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Archive for the ‘filmmakers’ Category

Queer Chicago

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Chicago, Ill.

In my ramblings through cyberspace, I discovered a new queer local history film that looks exciting: Quearborn and Perversion: An Early History of Lesbian and Gay Chicago. Filmmaker Ron Pajak says his mission is “to uncover stories from men and women, black and white, about the lesbian and gay life of Chicagoans before any freedoms existed.” The film spans the years 1934-1974, and has a wealth of amazing historic photos and video footage, as well as interviews with lesbian and gay Chicagoans. You can watch a preview at the website – don’t miss it.

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Arzner

Los Angeles, Calif.

Dorothy Arzner/Marion Morgan home
2249 Mountain Oak Drive

While doing research for a study of film director Dorothy Arzner (ca. 1900-1979), professor Judith Mayne discovered boxes of material relating to Arzner in the UCLA research collection. Inside one box was a photograph of the atrium of Arzner’s opulent home in the Hollywood Hills, with an annotation in the director’s own writing: “Home of Marion Morgan and Dorothy Arzner/1930-1951.” “That moment of discovery was thrilling,” Maybe later wrote in Directed by Dorothy Arzner, “for here was evidence of a home and a life shared by two women.”

Starting as a script typist and working her way up to film editor on such silent movies as Blood and Sand, Arzner progressed to directing in 1927. With credits including The Wild Party, Working Girls, Christopher Strong, Dance, Girl, Dance, and The Bride Wore Red, the butchy Arzner was the only successful female director in Hollywood during its golden age.

arzner-crop

It was on the set of her first movie, Fashions for Women, that Arzner met Marion Morgan, a vaudeville dancer with her own performance troupe and a busy career choreographing movie dance sequences. After working together on several movies, the two women set up their home together in 1930, and they remained devoted to each other until Morgan’s death 40 years later.

Also in the boxes Mayne discovered were numerous snapshots of Arzner and Morgan entertaining guests (among them, Marlene Dietrich) at their elegant home. The photos of the house’s lush atrium suggest a love of natural light and greenery. After Arzner’s retirement from directing in 1951, they moved to a new home in La Quinta, a community in the Southern California desert. There Arzner was an avid gardener whose correspondence made frequent and proud mention of her roses. But even in her retirement, Arzner continued to keep a hand in the industry, teaching at UCLA’s film school, producing plays, and directing Pepsi Cola commercials for Joan Crawford.

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warholandy.jpg

Pittsburgh, Pa.

Andy Warhol grave
St. John the Baptist Cemetery
Route 88 and
Connor Road

Pop artist and avant-garde filmmaker Andy Warhol (1928-1987) was born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh; he grew up in the East End neighborhood of Oakland (3252 Dawson Street), attending Schenley High School. A devout Byzantine Catholic, he is buried in his family’s plot in this church cemetery. At his grave site, mourners have been known to leave flowers in Campbell‘s soup cans, to honor the memory of one of his most famous artworks.

Claimed as a queer artist, Warhol was in fact enigmatic about his personal life and seems to have been primarily asexual. Graduated from Pittsburgh‘s Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in 1949, Warhol moved to New York and achieved fame first as a commercial artist. His silkscreens of Campbell‘s soup cans and of Marilyn Monroe in the early 1960s launched his pop art career. Later, he directed such underground films as My Hustler (1965) and Chelsea Girls (1966). Others films, such as Trash, Flesh, and Women in Revolt, were made by director Paul Morrissey and produced by Warhol at his studio, a Manhattan loft called “The Factory,” and gave prominence to such drag queens as Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling.

In 1968, Warhol’s life was almost cut short when Valerie Solanis, a violent lesbian who authored the “SCUM Manifesto” (Society for Cutting Up Men), shot him. Following his recovery, Warhol became more reclusive and abandoned directing, having already experienced significantly more than the “15 minutes of fame” he said everyone would one day enjoy. He died unexpectedly following a routine gall bladder operation, on Feb. 22, 1987, 20 years ago this week. The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky Street, opened in Pittsburgh in 1994.

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