Monday, 19 April 2010

Not Myra's Place

I almost called this blog something completely different – ‘Myra’s Place’, after Gore Vidal’s heroine Myra Breckinridge. I recently read Myra Breckinridge, and was enthralled (and half-appalled). Myra is a Hollywood-obsessed dame living in 1960s Los Angeles, and the novel takes the form of her diary. She is also – and I quote – ‘a dish, and never forget it, you mother-fuckers’.

The novel follows Myra on her quest for vengeance against the male species. You see, her recently-deceased husband Myron was a ‘fag’, and a power-bottom to the extreme who aimed to possess (straight) men by taking their forbidden cock. Alas, Myron’s insatiable lust for power (i.e. cock) just couldn’t be satisfied, and he killed himself. So Myra takes it into her hands to exercise revenge on the male species, to emasculate them and rob men of their macho supremacist bullshit for once and for all.

Sure, there’s not much that pisses me off more than macho bullshit, and I toyed with the idea of playing Myra. She is, after all, full of fascinating theories, not least her insight that between 1935 and 1945 no irrelevant film was made in the USA, and in these movies – only these – the full spectrum of the human condition can be glimpsed. But, ultimately, playing Myra was too big a task for me. I find the films of Hollywood’s Golden Age fascinating – and I plan to dedicate a number of blog entries to them – but many of them are transparently propagandistic and inane star vehicles.

So I decided to name the blog after a line from one of one of my favourite movies – the 1958 Douglas Sirk film Imitation of Life. It’s often forgotten these days, but at the time it was Universal’s highest-earning film – surpassed only by Jaws in 1975. The film is a double-headed maternal melodrama – a white mother who neglects her daughter in view of her career, and a black mother whose mixed-race daughter runs away to make her own life as ‘white.’

Let’s fact it though – Ibsen this ain’t. The script is cliché-laden and often saccharine to the point of sickliness. With a lesser director, Imitation of Life would be close to unwatchable, but through Douglas Sirk’s (Brecht-trained) lens, Imitation of Life becomes a painstaking exercise in human selfishness, claustrophobia, and miscommunication. It’s one of the most pessimistic films I’ve ever seen.

About halfway through the movie, a neckerchief-clad John Gavin confesses to Lana Turner that he’s bored of his life as an Ad Man. Flute trilling in the background, he utters the words that every homo the world over has felt at one time or another:‘Did you ever get the urge to let yourself go and follow the wind or a star, maybe even a dusty old rainbow?’ To explain the significance of the metaphor would be an insult to your intelligence.

I imagine Douglas Sirk reading this passage in the script for the first time, thinking that it was ridiculous, and what should he do? Tone it down or camp it up? He trusses Gavin up like a Christmas tree and hams up the melodramatic music – Lana Turner, of course, needs little help in looking comically expressionless.

And, like Sirk, we can react, we can laugh, we can call 'bullshit'!

This will be a blog about movies and being a homo in London, and I’m very happy to have you here.


  1. You write like a dream my dear, can't wait for more of the same x

  2. Aw thank you! Hope the postcard found you well! x

  3. Indeed it did, thank you very much. Send me your address and I will send you some love x