Reposted by the wonderful Christa Faust:
1. ROPE: Farley Granger and John Dall. Not only is it what the film is all about, it was written by a gay man (Arthur Laurents) and both actors are actually gay. Someone should have told Jimmy Stewart what was going on.
2. DESERT FURY: John Hodiak and Wendell Corey. “We met in New York,” Hodiak explains to Liz Scott (he’ll switch for a butch gal), “It was 3 am at the Automat. He bought me a sandwich.” Uh, huh.
3. THE MALTESE FALCON: Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre and Elisha Cook. Lorre and Cook have both been kept by the Fat Man; Cook’s just not yet all the way out. Spade sees it all clearly, snickering “Give ’em the gunsel.”
4. THE LINEUP: Robert Keith and Eli Wallach. The old school queen will by the end sincerely regret ever trying to teach manners to his rough trade pupil.
5. GILDA: Glenn Ford and George Macready. Someone once asked me: “Why are Johnny and Gilda so mad at each other?” Easy: they both hate themselves for having sex with a creepy Nazi pervert. Well, she might not have.
6. THE BIG COMBO: Lee van Cleef and Earl Holliman: The chummy button-men share more than pajamas when they’re hiding out. Holliman: “I’m hungry.” Van Cleef: “So eat something.” Holliman: “I can’t swallow no more salami.”
7. THE BIG CLOCK: Charles Laughton and George Macready. Homosexuality runs amuck in the novel, but in the movie all that’s left is the suggestion that Earl Janoth can call upon his “right hand man” for just about anything.
8. BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN: Edmond O’Brien and Mark Stevens. A “buddy cop” film that should have stuck with its original title, Prowl Car. These two are all too happy to roam the city in the dead of night looking for trouble.
9. WALK A CROOKED MILE: Dennis O’Keefe and Louis Hayward. The FBI man certainly takes a shine to his debonair Scotland Yard colleague. They share a room, kill a bunch of commies, and walk arm-in-arm into the sunset. J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson must have watched it a hundred times.
10. CRY OF THE HUNTED: Barry Sullivan and Vittorio Gassman. Even though Sullivan is a happily married cop, he’s compelled to journey into the bayou after his escaped prisoner, whom he likes to wrestle with in jail cells and swamps. These guys aren’t really gay … they’re “experimenting.”
Classic noir, in addition to being not quite progressive in attitude towards the ladies, has a pretty dismal track record on treating gay characters even nominally well. Reflection of the times, of course, but it’s interesting to examine what was lurking under the surface. I’d like to see modern noir explore this more.