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Kris comments:


> Slightly off the point: Whilst I accept that female sexuality has always
> <been visible, exploited, enacted and expected in films> I'm not sure that
> male sexuality was never visible pre-Brando. What about (e.g.) Valentino,
> Gable, Wayne (even), and the wonderful Victor Mature? This is by no means
> my field, but it seems to me that what Brando did was complicate things by
> making visible (and top-box office) a more ambivalent, homo-erotic (even
> sado-masochistic) dimension to male desire. Has there been much work on
> male sexuality in the movies pre WWII?

A good point.  One could go back to the bare-chested, two-sworded
warrior who defends the walls of Babylon in INTOLERANCE.  Also consider
how, later, undershirt sales would fall with the Walls of Jericho after
Gable bared his chest in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT.

I suspect that until the last couple of decades (say, with exceptions,
post-TOP GUN) male sexuality has been expressed more through the action
of the male or commentary on the male by other characters than through
the actual "gaze" of the camera on the fetishized body.  There's the
deliberate way that the sexual attractiveness of stars from Gable to
Grant are incoporated intertexually into a number of films (while the
same was done for a number of female stars as well).

One of my favorite examples of the expression of male sexuality through
action is in the "Night and Day" dance number from THE GAY DIVORCEE.
The entire dance is presented (in formal evening dress, no less) as a
seduction.  There's the approach, the refusal, the return, the
hesitation, the acceptance--all leading into the main dance itself,
which climaxes (!) in those long swooping arcs, tails and taffeta
flying about.  Then Astaire gently lowers Rogers, breathless, to an
ottoman and offers her a cigarette!  (Some cliches of signification are
timeless.)  In all of this, of course, Astaire is firmly in control.


Don Larsson

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Donald Larsson
Minnesota State U, Mankato
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