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Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969
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Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  117 ratings  ·  16 reviews
William Mann's Behind the Screen is a thoughtful and eye-opening look at the totality of the gay experience in studio-era Hollywood. Much has been written about how gays have been portrayed in the movies but no book -- until now -- has looked at their influence behind the screen. Whether out of or in the closet, gays and lesbians have from the very beginning played a signi ...more
Hardcover, 422 pages
Published October 15th 2001 by Viking Adult
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A fine sociological survey on how Hollywood shaped
and reflected America. The foreground is sexual but
this study, which sometimes tries to encompass too
much, uses the cultural and political climate as a
revealing background. The story stops in 1969 and a
new chapter (or book) could be written as the studios
have crumbled and power lies with agents and "packagers."
Has a lot changed ? Well, a bit, but we still read about
new heart throbs and their bogus romantic lives.

Hollywood has always been a small
In 1981 Vito Russo published a pioneering analysis of homosexuality in the movies, The Celluloid Closet (later made into a documentary which is a different animal and no substitute for the book, which I read and reviewed with a rave here in 2009). That book brilliantly read the "codes" of gayness that creators in the repressive time of Hollywood's censorious golden age slipped into mainstream films.

William Mann takes Vito's work several steps further by tracking down and telling the stories of t
Regarding his movie-making philosophy, producer Ross Hunter once said: “You might just as well have a murder take place on an Oriental rug as on someone’s dirty linoleum”. This pretty well sums up the attitude of most of the folks who manufactured style for the masses in an industry built upon a foundation of glorious illusion – the “dream factories” of Hollywood’s golden age. Vito Russo has illustrated how one of its most monumental illusions was the non-existence of homosexuals, but what comes ...more
Kate Baxter
I found this book very interesting. For the record I am a straight middle aged white woman who loves the 'old' Hollywood especially the silent era. It is fascinating to read how open and overt the gays were in those days All
directors, actors, writers and the technical people seem to either be gay or have gay friends and thought nothing of it. I have always had this belief that the reason there are so many gays in all the arts is they have special gifts of artistic talent. One of my dearest frien
a little over my head, but great resource and immense amount of knowledge for those interested in this topic... I only recognized a handful of actors and actresses' names; however, it brought up quite a few movies I've always meant to check-out

although this was written first (2001), William Mann does for the gay/lesbian film industry what Christopher Bram does for gays in the literary scene in Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America (2012)
Fantastic historical study of gays in Hollywood from 1910 to 1969. Whether as actors, directors, producers, writers, set decorators or publicists, gays helped to shape American movies, living through many cultural changes, the liberal 1920s, the Depression-era backlash of the 1930s, the more liberal war years of the 1940s, the area of McCarthy and the blacklist in the 1950s, up to Stonewall in 1969 and beyond.
William J. Mann, one of the great Hollywood historians, gives a fantastically comprehen
Carmen A.
I am an obsessive/fanatic classic movie fan, and especially relish the behind-the-scenes anecdotes, stories, and gossip. Knowing the weaknesses and strengths of my idols, gives them a more approachable, human characteristic. I have read this book with relish, and enjoyed it very much. I reread it often. I would recommend it to all classic movie fans who want to know more in-depth knowledge of their silver screen idols. I give it a 4-star rating.
Really informative and entertaining overview of how the GL community influenced hollywood and filmmaking. what i particularly liked about it was that it didn't just focus on actors and/or writers--it also talked in detail about directors, designers, agents and press reps which gives a more complete view of the environment. i got the book out of the library and someone had written additional facts (or desputed the author's) in the margin, so I felt like i was gaining added perspective and insight ...more
Kathi Jackson
Guess I was expecting more on actors. This is more about (as the title says!) the folks behind the scenes. Well written.
Read this for work and it was fascinating. A must-read for film lovers.
He presumed that I know a lot more names than I actually do, but it was pretty fascinating. It wasn't interesting enough to read straight through, but grabbing out a chapter or person here and there was great. A few of them were big names, but most weren't and I enjoyed reading their stories.
As a historian I found this book lacking the clarity and strength in sources that appear in the biographies that he has written.
As a social history this lacks sufficient sources to make some of the arguments. He also uses sources that would be better used in a cultural history.
Very good coverage of gays in Hollywood in the last century. It also tells us something of homsexuality and how it is viewed by the culture in general through the years.
Alas, the author does dwell too much on stereotypes and can be pedantic, but worth the read!
I found this book to be fascinating. I really enjoyed the author's take on the subject. It made me want to read more on the topic. At times, the author is a bit repetitive in phrasing, but his overarching argument was strong.
Nancy L.
I think Mann is the most gifted Hollywood historian today. I'd read anything he published and his first book (I think) is an insightful look at gay culture and its influence on the Golden Age of Hollywood. Must read.
sweet holy man!!!
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Also writes children's books under the pseudonym Geoffrey Huntington.
More about William J. Mann...
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn The Men from the Boys How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand

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