The Daily Agenda for Thursday, May 28

Jim Burroway

May 28th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Alkmaar, Netherlands; Bergen, Norway; Bradford, UK; Ferndale, MI; Geneva, NYKarlsruge, Germany; Kiel, Germany; Lorraine, France; Malta; Nicosia, Cyprus; Oxford, UK; Söderhamn, Sweden.

Other Events This Weekend: Film Out, San Diego, CA; Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hartford, CT; KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Mumbai, India; Cinépride LGBT Film Festival, Nantes, France; AIDS Lifecycle, San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:


From The Advocate, August 24, 1977. page 34.

Before 1970 or so, films with gay characters were either tragic (you just knew someone was going to be killed or commit suicide), or were played for laughs. By the 1980s, films turned turned even more tragic, thanks to AIDS. But there was a brief moment, say in 1974 when A Very Natural Thing debuted, when a film about ordinary love and relationships between men could be released to the general public by a somewhat alt-mainstream company, which is what New Line Cinema was aspiring to be at the time.

A Very Natural Thing is regarded as the first American film about gay relationships intended for a mainstream audience. The film’s reception was ambiguous. Straight critics thought it was too political (two men in love, apparently was what made it so), while gay critics were more inclined to think it wasn’t political enough (the characters were too white, too middle-class, and too heteronormative). Producer/director Christopher Larkin thought all of the critics were reading too much into the film. “I wanted to say that same-sex relationships are no more problematic but no easier than any other human relationships. They are in many ways the same and in several ways different from heterosexual relationships but in themselves are no less possible or worthwhile.”

First Pro-Gay Film Released 1919. The German silent film Anders als die Andern (“Different From the Others”) tells the story of a famous concert violinist, Paul Körner (played by Conrad Veidt, who later appeared in Casablanca as Major Heinrich Strasser) who falls in love with his student Kurt Sivers (Fritz Schulz). Both men experience disapproval from their parents, and Körner becomes the subject of a blackmail attempt. The real-life Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, the famous German sexologist and gay-rights advocate (see May 14), makes several cameo appearances in the film. In one scene, he explains to Körner’s parents that their son “is not to blame for his orientation. is not wrong, nor should it be a crime. Indeed, it is not even an illness, merely a variation, and one that is common to all of nature.”

Hirshfeld’s appearances appear directed more toward the audience than the characters he’s speaking to. In one flashback scene, when Körner first meets Hirschfeld’s character after discovering that an “ex-gay” hypnotherapist was a fraud (some things never change), Hirschfeld tells him, “Love for one of the same sex is no less pure or noble than for one of the opposite. This orientation can be found in all levels of society, and among respected people. Those that say otherwise come only from ignorance and bigotry.”

The acting is stilted, as is common for that era, and the plot is fairly predictable. Körner reports Bollek for blackmail and has him arrested. In retaliation, Bollek exposes Körner. Both men wind up in court, and both are found guilty, despite Hirshfeld’s testimony on Körner’s behalf (and another soliloquy for the audience). The judge has mercy on Körner however, and sentences him only to one week. Disgraced and shunned by his family, Körner kills himself. Sivers also tries to kill himself, but Hirschfeld intervenes. “You have to keep living; live to change the prejudices by which this man has been made one of the countless victims. …Justice through knowledge!”

The film was originally released for general distribution, but it soon fell under official censorship and its showings were restricted to doctors and lawyers. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they rounded up all the copies they could find and burned them. Only small fragments of the film survives today. A version has been reconstructed from those fragments, surviving stills and added title cards describing missing plot points. It’s available on DVD. This clip includes one of Hirscheld’s cameos (beginning at 3:10):

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?


May 28th, 2015

Heh heh. Price celebrations.

Jim Burroway

May 28th, 2015

“Heh heh. Price celebrations.”

Well, some of them do charge admission…

Mark F.

May 28th, 2015

“A Very Natural Thing is regarded as the first American film about gay relationships intended for a mainstream audience.”

I saw this film a few years ago (I believe it is still available on DVD). It’s not any sort of a masterpiece, but I do appreciate what the filmmakers were trying to do. It’s an interesting look at gay life just a few years away from Stonewall. In one scene, actual people attending one of New York’s first Gay Pride Parades are interviewed. One wonders what happened to these men and women. Interestingly, almost everyone involved with the film seems to have dropped off the face of the earth. Worth a look.

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