25 Gay Films Everyone Should See, Part 3D

COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN (1982)

Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean

Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean

Robert Altman was never known for making conventional films, and this screen adaptation of Ed Graczyk’s 1976 play was plenty unconventional in that it was an exact replica of the Broadway production, also helmed by Altman. The whole thing is a bit of a slow potboiler, with long-hidden secrets revealed as a James Dean fan club, known as The Disciples, reunites in 1975 on the 20th anniversary of the actor’s death. The story is related in both the present and a 1950s flashback, and it has a deliberately stagey feel. So, what makes it gay? To tell would spoil one of the film’s greatest surprises — and trust us, it’s a surprise you don’t want spoiled. Suffice to say, Jimmy Dean deals with themes that, at the time, weren’t all that frequently dealt with in such a forthright manner. The film also features Cher, whose acting was a revelation on its own. (She later proved it was no fluke, giving incredible performances in Mask and Moonstruck.) Jimmy Dean also features Sandy Dennis, Kathy Bates and that priestess of high camp, Karen Black. Gay enough for you? Thought so. –RS

DIE MOMMIE DIE! (2003)

Die Mommie Die

Die Mommie Die

Watching Die Mommie Die! can feel a bit like tripping on acid, especially for cineastes of the old Hollywood, high-camp style. Charles Busch’s dark farce, based on his off-Broadway play, lovingly sends up those mid-20th century movies in which ruthless, domineering women were the star attraction. (Think over-the-top caricatures of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis). Directed by Mark Rucker, Die Mommie Die! is peppered with references to and tropes from such camp classics, but adds its own modern twist on the genre: Busch plays the lead role, Angela Arden, a washed-up Hollywood actress, and in the words of the daughter who hates her, ”a money-grubbing selfish bitch … and a promiscuous slut.” Did you catch that? Here we have a real-life gay man channeling, in drag, some of our earliest gay divas, larger-than-life Hollywood screen legends who were essentially drag queens themselves. Naturally, the plot is unbelievably far-fetched, featuring murder, a revelatory – and truly far-out – acid trip, even an undercover FBI agent played by Beverly Hills, 90210‘s Jason Priestley. Priestley’s character doubles as a well-endowed gigolo who seduces Arden, her daughter and her gay son, all as part of his investigation. Is this a good gay trip or what? –DR

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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