Producing Pride

A Very Natural Thing

A Very Natural Thing

1973 American Independent Feature

Gay male relationships versus romantic ideals just after the Stonewall Riots

Review Links analysis from 2010

New York Times review from 1974

Connie's Presentations

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Scott's Clips

Mainstream movie context for A Very Natural Thing (1973)

These are examples of the attitudes toward gay men portrayed in mainstream movies during the early 1970's. Truly independent films barely existed back then, except for exploitation movies. Homosexuality was portrayed as a shameful secret, healthy gay or Lesbian relationships were never shown, and the gay characters usually died in the end. These portrayals are what A Very Natural Thing was trying to counter.

The Best - Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971):

This British feature was directed by John Schlesinger, a gay man that came out later in his career. It features top-notch British actors -- Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson. It was groundbreaking at the time, with a true male-male kiss between lovers, as opposed to a desperate or degrading forced kiss. It treated the complicated relationships involved with depth and understanding, and the movie is still definitely worth watching. However, the bed scene is interrupted before anything really gets going, and the gay male lead is left alone at the end giving a somewhat apologetic, but still positive and hopeful, monologue.

Sunday, Bloody Sunday, excerpts from 1971 mainstream British feature, about 9 minutes long.
The kiss that caused a thousand audiences to groan (including the one I was in) early in the movie, then the bed scene, and finally the ending monologue with Peter Finch.
The left box has the clip in standard .mp4 format, and the right box has the identical clip in Apple Quicktime .mov format.

This short clip has an uncredited appearance by 14 year-old Daniel Day Lewis as the third and final teenager vandalizing cars by scratching them with broken bottles. He is wearing a red neckerchief. (From Wikipedia:) He described the experience as "heaven", for getting paid 2 to vandalize expensive cars parked outside his local church.

The In-Between - The Last of Sheila (1972):

This genre murder mystery was a typical "star vehicle" movie, with James Mason, Raquel Welch, Dyan Cannon, James Coburn and Richard Benjamin. This clip is the murder of Clinton (James Coburn) in drag, followed by the "homosexual reveal", when Tom (Richard Benjamin) admits to having a short, meaningless "thing" with Clinton. Presumably, Clinton was a "real" homosexual. Notice that homosexuality is considered a shameful secret. The sympathetic Tom (spoiler alert: he is actually the murderer) can't be a "true" homosexual, but the manipulative Clinton can be. Interestingly, this movie was written by two gay men: Steven Sondheim (yes, the Broadway composer) and Anthony Perkins (yes, the actor from Psycho). They were former lovers, but both were closeted at the time. In addition, the producer of the movie, Ross Hunter, was also a closeted gay man.

The Last of Sheila, excerpts from 1972 mainstream Hollywood feature, about 9 1/2 minutes long.
The left box has the clip in standard .mp4 format, and the right box has the identical clip in Apple Quicktime .mov format.

The Worst - Diamonds Are Forever (1971):

Although this Bond film is theoretically not much worse than The Last of Sheila, in tone it far worse. Mr. Kidd and Mr. Witt are psychopathic killers, who get summarily dispatched by James Bond in particularly gruesome manners, one of which is overtly sexual. The word "homosexual" is never said, but the cues are clear -- they walk off holding hands after the murder of a diamond smuggler (beginning of the clip), and they are effete phonies, especially compared to the suave, heterosexual Bond (end of the clip). Some audiences laughed and cheered when Bond killed them, obviously what the movie makers wanted.

Diamonds Are Forever, excerpts from 1971 mainstream British feature, about 5 1/2 minutes long.
The first half of the clip is dark because it is shot "day-for-night", a movie technique to simulate night time.
The left box has the clip in standard .mp4 format, and the right box has the identical clip in Apple Quicktime .mov format.

Other Movies in this Category that You Might Enjoy

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971): John Schlesinger's Oscar-nominated film examines the psychologically nuanced love triangle between three Londoners: A straight 30-something woman, a gay 40-something man, and their much younger bisexual lover. Award-winning actress Glenda Jackson plays the role of Alex Greville, a recent divorcee who works in an employment office and happens to share the man she loves with Daniel Hirsch (Peter Finch), a Jewish doctor withstanding the solitude of middle age and the treadmill of daily life. Over the course of several days, both of them calmly analyze their mutual but crumbling romances with Bob Elkin (Murray Head), a young free-spirited sculptor who would rather move to New York City for his art than embrace what he sees as the tiresome rhythms of committed relationships. Sunday Bloody Sunday's willingness to refuse to stereotype its gay characters as desperate, neurotic loners sets it far apart from Schlesinger's previous work Midnight Cowboy. Still, as Roger Ebert wrote in 1971, "This is not a movie about the loss of love, but about its absence." -C.D.

That Certain Summer

That Certain Summer (1972)

Scott's Comments:
This made-for-TV movie starring Hal Holbrook, Hope Lange, and a young Martin Sheen, was the first non-homophobic portrayal of gay men on network television. Made before the religious right backlash started (think Anita Bryant), it was treated at the time as an interesting story that probably should have been told earlier, with only a modest amount of controversy. It got rave reviews from top critics at The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, and TV Guide. It is extremely hard to find, as it has never been released on VHS or DVD. I have a burned DVD copy made from an off-air industrial-grade recording from 1972, using one inch video tape. See me if you are interested in viewing this movie.

The War Widow

The War Widow (1976)

Description from The Internet Movie Database:
Originally broadcast by KCET (PBS) on their dramatic showcase series, "Visions," this sweet, quiet film is set during World War I. It is the story of Amy, a proper, but lonely housewife whose husband is away at war. She finds solace in a friendship with a more worldly female photographer, only to have her entire world turned upside down when the friendship becomes genuine love and she is forced to choose. Groundbreaking for its powerful yet non-prurient portrayal of lesbian first love.

Scott's Comments:
Like That Certain Summer above, this early TV movie is very hard to find, but you can watch a YouTube upload here , or contact Linda Coleman or Casey Sutherland who have a burned DVD made from an off-air VHS recording.

Word Is Out

Word Is Out (1977)

Scott's Comments:
Documentary film producers Peter and Nancy Adair, and Rob Epstein, started with a simple, but radically subversive for its time, premise -- just show gay people as they are. They started soon after Stonewall, and five years later they had a documentary about 26 diverse gay people. It was a pure revelation at the time, for everyone, gay or straight. It was so simple and straightforward, yet nothing like it had been done before. It is still well worth watching today.

Out of the Closet - LGBTQ Portrayals in Movies After the Stonewall Riots (1969)

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Connie Hossier, Instructor
Scott Badman, Instructor