June is Gay Pride Month. Here's a little information about a breakthrough film, a silent foreign film, and two of its actors who both went on to work in classic Hollywood movies. The breakthrough German film, available on DVD, is perfect viewing for Pride Month.
Actor Conrad Veidt had a long, interesting face with structure and intelligent eyes that the camera loved. He was a versatile and brave actor. He embraced cultural diversity.
In 1919, Conrad Veidt played probably cinema's first openly gay lead character. Germany's 1919 silent film is called Different from the Others (original German title: Anders als die Andern). Veidt starred as a renowned musician.
The blackmailer in Different from the Others was played by Reinhold Schünzel.
In Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious (1946), she played the fast-living woman recruited by the government to infiltrate a house of Nazis in Rio. Her dangerous assignment involves romancing one of them to gain access to the household and foil their Nazi plot. Cary Grant played the often caustic American agent who trains her and falls in love with her as she goes to bed with a Nazi and literally does undercover work for Uncle Sam.
Reinhold Schünzel played Dr. Anderson. Remember Hitchcock's famous coffee cup scene in Notorious? He's the Nazi scientist who almost drinks the poisoned coffee.
Schünzel was an actor, a film director and a screenwriter. He directed a 1933 German comedy that inspired entertaining and positive gay images in a hit 1980s musical comedy. Reinhold Schünzel directed and wrote the 1933 German musical comedy film, Viktor und Viktoria.
A young out-of-work soprano becomes friends with a middle-aged out-of-work actor who convinces her to pull a sexual identity switch for the sake of employment. She pretends to be a man who, onstage, pretends to be a woman. Comic complications ensue, including a romantic attraction. Actor Adolf Wohlbrück, seen smoking a pipe in the photo below, played the object of her secret romantic attraction.
In Schünzel's Viktor und Viktoria, the middle-aged male confidant to "Viktor" is heterosexual. He's seen in the mirror in the photo below. In the Blake Edwards remake, the friend is a gay male in the gender bender and the change works well.
Anton Walbrook never starred opposite Ingrid Bergman onscreen but they did have a connection. He played the sinister husband plotting against his wife in the 1940 British thriller, Gaslight. A Hollywood remake was directed by George Cukor for MGM.
Cukor directed Ingrid Bergman as the wife in danger. Charles Boyer starred as the husband and Angela Lansbury made her film debut as a maid who services the master with more than housework. A 3-time Oscar winner, Ingrid Bergman won her first Best Actress Academy Award for 1944's Gaslight.
There you are. A Casablanca star played a groundbreaking character in the history of gay images on film and his co-star made it possible for Mary Poppins to become a drag queen and give us "Le Jazz Hot." That's some German cinema history for your Pride Month. Have a good one.