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Film Actors: Gay Male  
 
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No one can explain with certainty why Burr created such an elaborate facade to keep his life secret, but the actor clearly believed extreme actions needed to be taken. Possibly Burr had found out that in 1961, at the height of his popularity in television and film, a member of the American Bar Association, where Burr frequently spoke by virtue of his famous portrayal of Perry Mason, gave the FBI documents indicating that Burr was "a noted sex deviate."

Anthony Perkins' masculine persona was delicate, timid, and agitated. He suffered psychologically over his homosexuality, and, reportedly, had severe panic attacks in the presence of beautiful actresses when no sexual feelings were generated. Alarmed over possible exposure by Confidential magazine, Perkins married Berry Berenson, who had an adolescent crush on him and was sixteen years his junior.

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Some friends believe that Perkins' desperate attempts to develop a heterosexual response were only partially successful. Another casualty of AIDS, Perkins was also a casualty of his internalized homophobia.

If Burr and Perkins are examples of the extremes actors have gone to in an effort to conceal their homosexuality, Tommy Kirk is an object lesson in the dangers of not concealing one's gayness in the early 1960s.

Kirk was a child star in such blockbuster Disney films as The Absent Minded Professor (1961) and The Shaggy Dog (1959). But in his late teens, despondent over the exploitation of his cute all-American adolescent image, Kirk took a step that most of his gay predecessors in Hollywood never dared. He came out to Disney.

Immediately fired, Kirk briefly received national press coverage but soon passed into obscurity. He joined church organizations working with gay and lesbian youth. He remained furious, and, at times, vocal, about Disney's propaganda mill and discriminatory practices. Unfortunately, Kirk's heroic act has all but disappeared from gay history.

The British Take the Closet in Stride

In 1988, Ian McKellen outed himself as he spoke on BBC Radio against pending anti-gay government regulations. Still closeted at that time were many other highly respected actors, some of whom, such as Nigel Hawthorne, would later be outed by others.

Three years later when McKellen was knighted, gay British filmmaker Derek Jarman attacked him for accepting the honor and for his congenial ties with a homophobic government. Openly gay British actors Stephen Fry, Alex McCowen, and Simon Callow came to McKellen's defense. A comparable scenario to this one in Hollywood at the time is impossible to conceive.

Interestingly, Sir John Gielgud, Dirk Bogarde, and Nigel Hawthorne remained silent during the McKellen controversy, yet they were among the best known gay actors in England.

Gielgud, one of the greatest stage actors of the century, and the winner of an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Arthur (1981), had been outed years ago by his arrest in a public restroom. But he had led a circumspect life for many years, his homosexuality widely known and accepted, but not discussed. His silence at the time of the McKellen controversy must have been both considered and painful.

Living in rural France, Bogarde remained aloof and distant, offending British actors who wanted his distinguished reputation behind their lobbying efforts. After becoming England's Rock Hudson in the 1950s, starring in comedies and romances, Bogarde had taken a daring step by appearing in the 1961 film Victim, in which he played a lawyer who was blackmailed for his homosexuality. Two years later, in The Servant (1963), Bogarde portrayed a predatory homosexual who destroys a home's quiet domesticity.

Despite his daring in accepting these parts at a time when they may have damaged his career, Bogarde was notoriously reticent about his private life. He never discussed his homosexuality or his relationship with his manager Tony Forwood, claiming that who he was could be seen in his movies and discovered in his autobiographies.

Similarly, Hawthorne, who was to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in The Madness of King George (1994), professed not to understand why one should be an activist. Even after he was outed by the gay press in 1994, and called "The Madness of Queen Nigel," and "Yes Minister, I'm Gay," by British tabloids, he merely brushed off the insults as trashy. Hawthorne seems to have felt that carrying on with life in an unassuming manner was a better path for him to take.

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