From Wings in 1927 to Brokeback Mountain in 2005 and beyond, Oscar has a queer history
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We're Here, We're Queer, We're Award Winners:
Queer at the Oscars - An Overview
Expanded Edition of 3-3-10 WCT Knight at the Movies column
By Richard Knight, Jr.
The announcement that the Oscar nominations for Best Picture would expand from five to ten was
greeted with a mixture of cynical caution by the media, aware that the annual
Oscar telecast
(occurring this year on Sunday, March 7 at 7pm) had been flagging in the ratings thanks to a raft of
critical darlings that mainstream audiences didn’t much care about.  But the lucky ten that got the
nod have proven that the Academy’s decision has been a wise one.  From
Avatar to Up in the Air,
there's seemingly something in the nominations for all audiences.  And yes, I include queer movie
goers with the inclusion of
Precious because of its inherent queer sensibility and positive lesbian

Yet once again I find myself irritated with the Oscars.  It has ever been thus (I’m still not over Bette
Midler losing the Oscar for
The Rose to Sally Field for Norma Rae in 1979 – neither is Bette, it still irks
me that Judy Parfitt didn’t get a Supporting Actress nomination for
Dolores Claiborne, etc.).  This year
I'm a crabby pants because neither
Valentino: The Last Emperor, Outrage, or Capitalism: A Love Story got
a documentary nomination.  I’m also miffed the Academy passed over Imelda Staunton’s work in
Taking Woodstock.  But I’m really a sorehead when it comes to the queer movie of the year, A Single
.  Not only was it one of the best reviewed films of 2009, it’s still doing well at the box office.  But
there was no nod for Best Picture or one for Julianne Moore for Supporting Actress (instead of
Penelope Cruz in
Nine – did you see it?), or the eye popping cinematography and that gorgeous set
design and art direction.  And that wistful, achingly beautiful film score – easily the year’s best?  
Another shut out.

Is this another case of fuddy-duddy Academy members dissing a queer movie or a cash strapped
Weinstein putting their considerable Oscar campaign finesse behind a proven winner,
?  Whatever the reason is, when I get all pissy about such matters I take heart by looking
back over the history of queer at the Oscars.  With a little delving under the red carpet, it comes to
light that from its very first ceremony queer movies, actors, and filmmakers have been part of the
Oscars (albeit with many of those nominated or awarded closeted – thanks to societal ignorance then
and now).  A look back reveals many, many of those little golden boys have ended up in the hands
of card carrying queers (even if the cards were and continue to be neatly tucked out of plain sight).

So here’s a queer historical overview of the Oscars, through the years – just a few of the many, many
examples to call up when it seems that the Academy Awards have dissed us:

1927   The very first Best Picture Oscar winner is Wings the story of two WWI fighter pilots.  The film,
excerpted in
The Celluloid Closet, features a homoerotic relationship and deathbed kiss between stars
Richard Arlen and Buddy Rogers.

1932-1933  The closeted Charles Laughton wins Best Actor for The Private Life of Henry VIII and
suspected bisexual Katharine Hepburn wins Best Actress
Morning Glory.
1938  Queer icon Bette Davis wins her second Oscar for Jezebel.
1939  Gay icon Judy Garland wins a child Oscar for her performance as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz
(almost 20 years later she would lose for
A Star Is Born – still one of Oscar’s biggest oversights).

1945  Though Ray Milland’s character in the Oscar winning The Lost Weekend is de-gayed for the
movies, the homoerotic subtext remains.  Gay icon Joan Crawford also wins for
Mildred Pierce.
1949  An Oscar goes to gay classical and film composer Aaron Copland’s score for The Heiress with
queer star Montgomery Clift and Olivia De Haviland (who wins Oscar gold for Best Actress) and so
does openly gay music arranger/composer/producer Roger Edens for
Easter Parade (Edens would win
again the following year for
Annie Get Your Gun).

1950  All About Eve, one of filmdom’s all time queer faves wins Best Picture.  Gay costume designer
Charles LeMaire shares the Oscar with Edith Head but returns to win by himself in 1955 for
Love is a
Many Splendored Thing
1954  Self-described bi-sexual Marlon Brando wins for On the Waterfront after changing movies forever
with his brutish, sexually charged performance three years earlier in
A Streetcar Named Desire.
1958  Gigi wins nine Oscars including Best Pictures and Best Director for unacknowledged bisexual
Vincente Minnelli, gay costume designer Cecil Beaton and lyricist Frederick Loewe for the film’s title

1961  West Side Story, a musical created by a coterie of gay men, wins multiple Oscars including Best
Picture and one for both directors – Robert Wise and his gay counterpart Jerome Robbins.  Closeted
gay actor George Chakiris wins Best Supporting Actor.
1964  Closeted gay director George Cukor (and openly gay costume designer Cecil Beaton) win
Oscars for
My Fair Lady, another Best Picture winner.
1968  Gay and lesbian icons Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn tie for the Best Actress Oscar
(Streisand for
Funny Girl, Hepburn for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?) – uniting both communities in
one fell swoop.
1969  The Best Picture Oscar goes to its only X-rated movie (so rated because of suggested queer
content) –
Midnight Cowboy, essentially a gay love story.  Openly queer director John Schlesinger also

1972  Gay icon Liza Minnelli wins Best Actress for Cabaret, a film with unapologetic gay characters.

1983  Lesbian actress Linda Hunt wins Best Supporting Actress for The Year of Living Dangerously
playing a male character – a gender bender first at the Oscars.
1984  Amadeus, the Best Picture winner stars out actor Tom Hulce as Mozart the title character.  
1985  William Hurt wins Best Actor playing gay in Kiss of the Spider Woman – another Oscar first.
1987  Gay icon Cher wins Best Actress for Moonstruck and sets the fashion bar with her outrageous
fashion ensemble designed by queer designer Bob Mackie.
1988  Jodie Foster, who is believed to be a lesbian, wins the first of two Best Actress Oscars for The
playing opposite lesbian actress Kelly McGillis.  Foster would win again three years later for
Silence of the Lambs.

1993  Tom Hanks wins his first Best Actor Oscar playing a gay man with AIDS in Philadelphia.  
1994  The first openly gay actor, Nigel Hawthorne, is nominated for Best Actor for The Madness of King
and attends the ceremony with his partner.
1998  Ian McKellen nominated for Gods and Monsters playing gay director James Whale, is the second
openly gay actor to get the nod for Best Actor.
1999  Hilary Swank wins the first of two Best Actress Oscars playing the murdered transgendered
Brandon Teena in
Boys Don’t Cry.

2002  Out director and producer Rob Marshall’s film Chicago wins Best Picture, single handedly
bringing musicals back to theatres.  Nicole Kidman takes Best Actress playing bisexual author Virginia
Woolf in
The Hours which also wins a nod for Ed Harris as a gay man suffering from AIDS and Meryl
Streep playing his lesbian best friend.
2003  Charlize Theron gives a career altering performance as lesbian serial killer Aileen Wuornos in
Monster and wins Best Actress in the process.
2005  The year of the Queer Oscars – Brokeback Mountain loses Best Picture to Crash but wins several
other awards, Philip Seymour Hoffman bests Heath Ledger’s
Brokeback performance and wins Best
Actor playing gay writer Truman Capote in
Capote and Felicity Huffman gets a Best Actress nod playing
a transgendered woman in
2006  Lesbian icon Melissa Ethridge wins Best Song for “I Need to Wake Up” from An Inconvenient
2008  Milk wins multiple nominations and Oscars go to Sean Penn and out screenwriter Dustin Lance
Black, who both give moving acceptance speeches directed at the gay community.  Lesbian fave
Penelope Cruz wins Best Supporting Actress for
Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
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