Hollywood’s Bohemians

 

Between 1917 and 1941, Hollywood film studios, gossip columnists, and novelists featured an unprecedented number of homosexuals, cross-dressers, and adulterers in their depictions of the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle. During this era, actress Greta Garbo defined herself as the ultimate serial bachelorette, screenwriter Mercedes De Acosta wore mannish attire and began numerous lesbian relationships with Hollywood elite (including Greta Garbo herself), and countless homosexual designers brazenly picked up men in the hottest Hollywood nightclubs. These personalities, along with many others, played an important role in establishing Hollywood’s image as a place of sexual abandon, enhancing the movie capital’s mystique and selling Hollywood as a “must-see” destination.

This significant contribution to gay, lesbian, and film studies demonstrates that the Hollywood studios and mass media used images of these sexually adventurous characters to promote the movie industry and appeal to the prurient interests of a more conservative audience. Each chapter examines the happenings in one segment of important Hollywood locales, from stars’ homes to hippest nightclubs. Focusing on the media coverage of each location in nationally distributed newspapers and fan magazines, Hollywood novels, and the movies the studios made about Hollywood reveals how such media images indelibly altered the world’s fascination with old Hollywood.

Check out the following movies from the 1930s for some fun images. Russo’s Celluloid Closet and Richard Barrios’ Screened Out do not discuss these movies.

What Price Hollywood?
(R-K-O, 1932) woman in mannish tux inside the Brown Derby

Going Hollywood (M-G-M, 1933) electrician camps it up behind the scenes

Hollywood Party (M-G-M, 1933) Robert Young explains what he meant by pansy

Something to Sing About (Grand National, 1937) Dwight Frye as a make-up artiste

Hollywood Hotel (Warner Brothers, 1937) Curt Bois as dress designer –see photograph from the collection of the George Eastman House

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