a film by Arthur Hiller
1982 | 113 mins | US
›› Making Love
the film that made America rest uneasy with homosexual love
Making Love by Arthur Hiller Whilst sounding more like a sex education video than a feature film, this nevertheless remains a classic of gay cinema. It tells, in effect, the story of Zach, a happily married doctor who comes into contact with fun loving Bart, a successful LA writer. As the two men get to know each other in ways that go beyond mere friendship, Zach contemplates leaving his wife for the man he now loves, but in whom the word "commitment" remains a stranger. In short, what you have here is a variant of the love triangle scenario; albeit one with a gay twist. Only this is far more than a variation on an old theme, given it marks a landmark piece that back in 1982 made America sit up, to rest uneasy with the subject of homosexual love.

And America was not alone in turning in its seat, for as producer Daniel Melnick recalled in the critically acclaimed documentary The Celluloid Closet, "I had the unpleasant task of running the rough cut of the film" for a man who in Melnick's own words was not from "the film world, nor the intellectual world, nor the world of letters and arts." Squirming in his seat throughout the screening, it was at the point at which the two men embrace and kiss, "that he jumped up and said 'you made a goddamn faggot movie' and stormed out." Such a reaction however was one that was to be mirrored up and down the US, given the majority of the cinema going public showed via the exit door, that they were ill-at-ease with the sight of two men being intimate with each other on the big screen. Thankfully a lot has changed during the interim years, but back then and inspite of nothing remotely explicit on view, many still lay uncomfortable with the subject matter, prompting Twentieth Century Fox to warn viewers at the beginning of the film of a delicate issue that "may be too strong for some people."

Making Love by Arthur Hiller All of which is ironic given the end product is hardly cutting edge by today's standards, being clearly soap opera in style. This however is not to take anyway anything from Kate Jackson who shines in the role of a wife forced to come to terms with her husbands' suppressed sexuality. But it is to say that Harry Hamlin as Bart and Michael Ontkean as Zach deserve specific attention, not only for their compelling work, but for having undertaken roles that many in the business at this time simply would not touch, for fear of career suicide.

That the end result is a work that pushed the boundaries of Stateside gay visibility by showcasing homosexuals as real men and not as victims of their sexuality, is not in doubt. And yet and in as much as those of political mind would have liked this feature to have said more in terms of gay rights, at the end of the day here was a film that depicted with pride two men openly kissing each other, namely the very act that numerous Hollywood offerings that followed, notably stayed shy of. For make no mistake, this is breakthrough film, given it marked the first occasion in which Hollywood had produced and moreover directly marketed a gay feature to the general public. Suffice to say, it would be a long time before Hollywood would have the cinematic balls to do the same again.
starring: Michael Ontkean, Kate Jackson, Harry Hamlin and Wendy Hiller.
Copyright 2008 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #052
›› previous page | back to top | print me ‹‹
click for gay celluloid - home