Search form

Scroll To Top
Armond White

When '69 Was Divine

When '69 Was Divine

Midnight Cowboy

Remembering the roots of gay movie-going pride

In the year of the Stonewall riots, 1969, several movies prepared the path for gay self-acceptance and public recognition. These films were part of a cultural revolution -- a turning point toward the privileges and prerogatives taken for granted today. But in '69, none of these film achievements were ordinary; and with only a couple exceptions, most were demeaned, misunderstood or ignored for their unexpected insight into gay life and cinematic brilliance.

Today, these movies can be appreciated for opening-up vast cultural territory upon which Pride Week is based. Almost every new gay film of this millennium derives from these groundbreakers. These films are part of the gay history you need to know.


Staircase (dir. Stanley Donen)

One of the very best gay movies ever made. In an adaptation of Charles Dyer's stage play, established stars Richard Burton and Rex Harrison show their sophistication and career bravery as bickering, needy bachelor couple, Harry and Charles. No Odd Couple innuendos, just emotional honesty and beautiful depth about the most taboo gay subject: aging lovers. Here's the inspiration for Ira Sachs' Love is Strange -- but even more moving.

Midnight Cowboy (dir. John Schlesinger)

The bonding of Joe Buck (Jon Voight), a hustler from Texas and New York derelict Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) updates Of Mice and Men, alluding to the gay male underworld rarely filmed at that time. (The film was originally Rated X.) Its reticence is redeemed by Voight and Hoffman's timeless depiction of love -- or, bromance to use today's cowardly euphemism.

The Damned (dir. Luchino Visconti)

An operatic vision of political decadence in a German munitions family. Visconti dares explore Nazi fetishism to expose gay sexual repression. Helmut Berger's drag act as Martin von Essenbeck was, understandably, hailed as "The performance of the year."

Hello, Dolly! (dir. Gene Kelly)

Broadway's diva musical par excellance made into a wide-screen spectacular. Barbra Streisand's triumph over miscasting remains the envy of awe-struck drag artists. She is joined by Louis Armstrong in the most ecstatic duet in movie musical history.

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (dir. Paul Mazursky)

Capturing the sexual revolution's effect on two white suburban middle-class couples broke barriers for everyone. A four-part harmony "conversation" on sex roles, decades before that term became a dishonest cliche.

The Sterile Cuckoo (dir. Alan Pakula)

The summer that Judy Garland died, Liza Minnelli carried the iconic torch on screen in a true drama of the closet. As ostracized college student Pookie Adams, she acted the hell out of the misery of "difference" in love and loneliness.

Z (dir. Costa-Gavras)

At the center of this popular, classic political action movie (based on a real-life assassination investigation) villain Marcel Bozuffi comes on to a guy at a pinball arcade. Not simple demonizing, the outright flirtation was an international eye-opener.

Alice's Restaurant (dir. Arthur Penn)

1960s counterculture becomes a deeply felt folk movie. The draft board scene where singer-hero Arlo Guthrie eludes military service offers a highpoint of young men facing Vietnam War sacrifice in their tighty whities. Voyeurism was rarely so humane.

Riot (dir. Buzz Kulik)

Part of the prison-fetish genre, Jim Brown and Gene Hackman strut through an uprising, oozing virility. Going commando is the new hot.

Paint Your Wagon (dir. Joshua Logan)

This movie musical menage a trois between Clint Eastwood, Jean Seberg, and Lee Marvin (all singing) showed Hollywood considering life's amorous possibilities among Mormon pioneers -- but without The Book of Mormon's smug condescension.

Gail, Gaily (dir. Norman Jewison)

Beau Bridges in a bio-pic of screenwriter Ben Hecht's early years as a rookie reporter in early 20th century Chicago. Bridges' radiant boyhood was an example to dream on.

Gaily Gaily

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Armond White