This Footage of a Gay Pool Party in 1945 Inspired a New Documentary

Gay Home Movie, Geoff Story

A new documentary is under production after filmmaker Geoff Story made a unique discovery at an estate sale in St. Louis, Missouri, according to St. Louis Public Radio.

Decades-old home movies show men in the summer sun, dancing with one another and kissing at a private pool party in 1945, ephemeral freedom radiating from them. Having made the rare find of a depiction of queer life during a time when being found out as LGBT could ruin almost every aspect of your life, Story has started piecing together parts of the home movies into Gay Home Movie. The film will explore the time period of the movies, where invisibility was imperative to survival.

The films were bought at the estate sale of Buddy Walton, who was a preferred hairdresser to celebrities in the 40s. “Queens and president’s wives and movie stars – he was always around fancy places and fancy things,” Susie Seagraves, Walton’s niece, told St. Louis Public Radio. “He had a beautiful life.”

Related | The Circle Illuminates Switzerland’s Post-WWII Underground Gay Scene

Since stumbling on the recordings, Story has made an attempt to find anyone from the pool party who might still be alive today and willing to talk about it. He and his co-director, Beth Prusaczyk, have found relatives of some of the men, but none of the men themselves. “We naively set out thinking, ‘Oh, these men might be in their mid-90s, they could still be alive,’ and that might be true,” said Prusaczyk. “But I don’t know if we’ll actually find them.”

Story, a gay man himself,  was reportedly captivated by the scenes in the film, some depicting uniformed soldiers kissing other men, the fleeting happiness of the scenes a poignant force. Many of the men in the film are seen with wedding rings, only able to take a brief respite from the life-long façade they’d constructed for themselves. “I just knew that it was gold,” Story said of the films. “It was something special.”

Watch a brief clip of one of the films, below, and read the full St. Louis Public Radio article, here

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