Gay History – October 17th: Montgomery Clift, Liberace and The Advocate (Back when it was good)
1920: Actor Montgomery Clift is born in Omaha Nebraska. Clift often played outsiders and “victim-heroes” examples include the social climber in George Stevens’s A Place in the Sun, the anguished Catholic priest in Hitchcock’s I Confess, the doomed regular soldier Robert E. Lee Prewitt in Fred Zinnemann’s From Here to Eternity, and the Jewish GI bullied by antisemites in Edward Dmytryk’s The Young Lions.
Clift’s performance in 1951’s A Place in the Sun is regarded as one of his signature method acting performances. He worked extensively on his character and was again nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. For his character’s scenes in jail, Clift spent a night in a real state prison. He also refused to go along with director George Stevens’ suggestion that he do “something amazing” on his character’s walk to the electric chair. Instead, he walked to his death with a natural, depressed facial expression.
Clift was notoriously picky with his projects. According to Elizabeth Taylor “Monty could’ve been the biggest star in the world if he did more movies.” Clift reportedly turned down the starring role in East of Eden just as he had for Sunset Boulevard.
On the evening of May 12, 1956, while filming Raintree County, Clift was involved in a serious auto accident when he apparently fell asleep while driving and smashed his car into a telephone pole minutes after leaving a dinner party at the Beverly Hills home of his close friend and co-star, Elizabeth Taylor, and her second husband, Michael Wilding. Alerted by friend Kevin McCarthy, who witnessed the accident, Taylor raced to Clift’s side, manually pulling a tooth out of his tongue as he had begun to choke on it. He suffered a broken jaw and nose, a fractured sinus, and several facial lacerations which required plastic surgery
In 1961, with the scars still visible and the left side of his face immobilized from the car crash, Clift gave a stunning portrayal of Rudolph Peterson, an emotionally unstable and physically tortured concentration camp victim in the Stanley Kramer film Judgment at Nuremberg,” earning Clift a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Clift became addicted to alcohol and prescription drug abuse, and became erratic. Nevertheless, he continued his acting career, playing such parts as “the reckless, alcoholic, mother-fixated rodeo performer” in John Huston’s The Misfits, the title role in Huston’s Freud.
Montgomery Clift died of a heart attack brought on by “occlusive coronary artery disease” at the age of 46.
During his life Montgomery Clift’s homosexuality was carefully guarded from fans but there were few on the business side of Hollywood who did not know about it.
Following a 15-minute ceremony at St. James’ Church attended by 150 guests, including Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra and Nancy Walker, Clift was buried in the Friends [Quaker] Cemetery ,Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York City. Elizabeth Taylor, who was in Paris and was a close friend of Monty’s sent flowers, as did Roddy McDowall, Myrna Loy and Lew Wasserman.
Rest in Peace Monty.
1980: The first Black Lesbian Conference took place in San Francisco, California. A development stemming from the first National Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference held in Washington, D.C., the previous year, over 200 women were in attendance. One of the conference goals was reportedly to address the wide spectrum of needs for black lesbians and “to provide the courage and strength necessary to make those needs felt in places where it becomes necessary.” Angela Davis gave the conference’s keynote address.
1995: The Advocate published a ground-breaking interview with Barney Frank, Steve Gunderson and Gerry Studds — the three openly gay members of congress at that time. Barney Frank has consistently remained one of the most outspoken and influential gay politicians to this date. That was when of course the Advocate was a legitimate and serious source of news .
1998: The National Gay and Lesbian Law Association appointed Melinda Whiteway as co-chair of the organization, making her the first openly transgender person to hold the position. This is reportedly the only queer law association to be affiliated with the American Bar Association.
2010: The Liberace Museum in Las Vegas closed after 31 years.
The Liberace Museum closed “indefinitely, but not forever” according to Liberace Foundation Board of Directors Chairman Jeffrey Koep. The closure was announced due to economic downturn and a decline in the number of visitors. The museum’s board of directors is continuing to seek a new home for the museum on Las Vegas strip, but the efforts have thus far been unsuccessful.
On the day of the closing, Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Doug Elfman noted that several overly enthusiastic fans attempted to remove some of the small mirrors decorating Liberace’s Rolls-Royce, and another tried to steal a hood ornament from a car on display.
That old gal Lee, would not have been happy.