'Movies That Made Me Gay' — Larry Duplechan's cinematic memoir

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Saturday December 16, 2023
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Author Larry Duplechan (photo: John Farrell Jr.)
Author Larry Duplechan (photo: John Farrell Jr.)

Novelist Larry Duplechan, a Lambda Literary Award winner, loves movies. Movies have shaped his life. They were his solace when he was growing up in a conservative Christian household. They helped him define himself as a skinny gay Black kid who didn't fully understand why he was different. Movies continue to be a major part of his life, in particular classic films from Hollywood's Golden Age.

In his new book, "Movies That Made Me Gay," Duplechan writes about the movies he loves, and about a few that he didn't. Each year he and his husband have seasonal film festivals in their home. The book's chapters are titled according to those festivals: Black History Month, Pride Month, 4th of July, Halloween, etc.

In Black History Month he recalls Hollywood films of the 1930s and '40s, when Black performers like Lena Horne would do a stand-alone musical number in a film without taking part in the film's plot. This would enable racist theater owners in the South to cut those numbers out of the film without affecting the film's storyline. Duplechan eloquently writes about Black performers who toiled away during that time of segregation, rarely getting the recognition they deserved.

In Pride Month, he writes about some of his favorite LGBT films. In 4th of July he shares some of his favorite patriotic films, like 1942's Oscar winning "Yankee Doodle Dandy." In the Halloween section, he writes about horror films, including 1935's queer coded chiller "Bride of Frankenstein" and the ultimate midnight movie, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Through it all he shares snippets of his life, such as where he was and who he was with when he first saw a particular film and how that person affected him.

Thumbs up & down

Duplechan isn't afraid to make controversial statements. He likes "Gone With the Wind" but is less fond of "Moonlight." He thinks that Joan Crawford was too old to play Crystal Allen in 1939's "The Women," a film loved by many gay men of a certain age. And he doesn't hesitate to say that transwomen of color didn't throw the first brick of Stonewall. He's not worried about backlash from the community.

"We currently live in a world where if you say something often enough and loud enough, it becomes an alternative fact," Duplechan said in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter. "I am not in favor of alternative facts and I don't like to see history rewritten to make a snappier meme. Placing two inarguably heroic figures at an event they simply weren't at is bad history. Marsha P. Johnson herself said that she didn't get to the riot until it was well underway, and it's unclear if Sylvia Rivera was there at all. They both did great work for queer liberation. But they did it in the days, weeks and years after Stonewall. To claim otherwise, well, among other things, it disrespects the people who were actually there."

Duplechan spoke of what went into his process of choosing which films to write about, such as movies he's loved since childhood, like "The Wizard of Oz," "Mary Poppins" and "Funny Girl." There are movies that spoke to his budding sexual identity as a teenager like "Cabaret," the classic 1972 musical that touched upon themes of homosexuality.

"And movies that came out when I was a young man that portrayed gay people as we hadn't been portrayed when I was a child," he said. "'Making Love,' 'The Boys in the Band.' And where there are remakes, or based-ons, I talk about them if only for a sense of, I don't know, closure or something. Which is how 'The Wiz' got in, for instance."

Part of the book deals with the racism and sexism that appeared in many Hollywood films. The rest of the book is about the holiday film festivals that Duplechan enjoys with his husband.

"And those choices were super easy because, well, they were there," Duplechan said. "A stack of DVDs and Blu Ray discs. I wrote the Halloween and Christmas sections pretty much in real time, writing about 'The Santa Clause' and 'Home Alone' as we watched them in December 2022."

"Movies That Made Me Gay" came about when Duplechan retired from his secretarial job in 2021. Writing a memoir was on his retirement to-do list. Having seen several relatives of his parents' generation succumb to dementia, he wanted to get some memories written down while he still remembered them. The result is a book that is at once light, fun and thought-provoking. It's an easy read, the perfect Christmas gift for the film buff you love.

"Unfortunately I made the mistake of publishing a memoir concurrently with Barbra Streisand," Duplechan said. "Babs didn't warn me."

'Movies That Made Me Gay by Larry Duplechan. Team Angelica Press, 380 pages, Paperback $21.99, Kindle $9.99 www.teamangelica.com

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