a film by Jeffrey Schwarz
2008 | 82 mins | US
›› Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon
the life and times of the man behind the image.
Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon by Jeffrey Schwarz Jeff Stryker, Ken Ryker and Lukas Ridgeston, three names synonymous with gay pornography and men who amongst others, have reached the apex of a career build on being photographed in, well passionate positions. Only have you ever wondered what becomes of the stars of porn once they have given their all for the camera, one last time? If so, then this engrossing documentary is for you, as it details the life and times of porn icon Jack Wrangler, born John Robert Stillman, son of Hollywood producer Robert Stillman and a man whose piercing blue eyes and blond hair saw him attain the pinnacle of pornographic fame.

Yet as this feature vividly details, Stillman only entered the sex industry because he "wanted to be lusted after." That his screen appearances were politically liberating, breaking the perceived image of the effeminate homosexual of the time by presenting America with a masculine gay man with all the cocky swagger of a hetero college jock, says a lot about the model who went on to conquer both the gay and straight porn worlds, in the process meeting and eventually marrying noted songbird Margaret Whiting, before retiring from the business to carve a legitimate name out for himself as a musical theatre producer / director. That Whiting’s view on her husband's sexuality was that he was "only gay around the edges" may surprise those who witnessed the man in action, either in person or on screen in such hardcore works as Kansas City Trucking Company / 1976. And yet, there is no denying the special bond they shared.

Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon by Jeffrey Schwarz Intercut with a series of talking heads, together with a non-explicit montage of Wrangler’s cinematic appearances, let alone copious amounts of the man himself taking candidly about everything from his childhood, early years to his career in porn and thereafter, this insightful documentary is more than just a revealing account of the man and the icon he became, given it also serves as a historical record of times that were a-changing and if anything, the rise of the gay porn industry in the days before gay cinema gave way to video rentals. Only and as Wrangler himself acidly commented: "I was in the business of making porn for eight or nine years and yet now thirty years later, whenever I do anything ... no matter what I do, always in the papers it will say ‘Jack Wrangler, Porn Star.’" Indeed as former adult film star Candida Royalle poignantly remarked: "once you’ve been in an adult movie, many doors close for you and you’re got to know that, going in."

Premiered at the 2008 New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Film Festival, the star of the show passed away the following year, aged sixty-two from health complications arising from years of smoking. That he helped to break the stereotypical image of a gay man, in the process becoming one of the first performers in the industry to become a brand name, complete with his own stage show and merchandising, is but one side to a man who together with his wife went on to visit countless hospitals in their support of AIDS charities. Ejaculating with frank insight into the intellectual and hugely entertaining persona behind the Wrangler image, this is one hell of a ride on the rollercoaster of pornographic stardom, that of a ‘Who’s Who’ of the ‘70s adult film world and of a label that would follow Stillman forever.

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - sexually intensive, if not explicit. 
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars. 
available on DVD as part of the TLA Releasing UK catalogue
John Stillman / Jack Wrangler
Margaret Whiting / Songbird and Wife
Debbi Whiting / Daughter of Margaret Whiting

Robert Alvarez / Co-Founder, Hand In Hand Films
Brooks Ashmanskas / Friend and Co-Star, Dream
Michael Bronski / Author and Historian
Gino Colbert / Adult Actor and Director
Durk DeHner / Tom of Finland Foundation
Samuel DeLaney / Author
Jack DeVeau / Co-Founder, Hand In Hand Films
Michael Denneny / Friend
Jerry Douglas / Gay Adult Film Director
Kevin Duda / Co-Star, Dream
Christine Ebersole / Friend and Co-Star, Gossip
Peter Ford / Son of Eleanor Powell and Glenn Ford
Samantha Fox / Former Adult Film Star, Jack and Jill
Joe Gage / Director, Kansas City Trucking Company
Jamie Gillis / Adult Film Star and Producer
Al Goldstein / Pornographer
Arnie Kantrowitz / Author and Historian
Chi Chi LaRue / Gay Adult Film Director
Gloria Leonard / Former Adult Film Star
William Ivey Long / Costume Designer, Gossip
Rod McKuen / Friend
William Margold / Porn Historian
Sharon Mitchell / Former Adult Film Star
Michael Musto / Columnist, The Village Voice
Alan Oppenheimer / Friend
Henri Pachard / Director, The Devil in Miss Jones, pt 2
Robert Patrick / Playwright
Robert W Richards / Artist
Candida Royalle / Former Adult Film Star
Mark Sendroff / Friend of Margaret Whiting
Marc Shaiman / Composer and Lyricist
David J Skal / Author and Historian
Kevin Thomas / Critic and Film Historian
Bruce Vilanch / Actor and Author
Chuck Vincent / Adult Film Director - archive
Carol Woods / Friend
"He was the first openly gay butch relaxed image that people had." Robert Patrick / Playwright.
"The energy that came through in his imagery was that it was healthy; there’s nothing to be ashamed of." Durk DeHner / Tom of Finland Foundation.
"So many kids grew up in that era associating being gay with being effeminate and weak, that they responded with a hyper-masculine role model.
The ‘Jack Wrangler’ fantasy; see this guy likes to have sex with men, but he’s a real man." Bruce Vilanch / Actor and Author.
Copyright 2010 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #284
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