (narration screenplay), based on the book by Vito Russo

The depiction of GLBT characters in American film is explored, from the early silent era through the Hollywood Production Code years to the modern day.


  • Internet Movie Database: 7.6/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes - Critics: 96% / Audience: 86 %
  • OMG rating: 10 /10

  • DVD: Available
  • Soundtrack: Available
  • Book: Available


  • Berlin International Film Festival Teddy Award for Best Documentary Film.
  • GLAAD Media Award Vito Russo Film Award.
  • Independent Spirit Award Truer Than Fiction Award nominee.
  • Peabody Award.
  • Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Informational Special, Outstanding Individual Achievement - Informational Programming (Cinematography, Film Editing and Sound Recording) and President's Award.
  • Sundance Film Festival Freedom of Expression Award.

  • Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet was first published in 1981. A revised edition followed in 1987.
  • Vito Russo wanted his book to be transformed into a documentary film and helped on the project until his death in 1990.
  • The filmmakers originally planned a sequence discussing how gay historical figures were portrayed as heterosexual in films. They aborted the sequence when Richard Burton's estate denied the rights to Alexander the Great, MGM denied use of Hans Christian Andersen (fearing that the filmmakers were trying to "out" Danny Kaye) and Charlton Heston declined use of The Agony and the Ecstasy (claiming that Michaelangelo was heterosexual).
  • Actor Michael Ontkean not only declined to be interviewed for the documentary, but also attempted to prevent clips from his film Making Love from being shown in it. He was unsuccessful.
  • Initially given a limited release in select theatres (including the historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco) in 1996, and then broadcast on the premium cable channel HBO.
  • Actors who appear in archival footage and film clips include Judith Anderson, Lauren Bacall, Antonio Banderas, Drew Barrymore, Dirk Bogarde, Humphrey Bogart, Stephen Boyd, Jeff Bridges, Joe E. Brown, Steve Buscemi, James Caan, Nicolas Cage, Charles Chaplin, Cher, Montgomery Clift, Gary Cooper, Joan Crawford, John Dall, Jaye Davidson, Brad Davis, Geena Davis, Bruce Davison, Doris Day, Daniel Day-Lewis, James Dean, Catherine Deneuve, Sandy Dennis, Marlene Dietrich, Kevin Dillon, Matt Dillon, Divine, Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas, Cary Elwes, Emilio Estevez, Rupert Everett, Antonio Fargas, Peter Finch, Joan Fontaine, Glenn Ford, Michael J. Fox, Greta Garbo, Louis Gossett Jr., Cary Grant, Oliver Hardy, Murray Head, Mariel Hemingway, Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn, Charlton Heston, Edward Everett Horton, Rock Hudson, John Ireland, Burl Ives, Al Jolson, Boris Karloff, David Keith, George Kennedy, Stan Laurel, John Phillip Law, Jack Lemmon, Peter Lorre, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mercedes McCambridge, Ray Milland, Sal Mineo, Liza Minnelli, Dermot Mulroney, Don Murray, Paul Newman, Laurence Olivier, Maureen O'Sullivan, Al Pacino, Eleanor Parker, Mary-Louise Parker, River Phoenix, Dick Powell, Edna Purviance, Keanu Reeves, Jane Russell, Harry Dean Stanton, Barbara Stanwyck, Rod Steiger, Sharon Stone, Meryl Streep, Elizabeth Taylor, Denzel Washington, Johnny Weissmuller, Robin Williams, Henry Winkler, Shelley Winters, Natalie Wood and Michael York.
  • The 2001 special edition DVD of The Celluloid Closet includes the companion documentary Rescued from the Closet, which features interviews and film clips not used in the original film.

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